Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Minutes for #Daftarrest Council Meeting

Carmarthenshire Council have FINALLY published the minutes for the #daftarrest full council meeting on the 8th June, this is how the incident has been reported;

I had not interrupted proceedings, neither was I disruptive. I really hope this is not signed off as a 'correct record'.

And there you have the timescale,  the police were phoned, four officers and two police cars arrived , I was arrested and 'removed'; ALL THIS within 15 minutes, this must be a record for Dyfed Powys Police or the Council has a hotline to it's very own Rapid Response Team. 

While we're looking at the minutes, (here's a link) You will also notice Item 6, the presentation of the Day Club Petition which bears absolutely no resemblence to the row that broke out nor the efforts by Cllr Caiach to have a debate on the subject, most of which can be seen on one of the You Tube clips.

Clearly filming Carmarthenshire Council's meetings should be a top priority. Plaid Cymru's Jonathan Edwards MP (@JonathanPlaid) phoned me yesterday to express his views on the matter and also spoke on behalf of my Assembly Member Rhodri Glyn Thomas. He fully supports Cllr Dyfrig Thomas' call to for Carmarthenshire Council to webcast all possible meetings, stating that such a record would be invaluable, and the costs would be minimal. He said that if nothing happened soon then it would form part of Plaid's manifesto for next year's local elections. I rather hope though that something does happen soon.
I of course maintain that members of the public should be free to film and record public meetings as well.

He also expressed his shock over my treatment and said that as regards Carmarthenshire Council, it was definitely "not their finest hour". No it wasn't and I appreciate his support.

Excellent post from Anglesey blogger, The Photon, this morning on the issue of filming council meetings;
IOACC: FoIA Response to Filming Council Meetings and asks a question that no Local Authority has yet to answer.


Dyfed Powys Police have responded to criticism over my #daftarrest. Along with the Council Minutes as above, also coincidentally released today, I am finding it difficult to believe what I am reading.
I will have to collect my thoughts and comment later.
More determined than ever to try and challenge all this.

Monday, 27 June 2011

By-Election, Filming etc....and the Parking Ticket

I have rather neglected local stories over the past couple of weeks but as the dust settles and I consider my options, and Carmarthenshire Council proudly displays it's latest award on the wall of the Presidential Suite, there are a few items to note;

The Llanegwad by-election was held last Thursday, an interesting win for Plaid Cymru over a usually safe Independent seat. Anyone who has a passing interest in Carmarthenshire politics will know that the Independents, as a group, are in tight coalition with Labour under the firm hand (or 'boot') of Leader Meryl Gravell. The Plaid opposition were naturally pleased to add another to their ranks in County Hall. What is becoming increasingly important is not so much the political colours of our Councillors but the need for a strong opposition and alternative to the ruling elite and with only 10 months to the next local elections I hope plenty of vociferous candidates, including true independents will stand, and we will have a brand new Executive Board, making decisions for the good of Carmarthenshire residents rather than, as it appears to many of those residents now, acting as lackeys for the Chief Executive.
For further comment please have a look at Y Cneifwr blog ,and while you're there, have a read of the other excellent posts too.

A word of thanks here to Plaid Councillor Dyfrig Thomas who spoke out to urge Carmarthenshire Council to webcast it's meetings, (and thanks also to the other County Councillors who have supported me over all this); Cllr Thomas said sound and film recording would improve transparency and create a "powerful and effective means of holding decision-makers to account. After the fiasco at the meeting of the June 8, when Mrs Thompson was removed from the gallery, the public just cannot understand what was wrong in filming the proceedings. She was not interfering with the meeting in any way. A sound system is in place in the chamber and two fixed cameras would be sufficient to pan the whole chamber. It could be done with the minimum of cost and would require very little resources. There would be a true record of the proceedings, and lower grade managers could become aware of councillors' views."
Apparently the matter will be discussed at a meeting in the near future, I shall be popping along to see how that one goes.

