Saturday 5 January 2013

Don't read this if you are a county councillor

Whatever your views about this blog or Caebrwyn's award-winning work on Carmarthenshire Planning Problems, it is unlikely that you would describe either as pornography, but that is how County Hall treats them, and the two sites are effectively blocked to all councillors who wish to read them on a council PC.

As other bloggers will know, it is possible to identify some sources of traffic on blogs, and despite the ban some of the most avid readers of the two blogs are, you guessed it, in County Hall. It seems that what we write is so dangerous that only officers may read it.

One of the criticisms most frequently levelled at Carmarthenshire County Council is that it is "officer led". Occasionally you will hear a few of the councillors make the same complaint in council meetings, and whenever they do a chorus of jeers and groans erupts from the "Independent" benches (and from some of the Labour contingent too). Paradoxically the jeers and groans are almost without exception the only contribution to debate, representing their electors' interests or holding the authority to account that visitors to the public gallery will ever hear from those quarters.

But at least it serves to prove that they are actually still alive.

The extent to which they question the council, stand up for their electors, read and understand the reports they are being asked to approve or make their own independent inquiries can be imagined.

But there are councillors who do try, and in Carmarthenshire they deserve special praise because the cards are stacked against them.

Peter Hughes Griffiths (Plaid), the leader of the opposition on the council, recently wrote to the South Wales Guardian to complain, among other things, that reports produced by the Ombudsman for Public Services about Carmarthenshire County Council have been withheld from councillors. So dangerous and subversive are these reports that, like the blogs, they are only suitable for the eyes of the officers and the ruling elite on the Executive Board.

How does that square with one of the primary functions of a county councillor, which is to hold the authority to account? Answer: it doesn't.

Late last year we learned that the South Wales Guardian, now the only local paper in the county which is free from County Hall's editorial control, has been singled out and put under special measures by the Kremlin on the Tywi which is effectively trying to force the newspaper out of business.

That leaves the blogs as the only other source of independent news about our local authority, and one of those is being sued in the Royal Courts of Justice in London at the expense of the county's taxpayers.

If you feel depraved or morally polluted after reading this, a quick rub-down with the council's  Carmarthenshire News should do the trick.


Plaid Gwersyllt said...

You have hit the nail on the head, there are very few Councillors ho actively challenge and scrutinise. Invariably officer led councils are Labour ones, where elected members sit back and let officers take the flak. As for Ombudsman's reports, officers make no effort to let members know of the existence of section 16 or 21 reports at Wrecsam CBC.
I refuse to accept a council laptop or IPAD as I hve no wish to be censored so I have my own but I cant tweet from council meetings.
As a member of the public said to me recently, Wrecsam Council is following in the footsteps of North Korea with its secrecy. I thought to be described as Stalinist was bad enough.

Anonymous said...

I just want you to know how grateful we are to you and Caebrwyn for the hard work and effort you make to ensure the public are not kept in the dark and fed manure by CCC Executives, PR Officers and specific Councillors.

Plaid Gwersyllt, I take my hat off to you, Cllr Sian Caiach and other Councillors who actively challenge and scrutinise.

God bless you and a Happy New Year to you all!

Cneifiwr said...

Thank you! I'm blushing.

Tessa said...

WHAT?! Access to these 2 excellent blog sites is blocked to councillors using county PC's? That's absolutely outrageous! It is quite possible that the council PC's are the only access to the internet that some councillors have. Particularly the less modern media savvy (Kev). In fact, a review of the blogs should be compulsory as they provide the only view of what's going on in the county that hasn't been positively spun/distorted beyond recognition. That and the bold work of the South Wales Guardian. But the shocking thing is the officers yet again standing between the elected officials and the voting public. Chief Weasel continues to do this - Mr Harry Lloyd's correspondence being the first instance of which I am aware from years back, which on Weasel's instructions was withheld from the councillor addressees.

caebrwyn said...

I have looked at the categories under which sites are blocked by the council's, er, 'default' policy. By the process of elimination there is only one category left;

"Militancy and Extremist - Sites that offer information about or promote or are sponsored by
groups advocating antigovernment beliefs or action."


Anonymous said...

Might be interesting to send a FOI to the Council requesting details of why access to the two blogs has been denied to Councillors - and of course conversely why it is GRANTED to officers...

Anonymous said...

How are they allowed to get away with it? Who is going to stop this unacceptable behaviour?

Patricia B. said...

Harry Lloyd is not the only person whose had his correspondence blocked to all councillors by the Chief Weasel. I too had my e.mail address blocked to councillors, and was forbidden access to all departments within the council!! I must have been an enormous threat, but I'm still not sure what sort of threat I posed. Am still awaiting an explanation.