Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Rearranging the deckchairs; Part 94...

Back in July (see 'Getting Engaged') I mentioned that a report had appeared by the Policy and Resources Scrutiny Committee to improve public engagement. Well, a month later, the minutes for that meeting have finally been published and the Committee appear to have come up with an additional suggestion.

The suggestion was, that prior to Executive Board and Executive Board Member (EBM) decision meetings, there should be a fifteen minute slot for the public and councillors to ask questions relating to items on the agenda.

Seems a great idea to me and with regards to EBM meetings, for example, would give added scrutiny to the many millions in grants which Meryl has been doling out for the past umpteen years.

As for Executive Board meetings, some public scrutiny prior to the usual pat-on-the-back (and occasionally unlawful) rubber stamping sessions would certainly be refreshing.

However, acting head of law, Linda Rees Jones was on hand to try and put the kibosh on such a revolutionary suggestion by using the threat of "added financial cost" which would be required for simultaneous translation (all fifteen minutes of it) and reminded the committee that EBM meeting were closed to the public, full stop.

Also on hand was one of the Assistant Chief Executives to remind the committee that such things were currently being looked at by the governance review panel, which (according to these minutes) was reporting its findings to the group leaders on the 28th July; nearly a month before the deadline for public contributions...let's hope it was 'initial' findings and not the final thing.

The governance review panel is actually due to report to council in the Autumn and amongst the suggestions put forward is for a drastic improvement in the quality and quantity of Minutes, which are notoriously brief and often deliberately misleading. Without webcasting all meetings, or allowing the public to make their own recordings, the minutes are all we have. This particular meeting was no exception - little more than a side and a half of A4 for a meeting which lasted two hours and forty minutes.

The trouble is, with Carmarthenshire council governance "not fit for purpose" this is all reminiscent of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, a change of culture is necessary and that will not happen until there's a change at the top.

Unlike Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire seems to be grasping the nettle and another Extraordinary meeting of full council has been set for Friday 19th September (rescheduled from the 10th, ed) where votes of No Confidence will be held in the Leader, Cllr Jamie Adams and, significantly, the Chief Executive Bryn Parry-Jones, currently languishing on gardening leave.


Anonymous said...

You should try asking a question at St Clears Town Council. It is like GCHQ.

caebrwyn said...

Anon 11:43
Due to the ridiculous and strategically placed hoops members of the public have to jump through to ask a question at a full meeting of Carmarthenshire council, no one has managed to ask one in nine years.

Anonymous said...

Come on councillors take a leaf out of Pembrokeshire's book and act now.

caebrwyn said...

Anon 12:12
Hear, hear.

Anonymous said...

In an ideal world the population would simply withhold their council tax until the council agreed to their demands.

After all, lets not forget who is in who's employ here.

Thats why we have elections.

A strong and sustained campaign is required to eradicate the rot from CCC.

Anonymous said...

The recent shocking revelations about covering up allegations of child abuse in Rotherham are an extreme example of what Carmarthenshire County Council is guilty of - the overarching desire to suppress bad news stories. Throughout public service, "spinning" the message, ensuring that the only news is good news, has twisted the whole ethos of serving the public. When senior police managers massage crime statistics, it tells rank and file police officers that, effectively, it's OK to tell lies. Plebgate is the inevitable outcome, along with a public distrust in the honesty of the police.
The farcical manipulation of meetings, minutes and media in Carmarthenshire is the result of this kind of perverted government - it's not honest and it engenders distrust.

Anonymous said...

The Council are masters of spin but the Police also know how to present information in a favourable light.

You only have to look at Police crime figures to see how farcical they are.

The current Crime Commissioner is "at it" as well - talking about mobile CCTV cameras as if they were a new thing. The Police already have such cameras that they could fix up now - today !

I think this is an attempt to soften us up in Carms to a day when we lose the town centre system and the staff that monitor them.

caebrwyn said...

Anon 23:49
Carmarthenshire Council went one step further in the realms of reputation management and spin, they broke the cardinal rule that a government body cannot sue for defamation by constitutionally empowering officers to sue on the council's behalf. With public money of course. Some may call it a slush fund.
This was, until the illegal clause was finally suspended, an insidious threat to investigative journalists, whistleblowers or anyone attempting to uncover allegations of wrongdoing.