Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Sacred Parchments

Further to my Freedom of Information request and earlier post, 'Mrs T - request register of members' interests' I duly visited County Hall last Friday. I (and an assistant) spent a very claustrophobic hour or two in a small overheated office under the close and ever vigilant eye of Mr Colin Davies, Democratic Services Manager, or 'Mr D' as I am sure he'd like to be known. Maybe Mr D was fearful that I would tamper with the sacred parchments or perhaps he thought I was feeding the next release of wikileaks cables. I was, of course, interested in the more 'influential' Members, for want of a better word. He had nothing to fear, the register was rather sterile and the information skeletal and cosmetic. There was an mass declaration of an 80p cup of tea at Pembrey Airport a couple of years ago, just so we know how diligent and honest they are. As you may imagine, the Council has also been generously providing Members with free tickets to Parc Y Scarlets and the hospitality box, with numerous declarations of visits and receptions, similarly Ffos Las was also a popular venue for those who like a flutter on the horses, you may remember recent comments from the Leader Meryl Gravell who vowed to do 'everything in her power' to ensure the privately owned venue succeeded... The only other items of interest were little gifts of silk scarves and boxes of tea from a mysterious and unpublicised meeting with a Chinese delegation back in August, Y Cneifiwr has explored several theories on this here.

I cannot imagine why this register is not online (like Swansea and Pembrokeshire) and only remains accessible by strict appointment, and, as it now appears, under guard - quite enough to deter only the most resolute members of the public. Also, as many decisions made by this increasingly officer-led council do not come anywhere near an elected member (or only to the unquestionably loyal) it's all a bit immaterial as the role of the majority of Members becomes less influential in direct proportion to the frequency with which the constitution is undemocratically amended.

Of course, the intricacies and grey areas of the rules of declaration, particularly when it comes to the business lobby can often become a bit blurred, as the 'back door' encounters between Number 10 and Rupert Murdoch recently proved, many meetings/lunch/quiet chats can always, if they want them to be, classed as 'private' so, shh, no need to mention....

I was quite amused to note the next 'consultation' announced by the Council involves the registration of lap-dancing clubs and the like - not that there is a single one in Carmarthenshire. But I wouldn't like to speculate on who the next 'partner' organisation of our council will be. Of course that would then necessitate important 'site visits' by whoever was unfortunate to land a seat on the Licensing Committee and they would then have to endure similar sacrifices to their English counterparts....

In my efforts to encourage interest in the wondrous workings of Carmarthenshire democracy,  I would like to remind everyone that there is a full council meeting on Wednesday 7th December, 10 o'clock, County Hall. Don't forget to arrive in plenty of time so that you can be monitored, escorted, strip searched and electronically tagged. (I am joking about the last far) 

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