Whilst sorting through paperwork the other day I came across an article from the Carmarthen Journal dated the 31st May 2008, just after the previous election. You have to remember that those were the heady days when the Public Gallery was blogger-free and scrutiny was left to the local paper (who were having problems with their neighbours in County Hall even then) and the redoubtable Cllr Caiach. It concerned multiple amendments to the constitution, one of which, buried deep and unnoticed within the documentation was the one enabling officers to bring actions for defamation funded by the taxpayer.
Over the past few years we have seen gradual changes channelling more and more power into the hands of unelected senior officers whilst the role of elected members continues to diminish, usually under spurious and undefined references to 'keeping up with current legislation'.
Here's the 2008 article which explains how it's done. Tactics such as 'it would be unlawful not to approve at the meeting' and 'you'll have to challenge it after it's approved' (nigh on impossible) are used to effect. Added to the peculiar sense of urgency is the reliance that nobody has had time/bothered to read the details;
"Carmarthenshire Council has agreed changes to it's constitution, even though some councillors did not have a chance to read the documents beforehand. Members were asked to agree the constitution which includes changes in line with legislation affecting departments and the role of councillors and the Executive Board.
However, concern was raised that a small number of councillors had not recieved the bulky 80 - plus page document before the full council meeting.
This was despite assurances from chief Executive Mark James that the document had been posted days before the meeting to all 74 councillors.
Councillors said the document was too large to go through letter boxes and they were forced to pick it up from the sorting office.
Hengoed Councillor, Sian Caiach said; "I know of at least three members, not including myself, who had to request the council send the constitution again. We have not had time to read it, so how can we approve it? Can't this matter be deferred to the next council meeting to give councillors a chance to read the constitution?"
Mr James said councils across Wales were agreeing to constitutions following the elections and that it would be unlawful not to approve Carmarthenshire Council's constitution at the meeting.
Cllr Pam Palmer added; "Why can't the rest of the council approve the constitution? If only three councillors have not recieved the document, would it make that much difference? If the councillors who have not got it have any concerns, they can bring them up at a later date"
Councillor Kevin Madge agreed [I can almost hear him]
Despite the concerns of some councillors, members voted to approve the constitution."
Job done. And no mention in the Minutes either.