Carmarthenshire Council's recent foray into public question time at meetings has, to put it politely, been a bit hit and miss. Until a year or so ago it was unheard of for the great unwashed to enter the sanctity of the Chamber, let alone have the whole thing broadcast to the nation. Yesterday's meeting of the Executive Board was no exception.
The agenda included a raft of questions concerning the council's proposal to change the language category of Llangennech schools to Welsh medium. Members of the public from both sides of the argument were present. The issues have been well publicised in the local press and, it has been suggested, have become somewhat politicised and locally divisive. For the record, I'm taking no sides with this one, merely commenting on the process.
The questions, which are all on the agenda as they have to be submitted well in advance, were all addressed of course to the executive board member for education, Cllr Gareth Jones (Plaid).
The meeting started with the announcement that Cllr Jones was not there.
According to the Chair, Cllr Dole, this absence had been arranged some time ago. It's not clear when the questioners were told but they had taken time off work to attend and were given to understand (they'd checked the constitution) they would be able to ask the all important supplementary question.
However, it just so happened that the Director of Education, Mr Rob Sully was present with pre-prepared responses and as the executive board councillor was absent, the Chair decided that he would not subject the Director to any supplementary questions from the public.
The Chair has this discretion of course and given the strength of feeling, and the political aspect, perhaps it was fair enough (mind you, on a salary of £135k per annum you'd think the Director would be up to batting around a few questions from the hoi polloi).
This arrangement, prompted by the absence of the councillor, gave casual observer the impression of the usual stage-management.
Eventually, after the usual dithering about, and ever-conscious of the webcams and press interest, it was decided that the only option was to postpone the questions until Cllr Jones could be there to respond (and to respond to supplementary questions), probably next month.
It was also agreed that those who wished to ask questions there and then could, but in the event it was only those who agreed with the council's plans who chose to do so.
In light of this, the actual decision to change the language status of the school also had to be deferred until the next meeting.
As I have said, I take no sides but whatever your view of the subject matter, if this was an attempt by County Hall to prevent proper public engagement, it failed miserably and the whole exercise is now due to be repeated in a few weeks time.
Aside from the revised email policy, see here, which was nodded through without so much as a whisper, another item worth mentioning from the meeting was the total agreement by all present, councillors and chief executive included, that the National Procurement Service set up by Welsh Government was a total disaster as it took away the ability of local authorities to make their own procurement arrangements and support local businesses.
I was left a little confused, forgive me if I'm wrong but didn't the council just decide against awarding the tender for catering at Pembrey Park to a local company which had run it for five years, in favour of a company from Bradford? Whilst on the subject of Country Parks wasn't one of the serious allegations currently being (internally) investigated a 'failure to comply with the council's procurement procedures'?
Lastly, I must mention the remarks made by Cllr Meryl Gravell who, towards the end of the meeting, decided to offer her condolences and comment on the awful murder of Jo Cox MP.
Meryl remarked that 'lots' of councillors had to put up with 'lots of nonsense' from the 'press and blogs', 'lots of lies were, and are still being said'.
What was she implying? Was she suggesting that this death of an MP, in all its appalling circumstances, was somehow comparable to valid criticism, and calls for transparency, levelled at the council by the press and blogs?
It was a disgraceful cheap shot to infer that facts, opinions and critical comments on blogs or in the press in Carmarthenshire should be mentioned in the same breath as the appalling events last week.
If Jo Cox MP epitomised democracy, tolerance and justice, then Ms Gravell and her chums, sit squarely at the other end of the scale.
Yet another excellent post Jacqui, thanks for all your time and effort, I just wish that there were more councillors with some backbone to hold this shameful executive to account!
Following this blog,as I have done since its inception,I am not at all surprised by Meryl Grovel-sorry Meryl Gravell- shamefully comparing the assassination of the wonderful Jo Cox to criticism of councillors, whose conduct and actions are far removed from those of the late MP.
How trite and self-serving.Stand down Meryl your indiscretion is embarrassing.
Another mouth before engaging brain from Meryl Gravel. Shocking. Distasteful and insensitive, and lacking intelligence. Sadly all too familiar and no less than one now expects from her. I hope she can recognise for once she deserves the criticism for this one.
'lots of lies were, and are still being said'.
I wonder how Meryl is so well informed on this fact ?
Just for accuracy Cllr Gareth Jones is a keen football supporter and had arranged when Wales qualified to go to the Euro, to go out and support Wales so no deep conspiracy theory Mrs T Perhaps you forget you live in Wales not England .
Perhaps the contract was awarded to the lowest tender which WG rules you have to consider - just a thought or was that another conspiracy
Ha! No conspiracies Anonymous 21:25, just facts and observations...
As for contracts, price is not the only consideration in the tender process.
I see the current Jac O'The North blog has a photograph of members of the highly influential, and rather secretive, Bilderberg group at their meeting in Copenhagen in 2014. In the middle is a photograph of a distinguished looking middle-aged lady in a wide-brimmed hat grinning out at me. Imagine my shock when I realised it was Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and not who I was expecting - though I guess it's only a matter of time.
Paying their rent also helps - apparently Cafe had not paid rent for 1 year
True, fair comment, 18.40 June 22nd. They are obviously not one of the chosen loss-making private companies who qualify to get a special deal i.e. a peppercorn rent for 100 years or more.
"Meryl remarked that 'lots' of councillors had to put up with 'lots of nonsense' from the 'press and blogs', 'lots of lies were, and are still being said'."
A statement and accusation made with no facts to back up her remarks, just another smear.
You counter lies with evidence, you counter nonsense with facts. You counter idiots like Gravel by voting them out.
Well-said Redhead.The only real evidence shared by Meryl is that she likes using the description "Lots of."
I thought I'd ceased to be surprised by the rubbish that comes out of Muriel Chippings's mouth but this last example is crass beyond belief. Words fail me.
For those with access to a copy of this week's Carmarthenshire or Llanelli Herald, 'Cadno' has commented on Meryl's distasteful remarks...and it's well worth a read.
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