Monday 5 September 2011

Executive Board Whitewash - the farce continues...

Well I am back home after this morning's trip to County Hall (just to re-assure the Council that although I failed to 'sign out' I am not still lurking in the darkened corridors). As you may imagine the entire meeting was a complete farce and lasted a whole 10 minutes. It took me twice as long as that to actually get into the public gallery.

Firstly a few words on the entry procedure. To attend, I had to sign the undertaking - this was not easy as you may imagine but I was left with no choice. I believe it is unlawful and I do not consider that I, or anyone else, are bound by it's terms. Of course it was not just the undertaking; there was the laminated A4 warning on filming (the receptionist said that she had to see me read it); the 'visitors pass' palaver; then there was a mysterious phone call to announce my arrival, whoever was on the other end needed to know how many of me there were, I assured them that there was only one of me. Then there was the wait to be escorted, along with two other members of the public, to the gallery. I can now confirm that the escape route is indeed blocked by a locked door which requires a call to the front desk to release you. There is now a special phone for this purpose placed neatly on it's very own little table by the door.

The meeting itself was over in a flash, two Executive Board members were absent, only one of whom had sent apologies, it was then assumed that the other, Deputy Leader Cllr Kevin Madge was 'still on holiday'. Oh well. So that left just seven members and an array of , bored looking senior officers. Then commenced what can only be described as 10 minutes of mutual back slapping. The decision to issue the Statutory Notice to close Pantecelyn secondary school was 'ratified' along with the rest of the Modernising Education Programme  Not a breath of opposition or discussion. Mr Sully, the Director of Education did say they had had a few recent further letters of objection but had come too late so could safely be ignored.

Next came the two Motions put forward by Cllr Caiach and Cllr A Davies. The elderly care and day centre motion was first, the motion was ignored and more pats on the back were administered all round as to how wonderful the new 'rationalisation' was.

The 'motion on filming' item was so quick I almost missed it trying to tweet the previous item. Meryl Gravell stated that the Task and Finish Group was dealing with it so there was no more to be said. And there wasn't.

What a wonderful tool a Task and Finish Group is to put something off for months. The motion could have been heard at next week's full council meeting but apparently it is the senior officer's decision whether it goes to the Executive Board or the Council, and clearly full council could not be entirely trusted not to vote in favour (or even, God forbid, debate it). Even Councillors who are unsure may have voted in favour so not to appear they had something to hide in the face of transparency. We couldn't have any of that could we? Nothing safer than one's own Executive Board, especially with the private 'briefing' held before the public meeting where any unlikely little 'difficulties' can be swiftly ironed out.

There is no stronger argument in favour of filming council meetings than the whitewash I witnessed this morning.
As I said, there is a full council meeting next week and I shall be there...

and previously; More Carmarthenshire 'democracy' (with link to the agenda items) and much more of course from recent weeks, on the blog.

September 6th; Filming council kicked into long grass (South Wales Evening Post)


Cneifiwr said...

With 8 agenda items, some of which had quite a bit of associated documentation, that's 1 minute 15 seconds per item. Good to see that these important matters are being given appropriate consideration.

Anonymous said...

It makes me wonder why we elect and pay councillors to be our representatives. It seems to me that the council behaves like a privatised utility company.

Anonymous said...

With the debate on allowing filming inside our courts hotting up, it seems likely it is going to happen. It has been conducted in the Supreme High Court for a while now with positive opinion, and the wider view of politicians is that it helps the public understand sentencing and of course the public are afforded transparency into proceedings. If our courts, parliament, and other councils are quite happy for filming in the name of the publics rights to transparency, it is going to be interesting to hear the justification from this autocratic firm as to why they feel it shouldn't happen in Carmarthen. If ever there was a council where it should be mandatory, this one is it!!