There is not much left of local democracy in Carmarthenshire, and the Appeals Committee is to all intents and purposes the only remaining body in which ordinary, democratically elected councillors can challenge and overturn decisions made by unelected officers.
It will come as no surprise to hear that the officers would dearly love to abolish the committee, and several attempts have already been made to send it off to the great archive in the sky.
Members of the public and council staff who feel that council officers have made unfair decisions in certain areas can appeal to their elected representatives and ask for the decisions to be overturned. Most of the cases which come before the committee involve decisions by the Education Department to refuse free school transport to children, but occasionally the committee also hears appeals against dismissal.
Membership of the committee is restricted to just seven of the 74 elected councillors, and unusually committee members who cannot attend meetings for one reason or another may not nominate a substitute. Currently there are three Plaid Cymru members, two Independents and two Labour members.
For members of the public exercising their right to appeal against decisions they consider unfair, the Appeals Committee is hugely important, and the appeals process means having to complete paperwork, taking time off work and travelling to Carmarthen to appear in person. Committee members are under a strong moral obligation to take their work seriously, therefore.
Despite this, and despite being vice chair of the committee, Calum Higgins, Labour's student councillor for Tycroes, often has more important things to do.
Yesterday's meeting kicked off at 10 o'clock with no sign of Calum, and no apology for absence. On the agenda were four appeals against decisions not to provide free school transport.
Calum sauntered in at 12.10 as proceedings were drawing to a close, saying that he had been helping one of the four cases heard that day.
One of the Labour members turned to a Plaid councillor to say, "He's standing for the Assembly", referring to young Calum.
"No, he isn't", the Plaid councillor replied, before explaining to the Labour councillor that Calum is hoping to represent us all in Westminster as a Labour MP in 2015.
"What him? Good gracious", came the reply of the bemused Labour councillor who clearly has not been keeping up with the goings-on in their own party.
I'm sorry cneifiwr but you shouldn't listen to what sian thomas tells you! Your version of the events is a little 'PLaid' tinted.
"What him? Good gracious", came the reply of the bemused Labour councillor who clearly has not been keeping up with the goings-on in his own party.
Has Cneifiwr got his facts wrong again?
I think you'll find that Calum had given his apologies as he had an interest to declare in some items on the agenda. The committee switched the agenda around due to some appellants not turning up and concequently the meeting finished early. The other Labour Councillors had left early due to declerations also ans so I'm pretty sure you've got a dodgy source.
I just checked to see who the Labour Councillor was and noticed that Callum is the only male Labour councillor on the appeals' panel. so who is this mysterious male labour councillor who was bemused?
I'm all for political debate but as a swing voter I'm not so sure I like the tone of Plaid's campaign against Callum. Is this really how we want our debate to go? Make up fake councillors to slagg off a political opponent? I can't wait for Adam Price to get back, he never would approve of all his.
Anon @12.04 - I have just de-sexed the Labour councillor. My mistake.
de-sexing the individual does not make it the truth
OK, so let's tackle the truth Anon @13.39
The meeting started at 10 am. Calum was not there. Normally councillors with an interest to declare turn up and declare it.
Anon @11.34 says he had "some interests to declare". There were just 4 appeals on the agenda. Were they all his relatives, or does he own shares in the school bus company?
Why did he not arrive for the start of the meeting and leave for the duration of the case in which he apparently had an interest?
How would you feel if you were making an appeal about something that really matters to you, and the people hearing your appeal didn't bother showing up?
The agenda shows that the 4th case was due to be heard at 12.15. Calum turned up at 12.10. So did he have interests in the first 3 cases?
Considering how much criticism Calum has had for his relaxed approach to his council duties, you would think he might make more of an effort.
Don't you think you're being just a bit too harsh, Cneifiwr?
I mean, with Calum's attendance record around the 30% mark, we should be grateful he bothered to turn up at all!
Where does it say in the first place if the labour councillor,is male or female.
If he had a proper job,factory etc.and he would turn up
Only 30% of the time I wonder what wold happen?
I fod yn onest Cneifiwr, dwi, yn aml, yn darllen dy flog. Y rhan fwyaf o'r amser rwyt ti'n llygaid dy le. OND mae'n rhaid i mi dweud dy fod wedi mynd dros ben llestri ar sawl achlysur wrth ymosod ar Calum. A ydyt yn gweithio i Jonathan Edwards a'r Blaid? Dwi wedi colli parch am y blog, a dyma'r tro diwethaf i mi ei ddarllen siŵr o fod. Siomedig.
Diolch am hynny. Nac ydw - dw i ddim yn gweithio i Jonathan, nac i'r Blaid. Ond mae hi yn bwysig bod pobl Sir Gâr yn cael gwybod y gwir y tu ôl i'r sbin. Beth sy'n bwysig i'r dyn ifanc yma yw ei yrfa, ac does dim byd arall yn cyfrif.
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