Thursday, 26 November 2015

Council budget - Hypocrisy, done deals and red herrings - with an update to the 'done deal'

Update 30th November below

Just a few more words about Carmarthenshire's budget consultation which kicked off last week with an online 'twenty questions' for your deliberation.

As I have mentioned several times the most striking cut is to the schools' budget, £18.26m over three years. This is despite promises from the Welsh Government, as recently as Monday, that the education budget would again be protected, for now anyway.

You may also recall that earlier this month the chief executive accused schools of playing fast and lose with their money and saddling the authority with redundancy costs. A case of the pot calling the kettle black of course and described by Cadno in this week's Herald as the 'highest paid failure in Wales'; we assume his own golden handshake, scuppered earlier this year, along with curious payments to the favourite rugby team, his illegal pension and libel indemnity payments, returning officer 'advanced' fees, and all the rest of it, is not 'fast and lose'. Criticism of spending by others, and the remarks were greeted with astonishment by the schools, is always better coming from a credible source, otherwise it simply smacks of blatant hypocrisy.

Anyway back to the twenty questions and included in the list is a £20,000 three year saving on Youth Services through a 'Review' of the use of the Quay Centre, Carmarthen. This is currently the base for the Carmarthenshire Youth Service and other organisations. Back in 2010 much was made of the decision to base the service there and according to press releases at the time there was nowhere else suitable in Carmarthen. It also enabled another youth group, Dr Mz's, to set up a base elsewhere in the town.

A 'review' would mean that alternative accommodation would now have to be found for the Youth service and the other organisations, and you are asked for your views. However, Monday's Executive Board meeting includes an item which suggests that your views might be superfluous to requirements.

A Swansea based company has already approached the council with a view to buy the centre and develop the site and the Exec Board is being asked to consider whether the talks should continue, exclusively, and privately, between the company and the council, or whether alternative accommodation for the organisations should be found and the site put on the open market.

So much for consultation then. Maybe County Hall's evangelical friends down at the bowling alley might help out with the 'alternative accommodation', being particularly keen on attracting young recruits. Just a couple of months ago they said they were already getting expressions of interest from the council for their newly heated office space...

[Update 30th Nov; The Exec Board decided today that the company, the developers behind the Ethos building in Swansea, should progress with their business case for the Quay to the exclusion of anyone else.
It also turns out that several councillors including the leader have already visited the building in Swansea, and Meryl has been discussing all this with the developer since 2012. No surprises there.
The words 'iconic', 'sustainable' and 'gateway' were used extensively, as you might expect. Perhaps we'll have a Carmarthen Shard on the skyline.
I'm not sure what the Town Council think of all this as they wanted first shout on the site should the county council ever wish to dispose of it...]

Having observed the budget process (as best one can) over the years there always seem to be a couple of red herrings, a couple of low cost controversial proposals which the council executive can reject in a fanfare of magnanimous glory just after Christmas, claiming to have listened to the people.
This year my money's on a three year, £50,000 budget cut for respite care/short breaks for disabled children. This will mean, the survey says, 'the likely closure of two Breakthro' services which serve the needs of children with disabilities, particularly supporting them through holiday periods'.

We'll wait and see, after all, Carmarthenshire's councillors claim that in expenses in one year, never mind three, and somewhat less than was spent on defending the chief executive's unlawful activities.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A full and transparent audit of Carmarthen Council should be undertaken as a matter of great urgency.Time an again we hear of examples of decisions being taken by the "select"v few regardless of any input by those likely to be affected by such decisions.Once again "transparency and openness" must be the buzz words to remember.