Friday 6 February 2015

Forthcoming Attractions at the Jail Hill Odeon

The agenda for this month's meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council  on 11 February has been published, and once again it is very thin.

The most significant change is that, for the first time, the council will no longer "receive" reports from the various committees and scrutiny committees, and the minutes of their meetings are now merely provided "for information only".

Preventing discussion and questions about matters raised in the various committees has long been on the chief executive's agenda, and it will be remembered that his plan was to do away with them altogether and subject councillors and the public to corporate Powerpoint presentations by invited "partners" to tell us all what a wonderful job they are doing.

This latest change is another step towards the holy grail of turning meetings of the full council into what will be little more than a PR exercise. The idea that the County Council should be a forum, as the constitution says, "for the debate of matters of concern to the local community and the place at which councillors are able to hold the executive board and committee chairs to account" clearly has no place in modern, visionary local government.

As has now become standard, there are several questions from councillors on a variety of subjects including milk prices (important but nothing to do with the county council), the decision by the Tory Police Commissioner to stop funding CCTV cameras, and budget cuts to libraries, school transport, home care services and children with special educational needs.

Cllr Emlyn Dole's question has been partly pre-empted by the Executive Board's decision not to push ahead with plans to scrap school crossing patrols, meals on wheels and some other services.

This is all part of a tradition whereby council officers put forward the same old, tired proposals to slaughter the first born and slay the innocent every year. This is then followed by a highly publicised  session of the Executive Board which, after much hand-wringing, announces that some babes in arms will be spared, at least for the time being, and press releases rain down proclaiming that Kevin Madge, Pam Palmer and the rest have saved the world. Or at least Garnant and Abergwili.

Cllr Cefin Campbell notes that while some schools in Carmarthenshire are performing well under the Welsh Government's new categorisation scheme, a third are not and will be the subject of special measures and intervention.

Expect Labour's Keith Davies to reply reading very badly from a prepared statement, and possibly an intervention from Kevin Madge singing the praises of the council's Modernising Education Programme and Ysgol y Bedol in Garnant in particular, where he is chair of the board of governors.

Kev had a practice run at this the other day in the pages of the South Wales Guardian in a piece which managed to highlight Ysgol y Bedol while ignoring the problems the government identified in 32 other schools.

And finally, possibly the most interesting question of the day is one submitted by Cllr Siân Caiach about the unlawful pension pay supplement awarded by Kevin Madge and other members of the Executive Board to Mark James in November 2011. How much did the legal and consultancy advice cost the council, and who commissioned the various reports?

Perhaps someone will also be allowed to ask, as a follow-up question, who placed the proposal on the agenda of the Executive Board at that fateful meeting. According to the rules, it can only have been Mark James himself, or his old friend Meryl Gravell.


Anonymous said...

This Body must be out of compliance with the law. Surely the all council activity must be subject to scrutiny by opposition councillors and the public.

Anonymous said...

That this agenda should follow close on the heels of the Welsh Government White paper on Local Government reform, makes it all the more laughable.

Do they not see which way the wind is blowing? More accountability, more scrutiny, and less entrenched power and influence of Chief Executives, not to mention less pay. All this from a Labour administration.

So how has the "most transparent authority in Wales" embraced this new spirit of the age? Has Kev announced a decisive, immediate sea-change? No. It's business as usual - picture Gollum bitterly muttering about "secretses" and "my precious decisionses".

Those elected Councillors whose role it is to scrutinise and hold to account continue to be ignored, sidelined and neutered, and their meetings hijacked with barely relevant presentations. What a mockery.

Anonymous said...

Re. “Preventing discussion and questions about matters raised in the various committees has long been on the chief executive's agenda”
– I am nor aware that the constitution has been changed!
Article 4 of the constitution states -
4.2 Functions of the full Council
(r) to receive reports from Committees on matters which have been
delegated to them and providing an opportunity for Members to ask
questions thereon;
(s) to receive and confirm or otherwise the recommendations of
Committees on non-executive functions not within their delegation or
which a Committee has referred to the Council for decision, to enable
Members to ask questions, propose amendments, or to pass such
resolution or resolutions thereon as may be deemed appropriate;