Saturday 13 October 2012

Cultural insensitivities

At this week's appalling monthly meeting of the full council, Carmarthenshire's leader, Kevin Madge (will it be the Jag or the Merc today?) and the Chief Executive managed to prevent discussion of their Sainsbury's press release by manipulating and making up the rules as they went along.

The very next day they were at it again in a press release issued by the notorious, award-winning PR department in County Hall. The award, by the way, came from a PR industry shindig last year, and anyone hoping to win a prize has to pay first.

This time the pair were pictured outside the semi-derelict St Ivel creamery at Johnstown near Carmarthen where, it seems, work has finally begun on the Towy Community Church's ten-pin bowling alley, food bank, furniture recycling centre, etc., etc.

To date the project has received over £1.4 million in funding from the County Council, and it will be owned and operated by the fundamentalist Christian group which is understood to have around 150 members.

There are many reasons to be concerned about this project, but one of the chief objections has to be sponsorship by a local authority of a religious organisation, especially when we bear in mind that the Council is open about its desire to offload some of its welfare and social service responsibilities to an organisation which states firmly that all those who do not share its beliefs face "eternal conscious punishment" (see the church's website).

This blog has pointed out on a number of occasions that there is little to choose between the professed beliefs of several of the Council's partner churches and those of fundamentalist Muslims, so it was somehow fitting that the press office's latest outing should begin with the following sentence,

 Plan’s to deliver a young people’s Mecca and other community facilities in Carmarthen is bowling along.

To any young readers, please note that there should be no apostrophe in "plan's" and that a plural subject should be followed by a plural verb: "are bowling along".

On the other hand, if you are rubbish at English and have a complete disregard for facts, you too could land a very well-paid job in the council's press office. Welsh not essential.

Cneifiwr has no idea how many Muslims, practising or otherwise, live in Carmarthenshire, but there are undoubtedly a couple of thousand, and many are likely to feel that this reference to the spiritual centre of Islam in the context of a centre run by fundamentalist Christians is insensitive to say the least.

Note also how the new attraction is being specifically targeted at young people.

Whether you are a Muslim, a Jew, a Catholic, an agnostic or an atheist, you might have reservations about going along to something like this.

Previously this blog has pointed out that the County Council failed to carry out equality impact assessments in connection with this project and other activities it has undertaken with Towy Community Church, even though it is supposed to under the terms of the Equalities Act. To use a religious term, the Council clearly does not give a damn.

The press release continues,

Phase two is proposed to be delivered in future years and is not linked to the implementation of this phase.  The subsequent phase is proposed for the other half of the building and is to incorporate a 600-seat auditorium, a conference and meeting venue, debt counselling centre, cafĂ©/restaurant, catering training, luncheon club provision and office accommodation.  

The first sentence here is untrue. When councillors gave the go-ahead, one of the conditions contained in the report they were presented with was that Phase Two had to be completed within 5 years of Phase 1. That sounds like linkage, doesn't it?

Notice also how the scope of the project appears to grow every time a new press release is issued. Not only will we be getting a new church auditorium, but there will now also be a catering training facility. For some reason, however, the press release fails to mention the suite of therapy rooms which feature in the church's plans on its architect's site.

It may also surprise readers familiar with the site to hear that work is underway and ahead of schedule. It certainly did not look as though anything was happening there a few weeks back.


william price said...

why can't they continue to fund citizens advice bureau and ask some more churches to go to guildhall square with 'payer chairs'?

william price said...

scandalous Citizens Advice Bureau has lost money to this

Anonymous said...

Interesting, the PR office's command of English is pretty limited. I was at an event attended by the Council's head of PR, who I overheard say in a disparaging way to the head of PR of Bro Morgannwg that the problem with them was that Plaid councillors insisted that PR was issued in the Welsh language. She obviously has a very bad grasp of the legal requriements of the Welsh Language Act as well.

caebrwyn said...

We've watched Barnet Council's disastrous outsourcing plan riddled with self-interest, Cardiff looks to be heading the same way with plans to privatise back-office staff, but, let's be honest, only Carmarthenshire Council could decide to outsource social care to 'partners' who believe in everlasting damnation and the benefits of exorcism.

a2 said...

since when has catering training been part of this? i thought the cafe was going in with the bowling alley in stage 1? pffttt

luncheon club is self explanatory.

i do like the spiele, a massive foodbank and furniture recycle facility that serves the WHOLE county.

kevi 'merc' madge says - “With all the bleak news of threats on leisure centres and leisure services generally in these financially constrained times, it is wonderful to see an exciting project like this being delivered that is going to be so popular with families and young people.

oh yes, the less fortunate and vulnerable would enjoy a game of bowls costing around a fiver while they wait.. bring the kids while picking up a food parcel - make a day of it while they're at it

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall that Cllr Arthur Davies asked the Towy Community Church minister about the availability of the auditorium to the public and got the reply that it could be rented out when not used for worship. sounds like a church to me.