Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Petitions Closed

With a slightly different set of attendees, and with Joyce Watson AM (Labour) in the Chair, the Senedd Petitions Committee closed my two petitions this morning. To be fair, over the past few months they have been given a good airing and I didn't really expect much more discussion. As for webcasting meetings, the committee agreed with Carl Sargeant's views to 'encourage' rather than 'require' councils to do this. It would be considered too 'dictatorial' to insist - 'dictatorial' being a word Carmarthenshire Council should be able to relate to. As with the spending petition it seems to be a matter of cost which is understandable but I am not sure I agree with the Chair that in order to comply with the release of spending details councils would have to employ 'inordinate numbers of people', I don't believe this was necessary in Monmouthshire. The conclusion was reached that Freedom of Information requests met transparency requirements sufficiently. 
There was no mention of the freedom for members of the public to film or record meetings but I am assuming that Carl Sargeant's statement of 'encouragement' is the best I'm going to get from the Welsh Assembly and as the cost is nil I assume the door is now open...

http://www.senedd.tv/archiveplayer.jsf?v=en_200001_13_03_2012&t=0&l=en (2 minutes 50 seconds into the recording)

Good value for money is something we all wish to see from Councils, whether or not it's spent in the right places and they've got their priorities right, this was the basis for the petitions. With the reluctance of the Welsh Government to intervene, local authorities will have to decide how transparent they wish to be, and after the election in May, I hope such matters remain on the agenda.
When it comes to poor priorities Carmarthenshire is in a league of it's own, here's one example; the minutes for the council budget meeting (21st February) were finally published yesterday afternoon, three weeks after the event. During that time the council's press spin team (which must employ 'inordinate numbers of people') published an astonishing twenty three 'articles' on the council website since 1st March alone, the figures for February have, due to it being a remarkably useless website, disappeared.
I rest my case.

Carmarthenshire Council would rather you saw Executive Members beaming at a liposuction machine than where your money is being spent. (from Media Section, CCC website)

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