Thursday 24 November 2011

Defending Democracy....Cllr Caiach and more from the Carmarthen Journal

As I have mentioned here there was a concerted attack by a multitude of councillors against Cllr Sian Caiach at the last full council meeting. The minutes, unsurprisingly, are sketchy on her reply to them. The three party leaders then went a stage further and wrote a similarily damning letter in last week's Carmarthen Journal and Llanelli Star. Cllr Caiach has this week written to the Star herself explaining her position and her disappointment in her colleagues' stance.

I have also written to the Journal, it was printed, but not online, so here it it;

Trio's letter was appalling attack

I was appalled by the letter in last week's Journal launching a bitter attack on Cllrs Sian Caiach and Arthur Davies and signed by the three party leaders, Cllrs Kevin Madge, Pam Palmer and Peter Hughes Griffiths.
Have these three forgotten why they are there? Do they think their role in a council meeting is to pay endless tributes to officers? Are they not supposed to actually question the decisions of this officer-led council?
With regards to Furnace school, Cllr Caiach had to remind them that the public consultation period was not yet over and there was the whole issue of the planning application to go through yet. The deal, whatever the eventual outcome, was not actually done yet.

She, like the others, welcomes investment in education and economic progress in the County and also appreciates the efforts of officers; but that is not what it's all about - as with so many projects and 'visions' there is virtually no scrutiny by elected members, everything goes through with a nod and a wink, for all we know they could be giving money earmarked for local community groups to private companies..oh, hang on, they just did, £20,000 to the Scarlets for a 'Project Officer'.

Cllr Caiach was also criticised for 'interfering' in the Dinefwr Schools programme, perhaps these esteemed councillors were unaware that there was actually public opposition to the closure of Pantycelyn School in Llandovery - I could hardly blame them as the elected members for our area never said a word, never represented the views of local residents and were even thanked by the Director of Education for their support.

Despite having to run the gauntlet of the new undemocratic and unwelcoming entry ritual (as well as risking life and limb by being locked into the Public Gallery), I have been to several meeting of full council now and the process largely consists of a series of waffly tributes to whatever the latest wheeze the unelected officers have come up with. This, to be fair, is interspersed with the occasional voice of concern, soon silenced with frowns and protestations from various Executive Board members - in the case of Cllr Caiach the atmosphere becomes almost hysterical as she attempts to scrutinise, question and challenge the officer's decisions.

Whether or not you agree with Cllr Caiach's views or not, at the very least she recognises that the Council Chamber, despite the best efforts of senior management to curtail it through endless tweaks to the Constitution, is supposed to be the last bastion of democracy and the forum for scrutiny - It has become a joke in Carmarthenshire and the three leaders would do well remember that.

Yours sincerely
Jacqui Thompson

Also featuring in this week's Carmarthen Journal was this piece from William Powell AM (@WilliamPowellAM on twitter) on the value and aims of the Assembly Petitions Committee (I'll second that) and promoting it's use to raise issues;
Petition for Attention on Issues

And, incidentally, there was also this;
Blogger suing Council and it's Chief

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