Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Carmarthenshire Senior Councillors - Are they worth it?

How much are our Carmarthenshire Senior Councillors worth? Well, according to them, a lot. They are, the Executive Board say, at the same level of responsibility as MP's and AM's and imply they should be paid accordingly, presumably in the region of 50-60k . So they rejected the recommendation on pay from Welsh Government, a document limiting the number of the highest paid Councillors and their salaries which suggested a modest pay cut..
The Councils's Executive is claiming that the Independent Remuneration Panel Wales was not Independent at all as they had received a letter from a WAG minister in 2015 and should therefore be ignored..

Spot the talent!

Looking at this letter, actually in an addendum attached to the report, it seems rather vague and simply reminds the panel of the general financial situation .Correspondence with the IRPW I've had since we Councillors were assured they were clearly a dodgy outfit, not surprisingly confirms that IRPW believes itself to be independent., Also that letters from ministers are routine, not an exceptional event as we were told in full council. Carmarthenshire Councillors supported the executive and voted to keep their current pay levels.If the IRPW advice was taken, a number of the executive board Councillors would be reduced to 23,000. The County Council have decided to resist this change and the status quo remains. Salaries before tax, NI and pension deductions are listed at the end of this article.

Other expenses are also usually larger for the better paid who tend to travel more, may need a personal car and driver, and attend events at Council Expense

What are the qualifications for the top jobs such as, Exec board, planning committee etc?. The civic appointments are in the gift of the Parties who take turn to nominate a trusted and loyal member as deputy chair who then becomes chair the following year. There is never a proper election for the posts. The other appointments are mysterious and usually seem to require little more than a great affection for the status quo and a willingness to grovel to the political

Over the years I've seen plenty of people from all parties here trapped in the web lured by pathetic privileges, titles and, of course, extra money, usually actually encouraged and appointed by their own parties. They present themselves as naive with good intentions at first, but soon learn the talents of spin and end up sounding like they are reading off a script issued by someone else, and one suspects they may have indeed given up the troublesome habit of speaking for themselves. Once you get used to extra money its hard to give it up and you may do questionable things just to keep in the club.
Other Councillors are rated as harmless,backbench,cannon fodder and generally ignored and the few troublemakers like me just generally harassed,dismissed as lunatics and eccentrics and occasionally bear the brunt of some unpleasant disincentives in the hope that we will go away eventually and leave the poor council to function without any serious criticism.

The CEO I'm told, apparently arranges the political coalition deals and may even suggest to groups who their leaders should be. This may be true or just another well learnt recitation to absolve Senior Councillors from blame for their more dubious actions. Its said that the corruptible may be attracted to power,my theory is that they are actively recruited here by those who can pick the most greedy and suggestible out of the pack and exploit them to the hilt. When Labour changed their leader to someone with a few principles they were out of power in no time and Plaid put in.
Are they worth it? Should they fret that they are not getting enough? Most of them are getting another income as well, either from other employment or retirement pensions, reflecting their tendency to be middle aged or elderly. Large salaries aresupposed to attract young people as councillors but at least here few younger councillors get any promotion at all to the big bucks.

We are now instructed to produce annual reports, given a template which can be filled in for us listing our committees, outside appointments and attendance in council. Are these the important things when the Council is run by a small clique, scrutiny committees do very little real scrutiny and most ordinary Councillors make very little contribution to policy or action other than supporting political group policy.? I wonder if a list of major council policy decisions in our reports together with which way we voted would give a better insight. On the other hand how many people will actually check their Councillor's annual report online?

Current salaries, for the record, are therefore just as last year's:-

Leader 48,000
Deputy leaders [2] 31,250
Other executive Councillors [7] 29,000
Chairs of committees [7] 22,000
Leader of the opposition [1] 22,000
Civic Chair of Council [1] 21,500
Deputy Civic Chair [1] 16,000
Ordinary Councillors [54 ]13,300

The pay recommendations would have led to some executive board members dropping a few thousand pounds from their salaries, Fat chance!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

How we did on the Mid and West list

Having now dug up the figures I can report that we took 1,496 votes on the list, mainly in Llanelli and the rest of Carmarthenshire which is unsurprising as we couldn't afford leaflets for the whole area but did cover most of Carmarthenshire. Our total vote in the whole mid and west area - Dyfed, Powys and South Gwynedd came to 0.7 % , as we'd never stood before, a technical 0.7% gain.
As our next project is to get County Councillors elected next year I hope all these new voters will remember us fondly. Here is the List Team:-

 As we couldn't all be in one place at the same time due to work, illness  and family commitments we did these publicity photo's separately. Above, is myself with Wayne Erasmus and Cllr Marie Binney at Park Howard, below with our other list candidates Stephen Bowen and Clem Thomas in Dafen,Llanelli.

Many thanks not only to all our supporters and those who voted for us but also to the many people who received us graciously on the doorstep and in hustings. Apart from the mysterious disappearance of field posters there were no nasty incidents and well done to all the parties for their good natured and mature campaigns.

  Siân Caiach, 

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Elections-minority opinion

Elections are always interesting and sometimes surprising to me but them I've been interested in politics since my teens. The truth is that a great number of people don't vote and aren't that interested.They don't see elections as relevant to their lives. In many cases they are probably right.

In Llanelli the"final" results were:

Labour             10,416
Plaid                   9,883
UKIP                  4,233
Conservative      1.886
People First        1,112
Greens                  427
Lib Dems              355

We had 3 recounts, all of which had different results but all favoured Labour. In the third recount 100 votes not belonging to UKIP were found in the UKIP bundles, 50 for Plaid and 50 for Labour, I believe. The returning officer argued that as Plaid were still behind we should stop now and Plaid agreed.I was left thinking of exactly how accurate are the results are everywhere else? After all if they are not close, they are never checked.

As we had only 4% of the total votes cast, we lost our deposit along with the LibDems and the Greens. I don't yet have the regional list results as my duties on the school run meant I couldn't wait until 9.30 am for those results. I'll post them later.

 However, if the number of postal leaflet drops are anything to go by Labour, Plaid and the Conservatives spent at least 20 times what we did in Llanelli, just on leaflets, and we certainly spent nothing on busing in support and celebrity visits. Plaid Cymru must have spent a bit on their Spring Conference in Llanelli as well, which of course is not strictly an election expense. Many thanks to all who contributed to our campaign with time, money and good wishes.

However, for us the publicity has provided new helpers,new members and more local people's problems we can try to address. We have barely time to take breath before our next election - a Comuunity Council  By election in Hendy Carmarthenshire on May 19th,  prompted by a resignation of a current member in the face of the Llanedi Council's financial difficulties. Our candidate there is local resident and campaigner Wayne Erasmus.

 Siân Caiach