Carmarthenshire Council, as we know, completely lacking a filming ban in their own constitution, have been asking all the other Local Authorities for their policies etc on this subject. The results are a mix with some requiring permission from the Chair to film, some regularly webcasting meetings, some are reviewing policy inlight of recent events, and some do nothing at all, yet, eg Carmarthenshire. Who, interestingly, have been scratching their heads over the past week or two, and not only come up with the 'we own the building' ploy but the 'we are not required to permit filming' wheeze from the Local Government Act 1972, I don't think though this amounts to a ban nor an excuse to lock people up who do film. Discussions between the political leaders and the Chief Executive last week seem to have concluded, wrongly, that there is a blanket ban, with one political leader feeling he'd been prematurely pressurized into action and that 'we need to be sure of our facts'. The facts are exactly as Cllr Thomas said, and I repeat "sound and film recording would improve transparency and create a powerful and effective means of holding decision-makers to account." It's quite simple really, no argument. Another reason to film is of course the vague and uninformative Council Minutes - who could ever argue over what was said, by whom, to who, or about what, if we can all see it on film?
Which reminds me, I am still waiting for the Minutes of the June 8th full Council meeting to be published, they're taking a very long time....Carmarthenshire Council and the subject of filming meetings will be an issue I will follow closely.

Incidentally, I have also, this morning, asked the Chief Executive to make a public apology to myself on behalf of the Council. I await his reply.

The Council's Deposit Local Development Plan has now been published, only a year and a half behind schedule. You have until 4.30pm, August 19th to object or comment, I suggest everyone takes a close look at the proposed sites as it maps out future developments in the County, if you can bear to read the words 'strategy' or 'strategic' at least ten thousand times that is, if you can't, stick to the maps. As our wonderful Planning Department steers us through the next few years of Carmarthenshire 'strategic' growth let's also hope someone takes a close look at them too.

The Assembly Government has decided to publish it's spending details over £25,000. The First minister stated; "How we use taxpayers' money must be open and easily accessible to the public". Although any moves towards transparency are to be welcomed, I believe this figure is too high. Let's hope the next decision is to insist all Local Authorities publish their spending details over £500. 

Following on from the ICO decision relating to the publication/release of senior officer's Register of Interests in Bolton, I notice a related Freedom of Information request to Cheshire Council, the response is due next month. I have a feeling, in the interests of transparency, I may be soon making a similar request to Carmarthenshire Council.

Lastly, I have challenged the parking Penalty Charge Notice referred to in my previous post, I have said; 

'I am challenging this PCN as I was unable to get back to my car on that day until approximately 4.15pm by which time the three hour ticket had expired, this was through no fault of my own whatsoever;
I believe that as a result of the Police and Carmarthenshire County Council knowingly acting on false information, I was arrested by the Police at County Hall, Carmarthen that morning and held in custody at Llanelli Police Station for most of the day. As I was released without charge and this matter is now subject to ongoing investigations, I ask that any judgement be suspended until these are complete.'

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Carmarthenshire Council - Officially a Rotten Borough

This week's issue of Private Eye;

Thanks to Private Eye for highlighting the issues in the article, please click on it and have a read. Also thanks again for the very comprehensive coverage of the #daftarrest story in today's Carmarthen Journal. Especially @AlexMurraySmith @DConnopPrice and the Editor @CathrynIngs. There is a link to some of their exclusive coverage here; http://www.thisissouthwales.co.uk/Council-urged-install-cameras-arrest-fiasco/story-12813208-detail/story.html But if you are local, please buy a copy for fuller coverage. The wider issues of filming council meetings is also discussed. I will also digest what has been said by the Council and Police so far, and comment later on, as I have said before I am certain I have a case against both, and believe me I am working on it.


Monday, 20 June 2011


I have heard that I am now banned from all public meetings of the Council at County Hall unless I sign an undertaking not to film which will be 'enforced'. What that implies about the one signed under duress at the Police station I really have no idea and 10 days later I am still waiting for a copy. As I refused to sign the one sent by the Chief Executive a few weeks ago, I am certainly not signing anything now. I would also imagine that 'enforcable' undertakings should have some sort of legal seal, but what do I know? I will post more on this, and other closely related matters, as soon as I have more information.

