Wednesday 30 October 2013

Carmarthenshire's Budget Seminar

As Emlyn Uwch Cych notes on a previous post (here), this week's Carmarthen Journal has published a 2-page souvenir guide to the cuts, which has been cut 'n' paste from a council press release. As canny Cardi readers know, you can easily save yourselves 65p these days by logging on to the council website to read what will be appearing in the James Journal. And no annoying adverts either!

A link to the document on which the press release was based can be found below.


The seminar held at the Ffwrnes Theatre in Llanelli on 21st October was not one of the council's greatest PR triumphs, with protests outside, "Independent" councillors trying to get the Plaid Cymru councillors who were there in an observing capacity ejected, and the chief executive asking the branch secretary of Unison, Mark Evans, to leave because his presence might put some councillors off their buffet lunch voting for mass redundancies.

Despite strenuous attempts by the council to prevent details of the proposals from leaking out to the public, Caebrwyn and Cneifiwr managed to get their hands on a fairly accurate breakdown of the cuts.

The Press Office, confirming its status as the Welsh equivalent of Zimbabwe's Ministry of Information, was adamant on Twitter that journalists had not been told that they could not report details of the proposals in reply to a tweet from Caebrwyn:

25 Oct
The invitation was to participate in the seminar, there was no restriction on reporting."

Funny that some of the more reputable members of the press corps seemed to have rather different recollections of what they were told, and funny that neither the BBC nor any of the local press reported on details of proposals which would normally be expected to be front page material.

Be that as it may, the Council has now published a document (here) which gives a breakdown of the proposed cuts which were discussed in the theatre.

The document sets the record straight on a number of points, and so it is only fair to report them:
  • The council says that 40 councillors participated, which means that 11 Labour and Independent councillors must have been absent.
  • In addition to the proposals aired at the seminar, the council is working on a package of "managerial" cuts worth £16 million over three years (i.e. internal cuts rather than cuts to frontline services).
  • The value of the cuts discussed in Llanelli is £14 million over three years.
  • Some councillors have submitted their own proposals, and those will be looked at internally and may go forward as part of more detailed proposals.
The proposals will eventually go to public consultation.

Anyone who looks at the document will notice that transparency only goes so far. Many of the proposals are given a very broad description, such as "Catering Services" (proposed saving of £1.2 million) with no indication of how the saving would be achieved.

Although a few of the votes were close, what is striking is how many proposals were waved through by a large majority. Proposals to slash spending on school transport encountered very little opposition from the Labour and Independent councillors who took part. And not one single councillor voted against the idea of a £50 "administration fee" for every child in secondary education using school buses.

Cllr Calum Higgins (Lab), who hopes to represent Carmarthen East and Dinefwr after the next general election, reckons that Plaid Cymru councillors were shirking their responsibilities when they decided not to participate in the PR farce at the Ffwrnes.

No doubt voters hit with higher council tax bills, huge new charges for school transport, higher car parking charges and cuts in a huge raft of other council services will show him how grateful they are in 2015.

Readers in Newcastle Emlyn and the surrounding area may be interested to hear that the town's leisure centre is singled out for cuts totalling £35,000, besides which pupils from the adjoining Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn school will no longer be able to use its facilities. Cneifiwr is considering getting up a petition to rename what's left as "Canolfan Calum Higgins" so that Calum's contribution to our welfare is not forgotten.

Canolfan Calum


Anonymous said...

Did Mark Evans the Unison Branch Sec leave? Is the PA Department trying to mislead employers and the public once again by stating that Trade Union representatives attended?

Anonymous said...

Caption - HIGGledy-piggledy just like the man himself!

Anonymous said...

Communications- Direct Communications £40000 saving?
Is this the County Rag reduction?

I never realised it cost that much to produce.

Anonymous said...

Is Trimsaran leisure centre in line to have a 35,000 pounds cut as well? Only asking........

Anonymous said...

Is Trimsaran leisure centre in line for a 35,000 pounds cut as well? Only wondering........

Anonymous said...

This is what I don't particularly like about politics in our area. I'm not surprised we don't see more youngsters in politics when this is the kind of comment we subject them to. I for one happen to agree with some aspects of what Callum said. Why were'nt Plaid Councillors in the seminar outlining every proposed cut they object to. Nobody is expecting a 100% attendance from all parties, but it seems a but rich to be against certain cuts and not bother turning up to oppose them. Great PR for Plaid, but no action. All as bad as each other I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

Plaid did say I think they would go but not take part.Am I right?
Am I also right in saying that councillors had no prior opportunity to make a reasoned case for the proposed cuts in services?

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @21.18 - Plaid sent along 5 observers. The party had previously offered to join the ruling Labour/Independent coalition to help steer the council through the budget crisis, but that offer was turned down.

I know that quite a few councillors felt that the seminar was a clumsily organised PR event, with no time to study proposals beforehand and insufficient time to analyse them during the event. Even councillors were prevented from taking away documents.

One aspect which has yet to emerge is who were the businesses taking part. A strong suspicion remains that some at least stand to gain from outsourcing of council services.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes.Outsourcing of council services to businesses? Cunning plan!
They would not be there if they believed there was nothing on offer.

Anonymous said...

Plaid playing politics with the cuts,
the Assembly has given CCC a reduced budget and the County has to deal with it. Playing observers and acting negatively is not helping and saying they wanted a rainbow coalition before they would participate is just childish

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @23.40 The situation is quite simple. Here you have someone saying, "I'm going to make all the decisions and I'm going to have everything my way. All you have to do is sign on the dotted line and accept responsibility".

I think most people faced with something like that would say "good luck, but you're on your own".

When the real discussions start, as opposed to a stage managed PR event, I am sure Plaid councillors will make themselves heard loud and clear.

Anonymous said...

It's not as clear as you make out cneifiwr, I don't think plaid have handled this well at all, and I normally vote for them. I'm not sure what they expect. Last year the budget was decided last minute, this year they' elope ed it up a bit. If the seminar wasn't publicised it would be dubbed un transparent and opaque. If it's publicised its a PR stunt. I predict the same will happen as last year, plaid will propose a load of last minute amendments that sound popular. I won't be voting for anyone next time. Maybe plaid need a new leader? PHG is too stuck in the old ways.

Anonymous said...

Someone like who ?
Darren Price , Alan Lenny, will not work with LAB/ Indie or rather they will not work with them so who is there .David Jenkins -well liked & respected & capable Winston Lemon - a joke , Tysul Evans- ? & the rest as quiet as the rest of Lab & Indie backbenchers

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