Sunday, 13 April 2014

Sunday ramble; Chairs, Salaries and Webcasting

Carmarthenshire Council has a quaintly traditional way of nominating Chairs and Vice Chairs of the council, a ritual which will start at the meeting on Tuesday (webcast here, starting at 10am) with the actual 'election' taking place at the AGM on the 21st May. The AGM will also be the twelve month anniversary of webcasting, and the end of the pilot.

The position of Chair, and Vice Chair comes with an attractive Civic Salary and various trips around Wales to assorted charity events and civic get-togethers in the chauffeur driven motor. In my view it's archaic nonsense which perpetuates the tugging forelock twaddle of a bygone era. Better to save the cash on the cars, regalia and civic dinners and give it all to charity in the first place.

May 2013 Chairing ritual; Cllr Terry Davies on the left and Cllr Daff Davies on the right
The two civic salaries have yet to be determined this year due to a novel recommendation from the Independent Remuneration Panel Wales. The IRPW has said that the amount should be within a £19000 to £24000 band for Chair and £14000 to £18000 for Vice Chair; the full council must decide the salary depending on 'activity' and 'anticipated workloads and responsibilities'. Incidentally, the Leader is in for a £500 rise, 'rounding-up' his salary to £49000 per annum.

Of course these figures pale into significance when you consider the our chief officers' pay, and it doesn't seem to matter whether they're present and correct, or not. Or, given recent events, whether some of that pay was illegal. I have no idea if deputy chief executive Mr D Gilbert receives extra payment for filling the shoes of Mr James, so to speak; if he does receive such an 'honorarium' payment this would be on top of the extra 10% he already gets for being deputy.

I do hope we're not currently paying for two chief executives.

The selection of Chair of the Council is run on a rotational basis and has been since time began, with the three main political groups, Labour, Independent and Plaid taking turns. So any unaffiliated Members, such as Cllr Caiach, will never have a look-in.

The Chair in 2011/12, you may recall, was Cllr Ivor Jackson (Ind), a memorable stint, for all the wrong reasons. I'll say no more.

The difficulty, for the ruling cabal, arises when it's Plaid's turn for Chair and in 2012/2013 the quite capable Cllr Sian Thomas took over. With Plaid in the Chair, the control freakery coming from her left became even more apparent, something she was clearly relieved to publicly disclose after recent events.

The current incumbent has been the safe Labour Councillor, Terry Davies who has dutifully read from the script, and shown his loyalty to the ruling junta by jumping up and down every time Cllr Caiach spoke.

Next in line, traditionally, is the Vice Chair, and in this case it is Cllr Daff Davies (Ind). You may remember from last year's event that he was nominated largely on the strength of his shooting abilities, or this was how it came over. This may come in handy of course if there is any nonsense from the public gallery.

I suspect, like his immediate predecessor, his shins will remain largely unbruised should the person, usually on the left, return.

Unless there's a revolution before Tuesday, it will be Plaid's turn to take Vice Chair and it will be interesting to see who they put forward.
Who knows, perhaps while the cat's away.....

Back to webcasting and, as the pilot is coming to an end, I'd be interested in readers' views on the subject. I believe there will be a report to council sometime in the next few weeks.

Obviously I think it's been a resounding success and firmly believe it should continue and be extended to every meeting possible.There's no greater detergent than sunlight and this council, like no other, needs a prolonged heatwave; webcasting meetings plays an important part in effecting both transparency and democracy.

I also firmly believe that the public should be allowed to film and record every open meeting - the current arbitrary ban (Definition of arbitrary; based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system) is also coming up for review.

Over 2500 watched the extraordinary meeting on the 27th and whatever the figures for the ordinary meetings, either watching live or on archive, it's guaranteed to be a whole lot more than ever braved the hard wooden benches and other assorted perils of the Public Gallery.

Scenes from the EGM on the 27th Feb 2014

1 comment:

Sentinel said...

If our County Councillors and their senior management team in the local authority, were paid by results, many would be paupers.