Saturday 25 May 2013

A Template for Success

Not a great deal seems to be happening at Carmarthenshire County Council, at least not if the published record is anything to go by. The annual pomp of the AGM is out of the way, and there has not been a meeting of the governing Executive Board for a month - perhaps it's not just Meryl who's gone on holiday.

Rummaging around in the Meetings and Agendas section of the website, there are not very many meetings of anything going on, and most of the agendas are filled with ritual formalities, such as "Declaration of Prohibited Whips".

Tucked away in a dusty corner are the records of the "Democratic Services Committee". The committee's function is mainly to consider the training and development needs of councillors and the allowances that they are entitled to.

Bearing in mind the advanced age and low calibre of some of the councillors who preside over matters such as planning and education, training and development is a tall order, but as people voted them in, someone has to go through the motions of teaching old dogs new tricks.

One of the new requirements under the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 is for all councillors to write an annual report for their electors. Again, there will be those for whom this is a very tall order, and so helpfully the council is providing everyone with a template.

The template kicks off by stating, "The purpose of this report is to keep you informed of some of the issues I have dealt with on your behalf during 2012/13. Real progress has been made in respect of these and I hope that you will find this information of interest." 

Councillors are then asked to fill in the blanks. Clearly failure or lack of progress are not options.

The really taxing bits of the report, such as name, address and telephone number will be filled in by council officers for councillors (there may be some who cannot remember), but the councillors will have to tell residents how many meetings of the various committees and sessions of the full council they have attended, both in absolute terms and as a percentage.

The first of this year's batch of annual reports are supposed to be published by the end of June, and some will almost certainly be eligible for the Booker Prize for Fiction. The reports of some of Pam Palmer's troops in particular will make for entertaining reading over the summer, but it will also be interesting to see what councillors such as Labour's Keri Thomas have to say for themselves.

As individual councillors are supposedly responsible for filling in quite a few chunks of text, it will be interesting to see how many receive remedial help and how many avoid the temptations of cut 'n paste.

Well, that's this summer's reading sorted.

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