Update 15th September 2021
Following a heated debate this morning the Labour motion outlined below was defeated by the Plaid/Independent administration.
What stood out amongst the criticism was the total lack of transparency from the Plaid administration over all this, and of course from the corporate management.
It is quite remarkable that Plaid Cymru have refused to acknowledge that the catastrophic failure of the planning department has happened under their watch, and their refusal to accept the reasonable steps within the Motion is simply playing political games, to the detriment of the residents of the county.
Shame on them.
Update 10th September 2021
I've had a response to the FOI request detailed in the post below.
The council have been offloading planning applications to private company called Prospero Planning Ltd, and paid them the handsome sum of £114,609 from September 2020 to date. Blimey.
The company which carried out the council commissioned review was Solace in Business - the business arm of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives. They were paid £17,587
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Just a brief heads up about next week's (15th September) full council meeting. The damning Audit Wales report into Carmarthenshire's Planning Services hasn't gone away, or found the long grass just yet.
The Labour opposition group have tabled the following motion;
We propose that Carmarthenshire Council agrees:
In order to prevent the serious backlog of both planning applications and planning enforcements accruing in the future and to make the Planning Service fit for purpose and to prevent the acknowledged risk to our Regeneration plans that we:
1. Strengthen our Scrutiny and Risk Management Processes, Procedures and Reporting by fully implementing the recommendations from the reports from the Welsh Audit Office “Review of Risk Management Arrangements – Carmarthenshire County Council – July 2019” and “Review of Planning Services – Carmarthenshire County Council – July 2021”.
2. That the Internal report into the Planning Department, ‘Strategic Review of the Planning Service’ be made available for scrutiny by all Councillors and prior to the Audit Committee meeting of the 24th of September.
3. That a Plan to resolve the current backlog of the many hundreds of applications and even more hundreds of enforcements as well as making the Planning Department Service fit for purpose to allow us to meet our Regeneration targets in a timely manner, is presented to this Chamber at our next County Council meeting by the Interim Head of Planning.
4. That the practice of using private companies to clear the backlog of planning applications ceases and is brought in house.
5. That an adequate budget is set to provide for any change required to provide for an effective and sustainable service provision of the Planning Department.
6. Calls on the Chair of the Planning Committee to publish a monthly report indicating the current state of awaiting applications and enforcements.
All seems very reasonable but no doubt the Plaid majority ruling group will present some sort of nit-picking amendment, we'll wait and see. Let's hope the Labour group doesn't allow Plaid to get away with the usual whitewash response.
Just to hedge their bets, Plaid have planted their own question later in the agenda with Plaid stalwart Cllr Dai Thomas asking his mate Emlyn Dole to outline how wonderful everything now is in the Planning division.
You note that the Labour Motion also calls for the earlier council commissioned report to be shared with all councillors before it appears on the Audit Committee agenda later this month. This report made no less than fifty recommendations, and has been kept in a locked drawer ever since.
Historically, Carmarthenshire's planning department, and the planning committee has had notoriety for much more than systematic failure....
As for point 4, a response to my Freedom of Information request (below) is now overdue;
"Audit Wales published it's Review of the council's Planning Services yesterday. The report refers to a private sector company which has been handling planning applications, apparently to reduce the backlog.
Could you please tell me the name of the private sector company, and the cost of this so far.
Could you also provide the name of the external company/consultants which carried out the council commissioned review of Planning Services completed in December 2019, and the cost."
I'll let you know if I get a response (see update above).
This long-term failure in the planning service is the fault of the corporate management, primarily under the rule of Mark James. However, politically, it was all under the watch of Emlyn Dole and his Plaid and Independent buddies, and they will go out of their way to avoid all accountability.
Sadly this is common practice, in many areas, in both corporate and political circles. As I know full well.
Incidentally my FOI request to the council for correspondence and documents held by the council relating to the Llanelli Wellness Village bribery investigation is now two weeks late.
More on all that, and the former CEO, the bribe-taking liar, thief, and all-round crook Mark James CBE, and friends, in due course.
The council-owned waste company Cwm Environmental Ltd (mentioned above) also pops up on next week's agenda and it seems they are nowhere near settling the insurance claim for the massive fire six months ago. You may recall that the large shed and it's contents of blue recycling bags was razed to the ground.
In fact, searching questions are currently being asked by the insurers, so Cwm are not even in a position to make the claim yet.
The council are now providing Cwm, their own company, with the convenience of a million pound, 12 month short-term loan to tide them over until the insurance cash comes in, unless of course they are found to have been negligent...
The council must be awash with cash.
Finally, I have noticed that the 'Executive Board' is no more...well actually it's still there, it's just been renamed as the 'Cabinet', sounds more stately perhaps, pity they're such a dim-witted, twisted bunch.
Update 14th September 2021
The council have come up with a novel way of dealing with the backlog of over 700 planning enforcement cases, seems they're going to simply erase most of them from history.
A new protocol will be approved by a single executive board member on Friday detailing the type of cases which will be binned.