Thursday 24 January 2013

U-turns, U-bends, Blacklists, Buses and an amazing Omission: January's Council Meeting

Cneifiwr and Caebrwyn were unable to attend this month's twice delayed meeting of the full council, but thanks to the miracle of digital technology and a secret squirrel (no, not the cute fluffy one belonging to the Council Chair), here is a quick run-down on what we all missed.  

Cllr Glynog Davies (Plaid) complained that his question last month to Chief Executive Mark James about the council's blacklisting of the South Wales Guardian was not in the minutes. A proposed amendment to the minutes to make them reflect what actually happened in the meeting was rejected in a vote.

Linda Evans (Plaid) once again raised the issue of bus services which are set to be cut drastically from April this year as a result of a 25% cut in the grant, and local authorities will lose control over bus subsidies to a new regional consortium. Colin Evans (Lab) responding as a member of the Executive Board agreed that the situation was bad.

And with that, we were back to the council's plans to hive off public toilets to community councils. Thanks to an overwhelming response from the victims community councils to the County Council's generous offer, any community councils which take up the offer will now receive 75% of the cost of running the toilets in Year One, 50% in the second year and 25% in the third year. Any community councils which were daft enough to accept the County Council's original offer will not receive the additional funding. Peter Hughes Griffiths described this as a shambles. He could have called it a U-turn in a U-bend.

Cllr Alun Lenny raised the decay of the old town centre of Carmarthen around King Street. Were there any plans to regenerate the old heart of the town? Deputy Chief Executive Chris Burns gave a non-committal response.
Cllr Lenny went on to ask about the Living Wage. Swansea, a Labour council, had agreed to pay a living wage, what about Carmarthenshire? Kev replied, "At the end of the day, as I've said before..(turn to page 94)..." In other words, "No".

Cefin Campbell raised the decline in the number of Welsh speakers shown in the census. He praised the Rally outside County Hall last Saturday (the one which the council's officers did not want). Mark James replied that the Language Commissioner would be setting up a committee to see what could be done. The ball was safely in the long grass.

Cllr Campbell went on to welcome the Welsh Government's u-turn on council tax benefits. 19,000 people in Carmarthenshire would benefit from this decision, and he asked Kev to offer congratulations to Rhodri Glyn Thomas (Plaid) for his hard work in persuading Carwyn & Co in Cardiff to change course. Kev agreed that Rhodri Glyn deserved congratulations.
Darren Price mischievously asked if there would be any changes in the council's leadership following the defection of Labour's Theressa Bowen to the Independents. His question went unanswered.

Cllr Price also raised the development of a new business park at Cross Hands West, which he supported, but he wanted to know what was being done about council officers who had been found to be acting politically. What was happening to the Ombudsman's investigation into the matter? The Chief Executive replied that he did not know, and it was up to the Ombudsman.
Deian Harries pointed out that car park charges had gone up again, and that people from Tycroes were now shopping in Pontarddulais instead of Ammanford. Cllr Colin Evans blamed the decision on the old council (the Independent-Labour coalition). He agreed that the new Labour-Independent coalition should take another look at it.

Just before the meeting closed, Cefin Campbell rose to say that he had not seen the Ombudsman's report on the Breckman case. Six months had passed, and as the local member he wanted to know what was happening.
Mark James replied that there was no Any Other Business on the agenda this month, and he was right!

Normally, in fact invariably, the meeting agenda ends with the following wording:


For reasons which we can only speculate about, the wording had unaccountably been left off the published agenda this time, and so, the Chief Executive purred, no questions could be taken.

Cllr Campbell had apparently taken the trouble following the last show-down about emergency items to speak to the Chair before the meeting to indicate that he wanted to ask a question. 

As usual, however, the Chief Executive had the final word, and the meeting was closed.


Emlyn Uwch Cych said...

Only Plaid members appear to be raising matters in this report, kinda like an antidote to the Carmarthenshire News.

I only hope Glynog, Darren, Cefin, Linda and Alun get so fed up of the Management that they take some really drastic action, because even though I enjoy your satirical musings, Cneifiwr, my heart won't stand 5 whole years of this dom ceffyl.

Cneifiwr said...

Emlyn Uwch Cych - well spotted. This new Gwiwer recording software needs a little fine tuning.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Are these Ombudsmans Report section 16 or Section 21 reports? If they are Section 16 reports then they are public interest reports and should be published. As for Section 21 reports, has anyone tried requesting them via Freedom of Information? With the Democratic deficit being so bad in CCC I don't understand why PHG hasn't written to the WAO and the Carl Sargeant highlighting the deficiencies in democratic accountbility. CCC are a laughing stock and we cannot let this situation continue.

Cneifiwr said...

I think the report on the Sainsbury's press release (which is what Cllr Price was referring to) is still in preparation.

The second report on the Breckman case can apparently be obtained from the ombudsman on request. The issue there is that it was supposed to have been made available to councillors by officers so that it could be discussed in a meeting of the full council. Now it seems that the report will come up before the Planning Committee, but will probably be discussed in closed session, even though the public has access to it!

Anonymous said...

Why does not Cllr Cefin publish his request in the press or in your Blog if it is the Brackman Case he wants to air

Anonymous said...

How can you report on a meeting you were not at? Have you asked both sides who were there? I'm sorry, but your obviously a plaid member being fed by plaid councillors, no different to the journal for labour

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @17.37 What Cllr Campbell wants, quite rightly, is for councillors to have the chance to discuss the report.

Anon @17.41 You are welcome to read the official minutes of the meeting which may be published a couple of weeks from now. You will be rather less well informed if you rely on those, however!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for news and taking the time to put it on , thanks

Anonymous said...

Copies of Section 21 reports can apparently be requested from the Ombudsman's office. There is no need to make a Freedom of Information request.

Anonymous said...

Apparently Kevin Madge is spreading the word that Plaid's "good" performance in this meeting was due to rebellion in the ranks. He claims that Peter Hughes Griffiths spoke to Mark James afterwards to apologise for the "bad behavior" and said he had no idea what his group was going to do. Whatever the truth of the tale, its refreshing to see a bit of real opposition and perhaps the Plaid members will keep PHG in the dark more often?