Wednesday 13 January 2016

The January meeting

Update 15th January; The archived webcast can be found here.

With a packed house, the press, protesters and public present, the January Council meeting managed to plumb new depths in democratic failure - particularly evident around the several questions from members of the public relating to asset transfers of parks and playgrounds.

First up though, after the lengthy preliminaries, was the presentation, by a Cllr Jan Williams (Lab) of a 5303 signature petition to keep Parc Howard, Llanelli, in public ownership.

The whole question regarding the future ownership of Parc Howard mansion and gardens came under the spotlight earlier this year when it emerges that 3rd parties, with questionable backgrounds were angling after this 'jewel in the crown' of Llanelli, and were courting the Chair of the Parc Howard Association, Meryl Gravell and senior officers with meetings taking place behind closed doors.

The park and mansion then appeared on the 'Asset Transfer' list. The petition, and campaigners have called for it to be removed from the list. The petition had been started by Labour MP Nia Griffith in response to the public outcry.

Emlyn Dole responded to the petition by attacking the Labour politicians for using the Parc as a political bandwagon, repeating his promise to keep the Parc in public ownership, but fell short, again, of removing it from the list.

As expected, there was no discussion nor debate allowed and it seems that the chief executive has decided that the petition was an 'executive function' so would only be considered by the executive board.

Funnily enough I was under the impression a new, more democratic approach had been taken with regard to petitions after the WLGA report, obviously not.
That, as they say, was the end of that. Done and dusted and back in the long grass.

Next up was a Councillor Question about rat infestation.

The Chair, oddly, decided to make a short statement suggesting that councillors thought very carefully before asking an official question. Was it really necessary? Couldn't they ask an officer for a response outside the meeting? He couldn't refuse them so they really needed to think whether it was a waste of time...and so on.

Interesting that he said he 'couldn't refuse' them, presumably that means everyone apart from Cllr Caiach.

It is staggering that the Chair, in consultation with the chief executive of course, is trying to dissuade councillors from asking questions. I say staggering, but it's not really surprising is it?

You may recall, the dream agenda for the chief executive was for committee reports to be tacked on at the end, just for 'noting' and the bulk of the meeting taken up with power-point presentations and, basically, as little debate as humanly possible. Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths clearly sings from the same hymn sheet.

Councillors were told, at the time, that if they wanted to raise an issue within these reports, or anything else for that matter, they should start using the 'Councillor Question' facility now on the agenda.

It seems that they are now being deterred from this. Democracy is dying yet another death in Carmarthenshire Council.

Next up were the public questions and things went from bad to worse.

When I asked a public question back in September it was the first one for ten years. Prompted by the WLGA report to improve engagement with citizens the council reluctantly put the slot on the agenda. Incidentally it was about the £280,000 given to Scarlets Regional Ltd to pay off a third party loan, a curious decision made on the whim of the chief executive...

That's one park which won't be facing any cuts or closure.

No one is likely to go through the complicated rigmarole, and face the slightly daunting procedure of asking their question, just to congratulate the council on their latest Performance Target Indicators for dog dirt, and the like; a question will always arise out of concern or criticism of council policy or a decision.

Yet again this council showed that unless you are there to present an award, your criticism, indeed your very attendance in the hallowed hall, is not particularly welcome.

All the questioners, who represented local sports clubs, felt and spoke passionately about the potential loss of parks and playgrounds, and sports pitches within their communities and they wished to put that message across through valid questions.

Each questioner tried to give a preamble, stating the basis for local concerns over the programme and their dissatisfaction with the policy Plaid were now enthusiastically endorsing, but the Chair, Plaid's Peter Hughes Griffiths was having none of it. Each questioner was interrupted and silenced.

The Plaid responses were that they were quite happy to carry on with the Asset Transfer programme started by the previous administration, and at one point the Plaid group laughed at one of the questioners. Appalling.

The Chair continued to excel himself and persisted in stopping the questioners from elaborating in any way, including their supplementary questions, which the Chair 'accused' them of scripting. They had to be relevant to the reply they'd just had, he screamed.

Eventually, Cllr Anthony Jones (Lab) called a Point of Order and informed the Chair that their own constitution stated that a supplementary question could also be related to the questioner's original question, not just the pre-prepared reply they'd been given and anyway, surely they were allowed to give their point of view?

