Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Council Governance Review - Your views please! - updated with new deadline

Update 16th July - Due to the fact that the WLGA only asked the Council to add contact details to its website yesterday (why they didn't use their own initiative I don't know) the deadline for the public to submit their views has been extended to Wednesday 20th August


As I have mentioned, once or twice, the Wales Audit Office Public Interest Reports, concerning the unlawful decisions over the pension payments and libel indemnity, recommended an urgent review of all governance arrangements at Carmarthenshire County Council.

The Council and the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) have finally asked for your input regarding how the local authority is being run and how it might be improved. You've got one week...

The review will centre around the failures of its decision making processes, failings in declarations of interest, and the like. There are numerous posts on this blog illustrating my point. I recently provided the example of the 'seven seconder rule'.

Members of the panel were present as observers at last week's meeting, that meeting alone should have provided sufficient evidence of the problem we are facing in Carmarthenshire. The most senior official, the chief executive, started off by having a dig at the panel itself, it is patently obvious that they are as welcome as a dose of chickenpox.

He then proceeded to have a sarcastic swipe at the Wales Audit Office, the independent auditors of the council; this is now a regular occurrence.

The Leader of the council was then tasked with reading out a statement urging council to reject the auditors findings, it was plain as the nose on your face it wasn't written by him. It was also a direct rejection of the view of his senior Labour colleague, the First Minister the day before. It was painful to watch.

The chief executive then proceeded to launch a verbal attack on myself, the second such attack in so many weeks, and then directed his anger at a councillor. The chief executive then instructed the Chair of the Council to deny that councillor the right of reply.

If the panel members were not deeply disturbed by what they witnessed last week, which was just a snapshot, then clearly their presence is a waste of time.

The council's aspiration is to be the 'Most open and transparent council in Wales' and a few weeks ago local bloggers made a few suggestions. They clearly have a long way to go.

The Council has provided a link on its homepage to the relevant page on the WLGA site which can be found here and includes a dedicated email address - carmartheshirereview@wlga.gov.uk - for you to use, and the WLGA assures that all submissions will be treated in confidence.

Contributions must be in by the 23rd July; members of the public have not been given much time, so get emailing! (deadline now extended - see update above)

As a reminder, here is the scope of the review;

1.  The conduct of council business, in particular:

2.  The effectiveness or otherwise of current procedures or protocols such as notices of motion, urgent and exempt terms, scrutiny, declarations of interest and

3.  Ensuring that reports fully set out legal, financial and equality implications of proposed policies and schemes

4.  Transparency and accountability to members, including the role of scrutiny and the availability of information for members, including the recording, dissemination and communication of council decisions;

5.  The role of Full Council, including consideration of the new Modular Constitution; and

6.  Member development and support and the role of Democratic Services function

You are also welcome to leave relevant comments on this post.

With regards to the new 'Modular Constitution' for Wales, I've found a draft here. It contains some very questionable ideas and according to Pembrokeshire's Old Grumpy it is 'so illiberal that it might have been written by Vladimir Putin', see 'Questionable Tactics' from August 2013.
On the upside, the draft contains a heavily bracketed clause to allow the public to fim meetings, though I doubt if that will make it to the final form, not in Carmarthenshire anyway. Also on a positive note, there's no sign of any libel indemnity clauses...

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