Sometime shortly after the incidents on the 8th June the Council's claims that filming or recording were banned under the constitution were found to be false. I already knew this, but as the parochial bubble burst and this became common knowledge outside the secure boundaries of Carmarthenshire, the council clearly needed to come up with an alternative excuse. Rather imaginatively they came up with the idea that County Hall was their building and they, as guardian angels of democracy, were protecting the electorate from the 'undemocratic' onslaught of Mrs Thompson and her phone. I commend them on their logic and see how this may sound good as a press release, especially in times of war or anarchy, but it falls short when it comes to reality of this situation. Firstly, it is not their bulding, it is our building and even more so the Chamber within. Secondly, it is not me who is a threat to democracy, it is they, and anyone who witnessed the scenes over the Day Club petition, and anyone else who has observed meetings, or who has followed this blog, may well come to the same conclusion. I have also been reminded by Carmarthenshire bloggers here and here, of a quote by Meryl Gravell, Leader of the Council and 'chief guardian of democracy', speaking in 2008 about controversial plans to close 40 primary schools,
"Some (council) members exhibit extreme weakness and are prepared to listen to people protesting about school closures out there…in the community."
Shock horror. And if she claims her words were taken out of context, which they weren't, perhaps she would have been grateful if someone had filmed it. The same goes for some Members of the Planning Committee who have granted permission because someone is of "impeccable character" or, perhaps worse still, because they were "not outsiders". Time for us to listen in methinks.

I did not disrupt their meeting nor behave in an undemocratic manner, this notion is laughable. There were no grounds for the council to act as they did nor the police. Incidentally the meeting was not even correctly 'adjourned' - a motion without notice should have been passed for this to happen. I presume that because they (the Chair and Chief Executive) - had swept aside Cllr Caiach's attempts to table a motion to debate the day club a few minutes prior to this - it would have looked a little undemocratic to pass one a few minutes later to adjourn the meeting for my removal - so the correct procedure was quietly and conveniently brushed aside. They wouldn't want to look undemocratic now would they? And out of interest, are other Council meetings elsewhere in the UK usually controlled by the Chief Executive?...

I am pleased to see that Freedom of Information Requests have gone in to all Welsh local authorities, thanks to @Aledwg and others, asking for their policies on filming, blogging and tweeting etc at meetings. I wonder whether Carmarthenshire Council will now follow the shining example set by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council on the 25th May and decide to include a banning clause in their Constitution? Maybe Carmarthenshire's Executive Member with the portfolio for 'Modernising Local Government' who rose to her feet to complain about me will think it's a good idea.
Or perhaps they'll just bring back the Village Stocks.

I am very grateful to everyone who is signing my petition, and thanks to journalist and blogger @joniayn for calling in and for providing independent confirmation that I am, in fact, perfectly sane! I am pleased to notice several Councillors and politicians amongst the growing list...I wonder when we will see some of the 74 Carmarthenshire County Councillors adding their support.....

Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 1,4(c)
'While the meeting is open to the public, the body shall not have power to exclude members of the public from the meeting and duly accredited representatives of newspapers attending for the purpose of reporting the proceedings for those newspapers shall, so far as practicable, be afforded reasonable facilities for taking their report and, unless the meeting is held in premises not belonging to the body or not on the telephone, for telephoning the report at their own expense'
(my underlining)

I would also like to include here a comment left on the New Statesman article by a Councillor who was present at the meeting from which I was arrested;
"As one of the coucillors filmed by Jacqui I have no objection whatsoever to her actions. The Chief Executive Mr Mark James and Chair Cllr Ivor Jackson suspended the meeting and called the police without any reference to the coucillors in the meeting. It would be usual practise to ask for a motion from the floor to suspend a full council meeting,[often done to have lunch, for example, if there's an overun].
Why the chief executive should suddenly declare that the meeting must be suspended and the police called, I have no idea.
There is absolutely no reason why we should not be filmed and I believe we owe Jacqui an apology for this whole episode. The police may also be at fault but our Chief Executive panicked, failed to consult the elected councillors on our wishes and decided to stop the meeting abruptly and call the police. It was a public meeting, there was no need for any of this.
Due to the Cheif Exec's actions many council members were of the opinion that there must be some rule forbidding filming - the Chief Exec has a law degree.
During the debate filmed he denied both myself and a colleague access to consult the Council Solicitor, who also sits in the meeting, to give advice on whether the chair could accept a motion from the floor. He made it quite clear that he was the senior officer present and no other opinion was relevent. This is shown on the youtube footage.
It is not unusual for Mr Mark James to dominate full council meetings, give the chair advice on how to conduct the meetings and answer personally questions directed through the chair for other officers or councillors.
Our council is well known for being "officer led" and the majority of my councillor colleagues have until now been very happy with this situation.
I think filming of our meetings is a good thing. In a large rural county few can be expected to travel to see our meetings in person. I for one am happy to share them."
Sian Caiach

On an unrelated point, interesting news from Bolton yesterday; the Information Commissioner has ruled that the Council must reveal the Register of Interests of Senior Council Officers (eg land, property and business interests) - this may well set a precedent accross the UK..even Wales. Bolton Council have 35 days to appeal or be taken to the High Court, it will be an interesting case to follow...as well as follow up.