The chief executive helpfully added that the Chair also had the power to refuse any questions. Of course.

Cllr Bill Thomas also called a Point of Order to say that the Chair, and executive, were not acting according to the Nolan Principles of public life and was breaching the code of conduct. Prompted by the chief executive, the Chair became even more hysterical and demanded to know what point he was breaching.
As Cllr Thomas tried to continue, the sound was cut from the webcast.

The Chair said several times that they couldn't just let the public come and makes statements about the council, "we cannot have people coming into this council, standing up and saying whatever they like about the council." Good grief no.

Well, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, what you were breaching was not only the rules of debate but common decency and any sense of democratic engagement towards members of the public. So much for your prayers at the start of the meeting.

The leader, Emlyn Dole made several points about how his community council was making progress with asset transfers and after rambling on, unstopped by the Chair for several minutes, appeared to conclude that these public questions were nothing more than political mischief.

He went on to attack 'certain elements of the press' who would 'sell their granny' for a story and had been making things up. Charming.

One questioner dared to try and respond to Cllr Dole but by this time the Chair was on his feet, adjourning the meeting and demanding that the gentleman leave the room. I understand that the gentleman walked out in disgust.

The chief executive seemed to find it all rather amusing.

It was a very sorry affair and clearly the Chair's behaviour caused discontent, and disbelief, amongst many Members.

Despite the Chair clearly knowing full well he was in the wrong and offering a rather ungracious apology to all concerned, I'm sure he will be warmly congratulated for his sterling efforts by the chief control freak himself, Mr James. Abysmal.

It should also be remembered that Peter Hughes Griffiths was a very keen advocate of Mr James' 'seven seconder' rule to prevent individual councillors raising controversial topics through Motions on Notice, a rule which has now been thankfully blown into oblivion by the WLGA report.

All that is left now is to stop anyone raising a controversial issue in other every other respect, the sentiment of the WLGA report has been completely ignored.

Once the Chair composed himself and the members of public had left the sacred environs of the Chamber, no such restraint was imposed on the next item which was a lengthy presentation from a man about the Swansea Bay Lagoon project. It had the soporific effect of calming everyone down and possibly sending a few to sleep after all the excitement.

Mr James will be quite happy with Plaid, they've done him proud. They've turned from a troublesome opposition, scrutinising his council, criticising his actions, calling the police on him, and insisting that councillors should run the council, to a pliant, loyal and largely silent bunch; fearful of the press, being accused of hypocrisy and holding the public in contempt.
Cllr Dole denying that those unlawful payments ever happened must be the icing on the cake for Mr James.

When Plaid complained, a couple of years ago that democratic debate was being deliberately curtailed in County Hall they, (well Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM), called for the council to be put in special measures by the Welsh Government.
I don't suppose Plaid are likely to call for it again, but it's as necessary as ever and someone needs to pick up the phone to Cardiff bay. It's way overdue.

For the full coverage of the petition and questions, as well as the rest of the meeting, the webcast will be archived soon.


Wavell said...

No doubt "The Guardian" will give a full blank page report for the Carmarthenshire residents.

Anonymous said...

If all this is true , I am lost for words , wait for the next election , I shall watch the web cast Thursday morning

Anonymous said...

looking forward to the Herald this week.

Anonymous said...

check out the herald facebook page

Anonymous said...

Special measures?? This council appears to be comprised of Special Needs.

Disgraceful behaviour indeed all orchestrated by the dark lord himself.

Its time to go. The population of Carmarthenshire need to grasp this nettle and dismiss this bunch of trough feeding, gravy train travellers including the ever fawning executive committee who are by far the worst culprits of unintelligent devious scheming people I'ver read about for a long time.

Someone, a while back, suggested a simple entrants exam to local politics. Never has such a simple idea been so imperative than now. Half this lot are totally clueless, uneducated and simply out of their depth, relying on the one person that should guide them neutrally, but has his own sordid [think financial] agenda, managing to empire build and cause divisions among the parties he's meant to advise.

Mention was made of the Welsh referendum and the facility to call a vote of no confidence in the council or similar, where it required 5% and then an additional percentage to enact and dismiss.

