For those who live outside the area, or who have been unable to rush out and buy a copy, here's this week's 'Cadno' opinion piece from the Llanelli and Carmarthenshire Heralds, for your online viewing;
Cadno looks for hope
Cadno has spent the last two months waiting for flickers of life and light from the twitching, comatose patient that is local democracy in Carmarthenshire.
Readers, Cadno was very cautiously hopeful that Plaid Cymru under then leadership of Emlyn Dole would provide at least a change of focus, if not a change of direction; that Plaid would take steps to redress the balance between 'business as usual' and tackling entrenched interests and long term failings. Applying enough volts to totally revive the patient was too much to hope for, but a course of light jolts might have effected a partial recovery.
What bliss it was to be alive in those days, readers!
Despite His Dole-ishness bearing the demeanour of a mendicant friar crossed with a particularly peevish rural bank manager, there was a chance to shine a light into the dark places in County Hall. Possibly, Brother Emlyn stared into the abyss and the abyss not only stared back but told him to bugger off and leave it alone. We might never know; or at least we might never hear it from Brother Emlyn. His every utterance is now subject not only to spin, but also to a rinse cycle before it is made.
The sense of disappointment with Plaid Cymru is as tangible as that which formerly engulfed the Liberal Democrats in the last government. The excuse given by Plaid so far is also one which is also pregnant with danger for Plaid Cymru in the future. The narrative goes; Plaid is stuck with the last administration's budget and is strait-jacketed as a result. Nothing can be done because the course has been set.
The difficulty there is that if Plaid fails to pull any rabbits out of hats in the two budgets for which it will be responsible in 2016 and 2017, it will give considerable credence to the idea that it is not social and political imperatives that motivate our public leaders, but empty managerialism and spinelessness which cripple them. For if politicians, and councillors are assuredly politicians, cannot make a difference to the course of the ship of state - or, in the case of Carmarthenshire, the dinghy of despair - then they are empty vessels; making noise and signifying nothing.
Noise signifying something is one of the things that actually does require the attention of Executive Board Members. One would have thought that Meryl the Peril would be ever so terribly keen to explain the Council's role in the Parc Howard affair. It is, therefore, positively dreadful that Meryl Gravell could not be bothered to turn up and answer questions on it at last week's council meeting. Mind you seventeen others didn't bother to attend the Chamber either. It must have been a particularly hectic day cockling down at Burry Port readers!
There is about Cllr Gravell the faint air of Dame Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell in 'The Importance of Being Earnest'. There was scarcely a scene that was not stolen by Dame Edith's hauteur and disdain. Meryl likes being the centre of attention in the same way. And uses much the same schtick.
No doubt there was an envelope being opened in Alltwallis that required Meryl the Peril's attendance on July 8th; but in case you thought Cllr Gravell does her public duty out of the goodness of her heart, it is worth remembering that she is being paid £29,000 per annum for the privilege of serving us. Small beer to someone with that many enticing titfers to be sure, readers, but enough to keep its recipient in tinned ravioli and Bird's Eye potato waffles for a good while.
One would have thought however that wherever Meryl's handbag rested on July 8th, it was somewhere where she was doing a damned sight more good for Carmarthenshire than she would have been turning up to face questions on Parc Howard.
A carefully-worded written answer will be provided in due course. Cadno is prepared to lay good money on 'Meryl's answer' shedding no light on who knew what, where and when. Still less will it acknowledge any fault. In fact readers, Cadno is pretty sure that 'Meryl's answer' will suggest that property speculators with dubious corporate backgrounds are valued partners for our council. Cadno also suspects that suggesting that big money talk appeals to Mark James and speaks to the possibility of him being remembered as this county's version of Shelley's Ozymandias is the sort of wholly unfounded slur that 'Meryl's answer' will not be mentioning.
Cadno supposes that the speed with which the document arrives will rather depend on whether the senior officer charged with crafting it types with one finger or two. And is able to remember how to spell 'CBE'.
R A Butler is often credited with coining the aphorism that politics is the art of the possible. That suggests to Cadno a rather self-limiting and mechanical approach to politics; a rather passionless and frigid technocratic method of 'running things, instead of delivering on policies and promises or living up to their own ideals. That is the failing of too much local government, especially in Wales.
Good councillors with good ideas and benign intentions are ground into the dust by the cowardly cynicism of older councillors and the way senior officers use the Code of Conduct to stifle enquiry and debate. The rule of the elected by the unelected disfigures councils other than Carmarthenshire, but in few other councils have so many Executive Board members been so thoroughly broken to the wheel.
Power concentrated in the same hands over time breeds too much cosiness between the political executive and the administration. Consensus is not always desirable, compromise is not always necessary. There are times when the proper function of a politician, whether national or local, is to stir things up; to kick against the pricks; to stand up against complacent and cosy complicity with those employed by the state or by the council.
As Brother Emlyn will no doubt recall, the tables of the money changers were overturned in the Temple; they were not invited to take an option on acquiring the building and turning it into a wedding venue.
Being of a Biblical bent, Cllr Dole will appreciate the importance of hope. Not the sort of wishy-washy devoutly-to-be-hoped-for b*****ks that passes for 'hope', but the real thing; active and activist in its intent and delivery. Hope does not wait for things to happen; it is not fatalist. Hope makes things happen by acting to ensure they do.
If there is hope for Carmarthenshire, it is up to Cllr Dole and Plaid Cymru to show it. The price of wisdom might be above rubies, but the cost of trimming one's ideals for a taste of power's milk and honey would be catastrophic for Plaid Cymru.Reproduced with permission from Llanelli and Carmarthenshire Heralds