Sunday 11 March 2012

Pantycelyn Update.....and other news

Further to this post; Pantycelyn School - The Last Stand, I understand that Thursday's oral hearing for permission for a Judicial Review to save the school from closure was unsuccessful. However, without going into the legal arguments, it appears that the campaigners may have a good case to take to the Court of Appeal - I hope they do. They will be considering their position over the next week or so.
I am surprised that even with an election fast approaching, Cllrs Ivor Jackson and Tom Theophilus have still not publicly voiced any strong opposition to the closure of the school which is of course at the very heart of the community they hope to represent. Primary Schools are closing at a rate of knots and, in this area, it looks like Llansadwrn and Llanwrda Schools will be next on the list - and I can guarantee I will put up damn sight more resistance than the current incumbents, whether I'm elected or not. In fact, on reflection, my cat could have put up a better fight.

I am pleased to see that Cllr Steve Lloyd-Janes has stated his support for recording council meetings on his blog ('Sleeping councillors and electioneering tactics', you have to scroll down a little) but I notice he has gone for the decidedly less transparent 'audio' rather than 'visual' format, but that's probably understandable given the, er, background to his comments....(and he still hasn't accepted my follow request on Twitter...ah, correction at 6.30pm, he has)

My 'filming' and 'spending' petitions are back before the Senedd Petitions Committee on Tuesday morning for what must be the last time, the agenda for the full meeting can be seen here. The transcript from the last meeting where the Minister for Local Government discussed the issues can be read here (PDF document). I do not wish to pre-empt anything but I think it is unlikely that councils will be formally required to webcast meetings and the choice will be up to individual authorities but a statutory requirement to allow members of the public to film and record would not be beyond the realms of possibility - costs would be nil and I can assure councils they would not be acting beyond their powers by welcoming such a move, after all, as we have seen in Carmarthenshire, there are no rules against filming anyway...

On the subject of transparency, as I have mentioned (Little Boxes), my request for the details of senior officers' expenses was refused on costs grounds and the 'internal review' was unsuccessful (as they always are), the full correspondence can be seen here. I have now appealed to the Information Commissioner.
An interesting post from a couple of week's ago on a journalist's blog, (David Higgerson - FOI - when MPs have to use the Act, there's clearly something wrong) rang a few bells here in Carmarthenshire where I have heard of similar problems. I have now asked the council for some figures and await their response.

Update; I had a response to my 'MP requests' FoI request, which can be seen in full here;
For once the response was early. As for the stats; 50 requests were attributed to 'Assembly Member', 29 to 'Member of Parliament' and 5 to 'town/county councillor'

I had cause the other day to drop a letter into my local police station in Llandovery, I ensured it was secured in an envelope to drop through the letter box as, due to the stretched resources of Dyfed Powys Police, attendence in Llandovery is meagre to say the least. Consider my surprise as I popped round to the back door to find several cars and what appeared to be half of the entire force - the purpose of this concentration of the law soon dawned as I realise my visit had coincided with the arrival of Prince Charles, who'd dropped into the town to visit his Welsh 'seat'.
I should think that just about takes care of the 5% increase from the taxpayer on the police precept.

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