Thursday 5 December 2013

Next week's agenda; Another corporate presentation

(Update below)

Whilst we wait for other news, I see that the agenda for December's full council meeting has been published (10am next Wednesday) and as promised, and in the spirit of turning the democratic process into a powerpoint extravaganza, councillors will be treated to a corporate presentation from Scarlets Regional Ltd.

I assume it will be a similar exercise to the one given to the Executive Board back in October (just before the raft of budget cuts were announced) where the loyal Members, unanimously and back-slappingly approved the continued bail out of the club and the stadium. You may remember council leader Kevin Madge defending the company, and the council, at the last webcast meeting; 'We've helped them out a bit.'

The previous presentation outlined the ethos of the club and the alleged £££ it's brought to Llanelli. There is no doubt that everyone wishes the club well on the sporting field but let's hope we'll see councillors (who are far less confident about the figures and remain very concerned about the continuing burden on the taxpayer), able to ask a few topical questions.

Does the council now have sufficient security over the land leased to the club? If everything is so rosy, why didn't the Scarlets get a commercially competitive loan from elsewhere and settle the bill with the council? And what about that Marston's deal? - surely questions need to be asked about the 'allowable expenses' of £280,000? And what about the whole EU State Aid rules query, which remains unanswered? Is the council, by propping up the club, indirectly funding the cost of legal advice as the Scarlets and the other three regions consider court action against the WRU over the right to play English clubs? The questions go on.

Charges for other sports facilities are set to rise sharply over the next three years, pricing a lot of small clubs and organisations out of existence. For instance the use of a council owned cricket pitch will jump from £28 to £590. So much for promoting 'healthy living'. How can the council executive continue to subsidise this particular organisation, and in such a variety of ways; anyone would think it was because the stadium was a council led vanity project that mustn't fail at all costs.

Also on the agenda we have a 'Charter to stop pay day loans rip-off', which should give Kevin Madge the opportunity to make his own presentation as the Charter has been put forward by Labour MP Paul Blomfield. Although a very important matter and without a doubt a good idea, watch out for a good half an hour of waffle as everyone says how much they agree with it and want to help the poor and disadvantaged.

Pity this wasn't borne out by the Kev/Pam ruling administration when they rejected a no-eviction policy over the bedroom tax a couple of weeks ago; it would give out the 'wrong message' apparently. Still, it's a bit of a mystery as to who wears the trousers in the Carmarthenshire coalition, some say it's not Kev, and some say it's neither...

The agenda also features the annual report of the Standards Committee which will doubtless paint an equally rosy picture of our highly principled council. It is unlikely to refer to this paragraph from the Ombudsman's letter dated July of this year;

"In reference to your Council, whilst the number of complaints received by my office has decreased compared with 2011/12, they are still above the local authority average. The number of complaints taken into investigation has also more than doubled compared with 2011/12, whilst the number of ‘upheld’ reports is double the local authority average".

On the subject of agendas I happened upon the minutes of a Carmarthenshire Council meeting from April 2000, (it was in those heady far off days when 'Public Questions' still appeared on the itinerary).
I noticed this sentence included in a report about corporate IT strategy;

"Some authorities already broadcast Committee meetings over the Internet. Members will doubtless consider similar ventures"

Well, it's taken quite a while hasn't it?

Update 6th December

Pembrokeshire Council has published it's agenda for next Thursday (12th Dec 10am). Unlike Carmarthenshire, it includes several questions relating to it's very own 'unlawful' payments scandal. Whether they will be answered is another thing of course and perhaps the Wales Audit Office will publish its report by then.
Anyway here's a selection;

Could the Leader provide Members with a full update on the Wales Audit Office’s investigation into the decisions of the Senior Staff Committee meeting held on the 28th September 2011?

During which financial year did the Authority make its final Employer’s Contribution to the Dyfed Pension Scheme, in respect of the Chief Executive?

Could the Leader confirm that, given the Chief Executive’s total earnings of £208,000 in the 2011-12 financial year, the Chief Executive is now in the position of holding pension entitlements based on a final salary of £208,000 (some £40,000 higher than his basic salary)?

No doubt, the Leader and/or the Cabinet has discussed the prospect of either defending or submitting to any possible adverse findings from the Welsh Audit Office investigation into the Authority’s pension contribution ‘arrangement;’ so could the Leader let us know which course of action he is minded to follow?

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