Monday, 25 January 2010

Who's taking the decisions?

Carmarthenshire’s Plaid Councillors have demanded to know who’s taking decisions in the county and when. This follows the apparent implementation of a decision by the council’s leaders before the decision was actually taken. Plaid Cllr Marie Binney asked in the council meeting on 9th December whether free parking would be allowed in council-run car parks during the run up to Christmas, as had been the case in previous years.

Cllr Binney said, “I was delighted to be told that the council’s leaders had agreed to provide free parking again this year, starting on the 10th December for two weeks. Then, just after Christmas, I read the minutes of the Executive Board for their meeting on 14th December, and discovered that the decision wasn’t actually taken until that meeting. Put simply, the decision appears to have been implemented four days before it was actually taken!

“I then discovered that the decision was reported in the latest edition of the Council’s propaganda sheet, Community News. Now that paper went to print on 25th November, and I understand that items have to be ready some 10 days before that, so that they can be translated and set out etc. So, who actually took the decision and when? On whose authority was the story included in Community News, and on whose authority did the council stop charging for car parking on 10th December?

“Whilst I think the decision taken was the right one, I am seriously concerned that the council has either acted illegally by implementing a decision in advance of the meeting, or else has acted illegally by taking decisions in secret without proper notice. Plaid have expressed our concerns to the Chief Executive and asked for a full explanation.”

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Missing the obvious

Carmarthenshire county council is failing to properly plan for the increasing costs of an ageing population, claimed Plaid Cllr David Jenkins. Cllr Jenkins has raised a series of detailed questions about the council’s financial position, including the reasons for a significant overspend on services for the elderly.

Cllr Jenkins said, “There is plenty of data available indicating that the population is ageing, but the council appears not to have adequately allowed for that in its budget. When I queried this, I was told that the council did indeed try to estimate for this, but had underestimated the costs. Worst of all, they actually told me that they have got it wrong every year for the past few years – they seem not to be learning from previous mistakes.

“The fact that the council has regularly and consistently under-estimated the growth of the elderly population in the county is also relevant in the context of their proposals to close care homes. It is crazy to talk about reducing the provision of care homes when they have effectively admitted that they do not really know how many people will need them, but

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Council unprepared for winter weather

Plaid Cymru in Carmarthenshire have strongly criticised the county council over the lack of preparedness for the recent snow and ice. Rural areas in particular have been badly hit as the council has concentrated all its efforts on the county’s main roads, and completely ignored other routes.

Plaid’s group leader, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, said, “Carmarthenshire is a very rural county; most of the county’s road network is in rural areas. Yet the council seems to have had little or no concern for the needs of people in those rural areas, and roads through villages across the county have been ignored, making life extremely difficult for local residents. Of course there’s a cost involved, but in principle, it’s a fairly simple matter to grit minor roads as well as major ones. The county seems to be interested only in looking after the towns and ignoring the villages. I am calling for a complete review of the council’s policy on gritting, with a view to doing more to keep rural roads passable during periods of snow and ice.”

Monday, 18 January 2010

Forcing change on the council

Carmarthenshire County Council is likely to be compelled to change the way in which it appoints chairs of its committees under a new Measure proposed by the Welsh Government. The Government has been telling authorities for some years now that these posts should be allocated across political parties on a proportional basis, but the ruling Labour/ Independent Party has to date insisted on taking more than its share of posts. The Government is also likely to insist that the chair of the audit committee should be an opposition member, another step which Carmarthenshire has refused to take.

Cllr Gwyn Hopkins from Plaid, said, “It seems as though the council’s Independent and Labour Parties will only change their approach when they are forced to do so. Democracy, of a type implemented in most councils across Wales, will only come to Carmarthenshire when the ruling parties are faced with a statutory requirement. Plaid have consistently argued for many years that posts within the council should be shared out on a fair basis, giving all parties a chance to influence the decision-making process, but Meryl Gravell and her clique have been determined to keep as much power as possible to themselves, and lock Plaid councillors out of all the decision-making processes. We have given them a number of opportunities to follow the advice which the Government has given them, but they have refused on every occasion. Now it seems as though they are going to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into a more democratic and open approach.”

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Call for more detail on youth scheme

Plaid’s councillors in Carmarthenshire have called for more information about a new scheme to encourage children and young people to join “uniformed youth organisations”. The scheme, called Young Dragons, is being piloted in two parts of Wales, namely Blaenau Gwent and Carmarthenshire, but there is currently very little information available.

Plaid’s leader on the council, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, said, “I have asked that more information be presented to the relevant scrutiny committee so that councillors can discuss the scheme. I was told that the council is seeking to include other organisations in the scheme, including the Urdd and the YFCs, and that is a very important point. Those are two of the most important youth organisations in the county – and unlike many other organisations, they operate bilingually as well. That is vitally important in Carmarthenshire. I do not understand why there is an emphasis on ‘uniformed’ organisations, and I have a number of misgivings about that emphasis.”