Given the shambles of a council we have, led by incompetents, dole, grovel, palmer et al, it shouldn't be difficult to garner sufficient interest in the county to bring this lot down and have them removed once and for all.

I'm willing to get involved and I think something needs to be done asap. Ideas anyone??

Anonymous said...

What was obvious at this meeting, there was an aura of hostility towards the public questions.

When democracy goes out the front window corruption comes in through the back door. You can see it happening.

Anonymous said...

Anon@21:49 re: referendum/vote of no confidence

The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales should be able to advise you on the correct procedure.
Contact details:

Anonymous said...

Archiving of meeting appears slower than usual.

Anonymous said...

The way Plaid are behaving is going to lose them Carms seats at the next Senedd and general elections. I hope the prospective candidates take note.

Wavell said...

Headlines on "The Guardian" website is £75 for dropping a cigarette end.
Surely the County Council actions are more important and causing more damage.

Give your readers proper news Guardian,that is what you are there for, not just fines and photos of Meryl.

Unknown said...

It would comforting to believe that the cavalry will come to the rescue in the form of the Standards Board, The Ombudsman, the Welsh Audit Office, the Welsh Government and uncle Tom Cobley and pull Carmarthenshire County Council from the quagmire of buffoonery of its own making. But such rescues only happen in fairy stories. Someone voted these nincompoops into office; in fact quite a few people! Rousseau's comment in 1762 about parliamentary elections applies equally to council elections: "The people regard itself as free; but it is grossly mistaken; it is free only during the election of members of parliament. As soon as they are elected, slavery overtakes it, and it is nothing. The use it makes of the short moments of liberty it enjoys shows indeed that it deserves to lose them." Nothing much changed in 250 years!

caebrwyn said...

Anon 13:17
Yes, the archived webcast is usually uploaded the following sign yet.
I'll provide a link when it appears.

Unknown said...

The Ombudsman, WAG, CSSIW, police none of these have the stomach or will to look into this County Council's shenanigans. The worse they behave towards the public and service users and the stronger the evidence the more firmly they all cover their eyes, ears and mouth. See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil after all they all have one thing in common *All are paid out of the public purse*. Sure the Ombudsman has published some damning reports which cause the public to believe he is looking after their interests but you show him proof that what they promised to change and not to repeat was continuing the Ombudsman doesn't want to know. Party loyalty prevents members of the public speaking up against representatives they back so it carries on. Labour is now speaking up against the culture of this council (didn't when they were sat with the indies) Plaid supports the culture now they are sitting with the indies (they were speaking against it when not in the executive). Another problem is Cllrs who are on committees, whatever party they belong to, have an unhealthy need not to rock the boat when made aware of wrongdoing. Are their positions/extra cash more important than the public interest and will they lose their positions if they do ask questions? What a mess our democracy is when our representatives put their own self interests before our interests. Sure there must be decent Cllrs if so they need to start speaking up against what's happening; and I wonder what the Ombudsman would do if they started complaining to him. Would they be ignored just as he now ignores employees who complain about maladministration? I hope this meeting will be watched by many Carmarthenshire residents and more start to read your blog Jacqui and the Herald. Y Cneifiwr's blog is still very relevant to what is happening in this council even if he's stopped contributing fresh blogs. Keep up the good work and giving so many a platform to make their views known.

Anonymous said...

Excellent comment Jennifer Brown.You are absolutely right on all points.

Anonymous said...

So true Jennifer. This toxic culture does indeed run throughout the entire system here in Carmarthenshire.
Not one of the agencies has the integrity nor the backbone to grasp it and restore true democracy. Some of us have been made to suffer untold damage because of it. The Wednesdays meeting was a small insight into this culture and the disdain held for us who pay for them.

Jac o' the North, said...

Everyone seems agreed that in the the absence of official intervention the only option is to be patient and vote out the current councillors in 2017. But with Labour, Plaid Cymru and Independents all implicated, who is there to vote for - Ukip!

Another consideration is local government reorganisation. The 'Welsh' Government might 'postpone' the 2017 local elections so as to have a fresh start for the new local authorities in 2018 or 2019. This could explain why those deadbeats down Cardiff docks refuse to intervene.

