Thursday 1 May 2014

White smoke

At a meeting of the Plaid Cymru group on Carmarthenshire County Council last night Cllr Emlyn Dole (Llannon) was elected to take over as leader from Peter Hughes Griffiths, who will shortly take up the post of Deputy Chair of the Council. The new deputy is Dai Jenkins (Glanamman), who takes over from Tyssul Evans.

A formal announcement from the group is expected in the next fortnight when the leadership changes hands.

Emlyn will be a familiar figure to anyone who has watched broadcasts of the council's monthly meetings where he combines wit with a strong grasp of detail. He is currently a member of the Planning Committee and the Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee.

Dai is also a familiar figure to observers of the full council's monthly meetings, and his non-confrontational style and grasp of detail have earned him the respect of all sides. He is currently chair of the very important Audit Committee and a member of the Planning and Policy and Resources Scrutiny Committees.

We are still three years away from the next local government elections, and leading the opposition in a council where all power is concentrated in the hands of the Labour-Independent Executive Board is a pretty thankless task. Perhaps thanks for taking on the job rather than congratulations are more appropriate under those circumstances.

The next three years will be interesting and difficult, with more spending cuts coming down the line, the prospect and uncertainty of a major shake-up of local government in Wales and the strong likelihood that more scandals from the past will rock the council.

We may have a weak and uninspiring governing coalition, but with Emlyn Dole and Dai Jenkins leading a very talented team, Carmarthenshire can at least boast a strong opposition.


Anonymous said...

I think you'll find it's not as thankless as you suggest: senior salary! Leader of the opposition gets the same as an executive board member.

Anonymous said...

Leader of the Opposition does NOT get the same 'senior salary' as an executive board member. S/he gets the same as a committee Chair:

Leader - £47,500
Deputy Leaders (yes, two of them) £31,120
Exec Board members £28,780
Opposition Leader £21, 910
Committee Chairs £21,910

In the case of Carmarthenshire Council, I'd say the opposition leader does far more than any executive board member, who simply rock up to rubber stamp 'unlawful' actions.

Redhead said...

It's all still far yoo much compared to many other councils - for all of them

Anonymous said...

It makes me feel sick that Cllrs get that amount of remitance for doing NOTHING most of the time . I think that we have to go back to the day of elected members doing it for duty and not pay, as the introduction of paying councillors has not "improved the stock" or introduced innovative dynamic younger men and women who want to change the status quo into local politics. totally depressing

Redhead said...

I was a town councillor for 4 years - I was paid nothing and claimed no expenses nor did any of the other 11 members.

It is a privilege to serve your community and you should not expect pay. We had one young councillor who was unemployed and she refused expenses too.

Sian Caiach said...

I do think its a relevant discussion as to how much councillors get. The backbench "expenses", taxed as a salary is OK for a single person without large overheads or children. Last year my total gross was 13,312, taxable gross 12,384 with 6% pension contributions giving me around £800 per month after tax. Quite honestly, being a single parent with 2 teenage kids at home I'm grateful for an ill health retirement pension from my former employer. Most Coucillors have pensions or second jobs.
Like Redhead I would carry on without the expenses because its such important work and I have another income. But do you want only Counillors with other means to support themselves?

Yes, our pay and its rapid increase with more seniority and responsibility are debatable. Like university fees, the highest nationally recommended levels tend to be taken up. Surely, the question is whether or not you get value for your money? The voters decide on who gets elected. The ruling group picks the executive. Constantly extending the terms of Councils, as has happened recently means that the public have to wait longer to chuck us out if we are not thought to be value for money.
The latest rumour is no change till 2018 if reorganization kicks in.
I wish Emlyn and Dai well. I'm hoping to see an invigorated and effective opposition. I always wonder if its real gold in the 4 chains and if so, maybe a few links would help with the cash problems? And do we need a car and driver for the chair?
PHG will, I'm sure be excellent at the ceremonial duties.

Cllr Alun Lenny said...

With respect, Redhead and Co. need to think more carefully about this. Do they really want to go back to the bad old days where only retired people or 'gentleman farmers' could afford to be councillors? Anonymous 12.05 believes there are still too many of them on councils, but there are also an increasing number of younger people who use their allowance to offset the loss of income through taking time off work. The basic councillor salary of £13,312 - which Sian Caiach and I receive, for example - is set by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales for ALL councils. To be honest, being five years away from pensionable age, I just couldn't afford to be a county councillor otherwise.
I'm also a town councillor who's been privileged to serve my community for the past six years or so for no pay or expenses - nor would I expect any. But I can assure you that being a county councillor is a whole different ball game. As elected members, we are responsible for setting or scrutinising a budget of £550m a year. Being Leader of the 28-strong Plaid opposition group is a full-time job. An effective and robust opposition CAN make a difference to people's lives. For instance, the Plaid group has been fighting for a Living Wage for the 3,000 or so for council staff who get less than £7.65 an hour. We believe it disgraceful that a Labour-led administration is refusing to pay this, preferring to leave people to depend on benefits - and we all know what's happening to the benefits system now. Under pressure from Plaid they've done away with the lower pay scales and raised the lowest rate to £7 an hour this year. (Sorry to make a party political point, but it's one example of how an active opposition group can make a difference.)
Yes - there are members who turn up for meetings and hardly contribute to debates and discussions. However, for all I know, they may be very good local members who work hard for their electors (or not!).
It's very easy to denigrate councillors as a species, but we're certainly not all of the same breed.

Anonymous said...

As I see it, there is too much of a divide between the basic Councillor salary of £13,312 and the higher paid, for example the Leader of the Council who, I understand is on over £50,000 including expenses. I don't think anyone should question the basic salary at £13,312 but the higher paid salaries need to be reviewed.