Saturday, 2 January 2016

Capital priorities

This week's Herald takes a look at the Council's five year capital programme, up for the consultation stage at Monday's Executive Board meeting, I've mentioned it myself once or twice over recent weeks.

The programme includes £5.7m to modernise and rebuild the primary school in Trimsaran (the figure includes match funding from the Welsh Government). What is unusual about this is that according to the school's website it is currently operating around 50% under-capacity.

The usual pattern in such cases, even those with less surplus places than this, is for the council to decide that these schools are 'unsustainable' and either close the school completely and ferry children to other schools miles away, or merge/federate to cut overheads. We are well aware of this trend in the Llandovery area.

The main aim of the Modernising Education Policy has not been to modernise schools, but to remove surplus places. The scattering of shiny new schools has been largely for the benefit of the army of consultants and 'preferred developers' involved in the process - the money to run them is quite another thing and, if the £18m cuts to schools goes ahead, there'll be even less.

But back to Trimsaran and The Herald continues;
"Whilst nobody begrudges the children of Trimsaran the chance to learn in a shiny new school, some have wondered why other (and full) schools struggle to get so much as a new loo fitted when a school operating at barely half stretch receives so much money.

Former Council leader and current Exec Board Member for Regeneration and Leisure, Meryl Gravell is the current county councillor for Trimsaran"

Incidentally, at a full council meeting in 2008, with the process to close over forty village schools well underway, Meryl Gravell, leader of the council and holder of an OBE, launched an attack on councillors who "exhibit extreme weakness and are prepared to listen to people protesting about school closures out there in the community". (my underline)

The Herald article also mentions the planned new Llanelli Leisure Centre and the capital programme indicates that the council will be contributing rather more than councillors were originally told. The council's commitment now stands at £12m with previously promised external funding now, in cold reality, reduced to ifs and maybes.

With the Leisure department in the process of being outsourced, I'm sure the external providers lining up to take over these services will be delighted with the burgeoning amount of public money being invested...

Let's hope this latest vision doesn't become a continuing drain on the taxpayer as we have seen with the Parc Y Scarlets Stadium and, as the Herald reminds us, the chief executive's other expensive baby, the Boston Stadium, for which the taxpayers of Lincolnshire still count the cost.

With millions more committed to a 'Transformation Commercial Property Development Fund' and the even more intangible sounding 'Transformation Strategy Project Fund', it's notable that only £250,000 per year has been earmarked for highway resurfacing and road safety in each of the next five years with the capital investment actually required currently running at £18m.

A 'Highways' Update' report appears on a scrutiny agenda for the 11th January and paints a bleak picture of the county's roads with 11.9% currently classed as 'poor' and the £54m backlog of repairs predicted to worsen. Highway maintenance is also facing a three year revenue cut of £1.2m.

The 'finger's-crossed' plan is to change how roadworks are prioritised. A 'Network Hierarchy' will be formulated with a 'scoring matrix' based on use and 'strategic importance'. This may seem a logical use of limited resources, but with much of Carmarthenshire classed as rural, in practice only the larger towns will have their roads properly maintained, whilst the rural hinterland (apart from Trimsaran perhaps...) will see little or no improvement for years to come.

Still, whilst we have 'Transformation Strategies', more shiny-but-empty office blocks and white elephants dotted around the county, who needs roads? Let's be honest, when it comes to County Hall photo-shoots, fixing potholes and making our roads safer never offers quite the same glamour.


Anonymous said...

The Highways issue is an interesting one - Pembrokeshire needs Carmarthenshire to deliver tourists safely. Although the roads will soon become a highly contrasted one, ones that have traffic light systems already installed and there for god-knows-how-many- years and then roads that are so poor they randomly cause car crashes every year. Ho Ho Ho, be careful out there folks

Anonymous said...

A new school in Trimaran? £4.5M? Cheap at 1/2 the price!

Let me guess, theres an election looming.

Would be a lot cheaper to publish and actively promote the failings of the pompous gravel to her constituents and make sure the self serving narcissistic ignorant deplorable women can never ever be elected again. I wouldn't trust her to run a tap.

Anonymous said...

Well, that's certainly saying how it is Anon @ 11.57! I think, however, that you could add to the list of her qualities is "what she lacks in intelligence she makes up for with cunning".....

Anonymous said...

No wonder Mark James has been able to hold on to his position as a despot.His loyal servant Meryl Grovel has insured that. What a dreadful woman she is.