Also, it's worth remembering that Plaid is no longer calling for intervention, and Labour will almost certainly be looking for a coalition with Plaid after the Assembly elections in May. So who needs a messy investigation into the running of CCC?

If the next elections are postponed then many of the current councillors will stand down, and Mark James will sail off into the sunset clutching a big fat cheque without anyone laying a glove on him.

Anonymous said...

How dare this unruly gang of oiyks and yobs from Llanelli dare to enter the hallowed fraternity of County Hall. They were, as 2Barns said, truly venal (capable of being bought or obtained for money or other valuable consideration; open to corrupt influence and especially bribery).

Peter Hughes Griffiths, should have summoned the troops to arrest this mob with blackened faces and sent them straight to the workhouse.

'And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, by thou the mother of thousands of millions and let thy seed possess the gate of those that hate them'

Anonymous said...

Having read Cll.Caich's comment on Jac o the North's blog it has to be aired again that Dopey Dole has forgotten that unlawful payments were paid to his friend Mark James, even tho when in opposition he was quite vociferous on the subject. If he has forgotten this hugely contraversial and publicly exposed debacle, then he should resign as a councillor forthwith, as it indicates he might have the onset of a problem which should be addressed medically. If this is so we should feel sorry, but at the same time it is inappropriate that he continues as a councillor as what other important matters are being forgotten.

Cneifiwr said...

I've watched more than my fair share of council meetings in Carmarthen, and that has to be one of the worst for a number of reasons.

Peter Hughes Griffiths would be the first to say he is not perfect. I think he was genuinely shocked and saddened by what happened, and his apologies were sincere. Unfortunately, public questions got off to a bad start, with the tone being set by Mike Bassett, who I felt was abrasive, rude and disrespectful from the word go. What followed was a clash of cultures. Peter Hughes Griffiths is right that public questions should not be used as a platform for grandstanding and making long declarations. Questions should be just that - and Dai Jenkins' cannot be accused of ducking questions with his long and very detailed responses.

Unfortunately things rapidly out of hand, and I felt that Peter Hughes Griffiths was goaded into being too harsh with some of the other questioners. Let's hope lessons are learned.

But the theatrics were really just a side show. I can understand why Mike Bassett and the others felt so angry. It is clear that CUSC has put in a huge amount of work, and nobody disputed the savings they say they have achieved for the council. They understandably feel betrayed because the issue of subsidies for sports facilities in the south of the county should now be put to bed. Instead, it seems they are being asked to jump through more legal hoops, and they have every right to be suspicious of what they are being asked to sign up to.

It may also be the case that the Labour Party is trying to make political capital out of the Parc Howard row. That's what opposition parties do, but I don't think Jan Williams could be accused of that.

Again, people in Llanelli have every reason to be suspicious of what is going on with Parc Howard. I'm sure Emyln Dole was being sincere when he said "read my lips", but only a few days before that Meryl Gravell seemed to be peddling a very different message in the pages of the Herald, and as we know, Meryl was very heavily implicated in the Loca Ventures scandal.

Parc Howard should be removed from the asset transfer list, and to refuse to do that was a serious mistake.

The most astounding aspect of all this is that Meryl Gravell once again managed to evade getting involved in any of the rows, even though sports pitches, Parc Howard and the asset transfer debacle are all her responsibility, and have been since 2012. Not a peep out of her.

Meryl may be standing down in 2017, but her legacy is already clear for all to see. Nearly 20 years of pork barrel politics (why was it that sports facitlities were subsidised in her patch when they weren't in the rest of the county?) have created bitterness and division. A lot of money has indeed been pumped into Llanelli, but it has gone on vanity projects and white elephants, with property developers and speculators being the real winners, while the town centre has continued its decline.

And so the Duchess of Trimsaran can look serenely on while others take the flak, and accusations of favouritism fly between Carmarthen and Llanelli. Of course the county museum should be saved, as should Parc Howard.

Plaid may have inherited these half-baked and poisonous policies from Meryl and Kevin Madge, but there is no law that says they have to stick to them.

And while you're at it Emlyn, give Meryl the award she should have been given years ago - the Order of the Boot.

Dire as it was, this week's meeting has to serve as a wake up call.

