Sunday 19 May 2013

News from Carmarthenshire

With apologies to regular readers for the lack of posts in recent weeks. Cneifiwr has his nose to the grindstone at the moment, but here is a brief selection of news and updates.

Trisha Breckman

The campaign of intimidation and bullying which got underway earlier this year when the county council finally managed to bury a highly critical report from the Public Services Ombudsman has stepped up. Last week Mrs Breckman's neighbour resumed quarrying on his land.

He can do this legally provided the rock is for use on his own land, but Public Protection has become involved and appears to agree that the noise levels are unacceptable for people living in the surrounding area. The likely outcome is that a stopper notice will be applied, obliging Mr Thomas to cease work after an initial notice period.

The Noise Abatement Notice would prevent Mr Thomas from carrying out further quarrying activity for a couple of months, and then the whole process would have to begin again.

The quarrying has been accompanied by repeated "escapes" of horses onto Mrs Breckman's land and a further very sinister incident which is now in the hands of the police.

Filming Council Meetings

The archive of the first council meeting to be filmed can be found here. If you can understand Welsh, it is well worth clicking on Cymraeg (top right hand corner of the screen) because the translator, although good, sounds like a robot.

The technical quality of the filming is excellent, and for anyone who has not sat through a session in County Hall before, this may well change your voting habits.

A separate post on Peter Hughes Griffiths' speech is in the offing, but he refers at one point to the waste of talent which the current political arrangements involve. Whatever your political leanings, there is no doubt that the current Plaid group contains a lot of experience and talent. Labour has some strong councillors as well, although some of their more able members languish on the backbenches while the pygmies rule the roost. As for Pam Palmer and her collection of Elmer Fudds and museum pieces, the least said the better.

While rummaging around on Youtube for something else, I came across this lecture (in Welsh) given by Cllr Alun Lenny as a part of the Tir Sir Gâr production about politics in Carmarthenshire and the county's long and honourable tradition of agitation and riotous assembly. Aruthrol.

Freedom of Information

Caebrwyn's attempt to get the county council to release some of the background documents relating to its deal with Towy Community Church has, as expected, been rejected on appeal by the council, which is now trying to argue that the request is "vexatious". Following a recent tribunal ruling, the Information Commissioner now defines a vexatious request as one which "is likely to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress".

Why a request for correspondence between the council and the recipient of so much public money should be disproportionately disruptive or cause distress is something to set the imagination racing. You would think if the two organisations had nothing to hide, then they would be glad to show the world.

Jacqui will now have to take her request to the Information Commissioner who has already ruled in her favour once on this request.

Value for Money

The Taxpayers' Alliance has published new figures showing that Carmarthenshire leads the pack when it comes to rewarding its senior council officers. Not only do we have the highest earning chief executive in Wales, but we also have a clutch of other officers who knock spots of the earnings of most of their peers in Wales.

In today's Wales on Sunday Mr James can be seen sporting a broad grin (as well he might) and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Bryn Parry-Jones from neighbouring Pembrokeshire. To see why Mr Parry-Jones is worth so much, try googling  the words Pembrokeshire scandal.

Needless to say, the WLGA's own chief executive, Steve Thomas, was quick to come out with a statement explaining why in his view high salaries are essential, somehow overlooking the fact that Wrexham manages to get by with no officers earning more than £100,000, while Ceredigion has just one.


Anonymous said...

And how much does Steve Thomas earn? And for doing what exactly?

Anonymous said...

Cneifiwr - I'm sure we'd all be facinated to hear who you'd have in your "fantasy" executive board, the 10 finest CCC has to offer?

caebrwyn said...

Steve Thomas' salary, and indeed the WLGA accounts are a bit of a mystery, I cannot find any information on the WLGA website. Nor any reference to a Publication Scheme required by the FOIA.

The equivalent English LGA however has provided all relevant information concerning accounts, remunerations, contracts and tenders etc. It can be found, quite clearly, on their public information page here

I have emailed the WLGA and asked for all this information or for them to provide me with a link should it be on the website somewhere....

As guidance, the Chief Exec of the LGA is on a salary band of £165,000 to £169,999. There are 27 senior staff.

One of Mr Thomas' roles, it seems, is to be regularly rolled out to defend local authorities whenever anyone criticises senior council officers' salaries.

Anonymous said...

Lets hope with all the money they earn, all the people they have protected for being abusers, all the wrong they have seen, all of the bullying that their staff do to those vulnerable people etc and I'm sure it's a longer list really... Lets really hope they manage to sleep at night!

Would love to see how successful these people would be in the private sector!!!