Previous posts;

Caebrwyn Arrest - The Aftermath

I have been struggling over the past couple of days to write something about the events of last Wednesday as well as the subsequent interest and debate sparked over not only what happened, but the wider issues of local government transparency. I have been, and still am, overwhelmed by the response and support I have had, 'thank you' is the understatement of the year - Twitter has been incredible, and my thanks go to all the bloggers, journalists and writers, members of the public and all the commenters who have taken the time to follow this and give their opinion - even if it was occasionally critical, all comments have been taken on board. It makes up for the loud jeering from the Chamber, still ringing in my ears, when I was removed from the Public Gallery last week.
There have also been been various statements made by the Council and the Police which I need to address, including specific concerns directly related to their actions, that will take a little more time but my thought are definitely gathering at a pace. I also need to resume my more 'normal' blogging at some point. There is, I know, plenty to catch up on. I have been somewhat distracted as I am sure local visitors to this blog will understand. It also appears that my long running concerns about Carmarthenshire Council's libel antics have been picked up in the process.

I am very grateful to @AlexMurraySmith from the Carmarthen Journal for initially breaking this story, to Richard Wilson, @dontgetfooled for blogging and picking it up on Twitter and to another great tweeter @DavidAllenGreen top legal blogger for the New Statesman, for his swift enquiries to Dyfed Powys Police over the circumstances of my arrest. He has had a response, of sorts, from the Police and provides a wonderful analysis over on his New Statesman blog. An essential read;  Dyfed Powys Police fail to justify the council meeting arrest and detention

I am also delighted that there is now something of a debate over the transparency of our local councils, particularly here in Wales. I would like to thank the Assembly Members who brought up the question of filming and accountability at yesterday's Plenary meeting at the Senedd and to @williamgrahamam for being the first AM to sign my petition. Huge thanks also to Swansea Councillor @ReneKinzett for his support, enquiries, media responses and tweets.

There are countless others who have helped to shine a spotlight on this usually quiet corner of Wales and several Welsh bloggers have gone out of their way to try and find out what exactly happened, and who continue to promote greater accountability of our local councils. Let's hope we've gained some momentum. One post which made me smile was this from new satitical bloggers @welshnewsnot not only is it funny but surprisingly accurate; Woman accused of witchcraft after filming councillors

So what next? Do I ask the Council and the Police for an apology? What is the likelihood of that happening? Will I take legal action - yes, if I can but I will be ever mindful of the bottomless pit of your money at their disposal to protect their reputations. My 'pit' is somewhat shallower. To start with, and it's something I can do on my own, is to challenge the parking ticket I found carefully placed on my car when I eventually got back to it from Llanelli Police station, courtesy of Carmarthenshire County Council.

I will, of course, continue with my blog and campaigns, undeterred. I am also more determined than ever to stand for County Councillor next year and I hope others in Carmarthenshire will be inspired to do the same, then hopefully we may eventually see some big changes down in County Hall. If I am elected I shall, of course, be delighted to be filmed.
Thanks again to everyone for their support,
Watch this space,
Jacqui (@caebrwyn)
http://carmarthenplanning.blogspot.com/2011/06/caebrwyn-arrested-part-two.html Please have a look at the links

Update 17th June: New links;
Heather Brooke; Surveillance: The other side of the lens  #daftarrest
Anna Racoon; Won't talk to bloggers, no more, no more includes #daftarrest
Cneifiwr Blog (new to Carmarthenshire); Quoting out of context #daftarrest
Cllr Ryan Thomas blog, Carmarthenshire: Carmarthenshire County Council and their fear of the public
Welsh Icons: Shadow Minister signs Council filming petition @williamgrahamam
Radio Wales  Radio article re #daftarrest with @caebrwyn and me >at 2:45:50 into the programme;  

