Thursday 15 May 2014

The May Meeting

Well,  back to the monthly routine of Carmarthenshire's full council meetings. There's two this month, with the thrills and spills of the AGM to look forward to next week..

I shall be fairly brief as of course the meeting will be available on archive soon (see below).

Our various chief officers rearranged themselves back in their own seats and proceedings began as usual with a prayer, it seemed slightly longer than normal..

Anyway, the meeting kicked off with a presentation from the Provost of the Carmarthen Campus about the relocation of S4C from Cardiff to Carmarthen. This is good news of course.

Next up was a relocation of an entirely different sort - the decision by the Mid and West Wales Fire Authority to move it's control centre from Carmarthen to Bridgend. Cllr Alun Lenny (Plaid) put forward a motion that council must strongly object to this and the objection received unanimous support. One argument put forward were the difficulties in relaying local knowledge to a distant call centre with potentially disastrous results.

It was interesting that one of the main issues was the complete lack of consultation by the Fire Service, even the firefighters themselves had no say in the matter. According to some councillors, meetings were held 'behind closed doors' and meeting documents not delivered in good time.

As it all sounded a bit familiar, comparisons were drawn to the fact that the council itself had come under fire over such things, so why should the Fire Service get away with it.

The feeling that the council had now learned its lesson was slightly spoilt further along into the meeting when it transpired that the council had been selling off bits of land without consultation with the local elected members.

Caebrwyn was particularly interested in the next item which was to recommend that the webcasting contract be extended for another three years.

Council leader Kevin Madge (Lab) spoke in favour of the recommendation, despite the fact that he'd 'felt the heat'. He also acknowledged that 'democracy was important' which was an encouraging remark...

Cllr Emlyn Dole (Plaid) said that the webcasting had 'opened the whole thing up' and it should be extended to Planning and Scrutiny meetings. Despite the assistant chief executive reminding the chamber of the extra cost, Cllr Madge agreed that the Executive board would look at the filming of planning meetings in the near future.

Personally I think it should be extended to Executive Board meetings as well.

Cllr Dole also brought up the fact that the issue of whether the public could film was also due for review today as the pilot had now finished and this 'review' had been agreed over a year ago.

Despite the fact that the public gallery was empty it didn't stop Cllr Madge glancing up when referring to opening cans of worms. Hmm. Cllr Pam Palmer (Ind) was concerned that people could edit footage and cast them in a bad light, not that she 'was making any allegations'. I should think not.
Cllr Giles Morgan (Ind), after saying hello to his mami and dadi also expressed concerns that people could try and make them look silly, or words to that effect.

They were reminded that any media, even the BBC, could be 'selective' and wouldn't show a whole meeting, merely 'soundbites' which could of course be taken out of context. Cllr Dai Jenkins (Plaid) felt strongly that the public should be allowed to film, it was an essential principle of democracy, accountability and transparency, and didn't cost anything.

It wasn't entirely clear whether the Executive Board were going to look at this further, I very much hope so. They seem to be unaware of the developing legislation over in England which will protect the democratic rights of the public to film....never mind the requirement over the border to publish all spending details over £500 and third party contract details. They're not members of the Eric Pickles fan club, it has to be said.

The impending closure of the council run adult Community Education Centres came up. Rumours that the centre in Llandeilo could close this summer were reinforced as it was clear that a new arrangement for the further education colleges to take over the courses didn't extend to taking over the centres.

The provision was non-statutory and with the already hard pressed town and community councils unlikely to afford to take over the centres the future seems bleak. With cuts to bus services as well, residents of north Carmarthenshire look like sinking further into rural isolation. Perhaps a better deal over the car park sale with the Scarlets might have helped keep them open for a while longer.

The final point I want to mention was brought up by Cllr Darren Price (Plaid) who welcomed to the current review into the Press and Media Protocol. I mentioned this recently and in Friday's post commented on the fact that the use of an anonymous council 'spokeswoman' to convey the apparent view of the entire council on contentious issues was wrong, Cllr Price echoed this view and said that this practice had to stop now.

Cllr Price also welcomed the review of the Email Policy with particular attention as to who could access emails, this, as we know, followed the 'snooping' episode concerning Cllr Caiach's emails.

Archived meeting here.


I am off to the Wales Blog Awards tonight as I'm a finalist in the 'Best Political Blog' category, I don't know how I'll get on, but as an event it's a good opportunity to promote and celebrate all things bloggy in Wales.


Anonymous said...

Enjoy this evening. We are all rooting for you!

caebrwyn said...

@Anon 20:39
Thank you, Blog Menai was the worthy winner in the end, but I did get a special mention.

Tessa said...

Well done on the nomination - and highly deserved of the special mention!

Anonymous said...

Nearly got it (again) but well done!

Hopefully next year you will win :-)

Regards A