Thursday, 2 January 2014

2014 kicks off: Next week's agendas

Whilst backbench councillors and observers wait interminably for reports on 'unlawful payments', email 'snooping', consultants fees, ombudsman reports, freedom of information requests and the like, there's no such wait for a public report on the libel proceedings; Jacqueline Thompson v Mark James (1) & Carmarthenshire Council (2) and the counterclaim, James v Thompson.

The report on the agenda for next Monday's Executive Board meeting requires neither a decision, nor a recommendation by the Board although it does mention that I have been granted permission to appeal on one ground relating to the counterclaim. I'll leave you draw your own conclusions concerning the timing and the sudden flash of transparency. Perhaps this is a first and we can look forward to all court cases involving the council given such treatment...

The Wales Audit Office report concerning 'unlawful' payments is due, we hear, mid-January.

I'm not going to comment on the numbered paragraphs in the report as I have already made my views clear, several times. As for the reference to Without Prejudice (not shown to the court) correspondence (No.5), I trust that elected members will be able to see all the communications, from both parties, when they receive "a fuller report of the outcome of the whole proceedings" as there are issues concerning this correspondence which I believe they will find surprising.

The agenda for next Wednesday 's full council meeting has also been published and includes the minutes of the Executive Board meeting of the 4th December. You may recall that this was the meeting where, behind tightly closed doors, the begrudging u-turn over the 'unlawful' pension arrangements took place, with the council executive still refusing to admit to the auditor's finding that it was 'intrinsically' unlawful.

Described by opposition councillors as an 'incredible situation' raising a multitude of questions, it will be interesting to see whether those questions will be allowed to be asked next Wednesday. If the recommendations of senior officers to remove all scrutiny of executive decisions, including Executive Board reports, from council agendas goes through (as a cost cutting measure, believe it or not...) then this might be one of the last opportunities they'll get....

We will see, of course, what next Wednesday's webcast brings but there are a couple of other items worth an early mention. Firstly, a 're-structuring' of the decision making process will see all school reorganisation proposals decided by the Executive Board only. This blanket delegation, if approved by full council, will see the future education of Carmarthenshire's children placed squarely in the hands of a couple of senior officers, the Executive Board being the rubber stamp.

The second point concerns the recommendation by the Democratic Services committee that there should be no reduction in the number of council and committee meetings. Full council should not allow itself to be sweet talked into disagreeing with the Committee's recommendation; the proposal to reduce meetings is not about 'saving money' but a further attack on the ability of elected members to scrutinise executive decisions and those taken by senior officers.

The last item worth a mention concerns the All Wales Communicable Disease policy. Carmarthenshire has drawn up its own 'local strategy' and, in the event of a plague of pestilence, all junior staff and members of the public (who may have strayed in) will be immediately ejected from County Hall and an electrified force field automatically raised around the inner sanctum. Champagne and caviar will be stockpiled from now on to ensure the survival of the ruling junta, and if it turns out that any of the chosen few are not yet 'born again', a special red telephone will be installed for direct communication with the Towy Community Church.

Happy New Year. .  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Caebrwyn for raising awareness and providing information on agenda items. I hope that the New Year will bring about much needed positive change in CCC but I best not hold my breathe.