Thursday 6 June 2013

Powers, Pay, and summer madness in Burry Port...a news round-up

A few news stories caught my eye yesterday, the first was the announcement from the Ombudsman that he'd like to have further privacy powers. He'd like to make some reports completely confidential and be able bring proceedings for contempt of court if the complainant, or anyone, then breached this confidentiality by contacting the press or publishing a report.

This, as numerous commentators have said, goes completely against the concept of the ombudsman being an open, independent investigator able to bring public bodies to account when necessary. I daresay some of those public bodies would think this was a great idea.

Sensitive reports are currently anonymised which, in most cases, is sufficient. Where there are any concerns that vulnerable individuals could be identified and suffer as a result of media exposure, the ombudsman should address the issue through the Data Protection Act, or similar, rather than the courts. He says there may be 'exceptional circumstances' when complete censorship is appropriate - the problem with that is one of definition, and the potential for gradually increasing the range of 'exceptional circumstances' inappropriately.

Kirsty Williams, LibDem leader said; “Media scrutiny as well as political scrutiny plays a vital role in ensuring that our public bodies deliver the good quality services that we expect of them. If we don’t know what’s going on across our public services and scandals are kept hidden, how can we be confident that we are getting the good quality services we deserve?”

Western Mail; Campaigners slam bid for new powers to keep ombudsman reports secret

Another story concerns Plaid AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas' amendment to the Local Democracy Bill to establish a national independent body to set council chiefs' pay in an open and transparent way. This comes largely from the fall-out from the Caerphilly council scandal but it is a growing issue as recent reports have highlighted the fact that senior officers' pay is not exactly part of the general belt tightening exercise.

Over the years the various loyal Executive Members of our 22 local authorities have acted as cash-cows, approving these high salaries whilst, in the case of Carmarthenshire anyway, refusing to implement the Living Wage for its lowest paid workers.

The Welsh Labour government has been digging its heels in refusing to accept the amendment, insisting the pay awards be decided locally. The situation is out of control with elite groups of councillors determining their bosses salaries in private session, and in the case of Caerphilly with the boss himself contributing the report and remaining in the meeting. Most unhealthy.

The opposition groups, Plaid and Conservative threatened to block the further passage of the Bill unless the amendment was incorporated.

The Labour government did a u-turn yesterday, in the face of a concerted opposition, and accepted the proposal. The final arrangements for the independent panel have yet to be determined. Hopefully Meryl Gravell won't be on it with her monkeys and peanuts quotes.

Here's the Western Mail again; Welsh Government climbdown over council chief executive pay welcomed

Lastly to strange goings on in Burry Port, Carmarthenshire, where the Town Council, or some of them, have decided to ban any councillor who writes a column for a local paper or is involved 'in any other way with the media' from sitting on any committees of the Town Council. It just so happens that one of them does, a Cllr Graham Davies. His weekly column in the Llanelli Star is the epitome of anarchy; gardening, folk music, football and the like etc.

The strange amendment was put forward by Cllr Steve James, who, since losing his seat in the County County at the last election also waved goodbye to possible leadership of the council, being tipped to follow in Meryl's shoes. He never seemed to worry about getting involved in the media 'in any way' then.

He was concerned that they should 'all be equal' and by writing a column in the paper a councillor was 'setting himself apart'. The mind boggles.

Even the clerk of the Town Council is also wondering if the amendment was entirely legal and is seeking advice.
Cllr Davies is wondering about his human rights.

There's a small, but very good Community Council not a million miles away from Caebrwyn, its Chair also happens to be a blogger. Don't expect that would go down well in Burry Port, or County Hall come to that.

Llanelli Star; Burry Port Town Council's committee ban on Star columnists


Anonymous said...

Yay, Burry Port that centre of anarchy and insurrection. That footballing folky must be silenced at all costs! Are they trying to hide something?

Anonymous said...

One version of the truth - yours.

Publish this? No, of course not. Challenge for everyone but you, eh?

Fascist beyond belief.

Hope you sleep well.

caebrwyn said...

@Anon 20.35
Yes I sleep very well thank you, that's what comes of having a clear conscience.
Pity you haven't got the guts to put your name to your comment.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous in previous remark must be a CCC employee or relative of one!!! :-)

Entitled to your opinion you just appear extremely bitter and twisted. Accept people and their opinions. We all have them. If we were all like you anon there would be all out war!!

Shame your self belief is so destructive bet you have medication to sleep!!!

By the way I'd like to hear your definition of fascist!!!

We wish you lots of peaceful sweet dreams in the name of transparency of CCC.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 21:43

Oh please do not tar all CCC employees and their relatives with the same brush! Thankfully they are not all imbeciles ;-)

Anonymous said...

Anon 20.35

You clearly are just one step up from an amoeba because you can access a computer. Jacquie Thompson has campaigned for openness, transparency and democracy, the antithesis of fascism. You obviously don't understand the meaning of the word. I suggest you look up 'big' words before using them!

Anonymous said...

If you liken Jacqui to Hitler, I do believe you need a dictionary!!!

Fascism takes many forms!
Far right??? I think not.

Amoebas thoroughly enjoy eating bacteria.... Thanks for meeting the need :-)

caebrwyn said...

I think Godwin's Law has well and truly kicked in. I'd say Anon 20.35 was the first, so loses the argument.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 20.35 obviously has some sort of association with the council.What their comment has proved however is that Jacqui's blog is open to all comments.This is the complete opposite of what annonymous intended.It is similar to a comment on a previous post when Jacqui published a criticism of herself thereby proving her honesty.

Anonymous said...

No problem losing.... Goodwins law ends the conversation !