Sunday, 27 October 2013

Not the only option

We don't know when the council are going to get round to letting the rest of the county know its planned programme of cuts. The 'Budget seminar' is probably best forgotten. I expect it seemed quite a good idea at the time, but by the time the plan had twisted its way through the paranoia of County Hall it became an expensive, pointless PR exercise.

Cllr Caiach noted her own observations, on this blog, that none of the 74 councillors were given copies of the proposals, she graciously suggests there might be a shortage of staff to work the photocopier, surely it wasn't a reluctance to leave hard evidence lying around?  The council promises further consultation, let's hope there's an improvement.

The council will concentrate on cutting 'non-statutory' services, ie services it doesn't have to provide. Whether commissioning legal advice to defend 'unlawful' decisions is 'statutory' I wouldn't know. Or for that matter the chauffeurs, executive motors and other civic paraphernalia. I'm not entirely sure it has to provide such a comprehensive press office either which acts over and above it's duties rather than just let you know when the bins are being emptied. I'm not sure I can live with only four instead of six editions of the 'Carmarthenshire News' every year either....

Not all senior posts are statutory. The council recently held an expensive nationwide selection process to replace the retiring Director of Technical Services, a non-statutory post. It was finally whittled down to the last three interviewees, none of whom were appointed. The process now starts again.

As happened three years ago, and has happened again now, the council bailed out it's favourite rugby team and propped up the stadium just before the raft of cuts were announced. This must be particularly difficult to swallow for all those volunteers trying to run local sports activities who will see their parks sold off and the charges rocketing. By the way, I have also noticed that the council is currently carrying job adverts for Scarlets Regional Ltd on it's taxpayer funded website. Is the club paying for this? If not, then why not.

The details and sums of cash paid to external consultants is another unknown quantity - as we heard at the last meeting, Cllr Darren Price has been waiting a year and a half for an officer's report on the matter. The Wales Audit Office has already issued a national report suggesting that taxpayers might not be getting value for money when it comes to the commissioning of consultants.

The list is self explanatory; job losses; further rural isolation for the elderly; further damage to town centres through increased parking charges and more hits on parents' pockets and sixth form education with school transport cuts. Further outsourcing to the private sector is proposed for the elderly and vulnerable, and presumably welfare rights support and youth services will be taken care of by the Towy Community Church...

Cuts to frontline services are not the only option, there are other areas which could be examined and that is why open, frank and clear consultation will be essential, but will doubtless remain absent, over the coming months. It is fortunate that the council will be webcasting meetings; even if it is only full council, it's better than nothing and for the first time in its history you will at least have glimpse of the budget process from the comfort of your armchair.

On the subject of openness, Ceredigion Council is the latest to start webcasting its meetings. As Cneifiwr reports, the whole tone of the meeting, on the face of it at least, was markedly different from the poisoned atmosphere we currently witness in Carmarthenshire's Chamber of horrors.

(Just a reminder, I have a Facebook page here to track progress of public filming and webcasting developments in Wales and beyond) 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Better if they did the same as private industry and get the Method Study/Time and Motion guys in.
They could then genuinely weed out the time wasters and make decent and necessary savings.