Wednesday 12 October 2011

Local Democracy Week; Carmarthenshire Council and #pambot

Carmarthenshire County Council circa. 2011
Before I turn to 'Local Democracy Week', a few points of interest from today's full council meeting (yes I had to sign the undertaking again). And, incidentally, one of the councillors asked whether she would have to sign the undertaking to access the Public Gallery, she didn't, so I am not sure what that's all about! She also asked what the meeting record was for using the two members of staff to 'escort' the public up and down from the gallery, 18 times apparently for one planning committee meeting. This is a farcical situation.
Anyway, back to the meeting, Chaired mainly by the Chief Executive and occasionally by Cllr Ivor Jackson.
There were many self-congratulations over the latest Audit Report but the Plaid leader did manage to point out that if you turned to page two there were a raft of recommendations for improvement.

The £2.3m overspend in Social Services was mentioned but seemed to be adequately dealt with by several more pats on the back and lengthy speeches by both Cllr Gravell and Cllr Kevin Madge (I though there was a time limit?) Cllr Gravell managed to have another swipe at the Councillors and campaigners who managed to keep the care homes open but failed to mention the herd of Council concieved white elephants plundering the public purse, Garnant Golf Course being the latest in a long and unstoppable line.

The Chief Executive spoke at some length regarding the Single Status pay and conditions issue and (after more back patting) announced that 99.9% of employees had agreed to the terms, (see previous posts) I suppose there's one stubborn soul somewhere they're in the process of breaking.

The vote on the changes to the constitution came next, passed with a majority, despite several opposition councillors expressing their deep concerns over the dire state of democracy in the council, one said, "To remove the right of an individual councillor to bring motions to council is attacking democracy and a blow to the freedom of the individual." Further power is now delegated to the Chief Executive and Councillors will now only be able to put forward a proposal (Motion) if at least seven others support it, effectively cutting out the minority voice. Shameful.

Interestingly though, the amendment did not appear to be backdated and Cllr Arthur Davies has again put forward a motion of No Confidence in the leader Meryl Gravell - unless the council bosses can come up with another excuse to block it, it may be on the agenda for the next full council meeting in November. Watch this space.

Lastly, someone asked whether, prior to the planning committee on the 15th September, a 'pre-meeting' was held between the Independent and Labour group to arrange to vote against (and vote politically) the controversial supermarket application in Newcastle Emlyn. The eminent members were shocked and rose their feet to deny that this sort of thing even happens, even Exec board member Cllr Pam Palmer felt compelled to deny rumours (apparently heard in the gents toilet - what??) that such things happen, in fact she said that if she were going to do something like that she'd use the phone. (she hurriedly retracted this freudian slip by the way)

Please do go and read Y Cneifiwr's excellent account of today's ridiculous farce; Council of despair Part 1. Which reminded me about Cllr Wooldridge's thoroughly nauseating ramble about his (and Mr Sully's) trip to see royalty.
And now (13th Oct) we have Council of Despair Part 2 - Brilliant!

With some excitement that Carmarthenshire Council were forging ahead into the modern world, some of us Carmarthenshire tweeters noticed on Monday that the aforementioned Exec Board member Cllr @PamPalmerCCC was on twitter (for a week).
It's all part of 'Local Democracy Week', apparently, where youngsters are encouraged to engage with local politics and I presume, democracy is generally promoted. Naturally a very worthy cause. Unless it is in the hands of the increasingly undemocratic Carmarthenshire Council of course. I wonder whether the unsuspecting Cllr Pam Palmer even knew she was on twitter 'micro-blogging' as they put it, so far we have had a handful of very carefully crafted, and perfectly bilingual council PR tweets straight from the press office I suspect.

Several of us tried to 'engage' with the 'tweeting' councillor, whose extensive portfolio includes 'Communications' and 'Modernising local government' (some of you may remember he good lady from the 8th June #daftarrest incident when she famously asked, in a Chamber largely occupied by middle-aged/elderly men, whether 'permission was needed to film children'), anyway we asked a few democracy related questions. Nothing. Not a tweet back to anyone. Even the press office failed to come to her rescue. Another PR disaster.

Fellow Carmarthenshire bloggers have also commented on Cllr Palmer (or #pambot as we have given her as a handy hashtag);

Update 13th October; Excellent post from @mjmilan; The Strange Case of the #pambot 


Cneifiwr said...

Great post! Actually, I think that Cllr Palmer was claiming that allegations had been made (in the gents) that she had instructed 3 councillors how to vote on the planning application.

Photon said...

Still, at least they are acknowledging something has to give on their side. They can forget all about it as you rightly hint they are likely to do. But in the end, we all know the next disaster for Carms - like any other council - is just around the corner...