Courtesy @AlexMurraySmith Carmarthen Journal

Caebrwyn Arrested, Part Two

You may have seen this post and photo of arrest from earlier today; 'Caebrwyn Arrested'

The first and most important part of today's events was the way in which Carmarthenshire Council dealt with the 1500 name petition presented by the very elderly campaigners trying to save their Day Club, Noddfa Teilo in Llandeilo. As I arrived an elderly lady was presenting her petition, it was heartfelt and passionate and implored the Council to rethink their plans. Several other Day Club members had also been allowed into the Chamber. Much to their shock, the Chairman, Cllr Ivor Jackson then just moved onto the next agenda item. Cllr Sian Caiach was equally shocked and demanded a debate and consideration of a rethink - she and Cllr Arthur Davies were told to be quiet or leave the Chamber, despite their protestations over the fact that there would be no debate, Chief Executive Mark James, shamefully, decided to only allow the Executive Board Member, Cllr Pat Jones to speak - obviously in support of the Council's plans to close the centre. It was the most outragous display of council 'business' I have seen to date. This was why I was there and why I was filming - people need to know what is going on in that Chamber. That is also why they don't want anyone to record it either, which brings me on to the second event.
You Tube link to; 'Carmarthenshire Full Council Shambles over Day Club'

The second event, as I mentioned in my previous post is what happened when I tried to film this latest travesty of democracy. Clearly my presence was noted when I entered the Public Gallery and when the row commenced over the Day Club, I started filming with my phone, (not terribly well I know but better than nothing) I was asked to leave by the Chairman and Mark James, I said that I was not doing anything wrong, it is not against the law nor even in their standing orders (rules for meetings), neither was I disturbing the meeting in any shape or form. Mr James sarcastically asked whether I now had a good photo of him to put on my website. As I didn't leave, Mr James and the Chair called the police and then adjourned the meeting. Unlike my complaint of assault in the Public Gallery where the police took four days to take my statement and several more to speak to the chap concerned, it only took ten minutes today for two police cars and four police officers to appear in the Gallery. I tried to argue my point but was then arrested in the Public Gallery for 'breaching the peace'. I was taken outside the door, handcuffed, searched, my phone taken and marched out to the waiting police cars. I was then taken 30 miles to Llanelli police station where I remained handcuffed for another hour before being 'processed', and put in a cell for another two hours.
By this time I was very disorientated, worried about my young daughter who needed picking up from school, I was cold (the police had taken my jacket and shoes and socks) and distressed. Without a solicitor present, I was then threatened by three police officers who said that if I didn't sign an 'undertaking' not to film/record any more meetings I would be kept in overnight, I am not sure now whether they could even keep me that long. Earlier in the day I had been told that they was looking at the relevant legislation and were 'talking' to the council, it is now clear exactly what was discussed; 'she probably can't be charged with anything so tell her to sign and you'll let her go'. I am now asking a solicitor about the legality of this and regardless of the outcome I will not abide by something I was forced to sign. I will be back. 
I was then, eventually, released.
I can't quite believe what happened to me for trying to film a public meeting.
You Tube link to; Full Council Meeting - me filming and events leading to police being called.

I would also like to thank the person in the Public Gallery who kindly agreed to stay with me as a witness until I was taken away.

Here are links to a selection of articles and blog posts;
New Statesman, David Allen Green; Arrested for filming a public council meeting
BBC Wales; Blogger Jacqui Thompson angry at council filming arrest
and  Jacqui Thompson arrest: Allow council filming says Tory
Guardian, Greenslade Media Blog; Blogger arrested for filming council meeting
Daily Telegraph 10th June; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/twitter/8568612/Blogger-arrested-for-filming-during-Carmarthen-County-Council-meeting.html#dsq-content
Daily Mail Online; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2002682/Campaigner-arrested-filming-council-meeting-says-police-completely-reacted.html
South Wales Evening Post; http://www.thisissouthwales.co.uk/Blogger-arrested-filming-council-meeting/story-12750322-detail/story.html
Alexander Smith ; Carmarthenshire Blogger Arrest - How we broke the story
Richard Wilson's Blog; In Carmarthenshire, this is what democracy looks like
The Photon BlogFrom Carmarthenshire to the Cynulliad: Filming Council Meetings to be Raised in the Chamber
and Welsh Assembly: Filming Guidance "Does not Apply in Wales"
Broken Barnet; Carmarthenshire County Council: no mercy in their means
Aledwyn.com;  What have they got to hide?
Gaz The Journo; Council democracy fail
Neil Monnery Blog; Carmarthenshire Council abuse their power, arrest woman for filming open Council meeting
Autonomous Mind; Abuse of the law and public inertia
Julie Mcanulty; http://juliemcanulty.blogspot.com/2011/06/one-out-of-bed-three-from-canteen.html
Malice in Blunderland; What a week that was
Welshnotnews Blog;  Woman accused of witchcraft after filming councillors >This made me smile
Jack of Kent Blog; The unanswered questions for Dyfed Powys Police

