Sunday 16 September 2012

Stormy Times

Even for the bloggers who follow the twists and turns of life at County Hall in Carmarthen, the last week has been bewildering. After a lull in activity lasting the best part of six months, the council got down to business this week, and what Kevin Madge, the newly elevated council leader likes to describe as the "Dream Team" woke up to a living nightmare.

So here is a summary of this week's events to help readers as we head towards what promises to be a stormy autumn.

  • Llandovery saw the formation of LATRA (Llandovery Area Tenants and Residents Association) to fight plans for a large new housing development, the closure of the town's secondary school, a wind turbine development and the imposition of a regeneration plan on the town. Citing a threat by chief executive Mark James to pursue campaigners against the school closure for legal costs, the group is in defiant mood.
  • New revelations emerged about the very peculiar arrangements between the bosses at Llanelli Scarlets and the council, as it was confirmed that the club was hoping to make a quick and rather large buck by selling off a peppercorn lease on public property.
  • Meryl Gravell revealed that the leaders of the so-called Independent and Labour groups had stitched up a deal before the council elections in May to ensure that power stayed in the same hands for the next 5 years, regardless of what voters decided.
  • The council reluctantly had to swallow a large helping of humble pie in the case of Mr M, whose complaints against the council were upheld by the Public Services Ombudsman. Council officers told councillors that this all happened a long time ago, and all issues had been resolved. The ombudsman noted that the case began in 2008, and that it took the council 3 years to get round to sorting things out.
  • Also in the pipeline, it has emerged, are two other very serious cases in which the Ombudsman has taken the council to task. One of these is understood to be heading for the courts as the council does not accept the Ombudsman's findings. There is also understood to be a pending libel action against the council over its treatment of the couple involved.
  • A huge row blew up over a decision by the Welsh Government last month to take responsibility for plans for two large new Sainsbury's supermarkets off the council, which had approved both of them. Kevin Madge and the council's Press Office went on the attack against MP Jonathan Edwards and AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas for supporting local people who opposed the supermarket group's plans. But why did the council wait for over a month to do this?
  • After 15 months of deliberation on whether or not to film public meetings of the council, the Task and Finish group has still not got around to finishing its task. An application to film this week's meeting of the full council was rejected.
  • Allegations of misappropriation of funds by one of the council's favourite charities were made in the council chamber. Expect more on this soon, and as the bloggers have pointed out, serious questions need to be asked about some other pet projects involving "third sector" organisations.
  • Despite this, council chief executive Mark James told councillors that the council did not routinely carry out due diligence of the governance and financial arrangements of the charities and other bodies it funds. 
  • Labour leader Kevin Madge gave what must be one of the most shambolic performances in the history of shambolic performances as he spluttered and waffled his way through the council meeting. Judging from the body language of his party colleagues, the likelihood of a Llanelli-based coup is growing.
  • Another fierce row broke out in the Council chamber after two councillors (People First's Si├ón Caiach and Labour's Bill Thomas) were told that they could not make a verbal declaration as they objected to the rubber stamping of minutes of a planning committee. At issue are plans for massive new housing developments, overloading of Llanelli's antiquated sewers and resulting pollution of the estuary and its cockle beds.
  • A Plaid councillor was also told that she had missed the boat when it came to asking a question about councillors' allowances.
  • A Plaid notice of motion calling on the council to pay staff a living wage was also ruled inadmissible. A council press release said that Kev did not want to rush into a decision, but was gathering facts. No mention was made of the opposition motion. Staff hoping for news any time soon should be reminded that after 15 months, we are still waiting to see proposals on broadcasting council meetings. 
While the car crash of a meeting was going on last Wednesday, Meryl Gravell quietly removed herself to the backbenches, despite having a frontbench job. Pam Palmer, one of the two deputy leaders of the council and leader of the Independent group, mysteriously absented herself from the whole affair, possibly on political health and safety grounds.

We will have to wait and see how much of this makes it into the Carmarthen Journal next week, but this week's edition did manage to devote a few lines to report negatively on the campaign in Llandovery, and it also ran a story on the cockle beds, but again from a rather different perspective. A temporary re-opening of the beds at Laugharne had run more smoothly than the chaotic scenes last year, when cocklers left a lot of litter behind, it reported. Apparently nothing else much happened in the county, apart from the usual diet of sports fixtures, a real ale festival at Ffos Las, and fines for littering and dog fouling.


Anonymous said...

Ond mae Kev wedi cael ei Merc!

