Jacob Williams
Wednesday 16th December, 2015

In the bleak midwinter

In the bleak midwinter

Thursday’s Christmas council meeting was quite a day to remember.

You can’t say us south-county opposition members don’t do our bit for the environment – Cllrs. Phil Baker, Mike Evans and I shared a car.

We had barely disembarked before the chairman, Cllr. Wynne Evans, greeted us in the car park with some shock news.

Unfortunately for Scleddau residents he didn’t bring glad tidings of great joy.

It was the revelation that Cllr. Owen James had joined the IPPG.

Little did any of us know that this bombshell would set the tone for the rest of an eventful day.

Inside, I saw Cllr. James and asked him if it was true that he’d signed up to the council’s deeply unpopular ruling party – and if so, why.

He confirmed, saying that nobody else would speak to him, he may as well sit among those who would, and that he didn’t need to justify himself to me.

Questions from his Scleddau ward constituents might not be so easy to fend off.

Elected as a Tory in 2008, Cllr. James served as a Conservative group member until the 2012 election where he was re-elected with a second slim majority.

This time, though, despite seeking election under their banner, Cllr. James refused to join the council’s Conservative group, sitting until last week as an unaffiliated councillor like yours truly.

Cllr. James’ ways could be bizarre to say the least. Often pro-establishment, occasionally anti-establishment, it’s a difficult record to analyse.

In 2013 he formed a pact with the IPPG who elevated him to a national park seat. Prior to this, unaffiliated members had a gentleman’s agreement that committee placements for unaffiliated members – which are appointed by full council – would be agreed among us, avoiding a contest by putting only one name forward.

The agreement had been for Saundersfoot’s Cllr. Phil Baker to be the Uglies’ national park nominee.

However Cllr. James departed from the custom and got himself nominated by – of all people – the former Conservative group leader Cllr. Stan Hudson, whose performance as leader he lambasted and cited as one of his reasons, post-election, for refusing to join the Conservative group.

With the Conservatives’ support and the IPPG’s block vote behind him, he sailed.

Cllr. Baker fared no better against Cllr. James in a 2014 rerun but our Owen met a sticky end at this year’s AGM when Cllr. Mike Evans went up against him as the unaffiliateds’ candidate.

If Cllr. James wants his national park seat back as an IPPG member, that’s a matter entirely for its leader and conductor of the PCC gravy train, Cllr. Jamie Adams.

But even those who look for the best in people wonder why Cllr. James would time his ruling party enrolment to coincide with yet another of its troughs of popularity.

Many more than that find his explanation – that he wanted to sit among the more talkative likes of the eloquent Cllr. David Neale – even harder to believe.

In my previous blogpost I previewed some of the meeting’s highlights:

It came upon the webcast clear…

My bid for the council to retain archived webcasts past the current twelve-month cut-off was somewhat fudged by the leader’s successful amendment to send it back to the corporate governance committee.

I argued – as did others – that the facility is excellent and meetings shouldn’t be deleted after a year, and suggested an alternative method of saving past meetings for posterity of uploading the recordings to YouTube.

A commenter to this website has pointed out that the officers’ contention that to do so may invoke copyright issues – which I and others have slammed as nonsensical – is, indeed, fantasy.

The council’s legal officers don’t need to believe me or my website contributors, though. Its in black and white – in the webcasting provider’s terms and conditions.

Fairytale of new webcasts…

There was a big kick in the guts for leader Cllr. Jamie Adams with my ultimately successful proposal to webcast cabinet meetings – something he really wanted to avoid.

Cabinet meets in the committee rooms leaving basically two ways of achieving my proposal: either cabinet can meet in the council chamber to make use of the existing facility, or the committee rooms can be fitted out with webcasting equipment.

The officers’ report on my proposal said it would cost £12k installing webcasting equipment in the committee rooms and £2k per year for the service thereafter.

Whilst I could justify this sort of expenditure I can understand why some councillors couldn’t. On that basis I proposed that cabinet should meet in the council chamber.

It would be no upheaval and wouldn’t cost a penny. But not if you listened to some!

