Monday, 9 January 2012

You can tell there's an election on the way...

.......when the present Administration ('Independents' and Labour groups, in case you'd forgotten) are allowed use the media section of the Council website for some shameless political point scoring and (as I predicted) a couple of 'surprise, surprise' u-turns on the more 'bad press' elements of the proposed cuts. As I have said, I am not politically aligned, but this 'press release' smacks entirely of disingenuous spin - if I was a Plaid Councillor, I would be up in arms. Plaid have been accused of abstaining from voting on 'every committee' - yet I notice the votes at the last Education Scrutiny committee against closing childrens' respite homes, putting up the price of school dinners and agreement to defer the museum closures, was 'unanimous' - no mention of abstentions.

Clearly there are problems facing the council's ability to balance it's books but it beggars belief that this sort of  PR nonsense continues. It is the ultimate irony that Cllr Palmer has used this opportunity to unashamedly accuse others of making 'political soundbites'. Decisions to keep respite homes open etc are, of course to be welcomed but one wonders how (and why) they appeared on the list in the first place, all the items which have now been 'reviewed' are geared to maximise support for the current administration, which has, to a man, and woman (of course), rubber stamped all officer decisions for years. The whole thing was engineered at a 'behind closed doors' meeting yesterday.

There is not, I notice, any mention in this puff piece about the decision taken only last month by the three main groups (I believe two Plaid Cllrs voted against it along with Cllrs Caiach and A Davies) to risk over a quarter of a million quid on the evangelical bowling alley (with £1m+ already on it's way).

There is a time and place for political in-fighting but for it to appear on the supposedly 'politically neutral' Council website does make one wonder who's controlling it....

'Leaders of the Administration make changes to budget proposals' (spin alert warning - Council website)

Update 7pm; I have just checked the above link and the press release, which was published this afternoon, has mysteriously disappeared from the website. The link now goes straight to the Council 'Enter Site' page. Maybe someone complained.
I made a copy this afternoon. So, in case it does not re-appear, here it is;

Leaders of the Administration make changes to budget proposals
"The Leaders of the Administration have confirmed a number of matters regarding the Council’s budget process to stop people worrying unnecessarily and to stop idle speculation and unhelpful comments to the press.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Meryl Gravell stated that having reviewed carefully the list of savings put forward by officers, there were very clearly some areas that it would not be appropriate to cut. The first of these was the Council’s two Children’s respite homes in Llwynhendy and Blaenau. These performed an essential respite service for parents of children with profound and complex needs. It was important that the families and the staff at the centres knew now that they would not be cut. They will be removed from the list of possible savings.
Cllr Gravell also confirmed that the proposal to charge blue badge holders to park would also be removed for now, given the on-going national review of the entire blue badge system.
Chairman of the Labour Group in the Administration Cllr Terry Davies confirmed that the suggested increase in the charge for school meals, above inflation would not be proceeding. Officers had been told to withdraw the proposal for meals to increase from £2 to £2.15. Cllr Davies added that families are struggling to make ends meet and it is essential that children continue to have a proper meal. The Schools Meals Service in the County is regarded widely as the best in Wales for offering fresh, locally produced quality food. It also has one of the highest pupil uptake rates in Wales. It is important that this continues. School meals will therefore remain at £2 for the next financial year.
Cllr Pam Palmer, Leader of the Independent Group, commented that there had been lots of reaction to the proposal put forward by officers for consideration to close some of our museums. Cllr Palmer confirmed that the decision on the museums at Parc Howard and Abergwili was to be deferred to allow for discussions with the "Friends of" Associations in Carmarthen and Llanelli and the Town and Community Councils in those areas. She hoped that by working together an alternative solution might be found to reduce the costs of these museums or to raise more income to make them self-sustaining to avoid them closing altogether.
With regard the Mentrau Iaith, Cllr Gravell confirmed that whilst the Council could not continue to provide the same level of funding, the proposed cut would be limited to 10% this year, which conforms with cuts made to other third sector organisations.
Cllr Gravell made it clear that the Executive Board had asked officers to look again at the budget to see how they could reduce the draft proposal for a 4% Council Tax increase down to nearer 2%. Taking the above service reductions out of the proposed savings would add more pressure in this respect and make it more difficult to get down to 2%, whilst also having to make the required budget savings of £8m.
Cllr Davies added that it was all well and good for Opposition Members to make statements to the press, but it was disappointing that they had not participated in Scrutiny Committees when the budget was under discussion. The Plaid Cymru Group had simply abstained from voting at every Committee.
Cllr Palmer agreed that it would be too late on the budget day at Council to make political sound bites, not real suggestions that could be properly considered in a timely manner."

Update 10th Jan; Y Cneifiwr, spot on, as ever; Award winning PR


towy71 said...

It seems strange to me that the last link doesn't work and a search of the Council site can't find it either

towy71 said...

stranger it finds it but only as a link to a 2008 document

towy71 said...

Thanks Jacqui, very definitely reads like electioneering to me

Cneifiwr said...

This has to join the growing list of mysteries surrounding our beloved council. You have to wonder who wrote it, who approved it and who ordered it to be pulled.

It is a truly scandalous example of misuse of public resources, and it shows yet again why the PR department has to go.

caebrwyn said...

Whilst on the subject of Carmarthenshire spin, I have just noticed another press release on their website, this time dealing with a 'structured approach' to car parking charges,(complete with a little table) which, in normal language means they're going up every year. Quite how "this ensures that the competitive position of each town is maintained against...out of town developments", where parking is of course free, is a mystery. Anyway, by the time you've got to the bottom of the piece you almost feel they're doing us all a favour.

Nospin said...

Nice one Jacqui, smart move taking a copy.

Nospin said...

I just can't understand why elected representatives in any council allow themselves to be trodden all over by the unelected executive that they employ.

How can they have the nerve to stand for election as our representatives.

The leader of the council should be just that, and not take interference from execs, advice yes interference no.

Any council leader who fails to lead and set the agenda should resign or be deposed.

Anonymous said...

Looks like our politicians are onto the car parking charges, too:

Tessa said...

@ Nospin - the elected reps have little faith in their own understanding (and competence), when compared to that of officers who have both experience and competence in their field. Fair enough? However, where the elected reps should have the edge, is with regard to "judgement". An officer/employee will be too focussed - especially if their careers have always been in the public sector - narrowing to a council department. Loathe as I am to use jargon - they are not best placed (indeed placed at all) to see the "bigger picture". Councillors, however, should be - yet it is easier for them to toe the line whomever dictates it, this is your average person's character leaning. Those with the balls to do anything else - in Carmarthenshire seemingly only the People First councillors - well, look what happens to them! Slapped down, discredited, insulted - were it not for their own dignity and refusal to be victims it would be actual bullying and humiliation.