Monday 31 October 2011

Trapped in the stairwell....and today's meeting

I trekked down to County Hall, Carmarthen again today to observe the Executive Board meeting. The meeting itself was distinctly underwhelming but more of that later.
I am sorry for keeping on about this, but every time I go there, I am more and more disturbed by the entry/exit ritual for members of the public. This morning was no exeption, in fact it is getting worse. I was the only member of the public there but this still warranted an escort by two members of staff who, I noticed, carefully positioned themselves with one in front and one behind me. It was humiliating. This procession was reminiscent of a prisoner being led around Wormwood Scrubs rather than an exercise in democracy.
Then there was my exit. I dutifully used the special phone to summon the guards but it was engaged. I tried six times, still engaged. In the hope that I would be able to open the exterior fire exit door (now locked from the outside) at the bottom of the stairwell, I opened the first door by pressing the button on the wall. Sadly, and worryingly, the door to the outside - and freedom - was shut tight. There were four bolts and a lock and I tried for several minutes to open it. It wouldn't budge. I was therefore trapped. Fortunately I had my mobile phone with me so I phoned the main switchboard and asked to be released. The lady didn't know what I was talking about as it turned out she was 15 miles away in the Llandeilo offices. I tried again and eventually the guards appeared and I was 'escorted' out. I am going to contact the Fire Service tomorrow.

I am also failing to understand why Carl Sargeant or at least my MP Jonathan Edwards or even my AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas are not raising the whole issue with the Council - are they happy for the electorate of Carmarthenshire to be put at such risk? Should they not be challenging the whole outrageous entry procedure (yes I had to sign the undertaking yet again) on behalf of residents or perhaps on behalf of democratic engagement itself?? May I remind the two Plaid representatives that a Plaid Councillor resigned from the group on the Council last week as he was appalled by the lack of democracy within the council - if Plaid wish to make gains at the next local election I suggest they are a lot more active and vocal in challenging Carmarthenshire Council. This may gain them more support than writing letters in the local paper asking people to join them.

I had better mention the meeting which was hardly worth putting your life at stake for. Executive Board meetings appear rather pointless. First there is the pre-meeting briefing so any unpleasantness can be ironed out before the public and press get there. There then follows a series of recommendations by officers, each and every one of which is approved by the Executive Members and accompanied by little speeches and fawning tributes to the Chief Executive and the officer concerned. No one questions anything. At all. Very very cosy. I am very well aware of course that good work is done by the footsoldiers of various departments, I am not detracting from that, and of course the council itself makes sure, despite alarming budget concerns particularly in Social Care, that it spends tens of thousands of pounds every year telling us about it. The budget deficit was mentioned at length with the Deputy Leader, Cllr Madge saying that if the pressures of having such an ageing population continued at this rate some departments of the council would be "destroyed" - not sure what he meant by that, bankrupt I suppose. None of them have suggested some sort of Elderly Euthanasia Council Policy yet but it may be only a matter of time...

Anyway, the fate of Pantecelyn secondary school was further sealed this morning. There were several objections to closure but these were brushed aside ('no new issues raised'), the decision will have to go to the Welsh Minister but Mr Sully seemed to think this would be a formality. The concensus of grovelling opinion was that Carmarthenshire Council's education policy was the envy of the entire universe. It is the fault of the contorted council consultation exercise that people did not realise they would have to object for a second time in three months and it appears, raise even more new issues. Sad news for the school and the town of Llandovery. I have a feeling that even if there had been a thousand new objections it wouldn't have made any difference to Mr Sully and the executive bulldozers.

The other item which interested me was the impending decision to throw another £20,000 towards the Scarlets and the Stadium. Coming straight after the serious stuff about Social Care, the leader Meryl Gravell took the opportunity to relax and wax lyrical about the rugby world. In the event she deferred the item but not before she had told everyone that she had heard from New Zealand about how wonderful and, apparently, how well behaved the Wales team was. Naturally, I support the Welsh team and local rugby clubs and wish them all success as I do for all sports, but to be honest the preoccupation with rugby in County Hall is worrying. The last few meetings I have attended have seen more time devoted to talking about rugby, at various levels, than has been devoted to slightly more important and pressing issues. Anyway Cllr Gravell's tribute to the Scarlets and the Council's unfailing loyalty, failed to mention any concerns about the £5.5m debt (2010) or the fact they already have 122 people on the payroll costing nearly £8 million a year. Or the fact that the interest payments on the loan from the council has been slashed by half or that they have been relieved from paying the yearly £25,000 sinking fund (maintenance for the stadium) for the next three years etc etc. But this was a vision for our Council executives and I am sure they are just going to give themselves another couple of weeks to justify the payment and the employment of a 'Projects Funding Developments Officer'. Vital I'm sure.
The remaining items on the Agenda were nodded through until the exempt items came up, at which point of course I sadly had to leave.

I must just say I was a bit disappointed not to be met with a celebratory cake and a gold plated key to the Public Gallery after this blog's recent little success....

Please wander over to Y Cneifiwr's blog and enjoy his most recent post; Junk Mail and the True Meaning of 'consider' and another one with a view on one of the exempt reports; Alarm bells - Little Richard versus Cliff Richard 

(For further background on Pantecelyn, the Stadium, etc please, as ever, use the searchbox on the right)

Update 3rd November; Western Mail reports on the Scarlets £5.5m debt and how Carmarthenshire Council ignored financial warnings from the outset when embarking on the new stadium;


Anonymous said...

I wonder what the legal position would be, if God forbid anything untoward should happen within the confines of the public gallery, just where Carl Sargeant would stand, as he is fully aware of the dangers posed by the despotic conduct of C.C.C. He would not be able to say he didn't know!!!

NotGoodEnoughForCaboodle said...

well done on making us all aware of the ridiculous antics of Carmarthenshire County Council! Keep it up and I hope that people are taking your comments on board!

Cneifiwr said...

Good to see that you have complained to the fire brigade. The external door is supposed to be a fire exit, so having it locked from the outside is utterly reckless.

I hope that our political representatives can be persuaded to pay the public gallery an unannounced visit in a private capacity so that they can see for themselves the degrading way this council treats its people.

Photon said...

If true, and why would we doubt that it is, a locked fire door would be a clear case of unlawfulness.

Carms' response to all these doors is that, if a fire does break out, the doors release automatically and all is well - they break no laws.

Except, there is a possibility, hardly remote, that a fire could break out and not trigger the alarm. Let's say a match is tossed into a paper bin and the occupier sees smoke start to smoulder. Well before any alarm gets going, the occupier, if they've any sense, gets out. But if they can't get out?

We already have it that no risk assessment involving the public has been undertaken, and the autmoated doors used to excuse other risk assessments. It seems that, without actually examining what could happen, Carms seem to think they know anyway. That, to me, is a failed safety culture.

Anonymous said...

What a farce,so much so,that I am minded to compareit with the trial of Fizz in coronation street.She only had one warder and she was supposed to have committed murder.