Later posts from me;

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Caebrwyn Arrested

(Many thanks to Carmarthen Journal reporter and Tweeter @AlexMurraySmith for taking the photo, one officer tried to grab Mr Smith's arm and take the camera, he said he was from the Journal and asked why I was being arrested - 'none of your business' was the reply)
Carmarthenshire County Council were responsible for two despicable actions today. Firstly the entirely undemocratic and shameful way they dealt with the 1500 name petition presented by the very elderly folk trying to save their Day Club and secondly, as you can see from the photo, their treatment of me as I was trying to film the proceedings. I will blog further later on tonight.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Filming Council Meetings - More Thoughts

Further to recent posts (and events) I have been trying to think of a good reason why members of the public should not film or record open council meetings. I cannot think of one. I have given my reasons before, but a few more spring to mind. The Councillors and officers sat in the Chamber in a meeting of the full council take, between them, somewhere over £2 million per year from the public purse and make decisions on spending many millions more than that - this fact alone gives any resident of Carmarthenshire the right to quietly record the proceedings and to re-use in whatever reasonable context they wish, whether in praise or criticism. I have asked various Carmarthenshire Councillors whether they would consider signing my petition, two were quite happy to but the third (only three responded) felt that any filming was unnecessary as the public could view the meetings from the public gallery if they wished. I suppose they can but this hardly amounts to 'accessibility' does it? Do some Members and officers believe they are part of some sort of 'exclusive club' who's words and decisions are beyond question? Anyone who has attended a meeting and listened to what was said, and then read the Minutes a couple of weeks later will be aware that the two bear little relation to each other. Another argument is that filming/recording will 'stifle debate' this is complete nonsense - nobody should curb their words because a meeting is being recorded - if they do they really shouldn't be part of such a very public arena.

We are all filmed daily going about our business, we are filmed taking a tenner out of a cashpoint machine in case something is amiss - I am not trying to catch anyone out by filming meetings - if anything untoward like that happened it would be unlikely to occur in the Chamber - but if anyone wishes to observe and film council decisions, which include sums much larger than a tenner and relate them to the wider electorate - why on earth shouldn't they?
The guidance from Westminster to English councils states;
'It is essential to a healthy democracy that citizens everywhere are able to feel that their council welcomes them to observe local decision-making and through modern media tools keep others informed as to what their council is doing....transparency and openness should be the underlying principle behind everything councils do and in this digital age it is right that we modernise our approach to public access, recognising the contribution to transparency and democratic debate that social media and similar tools can make.'

Carmarthenshire Council stated that "There are many legal and practical considerations which need to be addressed and resolved before a Council can consider going down the route which you are suggesting" (Really? Like the unlawful establishment of the 'libel cost amendment' in the constitution? That didn't take much consideration, legal or otherwise) Perhaps the legal squad in County Hall are now 'considering' the subject of filming...and rest assured, so am I.
Watch this space.
Oh, and please sign my petitions
Filming; http://www.assemblywales.org/gethome/e-petitions/epetition-list-of-signatories.htm?pet_id=582
Spending: http://www.assemblywales.org/gethome/e-petitions/epetition-list-of-signatories.htm?pet_id=583

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Freedom of Information Stories

For your information, here are a few recent Freedom of Information responses from various public bodies requested by myself and others using the WhatDoTheyKnow website (scroll up each link to see the original request). Some requesters ask all local authorities the same question (eg the ICT Services) which then gives more comparable data, some requests stand alone;

I recently asked the Welsh Assembly Government about the cost of running the 'Efficiency and Innovation Board Wales' programme which started in March 2010 and aims to 'transform the way public services are designed and delivered', despite the grand sounding ambition I detect yet another jargon filled, pointless and expensive talking shop. If the key word is 'efficiency' which translates of course to 'savings' I would question why this Board has cost nearly a £1 million so far. For example, the Minister for Education, Leighton Andrews states at one meeting, regarding education cuts, that 'the next phase of the review would comprise active workstreams tasked with driving change forward. The Minister emphasised that he aimed to make rapid progress on shared services and collaboration so that quick wins could be made' blah blah blah.

