Thursday, 23 April 2015

Annual Reports - fact or fiction?

Back in 2013, Councillors' Annual reports began to trickle onto the website and although they're not compulsory at the moment, that could change following the Local Government Reform White Paper. The reports also list the attendance records for meetings.

The WLGA Governance Report, see here, recommended that; 'All members should produce Annual Reports in order to promote openness and transparency about the role and contributions of councillors' and Monday's meeting of the Democratic Services Committee (DSC) is considering the recommendation.

In fact, around two thirds of councillors manage to produce a report but the problem is with the template provided for their convenience. The guidance for the format of the reports, back in 2013 stated that

"It should also be noted that Annual Reports should only include factual information regarding activities undertaken and events attended" (My underlining)

Carmarthenshire council officers interpreted 'factual' in their rather unique way and the first paragraph of the template, which most councillors have used, remains distinctly a matter of opinion (see, for example, yesterday's post) and hardly 'promotes openness and transparency', again I've underlined the key sentence;

"Dear Resident, The purpose of this report is to keep you informed of some of the issues I have dealt with on your behalf during 2013/14. Real progress has been made in respect of these and I hope that you will find this information of interest"

As I mentioned nearly two years ago, (see 'Real progress - aren't we the judge of that'), I think the electorate can be trusted to decide whether or not councillors have made 'real progress' over anything.

If the DSC want to do something useful, they should change the template as clearly, in many cases, the statement is definitely misleading....

Labour Leader Kevin Madge,

The Register of Councillors' Personal Interests, a common feature of nearly every other local authority website, will eventually appear online, as per WLGA recommendation 14.

This is not, as you may think, a matter for the DSC but will happen when Ms Linda Rees-Jones, the acting or permanent (it's not clear) Monitoring Officer and head of legal, decides what, and what not, to include....

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