Lesley said...

I wish I could agree with you Cneifiwr that "this week's meeting has to serve as a wake up call". Who do you suppose will wake up? Unfortunately too many people are uninterested in local politics until it affects them personally: a prevalent attitude towards councillors is "a plague on all their houses" which results in the usual very low turnout for local elections. Until the vast majority of electors can be mobilised and a new cohort of principled, honest and determined councillors returned to invade the sacred chamber, I see nothing changing.

Anonymous said...

Again a very good comment Lesley.I would like to think that a group of councillors will, at some point, have the courage to challenge those who are hell bent in bringing this council into disrepute.There are some very good councillors and it must be soul-destroying for them to hear the amount of criticism by the public.Lesley is quite correct in saying the public is disinterested in local politics until they are affected.

Anonymous said...

Hence the need to expose this shower of shit for what it is. A bunch of self serving feckwits incapable of holding down a proper job.

The only way to achieve that is via a concerted effort of bringing their disgraceful behaviour to the public attention. It needs to happen. The populous of Carmarthenshire needs to be made aware of what their tax money is doing and how its being wasted on vanity projects and senseless legal counter claims.

If enough people can get the word out the truth will spread and this bunch of wasters will be confined to the history books as the idiots that nearly got away. Otherwise they will succeed in their half baked plans if allowed to remain in position.

Start with the newspapers and whatever other means available, but unless you want to see james riding off into the sunset with a fat cheque, something needs to be done promptly. Trust me, this shower are relying on people doing nothing and the longer nothing happens the safer they feel.

Cneifiwr said...

You're spot on about public apathy, Lesley. In this case it's the Plaid group which needs to think quickly about how it came to find itself in the trenches alongside Mark and Meryl fighting off the public. Stop bleating that this was a policy that was inherited from Kevin Madge and Meryl, and change it.

It is also very obvious that the whole WLGA review of corporate governance and culture has been buried. If anything, the council has gone backwards with more restrictions on debate, and the two recent occasions when members of the public have asked questions have been disastrous.

Wednesday was painful to watch. Listen to the grassroots and not the chief executive's stage whispers about vetoing questions.

Anonymous said...

I have just watched the webcast of the meeting and what I saw was astounding.

The gents asking the questions represent sports clubs and community associations. Some of the youngsters they offer opportunities to are in some of the most deprived area of the county. They should be lorded and treated like VIPs not nuisances to be put up with.

There are some councillors who can hardly string a sentence together and some I believe who have never spoken in the chamber at all. The visitors who attended the meeting were courageous to put their heads above the parapet.

PHG made a right tit of himself. He was almost apoplectic with rage that he could easily have collapsed. Anthony Jones made the best intervention by seemingly putting PHG down to the extent that PHG had to apologise although it was a weasel like apology.

Mr Erasmus question was detailed and well put. Mr Doles reply was "I don't think so" this reply was discourteous and although he may have thought it a clever answer he just looked sly, evasive and slippery. He could have avoided the subsequent row if he had answered the question in the spirit it had been asked.

PHG has done a lot for the town of Cthen. There is no doubt about that but everyone reaches a sell by date and I think he has reached it.

Another aspect if the recording is that while Mr Bill Jones was trying to make a point of order the Chief Executive was feeding PHG with lines and seemed to be encouraging him to slap him down. Now it may his role to advice the chair but he just seemed too enthusiastic doing it.

Local politics in Carmarthenshire is poisonous I'm afraid and will not be fixed until some basic things are done. The unlawful payments scandal is the biggest and needs to be sorted. Does the leader of the council stand by the WAO report or not. He needs to tell us as this is poisoning the well.

Unknown said...

