Sunday 24 February 2013

Tuesday's Budget meeting

On Tuesday (26th) the council Chamber will yet again echo with the unique sounds and deviations of democracy, in the style we've grown accustomed to here in Carmarthenshire, as the annual budget debate takes place. The council will attempt to balance its books for the years ahead and increase your council tax. The agenda can be found here and the cuts, or, 'efficiency savings' (badly formatted like last year, you'll have to scroll down) can be found here. The most recent mention on this blog of the rationalising, realigning and restructuring and even more Rs, can be found here; 'Cost-shunting and the council rag'. And it appears, so far, that the Council's very well resourced Department of Spin remains unscathed as does 'Civic and Ceremonial', both fine examples of our Council priorities.

Also untouched is executive pay; not even a token pay cut as an empty 'we're all in it together' gesture. With seven senior officers on a shade under £1m between them and our councillors running a total this financial year of £1.16m (which includes £390,619 'senior salary') there's still not a whiff of the Living Wage.

Hidden deep amongst the raft of budget documents is a proposal to rake in £56,000 by introducing Sunday car parking charges, and with charges going up year after year, this little extra will not go down well amongst town centre traders, the parking public, tourists and the like.

As if anyone needed reminding, the meeting will not be webcast, recorded or otherwise relayed to the public. Local reporters will be there of course and the Minutes, for what they're worth, will appear a couple of weeks later. Whether the proposed filming pilot will happen any time soon is anyone's guess, nothing in the budget has been set aside for it although there is now money available from the Welsh Government for that very purpose.

A recent survey of Welsh local authorities by the Electoral Reform Society, (also reported in the Western Mail) revealed that Carmarthenshire Council has banned councillors from tweeting during meetings so there will be no contemporaneous reports from elected members to their constituents either. The survey also reports that Carmarthenshire Council's Twitter account comes one before last for the number of followers - a sign that actual interaction with the public is negligible.

I shall be there of course, back in the public gallery. If anyone else is curious to see how their money is being spent, by public servants in an open public meeting in a public arena, I suggest they join me at 10 am in County Hall.
If, like me, you're interested in the questions posed to the First Minister at the Senedd that afternoon, you can go home, put your feet up, have a coffee, and watch it live on your laptop.

Update 25th Feb;
A letter in today's Western Mail from Independent Caerphilly Councillor, Mrs Anne Blackman;
Webcast councils
"The Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Bill is now progressing its way through its stages at Welsh Government.
I have asked both of Caerphilly’s AMs, Lindsay Whittle and Jeff Cuthbert, to ask for an Amendment to the Bill. To include a requirement for all the 22 unitary authorities in Wales to webcast their full council, cabinet, scrutiny and planning committee meetings.
I would hope that the general public throughout Wales will write to their AMs and councillors requesting the web casting of their council’s meetings.
It is only right in this 21st century that the public can watch these proceedings from their home computers. It’s not expensive for councils to install this facility. Already £1.25m has been allocated by the WG to help councils to explore methods of involving the public via social media, but web casting must be the one that would have the most impact and influence upon voters."


Cneifiwr said...

I wonder where in Carmarthenshire's standing orders it says that tweeting by councillors is prohibited?

caebrwyn said...

Nowhere, naturally.

nightsiren said...

Nowhere but in their parallel universe....

Welcome back!