Thursday 6 January 2011

Budget, Blue Badges, and School Closure Consultations

In my previous post I mentioned that I asked Carmarthenshire Council when the public consultation periods would start for the Budget Proposals, the introduction of parking charges for blue badge holders and the Modernising Education Programme.
I also asked whether these consultations would be featured on the 'Consultation' section of the Council's website.
I have had a response which I publish here for your information. (I am a little uncomfortable as I rather feel I've given a 'press release' - I sense spin - I suppose they realised it would appear on the blog) Anyway, attempts have been made to show that the minimum legal requirements will be met, eventually. Pretty standard stuff. However I see no mention of the consideration of petitions.
And whether anyone will listen of course, is quite another matter.
I would have thought that the website would be the first of port of call to publicise such exercises but it seems such suggestions will have to be 'considered';
(The italics are the Departmental responses and the Customer Focus and Policy Officer's comments are in blue)

1. Budget proposals
In November / December 2010 we utilised our our regular Residents' Survey (survey of 1,000 Carmarthenshire households) to prioritise a list of services in light of the efficiency savings we will have to make. The results of the Residents Survey are currently being analysed and we are expecting them shortly.
In addition, we will be featuring a public consultation via local newspapers.
We will also be holding a face-to-face consultation event in Llanelli later on in January. We will be inviting representatives from established groups such as the Carmarthenshire Citizens' Panel, 50+ Steering Group and Youth Forum to discuss our proposal and offer suggestions.

I will raise your query regarding featuring the consultation on the Internet site with the Assistant Chief Executive (Customer Focus and Policy).
I will e-mail you again to let you know when the newspaper consultation is 'live' and please contact me if you would like to attend the face-to-face consultation event in Llanelli.

2. Introduction of parking charges for blue badge holders
An Equalities Impact Assessment has to be undertaken to assess the impact of introducing charges for blue badge holders. Representatives of the Council have met with the Carmarthenshire Disability Coalition Group and they have nominated representatives from the group to work with the Council on undertaking such an assessment.
Subject to the outcome of the assessment, the next step would be the drafting of a Traffic Regulation Order which is required to implement any charging proposals. A prescribed process has to be followed in the making of any Traffic Regulation Order, which includes consultation with statutory consultees. If objections are received they have to be formally considered by the Executive Board. If the Executive Board wish to proceed, the proposals have to be formally published with a 21 day objection period. Again any objections received will have to be formally considered by the Executive Board.
On 4th October 2010, the County Council's Executive Board resolved "to commence consultation on the Blue Badge proposals set out in the report and that a report be submitted in due course". Therefore, in due course a report will need to be submitted to the Executive Board, but in view of the process that has to be followed, it is likely to be some months before we are in a position to report back to the Executive Board.

I will raise your query regarding featuring the consultation on the Internet site with the Assistant Chief Executive (Customer Focus and Policy).

3. Modernising Education Programme
The new Strategic Outline Programme (SOP) which is an update of the MEP was submitted to the WAG by 10th December 2010. This followed a period of intense consultation with all the relevant stakeholders and ultimately county council approval via the committee process. The WAG will collate all the submissions from all 22 Local Authorities in Wales and probably provide feedback (an indication of the projects we can take forward) sometime after the Assembly elections in July 2011. Full consultation will take place on an individual project basis as the MEP moves forward. There is a statutory formal consultation process which we must follow when reorganising schools. We have also introduced an informal consultation phase before the formal stage to engage with stakeholders earlier in the process.

Following your comment, the Education and Children's Services Department have agreed to consider using the consultation webpage for consultation purposes in the future.

I wouldn't normally link to the Council website but the 'Budget Consultation' form has appeared, it is pathetic and patronising but better than nothing; there are 15 questions covering 6 areas of services amounting to approx £2.5m - naturally your views will be completely ignored, but pleasingly there is a 'comment' form - a nice blank space for you to add your views and suggestions and you can be assured that Caebrwyn will be making full use of that facility.

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