When this proposal was given an airing at the committee stage two weeks ago, the leader was against it but for no good reason.

All he could muster was that meeting in the council chamber would create a poor ‘dynamic’ and his 8-strong (weak?) team would be ‘swimming’ about in the cavernous chamber.

But he had the benefit of a fortnight to come up with some better arguments.

He didn’t.

Those familiar with the IPPG know that, when in a sticky situation they’ll look for any opportunity to avoid tackling the matter head-on.

On my previous proposal to retain webcast archives they used a trick as old as the bible – to refer it back to a committee to “iron out” any perceived or imaginary issues. This technique is commonly referred to as kicking a motion into the long grass, or, at best, kicking the can down the road.

Even the crème de la Kremlin didn’t have the nerve to suggest a second committee referral was the best way of putting off my cabinet webcasting proposal.

Fortunately my moles had provided me information that, at the IPPG’s secret pre-council meeting, during the discussion of how they would handle this debate, the prospect of a cabinet roadshow cropped up.

My moles may not have realised the significance of this revelation but I could smell it a mile off. This was their star argument, basically, that if we adopted my proposal which would commit cabinet to meet in the council chamber on webcam, they wouldn’t have the freedom to consider holding cabinet meetings in village halls throughout the county.

And so it came to pass!

Predictably, without being able to rely on good old fashioned grounds like “this will cost too much money,” the cabinet roadshow argument made its appearance. But that wasn’t the only “issue” the leader said he had with my proposal.

Cllr. Adams said that having to walk a few metres further down the corridor – or closer, depending on where they came from in County Hall – to the chamber rather than the committee rooms, could inhibit council officers’ access to cabinet meetings to give members their expertise.

I’m not making this stuff up – but the leader clearly was!

Although easy to dismiss, this was a startling point worthy of closer scrutiny.

What Cllr. Adams said was as clear an admission you’ll ever hear – of something we all know anyway – that he (and his ruling party) is reliant on officers drawing up IPPG policies. He said that by holding cabinet meetings in the committee rooms, they have:

“…officers in and out of the room as we conduct cabinet these days, and there is a proper opportunity for accountability to be considered, with heads of service or indeed members of staff from lower down the tier within the authority, who have developed policy, to come and, er… [hesitates] …that cabinet can effectively question the developers of those policy (sic) before that is implemented by the decision-making process.”

This ‘argument’ might not have sounded so feeble had I proposed cabinet relocates to the ladies’ loos or the caretaker’s broom cupboard. And I would suggest that scrutiny of officers is not what anybody is likely to have seen if they’ve ever attended a cabinet meeting.

As for the public holding him and his cabinet to account, Cllr. Adams clearly didn’t want to facilitate that by convening in front of the cameras in full view of all and sundry, and confusingly flipped this around by suggesting meeting like this would amount to “shying away!”

“There’s no reason why cabinet has to be held at County Hall,” Cllr. Adams said. “I would like to give some consideration to giving people of the county […] the opportunity to observe cabinet in their environment rather than shying away behind a camera in County Hall.”

As you can see, Cllr. Adams’ scatter-gun approach to opposing this motion meant that not only were the arguments incredibly weak, but very inconsistent.

For instance, on the one hand he stressed how convenient it was for council officers to slip in and out of cabinet meetings to contribute to debate and scrutiny, failing to take account of the hindrance – and cost – the same would incur, should cabinet hit the road and meet across the county.

He also referred to the committee room system as having “a dynamic that is not lost on me or other members of the cabinet.”

This is taken as a reference to the chamber’s elevated public gallery which is further from the action than the committee room setup.

However the chamber can easily accommodate members of the public alongside the cabinet, as you can see from this photo I took a couple of years ago from the gallery:

Chamber

The leader has been in post for over three years. As several councillors wondered aloud, it was strange, then, that he had never thought about going out on a cabinet roadshow – or in his words “bringing the democratic process to people” – until now, when faced with televising his and his colleagues’ deliberations, or lack thereof.

