Tuesday 2 February 2016

Yesterday's Executive Board

Up for discussion at yesterday's Exec Board meeting was the recent Corporate Assessment report from the Wales Audit Office. Seen as a positive report this was an opportunity for some mutual back-slapping and grovelling gratitude expressed by the Plaid members to Meryl and Pam, and the chief executive, for steering them through this 'difficult' process...quite incredible how cosy they've all become.

What this report actually reflects is that Plaid have not taken the 'lead' but have become fully assimilated into the toxic culture at county hall. What they once opposed and fought against they are now supporting. Preferring to adopt the spin and nonsense of the notorious council press office than open all those cans of worms, which might just expose their own weakness under the previous administration. Very disturbing.
The price of power I guess. As well as an approaching election.

As I said in a comment on my previous post, I also find it quite disturbing really that the WAO were so easily convinced that there is now 'collective leadership', by which they must mean that after 13 years of damage, intimidation and control freakery Mark James has been put back in his box. If they believe that they'll believe anything. What a joke.

The significance of the report in light of the unlawful payments scandal didn't go unnoticed and Meryl couldn't resist a comment. She said that this audit team was one of the more professional she had encountered...compared to the way the poor chief executive was treated by those other auditors 'some time ago'. 

This was a direct slight on the Appointed Auditor Anthony Barratt who had been responsible for exposing the unlawful payments. Clearly quite an unprofessional chap according to all present, including Plaid, and clearly didn't have a clue what he was on about and has caused them no end of trouble with having to deal with the WLGA governance review and all that transparency malarkey.

Still, we can look forward to more trebles all round when 'Jeremy' (from the WAO audit team) present the report to full council. Good old Jeremy.

Also on the agenda was the upcoming council budget. Carmarthenshire ended up with a better than expected settlement of a 1% reduction rather than the 3.3% they forecasted. Around this time every year there is always bit of a PR opportunity for the current Exec Board to show gracious benevolence and drop some of the more controversial elements of the budget. The particular proposals are easily predicted and I identified one or two last November. Budget bingo I suppose.

This year was no exception and with the better than predicted deal from the Welsh Government Plaid had a small bonanza to help towards their Assembly campaign, including a council tax increase of 'only' 3.8% rather than 5%.
With half of Carmarthenshire under water over recent weeks it came as no surprise that the cuts to the flood defence budget were dropped, along with some highway maintenance and street cleaning cuts.

Two predictions materialised in that the decision to charge £250 for home to college transport was shelved for two years (this was also shelved last year, under the last lot) and the axe hanging over respite care and short breaks for disabled children was dropped. Very welcome of course but no surprise.

The £1 rise in the price of meals on wheels will now be phased in over three years, by which time the council should have managed to axe the service altogether, which was, and is, their original intention. Vulnerable pensioners now being charged for an array of care services which were previously free so this is nothing more than a token, paltry, gesture.

The Welsh Government has also stumped up some extra cash to help 'protect' education and social care, This means that instead of the whopping £18.2m three year cuts to schools, the figure will now be a marginally less whopping £17m. I'm already hearing that the shiny new school in Ffairfach is sourcing second-hand furniture and is devoid of lockers. We just hope it's got some teachers.

The rest of the budget, including the very, very exciting, visionary capital budget which will see a new herd of white elephants, with no money to actually run them, cropping up here and there, will be decided by full council later this month. This is Plaid's notion of an 'anti-austerity' package of regeneration, so far the only thing to be regenerated is Cllr Dole's beauty parlour.

On the subject of capital, Labour Councillor Derek Cundy asked, given Cllr Dole's promise that it would be kept in public ownership, whether some money would be put aside for the much needed maintenance of Parc Howard mansion and museum. A £1m was going to the Carmarthen museum so why not Llanelli?

After cutting through the leader's waffle it became evident that the answer was a definite no. To make matter worse, deputy leader Dai Jenkins parroted Meryl's remarks that it was the pesky people of Llanelli who had foiled a bid for lottery money a couple of years ago by having the brass neck to disagree with some of the council's plans for the Parc. Would they do it again? he demanded to know.

The council's grant to the Botanical Gardens was also discussed. The proviso that the garden improves it's use of the Welsh language seems to have been quietly forgotten although the offer to give Carmarthenshire residents a 5% reduction in membership was deemed acceptable. How many could actually afford an 'annual membership' is probably minimal. The Garden will have a decreasing grant over three years, starting at £70,000 and reducing to £30,000 by year three.

A few short months ago the Director, Dr Rosie Plummer gave a presentation to full council ahead of the deal. Now that Dr Plummer has thrown in the towel over the struggling garden it was interesting to see the executive board giving her the cold shoulder, inferring that there should be no more woolly scientific nonsense, the new director had to have a far more businesslike approach than dear Rosie with Cllr Dole wishing it could be more like Alton Towers.

There was also a brief discussion on the Council's foray's into the world of outsourcing with an item on 'alternative delivery models' for social care. The emphasis was on 'early days', 'very broad brush' and 'analysing options' but as we know the Leisure department is already well on it's way to becoming a trust.
As for social care and housing, the drive for arms length companies or trusts are also well on the way with consultants having been appointed to steer the authority through the choppy waters of back door privatisation.

(Full agenda here)

For those interested in the Police Commissioner elections, former council leader Labour's Kevin Madge is the latest to throw his hat in the Dyfed Powys ring. Current candidates are the incumbent Tory Christopher Salmon and former civilian support worker for the police, Dafydd Llewelyn, for Plaid Cymru.

One of the supposed requirements for the job is to hold chief officers to account, not something Kevin Madge excelled at at Carmarthenshire Council, quite the opposite in fact. If the requirement involves covering up corporate ineptitude and corruption, and being dangled on a string by the chief constable, then Kev's your man.


Anonymous said...

Meryl couldn't resist a comment? How unusual !!

"... this audit team was one of the more professional she had encountered...compared to the way the poor chief executive was treated by those other auditors 'some time ago'. "

This woman wouldn't know a professional auditor or a professional anything even if they walked up and introduced themselves to her. She has no idea of the meaning and revels in the art of skullduggery with the dark lord and 'I'm a patsy' palmer, or in her case a pasty too many. Unless there's a profession for skulduggery and deception I stand by my comment.

As I've mentioned before, unless there is a concerted effort to remove this bunch of clowns we will end up having to suffer even worse post election time and the dark lord will then see no reason to hide behind a veneer of false charm.

He is the one wicked witch this county needs to see the back off and until he goes and there are some sensible councillors elected who have a reasonable grasp of reality nothing will change and we will continue to witness the slow decline of Carmarthenshire County Council.

Cneifiwr said...

Kevin Madge and Christine Gwyther seem to be running some sort of competition to see who can lose the most elections. Jeb Bush is more likely to be the next Dyfed Powys commissioner.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely anon @ 14.23

Anonymous said...

@ cneifiwr, says a member of the party which has never won a Welsh wide election

Anonymous said...

Kevin for Police Commissioner ?

Gosh !! Is it April 1st already ?

Anonymous said...

perhaps someone needs to explain the difference between commission and commissioner to poor old kev.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Madge would be automatically excluded from applying for the post of Police Commissioner because of his crimes against the english language.

Anonymous said...

LaBour Central Control are giving Kevin Madge the chance to fail as Police Tsar for Dyfed Powys as a reward for the diabolical way the clowns in Llanelli stabbed him in the back Central Control were apparently disappointed by the action of the Llanelli Clowns aka Llanelli Labour Party