Sunday, 16 November 2014

News round up; Leighton looks west....and council budget news

Senior pay

Plaid AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas brought up the issue of senior officer pay, and pay-offs, in the Senedd last Wednesday. Labour Minister for Public Services Leighton Andrews (just to confuse everyone, up until the last reshuffle Ms Lesley Griffiths held the post which was then called 'Minister for Local Government'..)

Mr Andrews responded with the information that senior officer pay in Welsh public authorities totalled over £25m per year and one of the best ways to save on that bill was to implement the Williams Commission recommendations (with his boot behind it) and reduce the number of Welsh councils from 22 down to around 12. So far, the plans leave Carmarthenshire as a stand alone authority...

Rhodri Glyn Thomas then went on to ask about the £280k pay-off to Pembrokeshire's Bryn Parry-Jones and the potential six-figure sum heading towards Carmarthenshire's Mark James.
Mr Andrews said that he had recently written to the Auditor General, presumably to raise his concerns, about the Pembs pay-off and was waiting for a reply;
"In respect of the situation in Pembrokeshire, I have written to the Auditor General for Wales, asking for his advice on this matter".

Its probably all a little too late and I'm sure Mr Parry-Jones is laughing all the way to exotic destinations by now, but in Carmarthenshire the decision has yet to be made. Will a Labour minister fire a warning shot to a Labour run council? We'll have to see.

Meanwhile, if you haven't already done so, please sign the petition.


As I have mentioned, the Executive Board will be looking at the draft budget proposals (very badly formatted, as usual) on Monday, The usual plan is for a few unpalatable red herrings to be inserted, which then gives Kev, Pam and co a PR opportunity to abandon them in a glorious fanfare just after Christmas.

The most notable example of this was just before the 2012 local election....though this time, with £44m cuts to finds over the next three years the opportunity for positive spin might not be quite so forthcoming.

So far £42.1m worth of cuts and job losses over three years have been 'identified', supported by a rise in council tax of 5% for each year. There is plenty of jargon with the usual overdose of 'R', restructure, reconfigure, remodel, reduce...

Managerial 'efficiencies' appear to mainly effect back-office support staff. Senior staff have been leaving in numbers, on unknown severance arrangements, but a new director of environmental services has just been appointed and an advert for the newly created post of 'head of learner programmes' has just gone out; the combined salary for the two posts is over £200,000 per year.

The new proposals include everything which had been 'dropped' in previous years, including closing a respite home for severely disabled children and charging for 6th Form transport.
The lollipop patrols are back in for the axe, aka 'deselection of school crossing patrol sites'. This will 'save' £110k...

Charging 6th formers for transport will pose an interesting question of discrimination in Llandovery where the council forced closure of the town's secondary school which included a thriving 6th form. All will now have to travel to the new superschool in Llandeilo.

In an effort to save £100k there will be no more hot Meals on Wheels, a grant of £32k to Women's Aid will cease and day services and supported employment for people with learning difficulties will be slashed and/or offloaded. Adult Safeguarding team which protects vulnerable adults will lose over £300k over three years.

The most startling figures are reserved for the education budget. This appears to be protected for next year only with a nominal cut of £157k.

The following year it will be slashed by a staggering £7.4m and the year after that, £6.5m.

This is due, according to the report, to falling pupil numbers and an assumption, which will not be without basis, that after next year, the Welsh Government will no longer ring-fence the education budget;

An unfortunate spelling mistake illustrates that slashing the education budget might not be such a good idea.

The council are hoping that over half the savings identified for years 2 and 3 will come from education. The schools will be forced to drive all their reserves to zero. On the other hand, the council's own reserves are being treated with kid gloves (see the accompanying budget report here).

If falling numbers are predicted on such a scale it begs the question whether 15,000 new homes are required over the next few years. This is the housing allowance in the Local Development Plan which is also being discussed today. Unless the growing opposition halts the LDP in its tracks, it is likely to be adopted in December and form the basis of all planning applications from then on.

On top of that, £400k will be cut from SEN school funding over the next two years.

A good, sound education is vital of course, though for those who have observed many Carmarthenshire webcasts, not an obvious requirement for senior members...
Another big loser is the highways maintenance budget, with over £3m being axed over three years. With over £600k to be 'saved' by turning off 9100 street lights and a similar amount from cleansing I would imagine that many jobs will be lost, and we'll all be crashing into great big potholes in the dark.

Libraries will lose £170,000 over three years and as I mentioned here, a consultant is being sought to advise on the formation of a Leisure Trust, whether this will include libraries, museums etc as well as leisure centres remains to be seen.

Whilst over £100,000 will be cut from school crossing patrols over three years, a mere £45,000 will be cut from the council press office over the same period, via a 'service review'. This is not unexpected given the priority this council gives to self-image, "investing significant resources into it's public relations function" (WLGA report)

Consultation on the draft budget will start on Tuesday (18th), it will eventually be voted on by full council sometime in February.

Nove 21st; Online consultation here;


If you can't wait until the next webcast of full council in December, you can always watch Tuesday's (18th Nov) meeting of the Planning Committee. On the agenda is a development for 270 homes...bound to be interesting.


Anonymous said...

Part of the utter garbage that the public are being asked to swallow about senior pay, is to point to the size of Council budgets and the numbers of employees for whom senior managers are responsible, and to draw (completely false) comparisons with the private sector.

Now that Council budgets and workforce sizes are being slashed, will be see a commensurate reduction in senior pay?

And we all know the answer to that, don't we children?

Anonymous said...

And don't forget that the total number of council employees includes teachers, and senior managers in county offices don't actually do much managing in classrooms.

Redhead said...

Also, whatever the senior salary add at least 60% for generous pension contributions, expenses, company car privileges, etc.

One of our local health board members has a salary of £130,000 but when all benefits were added it topped £200,000!