Friday, 27 January 2012

Gardens and Thrones

As I mentioned last week, there was an 'exempt' report at Monday's Executive Board meeting concerning the National Botanic Garden of Wales. As I said, there appeared to be no good reason for the exemption other than an order by the Welsh Government. The local paper tried to find out what had happened but other than a vague comment from the leader, Cllr Gravell and the promise of an announcement by the Welsh Government 'in the Spring' we were none the wiser. One presumes that Cardiff are pouring more cash into the money-pit. However, there had to be a reason why this was also before the esteemed cabinet in County Hall. Already granting at least £60,000 per year from our coffers, I see from item 7 of the minutes, that an extra £15,000 per year will now be added to this figure, Cllr Gravell did not mention this to the local paper. As usual the white elephants are forming a queue for extra strawberries before the budget axe falls next month. I can see the 'webcasting council meetings' call being conveniently kicked into touch.

With the furore over Meryl Gravell's derogatory comments about members of staff still rumbling along, and gaining several hundred hits on You Tube, I am sure it will be a very interesting meeting of full council on the 8th February, Cllr Winston Lemon (Plaid) has already publicly called for her to abdicate, I wonder if anyone else will join him? I wonder if any more amendments to the constitution can be squeezed in beforehand to avoid any embarrassment for our Leader? I don't think those protective goalposts can be moved much more.  The Council budget meeting will then be held on the 21st February where the remaining funds will be 'voted' on, in Carmarthenshire's own inimitable way. I trust the Public Gallery will be packed and extra wardens will be deployed, it could be a Code Red situation.

On the subject of the dwindling funds, the Welsh language current affairs magazine, Golwg ran an article a couple of weeks ago about the council's excessive contributions to the evangelical bowling alley, alternatively known as a 'church'. There were several contributors including myself, Y Cneifiwr, Cllr Caiach, the Council and of course the Towy Community Church itself. Y Cneifiwr's blog has a summary of some of the facts and figures.
Today's edition of Golwg has an article about my arrest and calls to allow the filming of council meetings. Well done Golwg.
I have also heard today that my filming and spending petitions have now been put on the Agenda for the Senedd Petitions Committee for the 7th February. The straw poll over on Dyfrig Thomas' blog is still going strong, it currently stands 50 in favour and 8 against webcasting meetings. It would be interesting to know whether the 8 who voted against webcasting object to the cost (which is debatable) or the principle.

Update 27th January - Press Release from the People First Group on Carmarthenshire County Council

What should have been a wonderful day celebrating 15 years of Choose Life in Llanelli with Alan Andrews and his staff was spoilt by the extraordinary remarks made by Councillor Meryl Gravell.

After congratulating Alan and his staff for the years of working tirelessly to help people with their addictions, Mrs Gravell then went on to insult some of the demonstrators who were protesting outside about the proposed closure of the A&E department in Prince Philip Hospital. She quite clearly called them “rabble” but did not specify which demonstrators were the “rabble”.

She followed this by stating “Mark and I have 9000 employees (sic) and if they only worked as hard and as enthusiastically as Alan then we would have no trouble in the Council.”

We were astounded that a council leader could speak in such a disparaging manner, especially after some of our hard-working council employees have been forced to take salary cuts.

In our opinion Mrs Gravell’s scathing, unscripted, remarks about some of the protestors and about council staff were insensitive and unprofessional. Her subsequent response to councillors and to the press that her remarks have been taken out of context is misleading - as the video evidence proves.

Is this why the council is so reluctant to have their meetings filmed? The value of such recording is borne out by the YouTube clip showing the council leader’s true character – and her true remarks. It would appear that without a script and without the guidance of officers, Mrs Gravell is not competent enough to make a simple speech without alienating and enraging the public and council workers.

The council needs a real leader who enables and encourages councillors to work as a team to serve the people of Carmarthenshire; not someone who maintains the status quo of an officer-led council where councillors are merely required to rubber-stamp officers’ recommendations.

The People First Group will continue to campaign for recording council meetings and do not accept Mrs Gravell’s insincere apology. She should resign."

And here, in the interests of balance, is a link to the South Wales Evening Post article featuring Cllr Gravell's press release;
'Carmarthenshire Council Leader; 'Rabble' blast misunderstood'

Another update; *stop press* - Carmarthenshire Council has an poll on the homepage of their website (follow link below, the poll is to be found on the right hand side under 'have your say');
'If the council were to live stream it's meetings on the internet, would you be likely to watch?' Please vote Yes!

Yet another update 31st Jan
I see Cllr Gravell has now issued another 'message' (please note, she does not call it an apology) - this time to staff. It begins by explaining again her reasons for using the word 'rabble' in connection to the hospital protestors, which I have already covered in the last few posts. The rest is a last ditch attempt, coined by a council spin doctor no doubt, to apologise for her comments about the 9000 staff; Oh dear, this is getting desperate;

"Many of you by now will have read in the press and even seen a "Youtube" clip of comments that I made at the recent 15 year Anniversary celebrations of Chooselife in Llanelli.........I recognise now that I should have chosen my words more carefully but please believe me when I say that my comments were never intended to reflect badly in any way on council staff. Many of you will know that I never miss an opportunity to commend and congratulate staff within the council. As I have said on numerous occasions we, as Members, can agree to all sorts of policies and projects, but we rely entirely on the Council’s staff to put those policies into practice and to make our many challenging projects come to fruition. All the fantastic achievements we have been able to deliver in recent years would not have been possible without the hard work and expertise of staff.I hope that this explanation will help to put these matters into context.
Since making these remarks I have spoken to many members of staff who have been honest enough with me to express their disappointment with my remarks. Similarly, I have received letters from people who have been equally critical of my comments. What I hope is that they and you will understand the difficult circumstances in which they were made and that you will accept my apology for any offence caused.
Can I also thank the many members of staff who have taken the time to ring me personally to offer their support and understanding and recognise that I have always been very supportive of Carmarthenshire County Council’s staff"

1 comment:

Cneifiwr said...

The minutes for the most recent Executive Board meeting you refer to would seem to set some new kind of record in opaqueness, even by the standards of Carmarthenshire County Council. Apart from a few very minor changes to the details of a couple of polling stations, the rest of the meeting was held in closed session.