What would I know about government waste though? Maybe we couldn't live without it.
One of the 'Workstreams' is 'National Asset Management' chaired by Chief Executive, Mark James. It's function appears to be to improve the speed and ease which publicly owned assets, including land, are, amongst other things, 'disposed of'.
Anyway here are the figures for the whole Board and programme for 2010 to 2011 (or 'outturn' as it is less controversially put)
Staff costs; £742,400
Research costs; £86,700 (includes £6,900 on a 'Leadership survey' and £4,400 on Leadership Behaviour Code - whatever that may be)
'Other' costs; £65,000. This includes more 'Leadership training' which breaks down as; £19,700 on Expert Seminars, £2100 on 'Insight Tours/seminars, £8,600 on Senior Leaders coaching, £17,900 on Organisational Practicioners Programme and £11,300 on Managing Change Successfully Programme. The 'Leadership' elements of the programme are run by Public Service Management Wales which, unless I am mistaken, is yet another quango funded by the Welsh Assembly, or you and me, of course.
Total £894,100
Efficiency and Innovation Programme and Board

Did you know that Carmarthenshire County Council charges each secondary school £5,500 per year (plus £4 per pupil) and each primary school £2,200 (plus £8 per child) for ICT services?http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/cost_to_schools_of_ict_services_158#incoming-179160

Did you know that in 2006 Carmarthenshire Council tipped 1810 tons of highway rubble on an unauthorised site? A warning letter was issued in April this year.

Did you know that 49 complaints against Carmarthenshire Council have been upheld by the Ombudsman since 2005? Nine in planning and building control (three in the past year) and five in Adult Social Services in 2010 alone.

It is not unknown of course, for Authorities to be circumspect when it comes to Freedom of Information responses particularly if possible bad press is envisaged.
Carmarthenshire Council is no exeption, I do not, for the record, blame the Freedom of Information/Data Protection officer.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Llanegwad By-Election

I see that two candidates are standing for the Llanegwad County Council by-election to be held on the 23rd June. One is an 'Independent', Mr Clive Pugh, and the other is Mr John Charles on the Plaid ticket. I am sure the two gentlemen are eminently qualified for the job but suffice to say there doesn't appear to be a rush of enthusiastic 'new blood' clamouring for a seat in County Hall, maybe that will happen next May (I hope). Still, the outcome will be interesting - will Meryl Gravell's Independent/Labour coalition/regime strengthen it's hold over the Chamber or will Plaid increase their majority?  By the way Mr Pugh's letter extolling his suitability for the seat is the lead letter in today's Carmarthen Journal and I suspect, that if elected, he will fit well into the current group of Independents. In the interests of fairness, I suggest the Plaid chap gets his letter in quick!

Where was Cllr Kevin 'Photo Opportunity' Madge then?

The front page of my edition of the Carmarthen Journal pictures a 92 year old lady who had chained herself to the railings of her Day Centre in Llandeilo. She, along with other elderly folk were protesting against the closure, by Carmarthenshire County Council of their much loved centre. This is all part of the Council's plan to 're-categorise' the criteria for social care services to cut costs. Day Centres are, according to the Council, for 'individuals who require social interaction and a hot meal. Service users attend the activity based clubs for the majority of the day but are usually independent and do not have complex care needs' . By 're-assessing' the level of need, they can shift a whole raft of OAP's out of their responsibility and justify closure. A few have been offered places elsewhere but at 92 you'd probably rather not. Four other centres are also closing.
You would think that the Labour Executive Board Member, Deputy Leader and 'Older Peoples Champion', Cllr Kevin Madge would be there actively and loudly supporting the old folk wouldn't you? he also failed to greet them at County Hall a few week's ago to receive their 1500 name petition.

Update; The petition opposing the closure of Noddfa Teilo Day Club will be discussed at the next full Council meeting on the 8th June, perhaps Cllr Madge will rally to support them then?