Nobody can scrape the barrel quite like our Jamie. His former deputy, Cllr. Rob Lewis, has plenty of barrel-scraping experience – and can come close – but even he could see the ‘cabinet roadshow’ argument collapse into a heap on the chamber floor before him.

Cllr. Lewis said he couldn’t support my proposal because it would be “dabbling around the edges.” Instead, he actually wanted to webcast the planning committee and scrutiny committees, hinting at even more by concluding: “either all or nothing!”

These people will stop at nothing!

In a similar vein Cllr. Huw George thought I was being “shy” by restricting the expansion of webcasting to just cabinet, and there was a bit of disappointment that Cllr. Michael John failed to lend his support for similar reasons.

A third cabinet member, Cllr. Keith Lewis, took a similar approach, saying the sensible thing would be to perhaps wait and see if anything comes from the Welsh Assembly, and that we may ultimately “embrace a far more radical move.”

Yet when it came to the vote Keith supported me! To be fair to the council’s deputy leader, whilst he did say he would “not be able to support” my proposal before his U-turn, he also admitted that he did have a “temptation to go along with” it.

No doubt the temptation ramped up during the recorded vote when he could see how much support it attracted.

Cllr. Ken Rowlands plumbed new depths with his suggestion that not all councillors are comfortable speaking in front of a camera.

He said “there are people in this chamber who are not really happy – they aren’t in their comfort zone – when they are being recorded,” before giving the lecture on how they may still be great ward councillors, ending on the note “actions speak louder than words!”

A sacked cabinet member himself, famously self-styled ‘The Voice of Johnston,’ Cllr. Rowlands will have to learn to accept mine and others’ lack of sympathy for Pembrokeshire’s £29k per year voiceless camera-shy cabinet members.

When it came to the vote it was only Cllr. Adams’ core bunch of supporters who toed the line.

This die hard bunch – names such as Cllr. David Neale spring to mind – were thin on the ground as even half of the leader’s eight cabinet members supported its adoption, by a massive majority of 41 votes to 15.

I will add the recorded vote later, until then, this is the list of councillors who voted against webcasting cabinet meetings, all of whom are from the IPPG:

JAMIE ADAMS, DAPHNE BUSH, JOHN DAVIES, HUW GEORGE, BRIAN HALL, UMELDA HAVARD, MIKE JAMES, MICHAEL JOHN, ROB LEWIS, ELWYN MORSE, DAVID NEALE, SUE PERKINS, DAVID REES, KEN ROWLANDS & ARWYN WILLIAMS.

Happy Xmas (war isn’t over)…

Two of my proposals will be dealt with at a future date. One would see the council leader elected by councillors annually at the AGM.

The proposed new constitution is already an improvement on the current arrangement where a leadership term lasts the length of the council. It suggests a two year term instead.

It hasn’t been kicked into the long grass – we’ll get the opportunity to debate a yearly term when the new constitution is adopted.

The other proposal is as good as a done deal, which is my bid to allow members of the public to table questions at council meetings. It’s already been drafted into the new constitution, which as you will read, is to come back to council for adoption early next year.

While shepherds watched chair Stock’s delight…

The leader’s kick in the guts on cabinet webcasting was followed by a kick in the teeth over the remunerated planning committee chairmanship election.

The vacancy arose following Cllr. Myles Pepper’s elevation to the cabinet. It was up for appointment by full council and, as predicted, three ran.

I previously said how my moles had told me that the leader wanted his two members, Cllrs. David Pugh and Tom Richards, to decide between them for only one to stand from the IPPG ranks, so the party could unite behind one man.

Neither backed down so they both joined the Pembrokeshire Alliance’s Cllr. Peter Stock on the ballot.

On the first round of voting Cllr. Pugh was knocked out, leaving Cllr. Stock to face Cllr. Richards in the final.

This gave Jamie an opportunity to realise his wish – for the IPPG to unite. The vote was by taken by ballot so we don’t know the voting figures, but if they did unite behind one man we can say with some certainty it wasn’t Cllr. Richards!

