Saturday 18 April 2015

90 days to save Kevin, Meryl and Pam

Ever since Ted Heath swept away the old counties in the first local government reorganisation back in 1974, the way many of us identify with the counties where we live has changed. Most people under the age of 50 probably think that Glamorgan sausages were named after a cricket club. Some counties which re-emerged following the 1996 reorganisation, such as Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Sir Fôn/Anglesey, retain a strong local identity, while the bonds in others are weaker.

Carmarthenshire is such a geographically, culturally, linguistically and economically diverse county that it is sometimes hard to see what binds us together apart from council tax demands and Meryl Gravell.

If you were to create a graphic showing the relative strength of local identities in Wales, Carmarthenshire would probably fall somewhere in the middle in the grey zone between Pembrokeshire at one end, and the people who live in places such as Penderyn (was Brecknockshire, then Mid Glamorgan, now Rhondda Cynon Taf, soon to be something else) at the other.

Leighton Andrews will unveil proposals for another reorganisation of local government boundaries in July, and at the moment it is anybody's guess what he will come up with.

Carmarthenshire could remain as a standalone authority, but would probably be one of the smallest in any new order. It could be merged lock, stock and barrel into a re-created Dyfed, or it could be divided up, with Llanelli becoming part of a new greater Swansea, and the rest becoming part of a new entity which combines Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion.

One idea favoured by Elin Jones and others is two new entities, north and south, with the northern half being made up of North Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and the northern half of Carmarthenshire. It has a lot to recommend it.

To the uninitiated, last week's meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council looked like a show of unity, with Plaid, the Independents and Labour joining forces to call on Leighton Andrew to leave Carmarthenshire alone, and there can be no doubt about the sincerity of Cllr Emlyn Dole, the leader of the Plaid group, and Kevin Madge, the Labour leader, although Kev's claim that his Labour group is "100% behind this" is questionable.

Equally sincere in their defence of Carmarthenshire were Cllrs Glynog Davies and Alun Lenny, with Alun Lenny making the valid point that we have to differentiate between the county itself and the administration running the county, although that is difficult after so many years of Meryl, Mark and Madge.

Not far below the surface, things are a lot more messy and party membership matters less than local loyalties. Almost certainly some of those who voted in favour of keeping Carmarthenshire as a standalone authority are busy lobbying Leighton Andrew to take Llanelli out of the county, and there are other powerful voices outside the county council who want the same thing.

Without Llanelli, Carmarthenshire cannot survive as a separate unitary authority.

In their vote on Cllr Dole's motion calling on the Welsh Government to keep Carmarthenshire as a standalone authority, only Cllr Siân Caiach voted against.

Kevin Madge then got himself into the pages of the South Wales Guardian, saying that we had just 90 days to save Carmarthenshire. Yes, we the people have to "step up" and make it clear that we want to save Carmarthenshire, presumably by lobbying our Assembly Members, although his idea of leadership does not extend to what practical steps he wants "the people" to take.

In reality, Keith Davies, the Labour Assembly Member for Llanelli, has already made it clear where he stands, and it is not with Kev.

Also, whatever proposals Leighton Andrews comes up with will be subject to public consultation, although perhaps based on his experience of how things work in Carmarthenshire, Kevin Madge does not seem to think that will be anything other than a formality.

But what do you think?


Anonymous said...

Cneifiwr living on the border with Ceredigion -you don't have the same feeling for Sir Gar as many of us.-closet Cardi!!
Llanelli joining with Swansea will see Llanelli get nothing out of the deal - The Swansea Bay Partnership is looking more suspect daily despite Meryl's protestations .
The more likely outcome will be a return to Dyfed and how long will that last- another 20 years and Leighton Andrews Junior will come up with another plan to bring democracy to grassroots by creating 22 smaller authorities -
Sadlly we will all be buying for this despite LA claim that savings will be made

Owen said...

I suspect that if the merging of local authorities were accompanied with a beefed-up role for community councils it might be an easier sell.

As for what might happen, Leighton Andrews has hinted that some in Labour want as few as six authorities - I've heard 7 authorities based on local health board boundaries are/were being considered. But everything hints the map isn't going to vary greatly from the one proposed by Paul Williams - which means a reprieve for Carmarthenshire.

passerby said...

can't the counties just say to L.Andrews to begger off?

whatever the consultaion comes up with, the answer is already there unless it's an unaminous NO!

my as well wipe out all the counties and call it wales and admin it from cardiff. the district still has to have some form of admin point to consult with 'the hub', unless someone comes up to a district once a month to visit, but who is going to be there to inform any problems and what needs doing.. who do they report things to.

even in the middle ages, a district had a burgermeister so they really can't do away with them.

merging local councils seems in theory a good idea, not sure in practice. If kev's cwmaman merges with ammanford, doubt if he be happy if his money is diverted to ammanford. or just could be vice-versa. ammanford could merge with llandybie which is an awesome area, more sparse and costly because of minor inconveniences of footpaths and rural. so kev and ammanford maybe huffing if their resources get diverted as well as ammanford's, even if ammanford council is small in comparison. council taxes will go up, so that's 2020's living wages out of the window by the time they factor in the other prices rises. apparently people on nmw will be £40 a week better off but have to do 40 hours for it, by the time food rises, rent,council tax, leccy, gas etc get factored in, be lucky if they have a fiver left. the only way to offset that is by higher tax allowances. which could leave them with £20 'spare'.. so if they got £15 spare, 'council' will know this and put up council tax again. and come 2025, everyone will be back at the point we are in now.. just a pointless exercise that could be better managed now

passerby said...

