Sunday 7 December 2014

Man of Straw

A feature of Carmarthenshire County Council's monthly meetings since September has been the appearance on the agenda of questions submitted in the main by opposition councillors querying aspects of council policy and business.

Another novelty which appeared for the first time in October was motions submitted by members of the ruling Labour group. First up was Kevin Madge himself calling for the uncontroversial banning of the sale and use of Chinese lanterns on council-owned property.

This was something which could easily have been decided using delegated powers without recourse to a formal motion and debate. After all, many much more contentious policies (e.g. levying exorbitant fees for the use of council owned sports facilities) were approved by the Executive Board without consulting councillors, and when that particular decision was questioned, Kevin Madge worked himself up into a lather and the acting Head of Law admonished the opposition for trying to micromanage board decisions.

Then in November Calum Higgins popped up with a motion in support of re-opening the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway line, and this week he has put down a motion calling on the council to support plans for a "national memorial woodland" to commemorate the First World War at Carwe, which happens to be on Meryl Gravell's doorstep and a stone's throw from her race course, the site of Robbie Savage's proposed hotel, and a huge development in open countryside of some nice new executive homes. The proposed name of the wood is Coed Ffos Las, and it will feature a poppy meadow and "interpretive panels".

Yes, there is an election looming, and we can expect more of Calum's motions in months to come, possibly culminating in "This Council believes that Motherhood and Apple Pie are to be applauded".

Nice, uncontroversial motions which everyone can agree on so that Calum can get into the local press and appear to be doing something, although whether anything more than a few words on a bit of paper will come out of this remains to be seen.  Probably not, but that's not the point. This is all about PR.

The National Memorial Woodland is projected to cost £1.2 million, and is the brainchild of the Woodland Trust which has identified a 120 acre site it would like to buy. Kevin Madge provided a quote for the official launch back in June, and a joint press release was issued in association with Sainsbury's.

Kevin and Sainsbury's, it will be remembered, have form when it comes to press releases.

Calum would like the council to render every assistance to the project, but the trouble is the council has blown what money it had on other schemes, including the ludicrous legal wranglings of the chief executive (supported by Calum and his colleagues). With the prospect of a national attraction in her backyard and limitless PR opportunities wrapped up in the Union Jack, Calum should nevertheless get enthusiastic backing from Meryl and a healthy crop of grants.

With four more years of World War One commemorations to go, the opportunities for climbing aboard the patriotic bandwagon are enormous, and everyone can join in.

It was recently revealed that no sooner had the crowds been ushered away from the poppy exhibition at the Tower of London than it was hired out for a very exclusive dinner of arms manufacturers, dealers and British military top brass.

The British Legion is also at it, according to this interesting piece (hat tip to Jac o' the North), securing sponsorship from those nice people at Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems and promoting poppy commemorations as a good place to do a bit of networking for those involved in the arms trade.

And if you thought that was about as cynical as it can get, how about this ad which brings together the First World War, Sainsbury's and the British Legion?

Unfortunately the Glorious Dead are too dead to make their views known.

Many other industries may be struggling, but these are boom times for the British war memorial industry, with barely a month passing without the unveiling of some new statue, arboretum, elaborate wrought iron gates, memorial garden, wall or memory facilitation installation. The likelihood is that quite a few of these will be found quietly rotting away a few years from now once the PR caravan has moved on, public interest has subsided and funds run out to keep the things maintained.

This blog has previously mentioned Heinrich Mann's superb satirical novel Der Untertan variously translated as "Man of Straw" and "The Loyal Subject". In it the main character uses his position of public influence to divert funds intended to support an orphanage into building a patriotic statue of the Emperor.

Back in Carmarthenshire, the council would very much like to close one of two respite care centres for disabled children to save £200,000.

It will be interesting to see how Calum and his seven seconders vote when this and other budget cuts come before them.

If you think that spending £200,000 on saving a respite home for disabled children is better than creating yet another war memorial, please sign this petition.


Anonymous said...

Arwyddais i'r ddeiseb ond siwr buasai'n cael mwy o wybodaeth yn ddwyiethog yn lle uniath Saesneg.

Anonymous said...

"mwy o gefnogaeth" sori

Anonymous said...

O ystyried y % fach iawn o bobl yng Nghymru y mae eu sgiliau mynd y tu hwnt chrap o gyfathrebu llafar , Fi 'n sylweddol yn amau ​​hynny . Beth bynnag , os mai'r unig reswm nad oedd ganddynt lais yn y gyllideb eleni oedd ei bod yn dweud iawn o'r hyn yw eu blaenoriaethau . Efallai y dylai eich negeseuon yn ddwyieithog hefyd? Cariad o Google cyfieithu

Considering the very small % of people in Wales whose skill goes beyond a smattering of verbal communication, I really doubt that. In any event if the only reason that they didn't have a say in this year's budget was that it is very telling of what their priorities are. Perhaps your messages should be bilingual too? Love from Google translate