Anonymous said...

when it comes down to real crime, a curious situation took place over a couple of months ago. maybe the word curious is a bit soft, maybe appalling would be appropriate.

a theft took place at ammanford square in the daytime. a theft of a mountain bike that was captured by the nearby cctv camera that has a full on view. Police were called and arrived after about ten minutes. details were taken but an uncomfortable event took place.
two youths approached almost out of nowhere and were enquiring what has happened as if they were having a nose and interfering with police matters, and apparently they were not welcome but the police officer insisted to carry on the conversation with them present, much to dismay. the youths asked if there was a reward before anything else was revealed. why would the police mention to the 'strangers' details of the theft and description?
who were these strangers hanging about? did they have anything to do with the theft. maybe, not. who knows. it was mentioned by the police if the bike turns up, there'd be no questions asked.
the police officer was in contact with the ccctv operator and it was said that the camera was on all day. So, the evidence was there.

In the meantime, the bike was found by the police after approx 30 - 45mins. the police officer said it was abandoned in an area some 600 yards away.
the police said they are not going to prosecute or take any action.

afterwards, a letter was sent to the county councillor who happens to be plaid, detailing all the events. two months later, the councillor was appriached and asked what had become of the letter, because the aim was to bring the issue up in the town council where all the councillors can hear about this sorry situation and question the community police officer about this bizarre chain of events.

the councillor was asked after two months, what have you done with the letter? and the reply was nothing.

Also what else has been happening is another uncomfortable situation where demanding money by menace has been occuring.
Intitially, two youths appearing had already asked the police if there was a reward if the bike turned up.
later it emerged that some other youths were congregating in ammanford park and they knew what was stolen as words get passed around. the youths were badgering for a reward. the second time that word had been mentioned.

this is what could happen but nobody knows the truth. maybe the police do know exactly who stole the bike and are keeping quiet, who knows.

it could well be possible the youths were actually involved in the theft and demanding money by extortion. what sense does it mean if someone who steals a bike and asks for a reward. The police and councillor have not dispelled this disturbing theory, which could actually be true.
So if you have some anti social youths who go around stealing property to get a reward, it is frankly bizarre.

The plaid councillor had 2 months to make enquiries, and when it was revealed nothing became of the letter, what else has been happening in carmarthenshire?

sounds like plaid are soft on crime. or should it be rephrased not intersted in crime. the councillor ignored the situation, which had escalated into not only theft but extortion by menace or blackmail. It appears that the person who stole the mountain bike was not even given a caution or warning.

and because of the situation, it has left the victim in a state of anxiety and anger. (a2)

Cneifiwr said...

Thank you for that story. I think to be fair to the councillor (his or her party does not matter), once a matter is in the hands of the police, there is nothing much they can do about it, although it is important for councillors to be made aware of problems like this because if this sort of behaviour becomes more common, they could and should press the police to put more resources into sorting it out.

Siren said...

The real crime is taking place on Jail Hill. How can these people thwart democracy in such a blatant manner?

Anonymous said...

if the police gave the perputrator a caution or a warning, that would have been something. i agree with cneifwr the party is not relevant, but in this case, it is because of the plaid literature during election. and they're always complaining about crime. so it is a tad hypocritical of them them to advertise themselves in such a way making ammanford a safer place and it turns out to be the opposite. it wasn't a case of resources (then again we could go back to 2005 under labour when they started prioritising crime even more). if the police did not do anything for whatver reason, what is to stop this person from doing it again? that is the issue. and if the people who were apparent witnesses are actually known to the police, they are going to do it again.

hence the suspicious wording. the police officer did say to someone, if the mountain bike turns up there be no questions asked.
plus there was slight damage when it was found, so there is no redress because there is nobody to send a bill to.

why did the councillor did nothing is the next thing. that is his job to chase things up, that's his postion. to do nothing at all is beggaring the purpose of a councillor, and makes a mockery of a policy and makes it worthless and empty words. it's not a case of the police didn't know who it was, it is on cctv so there is no doubt. the resource was already there. so if any of the witnesses are on the cctv, then they are known to the police previously.

if it happened in a large place such as llanelli, swansea or cardiff, if a person is unknown, fair enough. even a large place has it's own locality. In small communities such as ammanford, llandeilo, llandovery it's easier to recognise someone and traceabilty is often quicker. (a2)

Anonymous said...

it's not the first time it's happened with the police in ammanford though. there is some history. how far it goes back is anyone's guess, but it's definately not the first time :-(

Anonymous said...

hi, if the councillor was stuck and in a postion they can't do much, surely it would have been best to contact the mp or something? or don't they communicate with each other. after all, it is safety of the town that is the concern, and most often some crime matters are raised in the town council meetings one way or another.. if a councillor can't do anything, whay are they talking about it in chamber? (a2)

Anonymous said...

@ annon - May I be bold and suggest you raise your concerns with the Chairman of the Carmarthenshire Community Safety Partnership?