The row over whether Carmarthenshire Council has a legal right to deny entry to the public gallery continues. Carmarthenshire blogger @towy71 has refused to sign the undertaking on several occasions as he, and of course myself, believe it has no legal basis. Here's his blog post which includes the latest response from the Acting Head of Law, Ms Rees-Jones which I have copied below;
Thank you for your e-mail.
I consider the introduction of the requirement for members of the public wishing to access the public gallery to first sign an undertaking to be a lawful one, yes. In an ideal world such an undertaking would not be required, but in light of disruption to previous meetings it was considered necessary to introduce some sort of process to avoid future disruption and ensure the smooth running of meetings. You will not find mention of it in the Constitution or Standing Orders because, as I said in my letter of the 5th December, it was a decision taken by officers.
There has never, to my knowledge, been an issue with the press.
As I have previously told you the whole issue of whether meetings should be filmed is being considered by a Task and Finish Group so the requirement for an undertaking to be signed may change.
Acting Head of Administration & Law
And Monitoring Officer
Perhaps it should be made clear that the 'disruption' referred to involved me filming an open meeting on a mobile phone last June, seven months ago, and as Ms Rees-Jones points out, there is still no such ban on filming in any Council Standing Orders nor Constitution.
In order to access the meetings I have reluctantly signed the slip of paper numerous times, the reluctance stems from what I see as an unnecessary, unethical, undemocratic and unlawful decision. Neither I, nor as far as I am aware, anyone else, has made any attempt to film a meeting since the 8th June - and nobody is likely to given the dire consequences. In fact I attended yesterday's Executive Board meeting and another member of the public questioned the undertaking, and the absence of the usual legal sanction of such things, they were given a similar (but briefer) explanation with the added comment that it was 'the Chief Executive's orders'. It is quite alarming that senior officers, with no consultation with elected members (or members of the public for that matter) have taken it upon themselves to ban the public from public meetings. I wonder what it is like to inhabit the 'ideal world' of Carmarthenshire Council?
Yesterday's meeting itself was unremarkable. In amongst the usual relentless mutual backslapping, and, contrary to popular opinion, our town centres were described as the envy of the world, (well, Merthyr was envious anyway); and the school ' modernisation programme described as 'seismic' (it will be seismic for Llandovery with the closure of Pantecelyn). Brief mentions were made of the forthcoming budget cuts and the fact that nothing had been decided, yet. Assurances were given that this was a 'listening council' and there would be 'full consultation'. Sadly the track record on such things gives little comfort. Perhaps the snap decision to present the latest inspection report for Social Care (CSSIW) to full council gave the game away a bit. A paragraph was spotted which suggested that less reliance should be given to residential care - this was leapt upon as another reason to close the two Llanelli care homes or at least to make those who had voted against closure last February 'aware of the consequences' of their actions. Campaigners take note.
In view of the above mentioned 'ideal world' of Carmarthenshire council, growing old could be a risky business.
Y Cneifiwr, as usual, has put it all rather well; http://cneifiwr-emlyn.blogspot.com/2012/01/gongs-cor-bloody-ell.html
Interesting read from the Swansea blog 'Inside Out' where it is rumoured that Swansea Council's newspaper is for the chop. Attempts to self-finance the rag, it seems, have not been successful. I am hoping to hear similar rumours in Carmarthenshire where not just individual departments are required to make financial contributions to our council rag, but 'partners' such as the health board and the police must cough up too. No mention in the budget proposals though.