Cneifiwr I agree with your comment above. Cllrs should not act like "Puppets on a String" They should tell the CEO and his cohorts where to stick their dirty tricks instead of just going along with them. Enough of you Cllrs speak up and insist on looking into past coverups & dirty tricks and you will learn how important proper scrutiny is in keeping the public interest safe. Complaints policies and whistleblowing policies are there for public bodies including CCC to be made aware of problems; to have them investigated without bias against the complainant or whistleblower and learn lessons. None of this takes place in the CCC; bias and conflicts of interests control every aspect of any investigation. Nothing will be learned and acted on as a cover up becomes the most important need. Protecting the reputations of the higher ranking public servants in the CCC becomes paramount. Because the regulator, Ombudsman, representative & WAG refuse to consider (or even look at)evidence that reveals cover up and wrongdoing it carries on to the detriment of service users and the public interest. The CEO's silent laughter behind his hand could be from nervousness; if it was he has good reason as he is after all accountable for the culture within Carmarthenshire County Council. Decent Officers must be as fed up with the need to act against the public interest as right thinking Cllrs when expected to protect reputations and not the public interest. What a can of worms!

Anonymous said...

As the culture within this council is so dire and in desperate need of an investigation, surely we could muster one or two politicians - an MP an AM and three or four good councillors who could present a case to Carl Sargeant, which would merit a Public Inquiry. If he refused a group such as this we would know for sure who is pulling whose strings!! Has this ever been tried??

Anonymous said...

About time this website ran a poll on whether an investigation should be made or not. If there are enough numbers I think its time to do something and start rattling james cage. This idiot needs a wake up call and has to realise that people in the county are aware of his arrogant attitude towards them.

We are not all like the soft spineless councillors he gets to order about and control day to day. Some of us have a spine and are willing to stand up to him and his over-inflated ego.

Its long overdue, so lets actually do something about it, rather than talking and posturing.

26 comments suggests there are quite a few more than may be willing to get involved.

Lets do this and remove james et al once and for all and at the same time save the county a load of money in redundancy pay offs. We need to remove these clowns via incompetence and negligence so they cannot be paid off.

Sian Caiach said...

I agree with the sentiments above. It is sad that Plaid, our last hope for change in the Council, are, as yet, ineffective. They would normally have needed to consult their central party according to Plaid's constitution and submit a political agreement before entering a coalition but I believe that the offer of "power" may have overcome both party discipline and common sense. Plaid in Carmarthenshire are unused to having any real influence at all and may have jumped at an offer without thinking it through. Having a 50/50 split on the exec board with Emlyn as leader sounds good but isn't. It fails to reflect Plaid's larger number of Councillors and Emlyn as chair of the Executive probably honours the convention of using his casting vote for the status quo, and so can be blocked at every turn. Being in the coalition was more important than looking to control the council, a mistake which can't be rectified with out the threat of losing the "leadership".
There also was no political agreement of tit for tat policy concessions that would be expected, overall favouring Plaid as the larger group. Balanced compromise is one thing, unconditional surrender another. Plaid Cymru is perhaps at fault here for poor education and support for its council group leaders.

What this makes crystal clear is that the officers really do run the council whoever is "in power". Its been going on so long that it's difficult to rectify without outside help. It is not just the intellectual quality of Councillors which is sometimes lacking but their courage and commitment on behalf of the people they represent. What I've been through as a powerless fly in the ointment, originally in a group of 2 but now one out of 74 Councillors and no threat ever to the 3 big groups, would put most people off standing for this council without the "protection" of the large compliant groups.

Labour, Plaid and the Affiliated independents are now certainly all in it together and as many will stand again in 2017 with their respective party's blessing and finance,the donkeys may still be happy if the public don't take notice. My Councillor colleagues are, in the main, well meaning, pleasant individuals who are fearful of stepping out of line. There are a few notable greedy individuals on the gravy train but they not the majority and are even more afraid of upsetting Mr James.This terror is real and you can't rely on those who have quivered in fear for years to support cleaning up this council's act.

Someone decided recently to copy and send my question to Emlyn Dole on the unlawful payments with a message to support me, to all of the CCC Councillors. Nice gesture, but I would regard them as the last people likely to blot their copy books by openly helping me.

Practically we need outside help to change things before 2017
There is supposed to be a review of CCC by the WAG minister in the "Spring" which I suspect means after the election when Plaid and Labour will not be embarrassed electorally by the results of a report involving their Councillors. The Ombudsman process takes a long time to review individual complaints on specific issues and is not really geared up to review a whole council's performance or lack of it. The WLGA governance report was not successful in anything except promoting minor changes, including the introduction of public questions.