llanelli tried to go it alone a couple of years back. if that is the case carms won't survive without llanelli, doesn't that say their resources get diverted?

most of the problems we have now originated 25 years ago and has been getting worse since.

what takes up the budget is social services. why does it cost £300, £400,£500 a week for example at a care home.
the problem they have now is even though land was much cheaper then than now, even if land was free is offset by the ridiculous amounts it would cost to build a new care home (which of course provides employment temporary while building it and permanent or part time while operating it). one other option would be rates relief exemptions as it costs a hell of a lot of money to finance these care homes. and that's just part of the budget. education is next which you would all know. end of free computer and art classes?

if they merge carms with south pembs, where is the admin point going to be? if it stays in carms, there would be a rather large building going to waste, as north pembs and ceridigion would more likely to be admined from aber. logistically it would be difficult travelling from pembroke dock to carmarthen for meetings, expenses, co2 emissions etc etc.. unless they can fully utilise the use of technology and a councillor can be present via skype, but won;t hold my breath as a meeting would be interupted by odd questions such as 'can you repeat what you just said, i can't here a flippin thing'.. or some other technological glitch, ahem.. podcasting meetings, conference calls.. sounds a bit chaotic.

webcasting a planning meeting sounds good, no need for a councillor to be there really.. but just how do they ask a question to the officer of they are not there.. webcast is a one way feed, and a two way feed needs to be relayed back in, so the viewers can actually hear what is being asked via skype. and then again, another feed in is electronic voting. so if one breaks down, the whole process cannot take place...frustrating but. the only way around that is to link in i-view into 'skype' which leaves internet viewers out in the cold.. data protection and all that. technically the public listening in to 'private' phone calls is not quite allowed for some reason ;-)

and other minor incoveniences of travelling from twyn to neyland for something.

if there was an easy answer, they would have taken it by now.. the same old system of a pyramid, you need feeders and support whatever system they come up with. why can't present sub-areas become the primary tax point. then again that has to admined, so it's cheaper to collect tax from one central point rather than a load of sub districts, but still costs the sub districts to send it to the central kitty. peter paying paul via barry, steve and dave.
But why not? let the sub districts have their independences and identities. as for receiving and paying revenue to and from central government, that still has it's role at county level.

if the feeder system works like for example, corner shop get evaluated, checked, pays business rates to county council, who then admin it, then it gets passed onto welsh gov, and maybe admined again, and then handed over to uk gov and probably admined again. why not just go straight to wag?
If there were no county evaluers, someone from wag would have to come round with a tape measure everytime. then again, having things at a county level provides some employment for someone.

drawback on a local town gov level is the legal side. admin isn't just collecting tax. could say a lot of villages and towns would have their own acting legal advisers on an if and when basis.
If a town clerk is legally qualified, they can do it.. cant see the harm in it, but on a part time basis.

end of the day, if the council cant afford to cut the grass, how would it be possible for 'swanseashire' being able to afford it

Anonymous said...

Kev, Meryl, Pam and their fellow dinosaurs just don’t get it – there’s a rather large meteor heading towards county hall in the form of Leighton Andrews and they’re not going to divert it.

“For the Welsh Government to break up Carmarthenshire would be an absolute disaster,” said Cllr Madge.

But it is clearly a disaster of their own making. Sian Caiach’s survey of people's views on the issue of mergers showed that the council is by no means universally popular and in the view of some “a basket case”. I think she is underestimating – the majority hold these views.

Sorry Kev, on your and your fellow councillors past record, I for one will not be stepping up to save your necks, but quite the opposite.

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly, Dyfed CC managed to administer services better than either Carmarthenshire or Pembrokeshire on their own have since done - and with far fewer staff.

When Dyfed reverted to three authorities instead of one, every senior post became three posts - and more. For example, one Director of Education for Dyfed became three Directors of Education for Pembs, Carms and Ceredigion and, in the case of Carmarthenshire, with an extra two deputies. It was an excuse for a bonanza of appointments.

Theoretically, then, if the three counties are reorganised back into one, then there should be at least a 50% reduction in senior posts.

It won't happen of course but one can hope!

Anonymous said...

does 1996 seem that far back that people have forgotten what really happened in the local Goverment reorganisation, Carmarthenshire County County Council was actually formed from the amalgamation of two borough councils ( Llanelli & Dinefwr) and Carmarthen District Council, Dyfed County Council's functions Education, Social Services, Education were broken down into the three authorities of Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.

I will say as someone that has worked in Local Authority for nearly thirty five years, Carmarthenshire is a viper pit, where some managers encourage a divide and conquer regime, there are many that have been placed in positions beyond their capabilities. With their failings, the staff who put their heart and soul in providing a good service to the public are currently feeling demoralised and dejected.

I often heared ex borough / district staff saying " it was far better working for those organisations than the current regime" and " I had a Manager who understood the service" unlike the ones we have now.

Emlyn Uwch Cych said...

I don't know, Cneifiwr. The best idea in my opinion would be a return to Dyfed, with beefed up community councils.

Now, this might well replicate the old borough/urban district/rural district pattern. So, in our case, a new Newcastle Emlyn District Council would be elected by the people of pre-1974 NCE Urban and Rural Districts.

Or, to be more radical, new councils could be created from parishes on both sides of the Teifi. Just imagine one council for NCE and Adpar!

This would allow powers to be devolved from "Dyfed" to new communities/districts with budgets greater than £250,000.

I can't see the people of Llanelli winning from going with Swansea. Besides, if Llanelli is Anschlussed to Swansea with a South-Dyfed/North-Dyfed split, can you imagine the thin authority linking Brynaman with Broad Haven? I'm also a closet Cardi; bring it on! But I just can't see this working.