At least some of the IPPG’s members disagree with their leader – that a Cllr. Stock chairmanship would be catastrophic for the planning department – because it was opposition candidate Cllr. Stock who won!

This, despite the ruling group having a handful more councillors present for the vote than all opposition members combined.

Cllr. Pugh went into the race for the £22k position as the planning committee’s unremunerated vice-chair.

Straight after his heavy defeat over the £9k special responsibility allowance he spat his dummy out big style.

Not only did he resign as vice-chair – which would entail sitting through meetings alongside Cllr. Stock – but the committee too!

The planning committee met yesterday for the first time with Cllr. Stock in the chair, who said although it is up to full council to appoint the new vice-chair, he would like it if somebody could sit beside him to assist for the meeting.

Cllr. David Bryan eagerly put himself forward, and moved up to the top table.

Peter clearly possesses a better temperament than Cllr. Pugh – as Cllr. Bryan nominated Pugh for the chairmanship!

I saw three grand go sailing by…

Cllr. Tessa Hodgson proved she’s one to watch when she abruptly halted the chief executive’s proposal to designate a new directorship post.

At a previous meeting – and at Cllr. Hodgson’s instigation – it had been agreed that any changes to or creations of council posts above £100k would have to be discussed by senior staff committee and then full council.

Part of the salary saved by the resignation of the deputy chief executive Ben Pykett who now works for PricewaterhouseCoopers – which incidentally happens to be the same firm the chief executive has now hired to help make savings – is proposed to bump up the chief finance officer to director pay grade and increase another officer’s salary too. Both are, ostensibly, in response to additional duties.

Following a bit of back-and-fore, whilst it was never disputed that it was for full council to make the final decision, it became generally accepted that Cllr. Hodgson was correct to point out that the council’s books say such proposals should first be discussed by senior staff committee, which hadn’t taken place.

The chief executive’s response was somewhat unfortunate, giving the impression that the committee stage had been bypassed as a matter of saving time, rather than what would have been nicer to hear, that the rule had gone unnoticed or forgotten – an entirely plausible scenario given that it was buried in the records of a meeting held long ago.

Cllr. Adams could have pushed for the matter to be dealt with there and then, given his track record of doing what he wants, but to the chief’s credit he suggested that it would be prudent to follow procedure and he wanted it to go to committee first.

Council agreed to his suggestion to receive the proposal following discussion by the senior staff committee, which, if subsequently given the thumbs up, will delay the the officers’ salary increases.

Baby, it’s dark outside…

The long awaited adoption of the council’s new constitution has been postponed.

Discussion on this was brief, consisting of an introduction from the leader who is pleased with the draft but in an ideal world would like to do away with a provision for councillors to take secret votes.

This, in the wake of his bitter disappointment that his man – Cllr. Pugh – failed to win the planning committee chairmanship, taken on a secret vote supported by many of his members who feel this is an appropriate method of electing a senior paid position.

It was suggested, following the opening remarks, that the important process of adopting the constitution and debating any proposals from councillors could be time-consuming.

With a darkening sky outside, there was eventually almost universal agreement that there was no immediate rush to adopt the new constitution seeing as it’s been on the cards for three years, and it would be best for a special council meeting to be held for this purpose, in early 2016.

I look forward to it!

O come all Lee faithful…

I tabled a question to the leader following up one I had asked him last year.

Back then he had responded that he was happy to ‘place on record’ – his own words – that he had no problem with Cllr. Alison Lee serving in his cabinet as an opposition member of council, and that he wouldn’t force her to join his IPPG.

Cllr. Lee had served as an unaffiliated member since October 2014 after she was ejected from Labour when she accepted Cllr. Adams’ offer of a £29k cabinet post.

However the Pembroke Dock member predictably signed up to the IPPG last month after Cllr. Pearl Llewellyn’s resignation cost the IPPG its majority status. This would have had catastrophic consequences for Cllr. Adams and his party had Cllr. Lee not redressed the balance.

This time around I asked the leader if he had had a rethink of his prior pledge after the dire consequences of Cllr. Llewellyn’s resignation had dawned on him.

He said his position remained unchanged.