There is supposed to be a review of CCC by the WAG minister in the "Spring" which I suspect means after the election when Plaid and Labour will not be embarrassed electorally by the results and may even be together in happy coalition which I hope will be better managed than the CCC one.

I'd love to recruit 73 other people to stand with me in Carmarthenshire and also other authorities in 2017 and if any of you are local to Wales and eager and willing please contact me.

Sian Caiach
People first Councillor. CCC Hengoed Ward

Unknown said...

It was nice of you to contribute to this conversation Sian and I'm sure most of us have seen evidence of your struggle to put your views and your constituents concerns across at Council meetings. I still think about Mark James CEO complaining to the Ombudsman about you and being given short shrift by him (he was told in not these exact words to "grow up") in his position he can expect people to not always agree with him but it seems he cannot abide anyone whose opinion differs from his. You are a lose cannon with no party telling you to watch your Ps & Qs in case it affects party's position.

One of the commentators mentioned engaging Cllrs & AMs/MPs but from my experience of doing this it is set up to fail especially if their party is sat at top table. Plaid's Cllr Dai Jenkins did take an interest initially (or pretended to) before he was given a place at the top table. Not a peep since and he could see how the Whistleblowing policy and Statutory Complaints policy were not being followed. He did approach a couple of officers but I had also wanted him to speak to the CEO who had ignored my emails telling him about the need to follow the complaints procedure and look into how our disclosure of abuse were not handled properly by POVA. If Dai did speak to the CEO he has not got back to me about it. Another whistleblower also spoke to him about their concerns and I believe he has also not only let us whistleblowers down but service users and the public interest. As with officers, Cllrs too fear losing their positions (which can be quite lucrative)if they are seen to protest too much.

Sian I hope people will read your blog and see that there would be no party interests to worry about before speaking up. To be under the People First banner they just need to work in the public interest and follow Bell's principles. Is expecting our representatives to work/act/think this way a pipedream? So many good ideas and views in the comments above it cheers one up. Anyway that's off my chest back to cooking the Sunday lunch.

Anonymous said...

Speaking to a Labour councillor he said one of the members of the public was y wearing a "cap" while asking his question. To him it was disgraceful and apparently the first time since the council started that anyone has dared to wear a cap in the council chamber. Sounded really petty to me. Takes a lot to stand up in a place like that knowing there's a video camera on you and say your piece.

Sian Caiach said...

Thanks Jennifer,
It really does make you a better representative if you have the freedom to disagree and have promised never to be in a coalition. You can look at every issue and take everything on its merits, and if you know topic X is coming up consult people in your area if you know its going to impact on them.
We are losing contact with the electorate and its tragic when really stupid decisions are made without anyone knowing about it, deliberately to avoid the "problem" of public disagreement!

Cneifiwr said...

One small correction to Sian's observations. Public questions were always allowed under the constitution, but until last year nobody had made use of this right for years. That was probably because you had to read the constitution to find out that the right existed.

The rules are a bit of an obstacle course, and the chief executive can veto questions on various grounds. As he reminded us last week, even if a question makes it on to the agenda, the chair of council can still veto it at the last minute (if the chief executive tells him to, of course). There is no appeal.

The WLGA panel recommended that it should be made easier for the public to ask questions. That has not happened, and it is fair to say that every one of the 7 (?) people who has asked a question since last autumn has come away feeling they have been sold short at best.

The only change made in response to the WLGA report was to list public questions on the agenda.

ramaredtheone said...

How many of those who have commented would be prepared as a group to form a collection of like minded folk prepared to harry the powers to be to obtain the long overdue public enquiry into the conduct of CCC. Wednesday's meeting was an example if ever there was one needed of total disdain that the The chair of the Council has for the public.At the start of the meeting the need for"tolerance" was used! Any student of politics would be rightly aghast at the shambles that was the CCC meeting.Any person wishing to praise the Council could do so but anyone who dare criticise would be slapped down like an impudent child.Democracy is certainly not alive in Carmarthen.

Wavell said...

I must say that the question from "the fellow in the cap" was far more interesting than the reply from the "fellow with the necklace".

Anonymous said...

reference party allegiances etc.

in my view the council had to professionalise and bearing in mind the amount of public funds that the council administers it is probably right to have a cabinet style system. I have huge respect for Cllr Caiach but imagine how the business of he council could proceed if all councillors were so independently minded and in possession of an opinion.

