Tuesday 9 June 2015

Cutting to the chase - June meeting - updated

Update 10th June; Carmarthen Link Road funding

The current projected cost of the link road is around £5m. As previously announced, the Welsh Government are providing a grant from the Local Transport Fund of £1.3m.

The rest, agreed in private session yesterday, will be borrowed by the council - £0.5m from the University Trinity St David and £3.2m from unspecified sources. The council hopes to recover all the costs through Section 106 payments from developers.
It was also decided yesterday to delegate power to Regeneration to use Compulsory Purchase Orders on any land or property which gets in the way of the road.

Interesting that the council are prepared to borrow £3.7m to facilitate the ambitions of big developers. Let's hope all goes to plan with the S106 agreements...


Power point presentations are now becoming a regular feature of full council meetings, taking up half and hour or so of time, taxpayer funded time of course. The chief executive was particularly keen on them in his new format agendas as they have a dual purpose of dulling the senses of councillors (an imperceptible difference in some cases) and reducing the time available for actual debate.

This time it was the turn of the National Botanic Garden of Wales, introduced by its chief executive, Dr Rosie Plummer and was presumably for the benefit of councillors who were unable to wield a mouse and click on the garden's website. The purpose behind the presentation was not very clear but everyone was very impressed and gave the lady a round of applause.

The only hint that this was a sales pitch rather than an innocent overview of the garden's achievements came around five minutes before the end when the 'Paradise Regained' project was mentioned, a £6.75m programme to restore the old landscape of Middleton House, which once stood in the grounds.

Dr Plummer mentioned that £1m had been offered towards this project but if they didn't manage to raise the rest then the £1m would go to Kent. There was a momentary pause for that horror to sink in.

Naturally no one wants to see the gardens, which continue to be dependent on public money, mainly through the Welsh Government, close, although the restoration of the 'historic lakes and landscape', created by Sir William Paxton after making his fortune colonising and exploiting the Indian subcontinent through the East India Company is a slightly more questionable exercise.

Dr Plummer had used all the right words in the presentation, educational, sustainable, inclusive, the 'wider economy', even 'scientific' to soften the hidden blow, she didn't even produce the begging bowl, well, not there and then.

The begging bowl, as if by magic, appears on the agenda for Monday's Executive Board meeting, published online this morning. The Garden is after £50,000 towards the restoration project, a three year extension on the £1.3m loan and an annual revenue grant of £70,000.

Our new-look Executive Board will have to decide whether our financially crippled local authority can afford the extravagance. The decision does not require full council approval, today's presentation took care of that, it's just a pity that the true purpose of the presentation hadn't been made clearer.....

Also on the agenda for today's meeting was the revised press and media protocol. I'm not going to repeat all the incidents which led to this revision which, it has to be said, has been ongoing for around three years. As I said here, protocols and policies are fine as long as the culture within the organisation is not a toxic one. Unfortunately, this one still is.

The one principle which is absent from the protocol was 'to respect the independence of the local press', and it has been County Hall's failure to do just that which largely led to the review.

So all the words amount to nothing really if we remember that a few short weeks ago threats were being made over the editorial policy of the newly launched Carmarthenshire Herald.

The last point I want to mention from today's meeting (the rest can be viewed on the archive) was the exempt report concerning 'Carmarthen West', which could have been a little more accurate and said 'Carmarthen West Link Road', but never mind.

As I said in my last post, we hoped that the Plaid led coalition would have refused the exemption and discussed the matter of funding in public, in the spirit of openness and all that. Despite a plea from Cllr Caiach to do so, Plaid leader Cllr Dole was ready with the council's stock response...there were commercial interests, sensitive deals, tenders to negotiate, etc etc

The fact that this is a massive, and controversial, development involving public money, with information already widely disseminated throughout the public domain didn't appear to matter and disappointingly the Chamber voted, with the exception of one, to go into secret session.

We are all waiting of course for next Wednesday's Extraordinary Council meeting considering the governance review, when Carmarthenshire will become the 'most open council in Wales'. Apparently.


Anonymous said...

Nothing much has changed only the colour ???

Anonymous said...

It’s beginning to look like Cneifiwr was very wise to pull the plug on his blog when he did rather than be put in the embarrassing position of reporting the dealings of the Plaid led coalition.
As Sian Caiach has said, “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.”

Anonymous said...

I think Plaid will have as much of a rough ride as the coalition did if they don't deliver what is expected.There must be valid and honest reasons why decisions are made behind closed doors.That will do a lot for their credibility.

Anonymous said...

That is for sure anonymous @ 9;22 Everyone who has been highly critical of Labour and the Indies will be watching as Plaid bring back democracy and deliver good governance to the people of Carmarthenshire.

Wavell said...

"Plaid leader Cllr Dole was ready with the council's stock response...there were commercial interests, sensitive deals, tenders to negotiate, etc etc ".

Seems that all the above had already been done and dusted in a private-private" meeting before the "private" discussion.

Carmarthenshire are relying on your openness Plaid, so get your fingers out and show us what you are made of.

Anonymous said...

I cannot understand why you do not support the National Botanic Garden of Wales situated in Carmarthenshire . It is a worthy project for the future and needs these up port from Carmarthenshire and hopefully from WG