Tuesday 28 July 2015

News in brief - Meryl, managers and mould

Meryl and 'democracy'

The Carmarthenshire Herald continues to delve into the bowels of the Parc Howard saga (see earlier posts including here) and this week's article (not yet online) refers to an angry letter from one of the members of the Parc Howard Association to the Herald. The anger appears to be strangely directed against the paper for reporting a failed vote of no confidence in the Chair, Ken Rees. You would think PHA members would have been simply grateful to the paper for uncovering the questionable tangled web of companies attempting to turn the historic and publicly owned jewel of Llanelli into a plastic coated conference and wedding venue. Apparently not.

Anyway, the writer of the letter helpfully confirms to all those interested in this sorry tale that it was dear Cllr Meryl Gravell all along who recommended Loca Ventures and their assorted associates to the gullible former UKIP candidate and current Chair of the PHA Ken Rees, they then wined and dined him, and persons unknown, in local hotels.

Executive Board Member Meryl knew all about the plan which was originally a much wider proposal and included Pembrey Country Park, and quite clearly the named senior officials of the council were also far more informed and involved than they have been letting on.
Unlike the rest of our democratically elected members that is, who had been kept completely in the dark.

This means, of course, that Meryl's statement, churned out on the council website on the 9th June, is as disingenuous as we all thought, and shows exactly how warped her view of the 'appropriate democratic process' really is, although I think we all knew that anyway (my underline);

"...From time to time we are approached by third party organisations who are interested in working
with the authority, however, any considerations or such requests have to go through the appropriate democratic process..."


As some retire and others leave in haste, the chief executive continues to rearrange his generals with the occasional inconvenience of having to advertise for candidates outside the castle walls.

Last year, when Assistant chief executive Mr Burns left to join Caerphilly Council, Mr James mused over the possibility that, with a salary range of between £95k and £100k, the authority might just manage with one Assistant CEO rather than two.
Trusty aide Wendy Walters filled in for the interim while he pondered. With the pondering over he clearly felt that two Assistant Chief Executives were absolutely essential to fulfil the needs of our rural backwater and Ms Walters has now become permanent.

At the end of June, after a few brief months, Director of Environment Christina Harrhy escaped the madhouse for gainful employment elsewhere. The post, with a starting salary of £112,000 was readvertised but it seems that Carmarthenshire Council will melt if it doesn't have one, even for the few short, quiet summer weeks before a new appointment is made at the beginning of September.

Step forward soon to be retiring Head of Planning Mr Eifion Bowen selected by Mr James to fill the Director's shoes for these few weeks. Still, you never know, this brief 'acting up' arrangement might just bump up Mr Bowen's pension pot! Who knows.

Shifting sands

Burry Port Harbour is afflicted with an annual build up of silt which has led to diminishing room for boats and made this listed harbour less appealing to visitors and residents alike. Every year the council does it's statutory duty and dredges the harbour but a more permanent solution is required. Without getting technical the solution appears to involve a cost of around £400,000 so for now the annual dredge will continue at around £40,000.

In contrast, a few miles, perhaps not even that, up the coastline, is the Machynys Quayside housing development where the council, for reasons best known to itself, joined with developers Charles Church in some sort of legal agreement over landscaping in 2008. The land is partly owned by the council

A problem has arisen due to the 'realignment' of the development and the council is now obliged to do the landscaping or else they will be in breach of their agreement with the private developers. Meryl, in her capacity as regeneration rubber stamp, is set to agree;

"To appoint professional consultants, via the authority’s Environment Directorate, and compile the necessary detail to support planning application, design, tender and the construction of works
To appoint a preferred contractor and implement the works accordingly"

The 'Risk Management Issues' identified with this venture are interesting...

"Current grievances expressed by local residents would likely increase if no scheme was implemented. There would be a high risk of negative publicity as a consequence.
There may be grievances expressed by members of the public, which do not agree with public funds being used to implement such a scheme. This could result in negative publicity.
Revenue/maintenance funding will need to be continued in future years"

...and, as you can see, the 'issues' appear to be largely concerned with 'negative publicity'. However, the real question should be how the council tied itself up to such a legal agreement with private developers in the first place.

Archive news

Lastly, a link to a light-hearted but rather accurate and observant blog post from author and historian J D Davies who has recently become not only a campaigner for the survival of the Carmarthenshire Archives, but has also rapidly become very well acquainted with County Hall doublespeak with which we are all so familiar;

More spinned against than spinning

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