Readers will be able to decide for themselves if the leader changed his position or not because I dug out his press announcement of Cllr. Lee’s promotion to cabinet, where he was at great pains to emphasise that he “looked forward to working constructively with a Member of the Opposition in the Cabinet.”

I also unearthed the Pembrokeshire Herald’s report following an interview with Cllr. Lee, who said “I will not be joining the Independent Group. Jamie Adams made it very clear that was not a problem and I will be sitting in the Cabinet as an unaffiliated member of the Council.”

The Western Telegraph’s report of Thursday’s meeting says that the leader denied putting pressure on Cllr. Lee to join his group following Cllr. Llewellyn’s resignation.

If only it was that simple!

I asked the leader if he would confirm that he didn’t personally or through anybody else, ask Cllr. Lee to join his group or threaten the loss of her cabinet post if she remained unaffiliated – and he refused to do so.

The distinction’s an important one.

The leader would have us believe that Cllr. Lee suddenly decided it was a good time to join the IPPG, having previously said: a) she wouldn’t, and b) that the leader had no problem with that.

Those wondering if Cllr. James has just done something similar would do well to remember that he didn’t gamble with a pre-existing £29k cabinet role which, like all cabinet SRAs, is at Cllr. Adams’ sole discretion.

Mistletoe and wine…

Some have joked that Thursday was a disaster for Cllr. Adams but say he can at least take a positive from signing up Cllr. Owen James to his party.

Others have joked that Thursday was a disaster for Cllr. Adams made worse by gaining Cllr. James!

The meeting was followed by the chairman’s reception. Cllr. Wynne Evans this year did away with the traditional turkey and all the trimmings in the face of unprecedented budget cuts.

Instead we were invited for a drink or two – not all at taxpayers’ expense – in the chairman’s suite.

It had been bustling with dozens of councillors and senior officers but petered out to reveal the committed festive revellers – who stayed until chucking out time.

As for my readers naïve enough to think Cllrs. Evans and Baker had me drive them to Haverfordwest out of environmental considerations, the following photo may force a rethink:

Christmas reception

The identity of the officer behind the lens will be protected for our sake – and their’s!


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21 Comments...

  • Flashbang

    When are the authorities going to crack down hard on using SRAs and cabinet posts as bribes to hang on to power?

    It’s scandalous that councillors are so easily bought off to prop up a corrupt regime. Both parties should be sent to the slammer for inducing and accepting inducements to change sides.

    Better still get rid of a few layers of government as the Welsh have to be one of the most over represented people on the planet.

    How can taxpayers sustain so many elected and non-elected parasites sucking on the public teat?

  • Rosieone

    I don’t see why Cllr Pugh should be criticized for leaving the planning committee in a royal huff.

    He is simply holding true to the IPPG political doctrine and showing himself to be a staunch believer in the ‘Adams political theory’

    – Enhancement of personal wealth should always come before public service.

  • Sallie

    It’s so obvious…

    Jamie assumed the Cabinet webcasting vote would go his way and to show his commitment to this newfangled Cabinet Live Roadshow (and to prove it wasn’t just a contrived ploy) he signed Cllr James up to his group.

    After the vote he intended to announce that Cllr James would be the cabinet warm up act/ice cream and popcorn seller!

    (All proceeds divided evenly, of course.)

    Now that plan has gone south, Owen may have to settle for a National Park seat!

  • Malcolm Calver

    On first glance I thought that Cllr Miller had recruited those assembled into Labour after losing so many of his party members to IPPG.

    On a more serious note, after watching the webcast and the election of the chairman of the planning committee, I feel I must comment on what a waste of taxpayers money this committee is.

    We have seen over the last few months approval recommendations from council officers for three applications i.e chalet construction in Penally, social housing in St Florence and housing in Kilgetty. In their wisdom county councillors have proposed site visits to the proposed sites at great cost to the taxpayers of Pembrokeshire.

    All three of these applications complied with the local development plan and therefore should have been granted at the planning meeting. The three local councillors Pugh, Kidney and Preston I believe objected to the applications with no good reason. Councillors would have great difficulty asking their officers to support refusal if the planning committee had decided to refuse and the applicants appealed.

