Saturday 21 June 2014

A rushed job

Update 22 June

Caebrwyn has written a powerful and very eloquent piece about this review over on her blog. She is absolutely right, and we must ensure that the voice of the public is heard this time.


Kevin Madge, the Labour leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, announced that the council would be holding a review of its governance procedures when he spoke at the Extraordinary General Meeting called to discuss the Wales Audit Office's findings on unlawful payments at the end of February. The review would be carried out under the auspices of the Welsh Local Government Association, he said.

More than three months have passed since then, and at the most recent meeting of the full council we were told that a panel would be appointed and begin work before the end of June, with the aim of completing its task by the end of July. All councillors would have an opportunity to give their views to the panel.

There was no announcement of who would sit on the panel, except that it would include a former council chief executive and someone who used to work for the Wales Audit Office, but we were assured that it would be completely independent.

A couple of days ago it was announced that the panel would be headed by Byron Davies, the former chief executive of Cardiff City Council, but there has been no confirmation yet as to who will be joining Mr Davies.

Given the timescales, this is a little odd.

Why is it taking so long to put together a panel which is supposed to start work within days and complete its task within weeks?

Although councillors will be invited to give their views to the panel, there has been no word from Kevin Madge or anyone else as to whether the county's long-suffering residents will be allowed to tell the experts what they think about how their council should be run.

Who is Byron Davies?

It would be hard to find anyone who is more of a local government insider than Byron Davies. He picked up an OBE in 2008 (Mark James is higher up the ludicrous honours pecking order with a CBE, by the way) before retiring as chief executive in 2009. His CV includes stints as President of the Chartered Institute of Management in Wales, President of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives in the UK and President of the European Federation of Local Authority Chief Executives.

On retiring he set up a "strategic management" consultancy. He is or was also a Welsh Government Commissioner on corporate governance, Chairman of the Wales International Business Council, International Spokesperson for the Welsh Local Government Association, Honorary President of the Federation of Local Authority Chief Executives in Europe and a Deputy Lieutenant of South Glamorgan.

He was also one of the commissioners appointed by the Welsh Government to take over the running of Anglesey when the county council went into meltdown in 2011.

A large part of Carmarthenshire's problems stem from a democratic deficit and lack of openness and transparency, with power and control being taken from elected representatives and handed to a managerial elite.

Mr Davies's CV is very strong on management, but the word "democracy" does not appear to feature anywhere.

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