Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Wales Blog Awards - today's Carmarthen Journal

Pleased to see great article by @AlexMurraySmith in today's Carmarthen Journal about my nomination for the Wales Blog Awards, the finals will be on the 27th October;

Council Critic now running for top award

(Link to Wales Blog Awards)

Also in today's Journal is a letter from another Carmarthenshire resident equally concerned about the way things are heading within our council;

"Dear Editor
In common with other local authorities, clubs, societies and countries, Carmarthenshire has a constitution which sets out who is responsible for what and the rules by which the County Council runs its business.
This document is only a few years old, and it is therefore surprising to find that it has nevertheless been subject to frequent changes.
In most democratic institutions, constitutional changes are not undertaken lightly and are rare or infrequent events, and countries which frequently change their rule books are usually banana republics and dictatorships.
The declared aims of Carmarthenshire’s constitution are to set out "how decisions are made and the procedures which are followed to ensure that these are efficient, transparent and accountable to local people." In reality, what we have seen is a sustained assault on the principles of democratic accountability, with more and more powers being delegated by elected councillors to unelected officers, and a steady flow of rule changes designed to silence criticism and reduce transparency.
I could quote many examples, but four are enough to give readers a flavour of what has been happening, usually unreported and with little or no public debate.

1. Rules allowing the votes of councillors in committees to be recorded were abolished, and only councillors who specifically request to have their votes recorded now have their names noted. In practice this means that councillors who do not wish to let their electors know how they voted on controversial matters (e.g. major planning applications) can effectively vote anonymously.

2.The council’s Executive Board approved proposals to sell one of the Newcastle Emlyn’s public car parks without consulting the Town Council or any local residents or businesses. Protesters were told that the rules had been changed, and that consultation was no longer necessary.

3.Planning officers are to be given more powers to decide applications without referring them to elected councillors.

4.Recently several motions submitted by opposition councillors critical of various aspects of the way the council is run, including cuts to services for the elderly, have been rejected and debate not allowed.

This has been done under the Constitution which gives powers to the Chief Executive and the Council Chair to decide what may or may not be discussed. To make it even harder for such motions to be heard, more rule changes are now being brought in, raising the thresholds needed and so ensuring minority voices will be silenced.

The net impact of these changes is to undermine local democracy and make it harder and harder for voters to hold the council to account because real power is being concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite of officers we cannot vote out."

There is also a letter published today by Carmarthenshire County Councillor Sian Caiach who I have mentioned in several recent posts;
Our group is being silenced
and a further article on the changes to the constitution approved last Wednesday - nine of the councillors voted agasinst (including two from People First), so that's seven more than usual, and nine abstained - all from Plaid, I believe - is there a wind of change in the air? Another 53 to go though;


Anonymous said...

Don't expect any different from Carmarthenshire County Council.
They will agree verbally with your complaints but then ignore you.
I have been waiting over two years for a written comment of a meeting I had with the housing department.
"Dictators" would be a very very apt description.

Morag said...

Re recording, don't know if this is any use:-
letter sent to local authorities from the Local Government Minister Bob Neill -
Here (Peterborough) I've asked for it to be debated in full council. Had also pointed out the Eric Pickles Localism Bill but they had rejected this as it 'was not yet law' amazing they are a Tory controlled council!