Wednesday 5 October 2016

Targets, themes and the long grass

Quarterly target monitoring reports are not necessarily a gripping read but are supposed to inform scrutiny committees how well the council is reaching its 'key priorities', as either on, or off target. These involve various themes and promises, ie 'We will do this, we will do that, blah blah. Of course, how the goal posts are set, or how often they're moved is an entirely different matter.

Anyhow, in 'sub theme'; 'Openness, honesty integrity', and with the usual air of self-satisfaction, there is only one 'off target' measure. In the last quarter year, there were delayed responses to no less that 22 freedom of information requests. This was due, the report says, to delays in receiving information from departments, incomplete information being supplied by those departments, administrative errors (whatever they might be) and the "time taken to obtain approval from senior managers to release information".

This shows that despite the efforts of the FOI officer, the general obligations under the freedom of information act are still not taken seriously. A freedom of information request made a couple of years back showed that there were only two full time members of staff dealing with FOI and Data Protection issues. At the time, and by comparison, the council Press Office could boast a 'team of twenty'.

Interestingly the remaining specific measures under the same 'sub theme' are 'on target'. These include a delay in publishing a Register of Officers' Delegated Decisions, a delayed survey to see whether councillors are given sufficient information about their wards, a delay in producing a 'Made Simple' guide to the constitution and a delay in the Constitution Review Working Group (CRWG) meeting at all, and in particular to 'review any opportunity to improve the openness and transparency of the Council'.
Not exactly 'on target', not by my interpretation anyway.

You may recall that the CRWG was set up to chew over the 39 recommendations made by the WLGA back in November 2014. It does not appear to have met since just before the Extraordinary meeting in June 2015, over a year ago. There is still no sign of the dedicated petition page, as promised, nor the final removal of the libel cost clause from the constitution, This was 'suspended' over two and a half years ago 'until the legal position is clarified'. The legal position was of course clarified as unlawful, illegal, immoral, etc two and a half years ago but, well, that's another story, and one which leaves those culpable, though still unaccountable, for the scandal in something of a dilemma.

On a slightly different note, although perhaps hovering under 'sub theme openness', or even the long grass, is the proposal to charge for green waste collection. Much has been made of the changes to bin collections, 'rationalised routes', and all that, but no mention yet, other than a scrutiny report, of the proposed £48 annual fee to collect grass cuttings, starting from April next year.

Whether the Executive Board will rubber stamp this charge remains to be seen but significantly it will be the most expensive in Wales. There will be no concessions, but if you can afford to pay it in one lump there'll be a 15% discount, if you can't, and have to spread the payments, then it'll cost you the whole £48.

1 comment:

Elderly Neil. said...

This article should be presented to the Welsh Government,for
them to act on.

However a recent report relating to EU grants and dispersal
thereof their mismanagement, is as bad as Carmarthenshires'
so no action there.

Wales should be enjoying public services of a faultless standard
instead of pockets being filled by inefficiency and widespread