Sunday 19 January 2014

Consulting on a fait accompli

We can't say we weren't warned. For months now Carmarthenshire County Council has been softening us up in preparation for sweeping cuts in spending on public services. The chief executive has thundered down at us from his pulpit in the Carmarthen Journal, and Kevin Madge has spoken of "cuts of biblical proportions".

The council launched a public consultation with a PR event in the Ffwrnes Theatre in Llanelli, and followed that with a formal consultation which ran from 19 November to 3 January. According to the Journal this week, the council has received over a thousand responses from the public.

Part way through this exercise people became concerned about one of the published proposals to make cuts to the provision of respite care for disabled children. The council was quick to respond, saying that these were only proposals. Nothing to worry about. Move on.

In theory the council will now sift through the responses and use them to formulate a draft budget in February.

In reality, it seems that choices had already been made long before the "consultation" actually began.

The consultation document says that one option will be to bring forward "closure of either the Glanmarlais or Tegfan residential care homes [in Llandybie and Ammanford, ed]. This is part of the new extra care development and providing alternative accommodation through use of spare capacity and as part of our investment programme in newer, more modern and up to date facilities- £1.7 million.”

Bear in mind that this was, to quote the council, only a proposal, and that the Executive Board has not yet met to discuss the outcome of the consultation or approve the draft budget.

Strange, then, that the council's planning committee should meet last week to approve detailed plans for the construction of 50 'state of the art' supported living apartments in Ammanford (i.e. the new extra care development referred to in the consultation document).  Here is a report from the South Wales Guardian.

The article quotes a spokesperson for the council saying that approval for the scheme "will bring forward the planned closure of either Tegfan or Glanmarlais residential homes."

Those who opposed closure of Tegfan or Glanmarlais may be left wondering what the point of the consultation was, and the council has probably left itself open to judicial review from anyone who has a family member in either of the two doomed homes. 

Next up, the strange case of the rapidly shrinking cost of producing the Carmarthenshire News.


Cllr Sian Caiach said...

This Labour led council is freely participating in the Conservative UK government's policy of "small government", basically destroying the welfare state and treating the poor as an excess population who should not be encouraged in any way, certainly not by having a living wage or decent services.
Yes, the cuts were planned long before the consultations, rubber stamped, and would have gone ahead anyway. The consultation is just to get a few bones to throw to the dogs.
In an organisation with an income of 500 £milions, half a billion pounds, there should not be this desperation for draconian front line cuts and staff losses.
What is absolutely plain is that the cuts are planned to be permanent - no mothballing of buildings or offices, whole scale destruction of past treasures and selling off public assets even when their value is rock bottom.

Carmarthenshire has been run for so long by the civil "servants" and the elected councillors who legally run the Council can't even be bothered to take control in the worst financial and governmental crisis since universal suffrage.

The casualty is representational democracy. I doubt that anyone who voted for these current nodding dog councillors expected them to just watch quietly while their council did its bit to dismantle the welfare state?

Anonymous said...

Consultation by local authorities? Shoot the arrow, then draw the bulls eye around it!

Anonymous said...

It is encouraging to hear that "the council has received over a thousand responses from the public." Nevertheless, sadly unless we all play our part to raise awareness of these cuts and inform people of the effect these cuts will have now or in the future on individuals and/or their families then the despicable Cllrs and civil servants Cllr Sian Caiach refers to in her comment above, will continue to steamroller over the good citizens of Carmarthenshire.

CCC's divide and rule tactics are one of the reasons they have got away with things thus far. The next step is conquer! Enough is enough, it is now time for the good people of Carmarthenshire to unite and consider taking other, more forcible and legitimate forms of action.

Anonymous said...

The casualty is representational democracy. I doubt that anyone who voted for these current nodding dog councillors expected them to just watch quietly while their council did its bit to dismantle the welfare state?
I agree whole heartedly with that comment Sian.
I genuinely feel that the councillors are as much to blame as the Chief Executive and his gang.

Mrs Angry said...

I would suggest that by letting the cat out of the bag over the foregone conclusion, the council has helpfully provided evidence of a failure to consult on their proposals, should there be any consideration of Judicial Review.