    I note that Cllr Hodgson supported the nomination of Cllr Stock with the words “he has a passion and loves Pembrokeshire” so let us hope that he puts an end to this waste of ratepayers’ money.

    I also note Cllr Baker was sitting quietly when the discussion regarding the PCC loan for work being carried out at Saundersfoot harbour was being discussed.

    I do remember as part of the proposal a Phillip Evans is reported as saying 55 permanent new jobs would be created. I wonder have these positions materialised?

  • Timetraveller

    Jacob should obviously have talked to Cllr James more often.

    The interesting thing is can anyone join the IPPG? The political colour is on the blue side, though there seems to be enormous flexibility there – a truly rainbow alliance.

    Surely Jacob can achieve so much by being a member. Power, influence, money and people to talk to.

    Presumably they have a membership policy and can reject applications based on such criteria?

    On the other hand do we have a secret society running council?

  • Flashbang

    Timetraveller asks: “On the other hand do we have a secret society running council?”

    Short answer is yes, but they are unbelievably self-serving, petty and incompetent.

  • Jon Preston

    Mr Calver, I cannot speak for Cllrs. Kidney or Pugh, but in the case of the chalets in Penally the first thing I did was call a public meeting (at my own expense) to ensure my constituents were fully aware of what was being proposed.

    I took the feedback from all who contributed on the evening and I put those points to the planning committee. Consequently the committee decided to approve a site meeting. The rest as they say is history.

    I was directed by the people I represent which sought to challenge the officer recommendation due to the site being (arguably) of significant historical interest. I also ensured the community of Penally had full involvement and the opportunity to comment on a major development in their village.

    We in Penally do not drain the council purse as other wards seem to be able to. The site meeting was one expense the people of this village deserved to have and that decision was voted on as per the democratic process. I have nothing further to add on the subject.

  • Timetraveller, there are limits to the IPPG’s inclusivity as I discovered just after the 2004 local elections when I received a curt letter from the party’s chairman Johnny Allen-Mirehouse.

    See Biter bitten at:

    http://oldgrumpy.co.uk/archived/June%2022%202004.html

    The article at the top of the same page (All change – no change) may explain why he felt I was not a fit and proper person to be a member of this exclusive club.

  • Malcolm Calver

    In reply to Cllr Preston regarding the reason for the planning committee site meeting and his suggestion that his public meeting was to ensure that “residents were fully aware what was proposed”, all I can say is that surely they had the gumption to work that out for themselves from the plans submitted.

    The local population had a right to comment at the planning committee meeting without the extra expense of a bus load of county councillors turning up at a site meeting.

    I would have expected highly paid planning officers to have checked if the site had any “historical significance” before recommending approval.

    I believe the planning permission sought was for holiday chalets because of a stated “tourism need” and I would have thought as a local councillor he would have challenged this so called “need” because of the poor letting season most of the self catering industry have suffered over the past few years in Pembrokeshire.

    I would suggest that there is a greater need in Penally for starter homes to purchase, and as a local county councillor he would have put that forward for the site.

    Perhaps Cllr Preston could explain how planning officers would have defended a refusal notice should the applicant have appealed the decision.

  • Timetraveller

    Mike, that article does not explain anything about why you would be excluded.

    The point I am making is that if the Freemasons operated on the council in this manner, certain protocols would have been breached.

    For a start are not councillors obliged to register any membership of such bodies? IPPG are very similar to the Freemasons, you have to be invited to join.

    The mockery of the system here is that one cannot be a Freemason prior to election, but only join after election.

    If they had rejected you because you are too inquisitive or whatever, the situation is clearer and some clarity of their ethos would be forthcoming.

  • Timetraveller, it should be made clear that I never asked, nor had any desire, to join the IPG as it then was.

    I assume the reason why Johnny said I wouldn’t be welcome had some connection with the fact that I had been a long time critic of this anti-democratic, patronage-fuelled, clandestine political party.