The party system is a good system but it can only work if the party publishes a set of principles and intentions prior to an election and crucially sticks to them after the election.

our independent group is anything but independent but he problem is they don't publish a manifesto so they cant be held accountable as individuals. On the other hand Plaid have reneged on most of what they said in opposition and could be held to the charge of hypocrisy.

Nothing wrong with the party system but councillors need to operate with credibility and integrity which I'm afraid is sadly lacking at the mo.

Anonymous said...

Having finally watched some of the meeting, I am totally in a agreement with most of the other responders on this blog. PHG seems to have lost the plot!
This has to go down in history as being a total shambles. His incessant talking over of Bill Thomas's point on Nolan Principles is nothing short of bullying. Had he only listened perhaps he would have understood the very salient point in question.
I' m so disappointed in Plaid. One hoped for better, but got worse!
How do we bring an end to this cock fight?

Anonymous said...

When watching the public questions in the webcast, I found it toe-curlingly embarrassing. The chair's attitude struck me as rather like an X Factor contestant who is convinced they have a wonderful talent, then start to perform, only for others to find they haven't!

The chair does not seem to have the temperament for the post. This is not the first time he has lost his cool, maybe he thinks he is being assertive when to the observer he appears angry and rude, especially when he raises his voice. The webcast viewer loses respect for the office when this happens. I know the chair is neutral, but he has done Plaid no favours with this display.

When the questions were being asked he seemed to be champing at the bit to find fault, whether correctly or otherwise. Perhaps it would be a good idea for the questioners to be given 3 minutes to provide background to their questions -- it would help the public, and probably the councillors too, to appreciate the reason for the question. In contrast, the councillors answering appeared to me be able to say whatever they wanted, with no constraint.

On the planning committee webcasts, both the last chair and the present one never raise their voice and treat the public, objectors and applicants with kindness and respect. It can be done!

As for wearing a hat, mayors, sheriffs and the Queen all at times wear head attire at various meetings and councils. As it happens the chair's ill temper has had the effect of giving plenty of public exposure to the questioners, through the media. Both the Llanelli Herald and the Carmarthen Journal provided some the questioners with a platform to put over their views.

Anonymous said...

That picture of PHG losing it and MJ smirking is a classic. It should be blown up and put on posters all round the county.

Unknown said...

This is a link to the Llanelli Herald's Alan Evans' pre MEETING interviews with a lot of the participants including Wayne Erasmus, Cllr Sian Caiach, Cllr Emlyn Dole (leader of Council)& Mark James CEO If anyone is unsure why the questioners were so determined to have answers then this video tells you. It also shows the actual meeting where the public could ask questions;videoed from a different angle and much more interesting than the Councils own "film". There is also post meeting interview too and all contained in 30 minutes. We can all learn from this should we want to use "Public Question Time". Good luck to them in their efforts to stop the Council destroying parks pitches and jobs (UNISON was also involved). simating

Anonymous said...

So Labours Devichand kicks off about rats . Really ? Where was she on this topic when she was exec board for housing ? Anything now she blew the coalition with her cronies over the Madge ousting now she needs votes !! All these in front benches are only in it for power but it seems llanelli lost in the rural and county . Aw loss of power because therevis no forward thinking brain cells amongst them . They are all power hungry but it has blown up in their faces . Now they ate on opposing side they are throwing everuthing at plaid/indies that was thrown at them but rejected . Hmm class !

Unknown said...

This is just a thought! Administration & Law advises Council members; as she is a paid officer who's loyalty appears to be to council officers and protecting LA's reputation; isn't it time the EXECUTIVE and the members started to question the orders they are given by her and other officers in the public interest? What a shame more Carmarthenshire people didn't sign the petition about officers running Local Authorities (of course many would have been unaware of the petition). Something is wrong when a Director can order a constituent's representative not to have any contact with her. This is preventing the public's ability to question an LA's action or decision through their representative. We now have the CEO once again silencing a member; she was requesting answers to how much of our money was being spent (overspent) on a project. The CEO being in charge of what public and members questions will be allowed at meetings appears to contradict a move towards openness and transparency. He has a conflict of interest!