Saturday, 15 February 2020

Inappropriate comments and musical Chairs

The crass and insensitive remarks made by Labour Cllr Kevin Madge over an application for a care home to house three vulnerable children serves as a reminder of the calibre of some of our elected members.

According to Cllr Madge, who opposed the application, "They are not normal children so there will be a lot of screaming going on"

Kevin Madge

The inevitable outcry ensued followed by an 'apology'; "It was poor choice of words, which I regret however I have genuine concerns which is what I wanted to get across at the meeting. I will not be making any further comment on this matter.", a statement concocted for poor Kev by the County Hall Department for Non-Apologies.

He made the remarks as a member of the Planning Committee and clearly Cllr Madge's understanding of what constitutes a material planning consideration leaves much to be desired, let alone his attitude towards vulnerable children.
If this wasn't bad enough, it is also Cllr Madge's turn to be Chair of Carmarthenshire Council.

He graced this week's meeting of full council by sharing the sad news that one of his favourite hens had died that morning. It was all the rain, he said, something to do with climate change, he thought.

Still, at least he cares about his vulnerable hens.

It was my observations at council meetings, of the sometimes bizarre and often ignorant comments from some elected members which prompted me to campaign for webcasting and filming. Sometimes I wish I hadn't, I almost feel embarrassed for them sometimes...

The Chair of the Council is a position which is supposed to command respect. It is not a political role, unlike the Leader, and the Chair spends his or her year visiting school events, 100th birthdays, a charity bash or two, and generally being ferried around in a chauffeur driven car, fully chained, being the 'Face of the Council'.

You would think that it would be sensible to ensure that the Chair has some sort of ability for the role and is selected, and, more importantly, elected, by the full council. Unfortunately this isn't the case. Each political group takes it in turns each to propose the Chair, and the Vice Chair, with a superfluous show of hands. The latter, as night follows day, always becomes Chair the following year.

Ability for the role doesn't come into it, some are better than others but this is simply by chance rather than design, as is so apparent in this instance. This particular idiot saw the honour as the pinnacle of his political career. Probably a bit higher up the greasy pole than his lengthy and catastrophic involvement in Mark James' unlawful payments fiasco mind you.
As the then Labour Leader of the Council, it was an unedifying spectacle watching Madge try and justify Mr James' tax avoidance scam, let alone the plundering of public cash to sue, which he endorsed.

Kevin Madge 2014
In all seriousness there are several flaws with this archaic arrangement. For one, an unaffiliated independent councillor (not part of the 'Independent Group') would never become Chair, however adept they might be.

Secondly, it is seen as a reward for good behaviour. Councillors from any group who choose to rock the County Hall boat are unlikely ever to be sporting the polished Chains of Office.

Thirdly, it gives the chief executive full control over full council meetings, prompting and 'advising' the chair to such a degree you can almost see the former's hand moving the latter's mouth. A particular problem when the chief executive happens to be a psychotic control freak.

This was painfully evident of course during the tenure of the former chief executive. A read back through the council reports on this blog will highlight some fine examples. Painful might also be the operative word and it is said that one former Chair recalled Mr James kicking her shins when a more outspoken councillor had the floor, and patting her leg when she had successfully silenced the dissenting voice to his satisfaction.

Not sure if the male Chairs enjoyed such attention, or whether new CEO Wendy Walters deploys the same tactic on the legs of Kevin Madge...

As we are now in the 21st century and the council is supposed to be at the cutting edge of modern democracy is it now time to end this merry-go-round of musical Chairs? Select and elect candidates on ability and merit? Or even scrap the ceremonial role, with it's chauffeur driven trips to Civic Teas and Services the length and breadth of Wales, completely?

WalesOnline; Councillor apologises after calling care home kids 'not normal' 


Anonymous said...

I can only repeat a comment I made several posts ago

"After watching the council meeting webcast the fawning acolytes Woebegone Wendy Walters and Lawless Lynda seem to be in charge

The quality of the whole meeting was abysmal with many contributors seemingly having difficulty speaking let alone string a logical discussion point together"

Anonymous said...

