Thursday 14 July 2011

Why Carmarthenshire Council needs to be filmed; By County Cllr Sian Caiach

Carmarthenshire County Councillor Sian Caiach has asked me to post her shocked reaction to yesterday's full council meeting. She and Cllr Arthur Davies are the only two Councillors who regularly challenge the nonsense spouted forth in County Hall. Cllr Caiach is regularly threatened with the ombudsman etc for her trouble. She knows exactly how this little dictatorship in west Wales works and is the only one who is prepared to speak out.

This is what Cllr Caiach has to say;

"I asked for the minutes to be corrected on 2 points:

1. that I had made a request to present a motion about Noddfa Teilo from the floor that the chair denied. It was not mentioned at all in the minutes.

2. to correct the minute that you had been disruptive, as you clearly were not.

Ivor Jackson and Mark James had clearly not seen this one coming and had a quiet conflab for a few minutes. Ivor then announced that the correction to the minutes had to be submitted as a Motion, not the usual procedure, but he's the chair. Did I have a seconder? Arthur seconded it. They were very uncomfortable and Ivor insisted on putting it to the vote immediately.

We then entered a parallel universe. Now I remember trying to put that motion from the floor. It was filmed by yourself, reported by the press and I was sure it did happen. Ivor Jackson had told Mark James to write to me threatening a referral to the ombudsman if I acted in such a manner again. I have the letter. I understand Peter Hughes Griffiths also complained about my "outrageous" behaviour,

Mysteriously they had all had their memories wiped. They couldn't possibly vote to say I had proposed a motion from the floor because they had insisted it was put in a motion which also said you had not caused a disturbance.

40 councillors, including all the group leaders, decided to vote against this motion, denying that I had ever tried to raise the motion on Noddfa Teilo from the floor. A spattering of Plaid and Labour backbenchers clearly could actually remember the incident and decided not to get involved, a few actually voting against.

Politicians usually lie by being evasive or economical with the truth. In Carmarthenshire they passed a motion to say that an incident that clearly did happen (my attempt to present a motion) didn't, and an incident that didn't happen (you being disruptive) did.

I am disgusted with these fellow councillors who have decided to lie openly rather than accept the truth. Granted they are not "under oath" but they are elected representatives from which we do expect a standard of behaviour which should not include bare faced lies.

What better argument to film the meetings than this incident when the majority of councillors decided to deny what had happened in the previous monthly meeting, even though they must know it had been privately filmed and documented.

What was going on yesterday? Do the leaders of my council urgently need a trip to a memory clinic or are they just prepared to lie in public meetings where they know they aren't being filmed?. Either way I can see why the public were not welcome and had to endure escessive security and intrusive scrutiny which I presume they will now have to impose at every public meeting.

This will mean that the "vetting procedure" and agreement not to film or record should put off all but the most decicated of council watchers. A bus load of locals coming to hear their petition presented are unlikely to be processed in time. Is locking the doors of the gallery not a health and safety issue? By the time we have our next meeting (Sept) where I will bring this up I would not be surprised if the feeble 40 not only continue to forget why they are on the council but will have forgotten everything that happened yesterday as well."


Photon said...

What an eloquent letter. There is hope in the world of local politics yet.

What better argument for allowing filming, indeed.

Cneifiwr said...

Diolch o galon am ddweud hynny. Thank you so much for saying that. Our county council is rapidly becoming a laughing stock, and I know that some other Welsh councils are looking on aghast at what is happening. The chief executive and a handful of others are bringing the authority into disrepute, and it is sad that so few councillors are prepared to stand up and hold them to account.

Anonymous said...

excellent sian at least we have someone who is willing to stand up for the people. it's a shame that others hold grudges

Anonymous said...

