Monday 11 June 2012

Carmarthenshire Council crawls into action

Carmarthenshire' full council meets next Wednesday (13th) for the first time after the long drawn out AGM. I suppose with all the, er, excitement of the election/torch/jubilee they need to ease themselves in gently. This is the first meeting for three months, with no meeting in August it looks like the council senior management are having quite a free rein on decision making without the inconvenience of meetings or Minutes.
The Constitution comes in for it's usual amendments which largely deals with the re-arrangement of scrutiny committees (cut from seven to five) and other previously approved measures such as the revised protocol for planning matters.
Nothing very earth shattering but it should be remembered that the most damaging  undemocratic amendments have already been approved last year and will be quietly inserted now that everyone's forgotten about it all, I am referring to the requirement for seven members to 'second' a council motion (it's usually one) and the removal of the right to present a petition to the Chair of the Council, it now has to be considered by the Chief Executive first, who will then decide it's fate.
Also up for the rubber stamp is the Draft code of Corporate Governance, essentially a meaningless box ticking exercise in council waffle (See post 'Draft Code of Corporate Governance and it's not even April 1st')

It will be interesting to see if anyone questions whether the theories of good 'governance' will ever be put into practice; take, for example;

[The Council must]..use its legal powers to the full benefit of the citizens and communities in their areas...actively recognising the limits of lawful activity due to, for example, the ultra vires doctrine...recognising the limits of lawful action and observing both the specific requirements of legislation and the general responsibilities placed on authorities by public law....

......take informed and transparent decisions.....holding meetings in public unless there are good reasons for confidentiality.....ensuring that the authority as a whole is open and accessible to the community, service users and our staff, and that it has made a commitment to openness and transparency in all its dealings, including partnerships..." Blah Blah....

Clearly a long way to go yet...

I have noted, of course that there are no changes to the meeting rules (Standing Orders), therefore there is still no rule against a member of the public filming or recording a meeting. I imagine that to regulate now, would be to shoot themselves in the foot after insisting that every visitor to the public gallery, since last July, has had to sign an agreement under false pretences to abide by the non-existent rule before being escorted in. And out.
So what will happen next? After an entire year deliberating on the feasibility of webcasting meetings, the 'Task and Finish Group' (once led by the enthusiastic Cllr Dyfrig Thomas, who has now lost his seat) must be reaching a conclusion - I suspect that Meryl's little pre-election statement to 'pilot webcasting' if she was re-elected into power was based on a nod and a wink from the group. However, we now have a Labour led council who have not, to my knowledge ever said anything supportive of greater transparency in the context of Carmarthenshire Council.
I trust that if webcasting is piloted, a corresponding rule against public filming is not dropped into the Standing Orders; the freedom and opportunity for the public to record proceedings will always act as a check on the editing 'skills' of the council.
Also, judging by some of the more bizarre recent spending decisions by the Executive, cost will not be an issue either.

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