Wednesday 23 September 2015

Executive Board webcast...and a prelude to the budget.

Finally, nearly a year after the WLGA recommendation, and as from next week, Executive Board meetings will be webcast. Monday's meeting will start here at 10am. (As it is now webcast, the public will be allowed to film it...thanks to their bizarre new filming policy). Just this once, I won't mention the pre-meeting Exec Board meetings, and the post-meeting briefings and trust that it will not be stage managed PR exercise.

However, the action-packed agenda, which you can read for yourself here, doesn't look like it will leave too much time for back-slapping. Several of the items, such as the offloading of leisure services, have already been covered by this blog.

Appearing for the first time is an early prelude to the next council budget. Savings, or cuts, to the value of around £39.4m over the next three year are on the cards. £15.8m in 2016/7, £12.7m in 2017/8 and £10.8m in 2018/9.

The figures for the next two years include the proposals approved at the last budget (more or less) but the 'new' figure is the £10.8m for 2018/9 - £4.2m of that relates to cuts to education. That's in addition to the £14.1m in cuts to education already earmarked for 2016 and 2017.

The public consultation will start in November, after the details, and most of the decisions, have been finalised. The budget will eventually be rubber stamped next February.

It will be interesting to see how far Plaid will get with their 'no-cuts', anti-austerity' promises now they've joined the County Hall top brass....
In 2014 Plaid put forward an alternative budget which was roundly rejected by the chief executive in, of all places, the pages of the Carmarthen Journal.

In February 2015 the Mark James budget was again passed after he joined in the debate, sided with the administration and rejected Plaid's opposition proposals. Immediately afterwards, Plaid councillor Alun Lenny gave this statement;

The Labour-independent controlled council voted for a budget of cuts, increased charges for services such as school meals and car parking, inflation-busting 4.3% hike in rents for council tenants and a 4.85% raise in council tax. 

All the cuts and charges could have been avoided this year had they accepted a Plaid Cymru opposition group proposal to take £6.2m (under 10%) from the Earmarked Reserves of £73.5m. 

These reserves (which are in addition to the General Reserve) have doubled since 2009. 
The people of Carmarthenshire have been badly let down and have every reason to be angry. This Labour-led council has meekly followed the Tory agenda of slashing public services. Plaid Cymru says that austerity has clearly failed. 

Our people have suffered cuts and extra charges to no avail. What was truly depressing was seeing the council’s Chief Executive and Head of Resources intervening in the debate. This council is obviously officer-led, as the Executive Board is too weak to run the council."

There will be interesting times ahead as Plaid are now firmly in bed with coalition buddies Meryl, Pam and the Independent Group; the political wing of the Mark James empire.
Labour, now in opposition will, I am sure, be reminding them of their words,

Plaid's Cllr Dai Jenkins, who mirrored the words of Cllr Lenny back in February, is now part of the administration of course, and Executive Board member for Finance. What is more, he now thinks that paying-off a six figure loan for a private company was 'in the best interests of the people of Carmarthenshire'.

It seems to me that Council leader Emlyn Dole hasn't been the only one to be granted the Key to the Presidential Toilet.....


24th September; Further to my public question concerning the six figure deal referred to above, County Councillor Sian Caiach has given her views on the subject here; Economy with the Truth, Carmarthenshire Style. She describes the deal as 'immoral' and wonders whose blushes Cllr Jenkins was sparing with his misleading response.

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