    Groucho Marx said that he would never join a club that would have him as a member.

    In my case, remembering my mother’s advice that you can always judge a man by the company he keeps, I wouldn’t join a club that had among its members the likes of Johnny and Brian Hall.

  • Goldingsboy

    I understand that County Hall felt unable to put a nativity scene on display this Christmas as the Cabinet were unable to find any wise men, let alone a virgin.

  • Jon Preston

    I don’t wish to be drawn into a bun fight with Mr Calver.

    However, it is interesting to note that in the minutes of the planning committee meeting held on the 10th January 2012, and the same on 7th February 2012, you will see that the local member, the then Cllr. Calver asked for a site visit to a proposed housing development in St Florence, despite the application being within policy.

    That site inspection took place.

    Perhaps site visits were free in those days?

  • Clive Davies

    ‘I would have expected highly paid planning officers to have checked…’ etc.

    And Malcolm will no doubt insist that he is not naive!!!

  • HJ, Fishguard

    This may not be apt for the present page but there must be one of your regular correspondents who could answer a few questions so that my simplistic engineer’s mind can understand the upcoming county council budget cut.

    In this forthcoming cut, how much is the actual amount? I have it in my head that the figure for Pembrokeshire is £40 million over a three year period. Is this correct? So is it approx. £14 million a year for the next three years?

    Moving on to the next part, what is the total expenditure that the £40 million to be cut comes from. I believe it may be somewhere in the region of £240 million a year
    So a £14 million cut in a budget of £240 million is around 6%.

    Taking the £240 million, how much of that is directly attributable to salaries? I would not be surprised that the figure was around 60% i.e. £160 million.

    Then if you make all the savings from this £160 million you have to reduce the labour force by about 10%. That is one person in 10, yes and I know that this is to decimate the workforce but it happens regularly in private business, talk to workers from Scunthorpe or Redcar.

    As someone who spent all his working life going to work with the intent to work himself out of a job as quickly as possible you got used to this. The skill is to lose the 10% from the top to the bottom, you side slice not bottom slice.

    Management has to become lean and mean, and they have to learn how to do the same work to the standard required with one in ten of the workforce not there. They have to work smarter.

    Any organisation that has not fallen upon hard times becomes complacent, management gets top heavy, every group of workers has people who are not pulling their weight.

    I see nothing coming out of County Hall that makes me think that there is a will to look inward and judge really how efficient they are. Comments please.

    So come out and tell me how much you think a 9% fall in county council staff would save and could the services provided be carried out with that reduced workforce.

    My 40+ years of work experience thinks it can. And don’t be afraid to say I have my maths wrong, I have a thick skin but a 9% reduction in the staff at County Hall would be good for the county wouldn’t it?

  • Martin Lewis

    HJ, your comment tallies with my thinking. But it’s not only the salaries that are a huge financial burden on a bloated council workforce, it’s the unsustainable cost of contributions made to the workers out of the public purse.

    While it’s now law that employers provide a workplace pension, for far too long council tax has funded council workers’ pensions very generously.

    It’s simply not right that most of the rest of us fund our own pensions ourselves entirely while we also fund the council pension fund via council tax also. This needs to be looked at.

  • Brian

    HJ, a flaw in your argument is that it fails to recognise the high level of dependence on the public purse for any employment west of Llanelli. Having people at least doing something semi useful 9-4(!) is better than having them in despair and on benefits.

    Notwithstanding this, PCC is somewhat caught in a cleft stick by many statutory obligations. For example, care of/services for the elderly, and there is a large and growing slice of the population insistent on their rights here, takes a fair slice of the pie.

    Many of those elderly originally moved into the area for lifestyle reasons and have pensions earned through employment elsewhere where the economy was more vibrant. Yet this (relatively expensive to keep) group are often the first to deride council services and bay for cuts.

  • John Hudson

    As we come to consider the council’s proposed cuts, I think a few facts would not go amiss. Unfortunately spreadsheet presentations cannot be formatted in this comment section, so a few headline facts will have to be in narrative form.

