Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Glossing over

Further to last Wednesday's post 'Private Eye again - and today's full council meeting', I see that the minutes of the meeting have been published. (This was the meeting where a child was forced to sign the 'undertaking, remember?)
Yet again inconvenient chunks and awkward moments have disappeared from the record. I am in some doubt if it was the same meeting I went to last week. Although it should come as no surprise, there was not a word about Cllr Caiach's mention of the Council's appearance (again) in Private Eye or her attempt to offer the Council's apologies to me. (I am getting used to this). More importantly her suggestion that, in order for there to be an accurate record of who said what etc, the party leaders should get together and discuss using the existing equipment to make audio recordings - this wasn't mentioned either - nor Cllr Palmer's acidic response.
The Chief Constable's presentation is summarised but the specific concerns raised by several members are not, other than they 'asked questions' - no mention of the executive BMWs or the brand new, distinctly unused (that is unless someone decides to film a council meeting) £multi million Emergency Response Centre or concerns about the closure of local police stations etc.
The item on the 'new school builds' fails to include the concerns raised by Cllrs Lemon and Caiach and the memorable 'words of one syllable' response.
Lastly was the issue of the 'vanishing' press release - despite very clear concerns, all we have is the explanation by the Chief Executive that everything was 'appropriate' - no it wasn't was it? If it was, it would still be on the Council website....
(here, for your information, are the minutes.)
Anyhow, I really shouldn't be surprised any more. 'Glossing over' is the phrase that continually leaps to mind. All the more reason of course, for meetings to be filmed.

An 'exempt' item pops up in next Monday's Executive Board meeting concerning the National Botanic Gardens. Whenever this is discussed, along with other controversial expenditures; Parc Y Scarlets, Towy Community Church etc it is usually exempt from the public and press. Whether the exemption is necessary is quite another thing, we have seen the 'transfer of public toilets to community councils' feature in this category. This time though the (wordy) wording on the agenda appears to suggest that it is the Welsh Government which is insisting on secrecy;
"Being information furnished to the Council by the Welsh Assembly Government upon terms which forbid the disclosure of the information to the public, and accordingly the public will be excluded from the meeting during discussion of this item"
Last February, during last year's round of council budget cuts, it was decided, behind closed doors to up the Council's contribution from £30k to £60k a year, the Welsh Assembly gave it £800k in the last round of hand outs. Whilst wishing the Garden every success, it has cost the taxpayer a fortune and the management of the garden has been 'under review' by the Wales Audit Office and Welsh Assembly more than once. It was established on £43m of  public money and it is a public place, there is nothing (in my opinion) to discuss that couldn't be said in public. (please search for previous posts)

Update; Interesting letter in today's Carmarthen Journal (not online);
Procedure at hall is a farce
There used to be a jail where County Hall now stands and, judging by recent experience, there are still people employed to be warders in the building. If, as a member of the public, you want to watch councillors in action, you are required to sign a bit of paper giving an undertaking not to record in audio or visual form any of the proceedings of a council meeting. This bit of paper actually has no legal standing whatsoever but everyone - including children - are required to sign it before being allowed in the public gallery.
Having duly put pen to paper, two warders materialise and - one in front and one behind (presumably so that you don't make a break for it and create havoc on the stairwell) - accompany you up the narrow stairs, through several locked doors, before leaving you with instructions to use a telephone to call for someone to unlock the doors and let you out again.
In response to a query about what happens if there's a fire, you are told that the doors unlock automatically and a fire officer will come to fetch you to accompany you out of the building. Having pointed out that if the doors open automatically then one could find one's own way out thank you very much, you are told that it is policy to make you wait until a fire officer comes to save you.
So, having listened to the hour of non-stop self-congratulation which passes for an Executive Board meeting and then telephoned to be allowed to escape, the procedure happens in reverse.
What a farce! And are we paying to employ warders to hang about waiting for members of the public to exercise their democratic right to see what is being decided on their behalf?
L Williams


L Williams said...

I've just read the transcript of my letter that you've printed and would just like to add that (a) it has been printed with a grammatical error - what happened to educational standards! - should be everyone IS required to sign, not ARE! and (b) the end of the letter was actually:

"Whatever next? Strip searching in case we might be suicide bombers? Stalinist Russia could have learned lessons from CCC (runner-up in Private Eye's Rotten Borough of the Year).

Just thought you'd like to know that the letter was edited ....

caebrwyn said...

@L Williams
Thank you for that, always good to read the FULL version :)

Cneifiwr said...

Don't forget that despite the ban on filming, all visitors are filmed by the council, as well as the security escorts and form filling.

As for the Botanic Gardens, we can only speculate, but it looks like another of the white elephants is returning for more dosh. That's one a month recently.

caebrwyn said...

who could forget...cost of entry to public gallery? One soul.

As for the Botanic Gardens perhaps the secrecy is to spare the blushes of a brave private investor, perhaps it will be soon renamed the National Botanic Pizza Hut of Wales...

Cneifiwr said...

Pizza Hut would have to be very brave. Perhaps it could become part of the new Chinese holiday village.

The accounts for the year to 31 March 2011 were submitted in January and show a loss of £769,000. The accounts also show a massive drop in revenue for the year - in fact it has been falling sharply for the last 3 years.

Looks like we are going to be asked to dig very, very deep.

The accounts can be found here:

caebrwyn said...

The WAO report from 2005 was damning and another review was carried out last year by WAG. Visitor figures have been massaged by allowing free entry in January for 2 years running. Surely CCC will refuse to give any more cash, especially at the moment??