This totally confirms why filming should be allowed in carmarthen council chamber.I can see now why Mark James has so much power of control.If those councillors whose memory is so bad as to forget what was discussed at the previous meeting then they are most certainly not competent to represent members of their ward.I agree with Photon that it is an eloquent letter.Sian Caiach is a truthful honest and articulate councillor which could not be further removed from the inept majority of the rest.Naming and shaming might be a possibility but I doubt they are intelligent enough or embarrassed enough to realise the significance.

Anonymous said...

from Plenary on Wednesday ...

William Graham: Will the Minister outline any guidance issued to Local Authorities concerning the recording of council meetings?

Carl Sargeant: I thank the Member for South Wales East. I have not issued any guidance to local authorities on this matter.

William Graham: Thank you for that answer, Minister, although it is rather disappointing. You know that there is considerable interest in making council meetings open, both inside and outside the Chamber. A statement of opinion that I tabled in June attracted cross-party support, and you will be aware that a number of councillors in authorities across Wales, including, most recently, Councillor Howlett in Pembrokeshire, have tabled motions to allow the public to record meetings when permitted. How will your Government encourage more local authorities to follow the examples of councils such as Monmouthshire in embracing internet broadcasting and using social media? The ideal scenario is to broadcast council meetings on the internet whenever possible, rather than having many observers filming on phones or camcorders. Few of us wish to see similar scenes to the embarrassing ones when police removed a blogger filming a Carmarthenshire County Council meeting.

Carl Sargeant: I thank the Member for his question. I encourage all local authorities to make the maximum effort to enable the public to engage with them and their proceedings. I support that. However, I do not support the secret recording of meetings. Members should be made aware of whether they are being filmed, but I would support local councils in their endeavour to make their activities much more public.

Alun Ffred Jones:Minister, would you like to congratulate Gwynedd Council, which pioneered the broadcasting of council meetings on the internet in the mid-1990s, under its visionary leadership at that time? [Laughter.]

Carl Sargeant: Of course, I endorse your words and welcome any pioneers who want to share best practice across Wales.

William Powell: As you may know, Minister, I have been promoting a statement of opinion on permitting and encouraging the recording of national park meetings in Wales, which I realise does not fall within your remit. However, given your remit for community safety and your earlier comments on the sharing of good practice between local authorities and the police, not to mention the slightly overzealous activities in Carmarthenshire some weeks ago, would you favour the broadcasting of police authority meetings, particularly in the context of the police having to withdraw from some of our communities on the grounds of cost?

Carl Sargeant: We live in a different world in terms of financial pressures. Providing that there is no legal reason why they should not be publicised, it would provide benefits of openness and transparency. I would encourage the video-streaming or recording of meetings so that people can watch them at a later date.

Anonymous said...

You are doing tremendous work to enhance our democratic or lack of democratic system in Carmarthenshire. I would like to point out however that Sian Caiach's comments regarding Peter Hughes Griffiths are complete and utter falacy and political bating. She is using this debate to set her own political agenda, and I would like to urge you to be careful in allowing that to happen.

caebrwyn said...

@Cymro i'r Carn
Thanks for your comment and support. I personally have no political affiliations, all I recognise in Cllr Caiach is someone who is prepared to challenge the system, a system I believe is rotten. No other Cllr seems to be prepared to raise their head above the parapet. If Peter Hughes Griffiths would like to reply to the statement he is very welcome to contact me and to leave a comment on this blog.

Anonymous said...

If ever there was an argument to allow filming of these inept and bumbling councillors, this is it. Perhaps the 40 will remember to take their medication before the September bash,and hopefully remember who they are and what they are there for, and more importantly who they are there to represent. Their role is not to cow tow to Mark with his overbearing presence.

Well said Sian. It's about time the other 72 started to grow a back bone. It's never too late; or maybe it is tho for most of them. Looks like they are well over retirement age having viewed the film footage.

When will the ministers and our A.Ms in the Assembly Government take this council by the scruff of it's neck, and clean it up. Time for Mark to go. A rotten council is reflective of it's leadership.