Saturday, 20 May 2017

Agenda; Carmarthenshire Council AGM

The agenda has now been published for the council's AGM, which will be held on Wednesday (24th) at 11am. Act One of the proceedings is entirely missable and involves the pomp and nonsense of swapping chains of office in front of several guests in military fancy dress. Following that, the Chair of Council and Leader are 'elected'. Like children taking it in turns to sit in the front seat of the car (mine used to 'shotgun' it) each group takes it in turns to be Chair each year. This year it's the Independent Group's turn with Cllr Irfon Jones taking the front seat (although we all know who the driver is).
Subject to any post-election surprises or subterfuge and anyone else being nominated, Cllr Dole is likely to be re-elected as leader of the council.

Things become slightly more interesting after lunch, in Act Two, when the Executive Board is announced (see my comment below previous post here), and the lucrative (£22,100) posts of committee Chairs are divvied up.

All but one of the 'new' Chairs up for nomination are councillors re-elected on May 4th, the one interesting exception being newcomer, and deputy leader of the Labour group Cllr Rob James (Lab) who up for the post of Chair of the Democratic Services Committee. Alun Lenny (Plaid) will return as Chair of the Planning Committee.

One of the annual items for the AGM is to approve changes to the constitution. This bit always interests Caebrwyn, since a few years ago when buried deep within the unread pile of documents was an alarming and unlawful addition to provide indemnities to sue...

This time round there's a little backward step via a change to the time limit to submit questions, motions, petitions etc by the public and councillors. All will have to be on the chief executive's desk a full seven working days before the meeting (not including the day it's received, nor the meeting day itself), some used to be a straight five days.

All in all, once you've factored in a bank holiday or two and possible rejection on spurious legal grounds, it's probably best to start preparing your question a good six months prior to a meeting...

The decision a couple of years ago, enthusiastically promoted by the chief executive, to remove urgent business and to list all committee minutes 'for noting' at full council, effectively removed any spontaneous, and therefore uncomfortable questions from the public glare. The plan was for councillors to put formal, vetted, questions forward, days in advance, based on the minutes of committees. In practice this rarely happens and it doesn't help that sometimes the minutes 'for noting' are not even available, as I noticed at the last full council with regards to the Audit Committee minutes. The delay in publishing minutes has been solved by a get-out amendment adding the word 'normally';

Due to Welsh Government legislation there will no longer be substitutes on the planning committee. For purposes of probity this is probably a good idea. The rather fluid arrangement whereby a member can duck out of a meeting (for a multitude of reasons...) to be replaced by his or her nominated, and suitably primed, substitute is an area open to abuse, not that that would happen in Carms of course...

Another little gem is about to be immortalised in the constitution and that concerns the filming of meetings by the public, a controversial topic at the best of times. Those councillors who included a drive for 'transparency', less control-freakery, and all that jazz in their election leaflets might want to raise an objection to the bit marked in red?

Caebrwyn was disappointed that yet again there is no removal of the illegal libel indemnity clause mentioned above. It remains suspended for the third year running due to the intransigence of Mark James and his legal rubber stamp Linda Rees Jones; you'd almost think their jobs depended on it.... It will clearly remain as a lasting memorial to local government idiocy and unlawfulness, or perhaps it's just easier to leave it there...less of a palaver to 'unsuspend' it perhaps, should they want to sue someone. Caebrwyn will continue to push for its complete removal and challenge the implications of it all, even if it forms part of my last will and testament...


It's perhaps worth remembering what the Welsh Government had to say on the matter, let alone the Wales Audit Office;
" terms of the situation in Carmarthenshire, we as a Government have said that it is not right to provide any sort of indemnity in terms of what has happened there.." 
First Minister Carwyn Jones, June 2014


Anonymous said...

Also of concern is the amendment to Part 5.6 - PROTOCOL FOR COMMUNICATIONS WITH ELECTED MEMBERS
“The Council provides email to assist employees and elected members in the performance of their jobs and no personal use of email is permitted.
now changes to:
“Staff and members are provided with Authority e-mail addresses for conducting Council business and personal addresses should not be used.
So the policy goes from the personal use of email being prohibited to “should not be used” This enables any unscrupulous officers or councillors to use private email addresses to communicate with one another and there will be no record. How does it fit in with cllr Dole’s mantra of making the Council “the most open and transparent Council in Wales.”? Makes you wonder why such a change is necessary and who will benefit from it.

Teifion said...

Dole is given responsibility for running a tap even ?

Someone up there is havin'a larf at the expense of the people of carmarthenshire (or maybe Plaid Cymru doesn't want power in Cardiff for a few years as things are going to get REALLY tough with the continuing cuts from London and want someone to blame ?)