The fact that most councillors have difficulty speaking let alone being able to make coherent arguments has been the case for as long as I can remember. In the past I have listened with something like horror that these people are representing us and making decisions (or are they?) about how this county is run. I have watched some of them come in, stay long enough to sign the attendance register and then sneak off; others quite obviously taking a nap during the proceedings and quite a lot of them not having a clue what is happening.
Plus ├ža change .... We could get rid of most of them and there would be no difference apart from the fact that we'd save a lot of money by not having to pay them or their "expenses".

Anonymous said...

Re; Anonymous 09.24
I absolutely agree! No wonder this council is held up by other authorities as a prime example of "how NOT do do things"
With our councillors being so mentally and intellectually challenged, and the questionable quality and abilities of administrative staff, is it any wonder things are so abysmal?

Anonymous said...

Should have gone either to Specsavers or Amman Valley Hospital for advice first.

caebrwyn said...

With examples like this it's easy to see how simple it was for Mark James to manipulate, mislead and coerce councillors; the bigger the idiot, the higher up the lucrative ladder he put them. Meryl Gravell and Kevin Madge being prime examples, 'legitimising' his actions with the veneer of democracy, no questions asked.

Emlyn 'two barns' Dole is something else though; his hypocrisy and u-turn over the illegal payments remains staggering, let alone his new policy of trying to reinstate the notorious and illegal libel clause. He sold his soul to James for £48,000 a year.

A crook like James also needs a cohort of easily pliable administrators, number one being his legal minder Linda Rees Jones who was, and is, prepared to put her professional ethics on the back burner to protect the man who personally promoted her, and her own actions in misleading the council and the court.

The 'promotion'of Wendy Walters to the top job was as predictable as night follows day. It was only a couple of years ago that James kindly created a new Directorship post for her, with a £20,000 pay rise.

The malign influence of Mark James lingers in County Hall, essentially in the hands of Linda Rees Jones and Emlyn Dole. As I've said before, I intend to ensure that all three of them are brought to justice, whatever it takes.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely right. There are two people running the show - Legal Linda and 'two barns' Dole. There is another, probably, hiding in the shadows, ensuring that both these two remain loyal to him to keep the wolves at bay. Woeful Wendy is happy to sit on the fence and ignore all these two get up to as that was probably always going to be her role when the 'little man' departed. These three along with intellectually challenged councillors is the perfect storm for a totally unaccountable and dysfunctional council to get away with murder.

Anonymous said...

We also have the unedifying case of A.Lenny who was so supportive of the council NOT making you homeless after the libel case in London. Now,believe it or not,we have the same A.Lenny (Part time Non Conformist lay Preacher) not prepared to stop the inevitable loss of home of Patricia Roberts and her partner. We seem to have a "religious" link running through this Council. Recently departed CEO M.V.James, Plaid leader Emlyn Dole (Lay preacher Baptist Church) Are they all singing from the same hymn book? It is always said that religion and politics should not mix. Then again Carmarthen Council is unique in many ways. They make up their own rules on the hoof and they know that The Welsh Government has no interest in calling them to account.Is it any wonder that faith in politicians,nationally and locally is at an all time low?

caebrwyn said...

Anon 23:23
Unfortunately, in my case, Alun Lenny rapidly backed down when confronted by a hysterical Mark James who threatened him and anyone who showed public support, with contempt of court proceedings. They fell for that one. Mark James can now take the keys to our home without further notice if we fail, even once, to pay him his monthly gutter money, the same gutter money he lied about paying back to the council. He can add it to his extensive property portfolio.
The council, who also have a legal charge (through the insistence of Mark James) can start further enforcement at any time if they wish. They all know I'll never be able to pay these massive amounts, not even if they force sale of our home.
These actions were simply vindictive, deliberately designed to cause maximum harm and financially cripple us.
They never once asked Mark James to repay the illegal payments he thieved from the taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

