Friday, 4 November 2016

The Bizarre Government of Carmarthenshire County Council

Local Government matters very little to most people unless they are directly affected by its decisions. If your rubbish is not collected, your local school is threatened with closure or a large development planned next to your back garden you may take notice, lobby your councillors and even find out how to formally object. Otherwise, most people don't even vote in local elections. When your local council is a body renowned for bullying, control freaks  and strange decisions, you may not even rush to complain or object.

Carmarthenshire County Council describes itself as one of the best Councils in Wales.We certainly have cupboards full of impressive awards for various aspects of local government, usually requiring formal applications and awarded by local government organisations or periodicals. The important trophies are not visible in County Hall. The Authority's no less outstanding achievements are in the fields of gross injustice, deceit and heroic efforts to hide any embarrassing mistakes, favouritism or incompetence.

When Christopher Salmon, the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner was defeated in the May 2016 elections. He has overseen the police force in all Mid and West Wales counties but one stood out, and he felt it should be mentioned.

"Carmarthenshire County Council. Wales’ answer to a Sicilian cartel. It’s everywhere you look (thankfully only in Carmarthenshire – so far as I can tell). It extracts vast amounts of money from residents which it showers on favourites, hoards property, bullies opponents, co-opts friends and answers to no one, least of all local councillors."

No comment from the County Council who presumably had no reason to dispute it, Neither, as a Carmarthenshire County Councillor, have I. The Council is a large organisation and provides many good services to the community but there is a sinister undertone. I am convinced that the elected members are not running the show. I am a member of only one scrutiny committee which I have sat on since 2008. Successive chairpersons chairpersons have explained to me that I am not allowed to suggest items for the Agenda as the officers do all that. Councillors have little or no real input or control .Austerity cuts in Carmarthenshire include cutting back democracy. My committee only meets bimonthly now instead of monthly to "save money." This limits our opportunity for discussion, however futile, and also leads to overloaded agendas and late reports, limiting the quality of the scrutiny of those matters we are allowed to look at..,,

One of my greatest frustrations as a Councillor is being unable to help people who seem genuinely harshly treated by the local authority. I am often approached by local voters, some from other wards desperate to get help for a variety of issues. Sometimes I can help, Many times I can't and hit the agonising barriers of denial, delayed or absent responses to queries, strange and sometimes varying explanations and too often a character assassination of the complainant whose lack of insight, inaction or over sensitivity have, it is suggested, caused the whole problem.

It can be hard representing the people among those with more pressing agendas. My unfortunate habit of putting forward motions to council highlighting our problems was blocked by all the political groups agreeing that motions required a proposer and 7 seconders instead of one. They correctly realised that my finding 7 other councillors from the 74 willing to show any dissent in public was impossible.Numerous complaints have been made about me to the Ombudsman by the chief executive, none upheld. Snubs and nasty remarks by fellow councillors fail to penetrate my now very thick skin. In an atmosphere of bullying and questionable decisions I can't blame other councillors for keeping their heads down and their eyes shut.

I rarely use my council email account since I discovered proof that it was being monitored and read. I have had no written explanation of why this has happened. A verbal comment from the monitoring officer suggested a legal reason but she has been unable to say what it was. It is an issue with me, not only for my own privacy but more so to protect my voters from having their emails to me read and monitored. In the area of a council which funded its Chief Executive to successfully sue a blogger for libel for calling him Pinocchio, I do not wish complaints sent to me confidentially to be routinely viewed by others.

armarthenshire was assessed by the Welsh Local Government Association and advised in future to be more open and transparent. The 7 seconder rule was dropped, some meetings are routinely filmed and the public can ask questions to specific meetings, but only in person. The ethos of the Council has not changed, unortunately.
Our recycling record is one thing our council can truly be proud of.

If the dictatorship had truly transformed the County and improved the lives and prospects of the majority of residents it would still be morally tainted but have at least given the area something tangible in return.

However, giving out sweeties to developers, friends of friends and hiding the disasters without delivery of public benefit is the worst of all worlds.Since all the bad things are, according to CCC and if they are noticed, someone else's fault [varying from Mrs Jones at no 52 to the UK Prime Minister] the misgovernment and injustice will continue. In fact the moaning public are regarded as the problem and more brain washing is the preferred solution.

One major criticism of the major political parties in Wales is the primary quest for "Power" even when "holding power" is not often accompanied by the demonstrable wielding of power for the public good.The current Carmarthenshire Council Leader, Plaid's Emlyn Dole, is fond of quotes.

There is a good old fashioned Winston Churchill quote which probably describes best the elected members in Carmarthenshire County Council, (although of course women are included these days.)

“Some men change their party for the sake of their principles; others their principles for the sake of their party.”


Unfortunately for our residents most Councillors appear to be in the later group. As long as the majority of Carmarthenshire Council's elected members can be manipulated to shelve the common good for party and/or personal advantage, the farce will continue.

 Siân Caiach

5 comments:

  1. Perhaps everyone should call him pinnochio. It will soon get the message and realise that suing a blogger was perhaps the wrong thing as what she called him was actually true.

    On a more serious note, how the heck can we remove this virus?

    Officer led maybe, but those spineless councillors must now be contemplating their future given the amount of press this matter is receiving. There is an opportunity to clear the deadwood next year which the population needs to grasp and ensure councillors represent their constituents and not for self-serving (sorry, james') agendas, driven by the witches of AberTrimsaren.

    Only then, with genuine people in positions of power will Carmarthenshire be able to rid itself of this pinochio character.

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  2. I’ve tried to ask a question in full Council addressed to Leader Emlyn Dole but it doesn’t qualify as the head of Law, Linda Rees Jones, explains:
    "Your question is to do with the enforcement of an Order for Damages awarded by the High Court to Mark James personally,
    and the subject matter of your question therefore belongs to that personal litigation, which the Council cannot dictate or influence."
    So although all the elected decision makers, the executive actively and the other councillors passively, and all the investigative agents - Wales Audit Office, Welsh Local Government Association, CCC’s Counsel Mr Kerr, etc. think that the damages were agreed to be returned to the Council, in theory, Mr James can act independently and collect the damages by whichever way he chooses. This is the law.
    His choice is personal but surely if the Leader of Council asked him not to force the sale of Mrs Thompson’s home he should comply? If we are getting the money anyway why should the Council make a family homeless? If Mr James wishes to use the money in other ways, a lot of people have been misled, especially the Executive Board who approved the libel counter claim on the understanding that any damages would not be retained or disposed of by Mr James.
    It is of course possible that Cllr Dole actually wishes to make an example of Mrs Thompson , but more likely he is very satisfied with his position as leader and too scared to risk that by actually dealing with the situation by showing real leadership and "influence".

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  3. I have posted a petition to the welsh government to hold full investigation into CCC actions. Apathy reigns three signatures
    when last I checked,

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  4. Didn't know about your petition, Elderly Neil. Will sign it immediately and share as widely as possible!

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  5. there is no petition.

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