Wednesday 9 November 2011

No round of applause for Jacqui

Right then, today's meeting. I was pleased to meet @Towy71 at the door. As you will see from his blog (Orwellian Stuff), and to his great credit, he refused to sign the undertaking and was therefore not allowed in, in fact a large security guard was called just to make sure. He did however sign for a pass, but that wasn't enough. I and others reluctantly signed though I added the words "unlawful, undemocratic and not binding". It is appalling that we are being made to sign this to observe the meeting and to be honest, I am not sure if I can do it much longer.

I also asked for the external door to be left open, in case of fire, I was informed it would remain locked. The security guard was beginning to look restless at this point. I went and had a look after the meeting and now both sets of doors are firmly locked.

Anyway, with the ritual and guarded procession complete, and the prisoners safely locked into the Gallery, the meeting began. I noticed this time that the Chair, Vice Chair and Chief Exec made a belated grand entrance rather like X Factor judges and everyone had to stand (apart from me). The standing continued for the prayer but I was quite appalled to notice there was no mention of Remembrance, the fallen of this County, or a minutes silence, nothing. Still perhaps they had more important things on their minds as the meeting moved on to congratulations for some award for the PR team and the Carmarthenshire News (Council rag) - 'Kings of Spin' or something like that. There was a hearty round of applause. I'm sure the rest of Carmarthenshire values the council rag as much as they do ;).

Next came a rather special moment as Cllr Sian Caiach managed to attract the Chair's attention and add to the congratulatory mood by referring to myself in the Gallery ("Community Councillor Jacqui Thompson") and my winning the award for Best Political Blog for Wales and how good it was for Carmarthenshire - as you may imagine there was a stunned and prolonged silence from everyone in the Chamber (no hearty applause) before a speechless Ivor Jackson regained his composure with " on..." Priceless. This will also be in the Minutes - or at least it had better be!

Cllr Caiach then made a formal complaint regarding the Chief Executive's reluctance to provide a legal reason (any good reason actually) why he had blocked the vote of no confidence debate on the Leader, Meryl Gravell. No answer was given and she was told to put it in writing.

The next item of interest was to approve an increase in delegated power to the Head of Regeneration (Dave Gilbert) and Head of Economic Development (Wendy Walters) to approve grant funding for businesses from £5000 to £35,000. (I mentioned this here) Nobody argued that the grant itself wasn't a good thing but concerns were raised over the delegation itself and, for that amount of money, some involvement of elected members was advisable. These concerns (or 'scrutiny' as it is known in a democracy), were about declarations of interest etc to which Mr Gilbert stated he had no interests to declare with any business which had ever, or may in the future, recieve grant funding. Oh good. Unfortunately Ms Walters was not present to add such reassuring noises but her declarations can be seen here if you follow the links. Anyway, the Chief Executive was clearly annoyed at this line of questioning, forgot about the importance of democratic debate (again) and accused Councillors of attacking the integrity of officers. He even mentioned that they were putting the Council in a bad light bearing in mind there were members of the public in the gallery. I couldn't quite believe he'd said that, had he forgotten about the 8th June etc etc?

Then followed a report on 'bio-diversity' - very important of course and reassuring to know our flora and fauna is in the safe hands of Carmarthenshire Council. Yet another chance for our scrutinizing councillors to burst forth; Cllr Wooldridge took the opportunity to thank Eifion Bowen on behalf of the voles of Llanelli (or something like that, couldn't quite catch it) and Kevin Madge (Deputy Leader) commenced another lengthy, blustery and completely unecessary speech about butterflies.

There then followed a long, sustained attack on Cllr Sian Caiach and her continued objection to the siting of the new Furnace School in Llanelli. There must have been half an hour of (almost tearful) 'think of the children' dross and one accused her of merely attention seeking. Eventually Cllr Caiach was allowed to reply and reminded them she was not opposed to the new school per se, but the size and siting and she felt other areas of Llanelli would be placed at a disadvantage. She reminded them that despite the fact they all seemed to have this signed sealed and delivered there was still three weeks left of the public consultation and the whole planning process to go through yet. And neither, for that matter, was she the 'only objector'. Something in all this must have awoken my own Councillor, Tom Theophilus - he actually spoke! Of course many of us have objected to the closure of Pantycelyn in Llandovery and the siting of the new superschool (you can tell by the reaction to Cllr Caiach that any such public opposition to council policy is treated with utter contempt) Cllr Theophilus suddenly, and pointlessly, decided that he was opposed to the closure of Pantycelyn, and that the 'local gossip' that he, and several neighbouring councillors had remained completely silent at all of the public consultation meetings was just a "malicious rumour" (see previous Pantycelyn posts). Cllr Jackson also put his pennyworth in at this point as local member for Llandovery. Odd then that I hadn't heard him say a word at any of these meetings and that a few months ago the inscrutable Mr Sully (Education Head - also see previous posts) had publicly thanked the aforementioned councillors for their unstinting support over this whole closure programme!!

Beginning to lose the will to live I sat through a lengthy debate on convergence funding and how fantastic the council was in supporting local businesses (do local traders agree?), again with more bluster from Kevin Madge - who was almost silenced by a rebellious Councillor who mentioned the fact that the Council itself were selling off several industrial units in Glanaman.

The meeting closed and eventually we were mercifully released into the fresh air like one of Kevin Madge's butterflies.

In the interest of balance, and in the hope I get a mention, I will publish a link to the Minutes when they eventually materialise.

Update 10th November; Y Cneifiwr has blogged his observations of yesterday's meeting, excellent read as always; The vultures Circle over County Hall
I am also reminded that the reasons our local councillors have given for their absolute silence over the closure of Pantecelyn was that it would compromise their involvement in the planning decision for the new school. As that is some time away yet we have argued that that would be a seperate issue to closure - could their timely mention of opposition yesterday (after the final Statutory Notice consultation is over) be coincidental? or could it now excuse them from having to make any unpopular decisions when the planning application is eventually considered? Surely not...

Update 12th November; I have only just noticed (very remiss of me) this post from Barnet blogger, Mrs Angry who describes so well the determined resistance to public scrutiny, especially irritant bloggers, in this London borough, something we recognise so well here in Carmarthenshire; Broken Barnet - Watch it all fall down  


Mr Mustard said...

Sorry if this has already been done but are there photographs of the locked doors ?

baarnett said...

Cna you ask the fire brigade for a statement about locked fire doors, perhaps?

baarnett said...

Hello Mr Mustard! You weren't there when I posted.
Great minds think alike.
And we all look forward to see the official minutes commending the "Best Political Blog for Wales"!

Andy said...

Have you referred the 'lock-in' matter to the Health and Safety Exec? I think they'd be interested.

caebrwyn said...

Hi all,
I purposely went to the bottom of the stairs to photograph the doors but they haven't come out on my phone, which is new - I don't know what I did. Apologies. Will do it next time.
H & S have been informed as have the fire service. The Fire Safety officer phoned me yesterday and said he'd pass my concerns to the Council's Property Compliance Dept so doesn't sound promising. I am on the case.

Tessa said...

Sorry I couldn't make it to the meeting yesterday - but thank you for an excellent and informative, entertaining, and downright hilarious post! I've been laughing out loud!