The latest news that the Council is prepared to spend £500 million on various projects yet, Carmarthenshire residents face a 5% precept increase. It is very obvious that the Ghost of M.V. James is very much in evidence at County Hall. Total control is in the hands of a select few that were indoctrinated in "The M.V.James Book of Control".It is still very evident that anyone that dare stray from the status quo is then subject to abuse and legal threat. Councillors who show ANY concern for their constituents are then fed a diet of misinformation that causes them to doubt their own integrity. It was to be hoped that a new CEO would bring a new, refreshing and fully accountable and democratic Council for the Carmarthenshire public. At the time of writing, it is evident that the much hoped for change has yet to be implemented. One can only hope that she has an Epiphanic moment as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

Most interesting rumours circulating right now. It appears that there has been an investigation into Carmarthen council's planning department and the outcome has been a report that is so damning it has put them into 'special measures'. As I have said it is only rumoured at the moment. This planning department has always had a dreadful reputation, so maybe the police investigations have prompted this??

caebrwyn said...

Anon 09:50
Much of the Capital budget will be funded by even more reckless borrowing, at least another £130m over the next couple of years. The council debt already stands at £420m costing around £20m a year in interest. The impact of the programme of pet projects on the already strained revenue budget (the day-to-day services) has had to be raised by another £400,000.
The council continues to think it's playing a game of Monopoly with your money, and their external consultants will be rubbing their hands with glee.
The Wellness Village is prime example of a Mark James pet project, and, unsurprisingly, still under investigation by the fraud squad.

Anon 10:57
Interesting. If there is any truth in this rumour and anyone has any further information, do let me know.

caebrwyn said...

With regards to the rumours of an investigation/special measures relating to the council's planning department, Cllr Alun Lenny, Chair of the Planning Committee has denied that any investigation has taken place.
So, unless anyone has any further evidence to the contrary, we'll have to leave it there, for now.
However, many observers will note that a thorough, independent and forensic investigation into historic and current planning issues is long overdue. Not least of all a closer look at the approval for the Wellness Village.

Incidentally local concerns have been brought to my attention that some of the planning conditions attached to the 2015 Decision Notice for Council leader Emlyn Dole's barns (locally known as 'Southfork'...) may not have been met. I have contacted Planning Enforcement to check it out and ensure that everything is as it should be...

Anonymous said...

Now we have the pandemic sweeping the world of the Corona Virus. Everybody has the potential to be affected and Government guidelines must be adhered to. Local councils have an important part to play in this situation. Presumably, in the case of Carmarthen County Council all decisions affecting the people of Carmarthen, are thoroughly debated and agreed by all the Executive members? It would not be acceptable that major decisions are only discussed and implemented by a select few. This was the case when the recently departed CEO ruled the roost. Can we be assured that under the new CEO such ways of working have been deposited in the waste bin together with the lack of transparency and accountability? Stay safe everyone.

caebrwyn said...

Anon 19:09
Most local authorities/public bodies have provisions in their constitutions to delegate extraordinary, emergency powers to chief officers (usually in consultation with the relevant Exec Board Member) during a national crisis such as this, including Carmarthenshire. So, for now, it will be a select few.
The difference under the former CEO was that he used this ultimate power when there wasn't a whiff of a national emergency...
Anyway, I think most decisions (including risk assessments) relating to the pandemic will be from directions/orders issued by Welsh and UK Government, and through expert advice. Non-essential 'normal' business will be on hold for the foreseeable future.
Given this unprecedented situation, the time for transparency, analysis, debate, and indeed hindsight, over how our councils (and governments) handled the crisis, including the financial impact, will be after this is all over.
Stay home and stay safe.

caebrwyn said...

Following on from my earlier comment, the wider legal powers the state now has over us, under entirely legitimate public health reasons and law, is well summed up by lawyer David Allen Green here;
The extraordinary legal situation of the Coronavirus lock-down