Wednesday, 6 July 2011

'Draft Error'? I don't think so

Following on from previous post here, I must mention again the strange 'draft error' claimed by the Director of Education, R Sully and Cabinet Member Cllr Wooldridge. The glossy, expensively produced (and possibly legally binding?) Consultation Document clearly stated that the responses had to be in by the 17th June and the information collated and a report prepared for the Executive Board in the Autumn, September I should imagine. The fact that the voluminous report (a snip at £25 if you want a hard copy) appeared on the Agenda by the 28th June, a mere eleven days later suggest two things to me. Firstly that the report was largely pre-programmed, ie already prepared before the responses were gathered and secondly, that the two gentlemen were being deliberately economical with the truth over the 'error', and had decided some time ago to have the meeting unexpectedly early to minimise further unwelcome opposition. I was reminded of the equally unseemly haste last year when the site specific design proposals were exhibited, before, apparently, the final decision on any of the proposals had been made. There is a third option, of course, that the Education Department work at the same breakneck speed that Dyfed Powys Police do when responding to a call to remove a dangerous phone bearing lady from the public gallery. I find this explanation remarkably unlikely though. Incidentally, I asked back in January this year for a copy of the site selection brief given to the consultants, Atkins by Carmarthenshire Council and for associated costs to date, I was told that there was no brief and, I reproduce again, for your information, the costs - these figures do not include the costs since January which must be considerable, and a brick has yet to be laid.

Whilst I'm on the subject of curious decisions, I have often mentioned the surprising frequency with which the public and press are excluded from the Chamber for 'exempt' reports. I fully understand the financial niceities and data protection issues which have to be observed but it appears that the exempt rules are often used to deliberate on uncomfortable financial agreements (stadiums, botanic gardens, evangelical bowling alleys etc etc). It becomes much easier to discuss these out of the prying eyes (or God forbid 'cameraphones') of the public. The next Regeneration and Leisure Scrutiny meeting has a perfect example; tagged at the end is the report by a 'Task and Finish Group' on the Action Plan for the Authority's Leisure Facilities. Now why this should be exempt I have no idea - is everything being sold off to the highest bidder? Have the charges become so high that no one is using them? Who knows - we'll just have to wait for the surgically crafted 'minutes' some weeks later.
It is slightly worrying thought that, should the Council ever livestream it's meetings, these exempt reports may become much more frequent.

Hat tip to fellow blogger Y Cniefiwr for doing some digging; The original PDF Consultation Document has now disappeared from the Council website and has been replaced by a rather scrappy word document, which appears to be a cut and paste exercise. The original wording regarding the timing of the Executive Board meeting is as follows;

July; 'Analysis of Responses to Formal Consultation document prepared for Executive Board'
September; 'Executive Board decision whether to approve publishing a Statutory Notice'
The re-hashed document now on Word says; 7-8 July share progress and agree implementation plan'
There is now nothing scheduled for September.

I am not suggesting anything but it looks to me like a hurried attempt to alter the original text to justify the Executive Board decision on Monday.


Cneifiwr said...

The council published a large "Statutory Consultation" document, page 28 of which had a nice, clear timetable. It said that following the end of the formal consultation, July would be spent analysing the responses, with a report going to the Executive Board for decision in September. Black and white. I use the past tense because since yesterday the document has become unavailable on-line.

Cneifiwr said...

The council's website is going through what looks like a nervous breakdown at the moment. Things disappear for a day or two and then re-appear. Attempts to read reports which the council is legally obliged to publish are sometimes being met with an "Access Denied" message and a stern warning that "you are not authorized".

Anyway, the statutory consultation document has now resurfaced. Anyone interested might wish to make a copy while they still can.

It can be found here: