Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Scrutiny....and the 5Rs

Next Monday will see the first scrutiny committe meeting of the council since April. Replacing the Regen/Leisure and Housing Committees, it has been given the warm, fuzzy title 'Community'.
Party whips are not allowed at scrutiny committee meetings, well not officially anyway, and this is now enshrined on Scrutiny agendas with the faintly ridiculous item. "Declaration of prohibited party whips" at the start of the meetings. I can't imagine there'll be many takers.

First up is the yearly aspirational document the 'Annual Report and Improvement Plan' which sets out the priorities for the year ahead, priorities which councils are supposed to aspire to anyway. The Council, like all others, is legally obliged to produce these reports and it would seem that this is a legal obligation they don't mind sticking to given the opportunity for more positive spin.

The document is, as you would imagine, riddled with jargon and it's poor format is interspersed with photos of grateful looking pensioners and stock photos of healthy smiling people. To ensure the Council has suitably prioritised it's spending decisions "during a period of severe budgetary constraint", it has upped the jargon levels to a new height with the '5 Rs', Rooted - Relevant - Reasonable - Robust - Rounded, doesn't that make you feel better?  Perhaps we could make it 6 and add Ridiculous to cover the Carmarthenshire News, evangelical bowling alleys, stadiums, consultancy costs, certain legal expenses....

Happy healthy residents of, er, somewhere...
The agenda continues with an update on the budget where I note that the new Council led theatre project in Llanelli, Y Ffwrnes is running over budget by around £373,000, the only explanation given as 'additional costs'. I was surprised to see that £141,000 of it will be raised from the Library Service given that, rather like the public toilets, many were being either closed or shunted on to community councils to cut costs. A three year, £145,000 plan to cut the library budget was approved in February, perhaps now we know why!

The general idea is that scrutiny committees should hold the Executive Board, and officers to account over decisions although in practice this has amounted to little more than a few polite questions. Scrutiny has never been exactly hard-hitting in Carmarthenshire, on any level. Interestingly the new Chair of this Committee is Labour's Cllr Deryk Cundy who ousted Independent dinosaur Gwynne 'the only book worth reading is the bible' Wooldgridge in May.
Mr Cundy has been an outspoken campaigner against the closure of the council run care homes, the cuts to Llanelli's Prince Philip Hospital and the flooding/waste issues arising out of inappropriate development as a member of the Llanelli Flood Forum. This Thursday he will be asking permission from the Standards committee to speak and vote on all three issues, should they arise. As regeneration (planning) is part of the remit of this committee it will be interesting to see whether, as a member of the ruling administration, he becomes a bit of a loose cannon and tackles the Executive Board Member for Regen, Meryl Gravell or whether the council lawyers will curb his enthusiasm by blocking his ability to participate.

The next full council meeting is on Wednesday 12th September where I assume the new legislation to allow the public free access to council meetings and to report on them by any method they wish, will be in place and all restrictions, locked doors, unlawful undertakings etc will have been abandoned once and for all.

Carmarthenshire Council, locking the doors since July 2011


Cneifiwr said...

Well I hope they scrutinise this stuff carefully. It took me about 3 minutes to pick one claim out and cross check it. And guess what - the report councillors are being asked to sign off on is, well, wildly inaccurate.

caebrwyn said...

Interesting that after 8 years (and £££s) of the Modernising Education Programme, only 25% of Carmarthenshire schools are deemed 'fit for purpose' - only a 1% increase since last year.

Welsh local authority comparison data published today shows Carmarthenshire 3rd from bottom for road maintenance, 2nd from bottom for reviewing Care Plans, 3rd from bottom for adult carer assessment. Also in the 'red band' for failing to provide residential stability for children in care and for failing to provide SEN statements within the 26 week target.


Anna Mosity said...

Top for spin though?