Saturday, 22 August 2015

The Community Councillor and the wind farm...some thoughts

The local press have all covered the case of Community Councillor Heulwen Lewis who failed to declare a financial interest when the Brechfa Wind Farm was being discussed at a meeting of Llanfihangel ar Arth Community Council, Carmarthenshire.

The turbine company had entered a hefty financial agreement with Ms Lewis over land she owned which formed part of the entrance to the wind farm. She defended her position for two years, only admitting serious wrongdoing at the last minute, which didn't help matters.

She was suspended from meetings for three months (they don't meet until September anyway) by the Adjudication Panel for Wales following a referral by the Ombudsman.

Wales Online has further details.

Ms Lewis is lucky to have got off so lightly, under the new rules in England she could potentially have been facing a criminal charge.

Of course I'm not defending Ms Lewis but Community Councillors (and I am declaring my interest here as a member of another Community Council) are the lowest rank of elected Members and pretty much expendable.
The ripple effect of misdemeanors such as Ms Lewis' naming and shaming are limited to the local rural community, but they don't effect the grand scheme of things.

Further up the food chain, reputations and remunerations become more valuable, whether they're deserved or not, details become cloudy and ranks close.

In the wider context of Carmarthenshire Council adverse Ombudsman reports against the authority are hidden as far as humanly possible. One council tactic has been to attack the Ombudsman, rather like they did with the Appointed Auditor.

To be honest, I don't think the Ombudsman will ever be forgiven by Mr James for telling him to grow up after throwing out his complaints against Cllr Caiach. As Mr James' recent email to Cllr Bill Thomas shows, his threats are now of the legal kind.

If the Ombudsman does find against a county councillor, it never seems to result in a sanction. Most recently the Ombudsman thought Daff Davies 'might' have breached the code over the Dylan Thomas turbine, and Kev's clanger over the press office a couple of years ago saw 'no further action'.

Few incidents ever get reported. I wonder what the Ombudsman would make of Emlyn's Barn? Or Meryl and her dealings over Parc Howard?

What about blacklisting and threatening the press? Or the snooped emails? Dodgy deals defrauding the taxpayer? The toxic culture? Twisted FOI responses or gambling with taxpayers' money? And so on.

Everyone involved in the whole sorry mess over the tax avoidance and libel indemnity scandals managed, somehow, to get through to the other side unscathed. The Ombudsman wasn't involved of course but the potential was there for criminal charges, which undoubtedly should have been brought, particularly against the chief executive.

Anybody reading the council's extended rap sheet over the years would think 'Bringing the council into disrepute' was a favourite pastime of County Hall.

Perhaps Ms Lewis will resign from her Community Council seat, perhaps she won't, but Llanfihangel ar Arth Community Council will drift back into obscurity.

But what of the County Councils? Power corrupts, even within the parochial realms of Community Councils, but absolute power, especially when confined to the hands of any unelected dictator, corrupts absolutely.


Anonymous said...

Once again the people of Carmarthenshire are treated with contempt by some of those elected and unelected members of the council and now community councils. These people must surely be sponsored by Teflon! Respect has to be gained but time and time again the public are treated with disdain. To whom are Council and Community Council staff answerable to? Cardiff Bay set out protocol and procedure but so often these edicts are ignored.The WLGA has recommended 39 steps that need to be addressed. When will this happen? The Ombudsman seems to have little influence as does the Audit Office on the behaviour of some Council members."Transparency needs to be seen to be believed!"

Anonymous said...

Until the great leader realises that they work for us nothing will change.

Only strong action by the residents of the county will make them change and change can only come about by pressure from those they are meant to represent. The Herald, this blog and a few others are making some good progress but more needs to be done to bring this into the public arena and then garner support.

It needs someone with good leadership qualities and the support of the public. Personally I would like to see a motion of no-cconfidence in james, gravel and co. I live in hope...