It is sometimes said that attack is the best form of defence, and this is a tactic observers of Carmarthenshire County Council's monthly meetings have seen deployed on several notable occasions. Sometimes this takes the form of a burst of synthetic outrage about accusations made by nobody, leaving observers and most councillors scratching their heads and wondering if they have missed something.
Back in June of this year the monitoring of Cllr Siân Caiach's e-mails by council officers was raised in the chamber. This was a serious matter for several reasons, not least because it should make members of the public think twice before sending an e-mail to their elected representative in the belief that what they are communicating is in confidence.
The main drift of the replies Cllr Caiach got was that the council was fully entitled to monitor councillors' e-mails, and the chief executive went on to launch an angry tirade. Accusations, made by nobody, that there was a department of officers sitting monitoring e-mails was "completely fallacious. There is no truth
to that at all".
Employing a group of people just to monitor councillors' e-mails would indeed be preposterous, but there does appear to be an established monitoring operation on Jail Hill.
Earlier this week another blogger submitted a Freedom of Information request to the council. The details of the request will have to wait for another day, but the issue involved is one which extends way beyond the borders of Carmarthenshire.
Within hours of the request having been made, the blogger noticed that Carmarthenshire County Council was busy reading and searching her blog for information linked to her Freedom of Information request, because she uses a standard software package which can show which companies and public bodies are accessing the blog.
So it's a big hello to the boys and girls reading this in County Hall. Despite the unprecedented spending cuts coming down the line, you can probably relax in the knowledge that your jobs are not under threat.
My sister works for a council in Glamorgan - and her job is to monitor the email of all staff and councilors - for a range of issues including political views.
I can't name the council for obvious reasons but don't think that Carmarthen is unique!
Senior Carmarthenshire officers really do not "get" the idea of Freedom of Information. The term "freedom" suggests openness, transparency, a willingness to share, an acceptance that the public has the right to know what and how decisions affecting us are made, and how our money is being spent.
Carmarthenshire's approach is obstinately obstructive, secretive, patronising, pettifogging and grudging. The default answer seems to be "no" unless the information to be prised from reluctant jaws is of little interest to anyone.
One of the useful tools in the armoury of obstruction is to say that the cost of collecting the information is excessive. It's not surprising that costs mount up if the first response to someone seeking information is to instruct officers to trawl through online records to see what the person seeking the information already knows.
Or is this another means of trying to pin the tag of "vexatious" on the request? If anyone deserves the appellation of vexatious, it seems to be an apt description of CCC's whole approach to freedom of information. But those who have much to hide will want such things kept hidden.
It might help if we had a local media that at least tried to cover proper news stories. I don't even expect investigative journalismuraltctobtained just reporting of news.
Front page story in the Carmarthen Journal this week is about a licensee of a local pub who has built a display of cider bottles !!
I despair !!
Fair play to the South Wales Guardian who despite having been threatened with the loss of CCC ads in the past are the only print media who seem to have the journalistic balls to report the news.
The main page of the Carmarthen Journal's website, which is becoming increasingly unusable because of pop-up advertising, carries a single "story" on the council. This tells us that there are plans to spend over £120 million on school building projects over the next few years, but this was all announced more than a year ago, and a huge chunk of the money will go one one single project in Llandeilo. There is no money at all for most schools.
News or rehashed propaganda?
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