Friday 24 April 2015

Herald Friday

This week's edition of the Carmarthenshire Herald is, again, worth 50p of anyone's money. It's good to see, at the bottom of page two, a report on the story I covered earlier in the week. It concerned the Council's response to a FOI by Press Gazette for the number of 'communications', or 'PR', staff with the council significantly omitting the whole press office from it's response;

'...while Carmarthenshire County Council's press office is larger than any other councils' in appears to have neglected to include those staff on a semantic point that the Council's communications unit is a separate entity from its significant press and spin operation.

In answering to the letter of the query, as opposed to its clear underlying intent, Carmarthenshire's Council once again has laid itself open to a charge of even spinning its own spin'

The Herald also covers the Extraordinary Council meeting planned for June 17th to discuss the findings of the review group following the WLGA governance report. This has been covered by this and Cneifiwr's blog at length but the article is again critical, and challenges the way the process has been handled by the council;

'...rather than accept the recommendations, the council decided to review the review and pick out the bits which, in Kevin Madge's words, would 'fit in' with the way things are done in Carmarthenshire.

The second review group, however, has only met behind closed doors and deliberations only made available by freedom of information requests.
That is despite the call to make Carmarthenshire one of the most open and transparent council's in Wales. the Working Group as been working under the aegis of a Chief Executive who is largely responsible for determining the culture at County Hall, it remains to be seen...whether the majority will continue to endorse a failing status quo'

Significantly, it's not a picture of Kev, or even Meryl which accompanies the piece about a 'change of culture', described by many as toxic


Herald Friday wouldn't be complete without a few words from the paper's resident fox. This time Cadno ventures to the wilds of Llanelli;

'Cadno visits a new place 
'It was a day that began much like any other. After a long night in the chicken coop, Cadno felt weary and decided to find somewhere warm and cosy to have a nap. Espying a handily open door, he crept inside a building and found an ideal resting place, As he went to his rest, he smiled to himself that at least one bloody cockerel would not be disturbing his post-prandial slumber. 
A quick hop and skip and Cadno was soon snoozing in the back of a trailer. As he slept, Cadno dreamed of riding on horseback across green fields, while the baying of hounds from a distant copse indicated that Simon Hart had been cornered. 
Waking with a jolt, Cadno slipped his snout out into a noisy day into a vista consisting of a prime view of what appeared, on first glance, to be the slopes of Hell. Smoke belched and billowed, the air stank of sulphur, legions of the damned moaned in torment.
Readers, this was not a quiet nook. 
Cadno looked at a sign to establish his whereabouts. Was this the second circle of Dante’s Inferno?
No, readers, this was Llanelli. 
Checking to make sure that those attired in scarlet were not also sporting horns and pitchforks and agog at the noise and chaos, Cadno crept from his hidey hole.
Little had Cadno dreamt that one day he, too, would walk on the legendary streets paved with half-eaten kebabs and breaded chicken bones tossed carelessly aside, but there he was, readers. The Promised Land. 
There were many signs up in Llanelli. Much seemed for sale but little seemed sold. Posters for protest, posters for gigs, posters for almost anything under the sun abounded. Most of the posters seemed stuck on or in whited out shop windows. 
When you want to discover what the County Council’s vision for regenerating town centres is, readers, pop along to Llanelli. As retail destinations go it is the last stop on the road to nowhere. Only Dudley in the West Midlands ranked lower than Llanelli in a survey of retail vitality. The corpse is not yet cold, but twitching seems to have ceased. 
In a corner Cadno espied a couple of shady coves wrapped up in conversation. They were talking about Hengoed councillor Sian Caiach. Collaring a nearby Cardigan corgi to act as translator, Cadno discovered that these shady figures were not fans of Cllr Caiach. No, readers. They did not like her one bit. One of them went so far as to suggest that the party for which Cllr Caiach stands was not properly constituted. 
Pulling out his I-phone, it took Cadno all of two minutes to put the kybosh on that assertion. 
On the pair mumbled. They were concerned that Cllr Caiach would take votes away from their candidate and spoil his chances. They decided on a desperate ruse of contacting a newspaper to see if it would do their dirty work for them. 
Cadno’s fur bristled.
And the extent of their news, readers?
They asserted that Dr Caiach had signed the nomination papers for another candidate in the same election. 
Dialling the Electoral Commission, Cadno discovered that there was nothing in the rules to prevent Cllr Caiach being another candidate’s subscriber, if she wished. So, if there was a story there, there was not much of a story there. 
If true, it is fair to say that the alleged act appeared to Cadno to be a pretty rum thing to do: endorsing an opponent for a post you wish to occupy could be held as being rather equivocal about one’s own chances of victory or suitability for the post. 
Perhaps those Cadno stealthily ear-wigged were concerned that the candidate endorsed by Sian Caiach would also take votes away from their candidate. 
But contacting a newspaper to try and get them to smear Sian Caiach is pretty underhand. 
Perhaps they were enthused by the storm in a teacup about comments made fifteen years ago by a Plaid Cymru candidate standing in another seat. Certainly, Cadno thinks that using the press as an attack dog for one party or the other is a squalid thing to do. It disgraces the candidate seeking to benefit from such a strategy, treats the electorate with contempt, and demeans the editor who bows to a candidate’s agenda to fill a paper devoid of news. 
Imagine, if you will readers, the existence of a newspaper that was so dependent on handouts from one party or organisation that it printed whatever its funder wanted with scarcely a word of criticism and did not print news that reflected adversely upon the paying party. Now in those circumstances, readers, you would say the relevant media was acting as no more than a tart for hire. And a pretty cheap one, too. 
So what would you think of a newspaper that performed that service for free? 
Cadno looked at the two rapt in their conversation. He slunk away into the shadows and, despite the heat of the day, shivered.
Llanelli or not, readers, this was plainly an abode of lost souls.'


Lastly, you may have seen the news from London concerning the disgraced Mayor of Town Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, who has been found guilty, by the special Election Court, of corrupt and illegal practices. One well respected blogger in particular, Ted Jeory, has played a big part in seeking justice over this matter and writes in today's Independent.

The concluding paragraph should strike a couple of chords everywhere, and not least of all in Carmarthenshire;
"And lastly…I started my spare-time blog in 2010 when I realised my former paper, the East London Advertiser, was no longer able or willing to keep an eye on the detail of the council administration. I kept plugging away where it should have been. For that, I received numerous legal threats from the town hall. None succeeded. But the retreat of so many local papers  is deeply worrying. 
How many other Lutfur Rahmans are there out there?"


The Guardian also carried an interesting piece on the ups and downs of local newspapers;
Unreported Britain - without local newspapers, who is keeping tabs? 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Without independent local papers the public interest will not be served. Also there needs to be a willingness by retailers to stock such papers. In Pontyberem the CK's store&post office has refused to sell the Heralds. From what I gather no CKs store is going to allow its customers access to this independent voice which publishes news of public interest/importance which may counter the spin our CCC and Mark James puts on public interest events. Other local papers appear to pander to the likes and dislikes of the CCC. It makes me wonder what is the reason for CK's owner not to sell the Herald. A personal animosity towards the papers owners perhaps or is it something else entirely. Will we ever know? Of course when he understands how many people might want to read it he may change his mind. Hope so anyway.

Jennifer Brown (whistleblower)