Monday 27 August 2012

Bank Holiday bulletin

Still all quiet at the Carmarthenshire Kremlin by way of meetings, important decisions on policy etc since, more or less, the beginning of March, and still the special responsibility/executive allowances roll in, as reported by Cneifiwr.
After all the thrills and spills and prolonged propaganda campaign surrounding Kev's Day Out in Ammanford you would think that September would be the month to settle down to business; disappointingly, the Executive Board meeting scheduled for the 2nd September now has that familiar word 'Cancelled' alongside.  Or perhaps the transformation is complete and elected councillors are now completely surplus to requirements....

The Wales Audit Office have gone all quiet, it remains to be seen whether they will 'question' the  accounts. They still appear to be having trouble with their own and have had problems in the recent past with their own accounting 'black holes'.

The county council have also picked a quiet time to 'ask for people's views' on flooding issues in the county. Usually, people's views on flooding issues (or anything else for that matter), are completely ignored but they now have a duty under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 to prepare a 'strategy', and as is usual with 'strategies', that will be ignored too. Take for example the Stradey homes development, or even the new development in Machynys Llanelli for 35 homes and an 'Eco Park' (whatever one of those might be), where 25,000 cubic metres of soil will have to be brought in to raise the level by 7.1 metres to avoid washing the whole thing away.

The site selected by the council for the new school in Ffairfach is another case in point. planning has yet to be submitted as the final decision is still in Leighton Andrews in-tray, but out of a possible 14 sites, it was the wettest one which was the 'preferred option'. Lying in the bottom levels of the very fertile Towy Valley the frequent flooding of the Towy basin yields a healthy crop of silage and fat lambs every year, hopefully the new school will also produce similarly healthy fat lambs. Must be part of the site 'criteria'.

 'artists impression' of new superschool in Ffairfach with flood mitigation measures...
Incidentally, consultants costs, as of 2nd March 2011 (and there have been lots more 'artists impressions' etc in the 18 months since then) for the whole Modernising Education Programme in Dinefwr was £996,458.47, that was at the time when Pantycelyn school was struggling to reduce it's deficit of around £150,000, one of the reasons cited by the council for it's closure.

Betws Community Council sounded a little miffed in the South Wales Guardian as the details of their objections to an application for 11 homes were completely ignored at the last meeting of the planning committee. It seems that although the county council knew there was a 'comment', the actual details and the fact that it constituted an objection, were 'not known'. The Chair of Betws Community Council sounded fairly resigned to it all and said, "it's amazing what gets lost at County Hall". Quite so.

A little more on the partial response to my last Freedom of Information request (see FoI in meltdown?) . The figures which were supplied show a steady increase in the number of FoI/EIR (Environmental Information Requests) requests since 2009.  Roughly a third more were submitted this year than in 2009. The number of refusals, however, has almost doubled, as have the number of requests for internal reviews. I have yet to have an original decision overturned during the 'internal appeal' stage and by looking at the figures, only a handful ever have, and none last year. However it is difficult to analyse the numbers without the little details such as reasons for refusal etc, and I hear another request has gone in which may provide some flesh on the bare bones.
Anyway, in case you didn't click on the link last time, here's the figures;

1. Number of requests;
2009/10 – 80 EIR, 609 FOIA
2010/11 – 59 EIR, 803 FOIA
2011/12 – 31 EIR, 900 FOIA

2. How many FoI and EIR requests have been refused in each of these years;

2009/10 – 120
2010/11 – 195
2011/12 – 220

(We have defined ‘refused’ as cases where information held has been
refused in whole or part by the application of an FOIA exemption/EIR

3. How many of those refused, subsequently went to an internal appeal, per

2009/10 – 11
2010/11 – 10
2011/12 – 23

4.. How many of those internal appeals were either upheld or dismissed, per

2009/10 – 1 upheld, 1 upheld in part and 1 request revised at appeal with
information then disclosed under the Data Protection Act.  8 appeals not
2010/11 – No appeals upheld. 10 appeals not upheld/dismissed.
2011/12 – 3 appeals upheld, 3 upheld in part. 17 appeals not

How many people actually go on to complain to the Information Commissioner is not known, I imagine that precious few can be bothered to plough through the lengthy procedure. However, a local authority will only learn by it's mistakes so I would urge anyone with the grounds for doing so, to contact the ICO and complain, particularly if your response is a) unsatisfactory, b) unlikely and c) considerably over the 20 day limit. I have recently taken the plunge with the recently refused request for correspondence between the council and the Towy Community Church.

1 comment:

william price said...

*stock take* the council have still yet to make any significant decisions? Even though the election was back in May?