    The council incurs gross expenditure on providing our services:
    Approved budget 2014/5 = £318,479m
    Actual gross expenditure = £325,123m (+£6m = 2.1%)
    Approved budget 2015/16 = £312,722m

    Income from charges for services:
    Approved budget 2014/5 = -£129,863m
    Actual income = -£136,056m (+£6m = 4.8%)
    Approved budget 2015/16 = -£128,837m

    Net expenditure on providing services:
    Approved budget 2014/5 = £188,616m
    Actual = £189,067 (+£0.5m = 0.2%)
    Approved budget 2015/16 = £183,885m

    To this, net expenditure on levies, capital financing costs and interest and investment income must be added, to arrive at the council’s net budget requirement of:

    Approved budget 2014/5 = £207,237m
    Actual = £207,214m
    Approved budget 2015/16 = £202,787m

    For 2014/15 despite incurring an additional £6m of gross expenditure, which was met by increased income from charges, (+£2.7m) and additional grants and contributions of (+£4m) the Council balanced its books at a net budget figure of £207m.

    This is the legal requirement and the level at which the council prefers to focus attention, rather than what happens to our service levels.

    In addition it received additional council tax of some £1.5m which it applied to its priority 21st Century Schools reserve, rather than supporting cut services.

    Incidentally for 2014/15 gross expenditure can be broadly and indicatively analysed from the accounts with some difficulty due to presentation differences:

    Employees budget = £111,098m (including vacancy cut £1m)

    Actual = £112,629m (+£1.5m)

    Other operating costs budget = £177,881m

    Actual = £184,704m (+£6.8m)

    Support services budget = £29,378m

    Actual = £27,790m (-£1.588m)

    Total budget = £318,357m (£318,479m at top)

    Actual = £325,123m

    It would save a lot of time if the council could produce these comparisons.

    Outside of the above is the amount of estimated and actual end of year balances that the council allocates to its earmarked reserves.

  • Indepedant

    But please can we not let The Avenue Centre be shut down? This cannot happen.

  • Keanjo

    Brian mentions the load placed on Council services by the ‘elderly’.

    Well, I examined my own demands on Council services. I don’t use social services, I don’t use the education services (75% of budget), I don’t use the library service or the leisure facilities.

    I use the waste disposal service and the highways. For this I pay £1,500 a year. I don’t grumble about contributing toward the services I don’t use and I certainly don’t agree that my wife and I are ‘relatively expensive to keep’.

  • Malcolm Calver

    Cllr Preston believes I am being disingenuous by calling for a site meeting regarding the development in Feb/June 2012 at Woodland Close when I was the county councillor and then objecting to a site meeting in 2015.

    I was quite aware that the site fell within planning policy (exception site status) and my objections were based on access to the site and the need to construct low cost homes to buy, as outlined in the housing needs survey carried out on behalf of St Florence Community Council.

    I was quite aware at the time as to the reason why developers wished to build social houses to rent, rather than houses to buy, which is that they receive a bigger grant from the Welsh Assembly for constructing such properties i.e. more profit in the developer’s pocket.

    I note that the present county councillor Cllr Kidney objected on the grounds that there was no need for more properties in St Florence. How or why Cllr Kidney came to this conclusion escapes me, perhaps he is a supporter of housing tenants that need to rent in ex local authority houses, many of which that have been sold off to buy to let landlords.

    Community Councillor Buckmaster also objected on similar grounds but I am sure if he had carried out a survey of the village it would have resulted in an identified need for the site to include first time starter homes to purchase.

    We are now in a situation that no new low cost properties to purchase on exception sites have been constructed in St Florence, when there surely is a need, and also the access to the site is still dangerous even though I was promised this would be rectified as part of the original planning permission. To be carried out during the site construction.

    By this second application, this area is obviously going to be developed further and I would have thought it was essential that a turning area for service buses, away from the dangerous corner was essential.

    I also note that it is suggested by officers that there are no other sources of potential social housing in the area, even within the national park. I am sure that areas in Jameston that have been included in the LDP could contain a percentage of social housing if needed.

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