Councillor Capers. 2th – 13th September 2009.

The Council officially went into Recess on 4th August and committee meetings were suspended.  However, the Ombudsman’s team who have decided I have infringed a Code of Conduct had no intention of honouring the recess.  I was given two dates that they wished to call me for interview; both unsuitable to me as I had booked holiday. Events have shown that my unavailability appears to have caused great irritation as its been suggested I’m not being cooperative. On 19th August, I came back from visiting family in the South especially for the Flint & Denbigh show to support my Chairman.  It was a good day despite having to fling ourselves onto the hospitality of various exhibitors’ tents to shelter from the rain that swept across the ground in vicious bursts.  The poultry tent was full of amazing show birds some with stunning plumages, some with full feathered legs and some with exotic headgear. The sheep were amazing too and in fact, all the livestock were just fabulously presented.  It’s a pity that they cannot all be winners and also that so much effort goes into the show which lasts just one day; it seems daft. A Special Council Meeting on 24th August bit further into Recess as it dragged most of us back to County Hall to deliberate on money or lack of it.  On 28th August the Planning site visit bus took us to just one venue in Mold, as the other visit had been cancelled at short notice.  Much muttering to turn out for just one site visit but that’s the vagaries of the Planning system.  2nd September ended the recess officially for me with Community and Housing Scrutiny Committee in the morning and Planning Committee in the afternoon.  The agenda was woefully thin for such an important subject as community and housing issues and for the third time in a row, the Chief Executive took the lead role in the officers’ presentations, and it seems he has virtually taken over the housing portfolio assigned to the Director of Community Services.  That Director spoke little which was possibly sensible as over the weeks members have been getting more and more frustrated as we are rarely involved in WAG policy consultations, and our requests to be given information, documents or whatever, or want to be more involved in policy matters are invariably ignored.  We had told the CE at the last meeting before recess that he must listen to our frustrations that we have real concerns over the way the Community & Housing committee operates.  It seems this growing member frustration has been finally recognised, by the CE if no one else.  The CE updated us on Canton; Flintshire’s rambling and run down Depot, a large warren of very elderly prefab structures near Holywell that badly needs a make over. Staff had been promised that the whole depot would be moved to more suitable accommodation by the end of this year, but it seems that no one told the staff.  The move is on hold and money will be found to make essential improvements that will shore up the Depot for a while longer.   Suspicious members thought this u-turn could have been blamed on the unresolved decision of the future of the Council’s Housing Stock because if tenants ballot to hand all over to Housing Associations, this must impact on the service provided by Canton Depot.  The decision to give tenants the right to ballot was made last February.  Progress has been slow in setting up the mechanisms to move to ballot as WAG holds the money and everything must be done by their rules.  The newly created Housing Stock Project Board sat for the first time under the chairmanship of Cllr. Carolyn Cattermoul, on 9th September.  She’s an ideal chair as she was on the original Housing Stock panel and knows her way around the problems. Much is at stake with many vested interests not to mention the possible loss to Flintshire County Council as the value of the housing stock is worth millions certainly more when land values are calculated. Ewloe Ward has no council property and thus I avoid the tricky problem of dealing with conflicting interests and keeping tenants informed of progress. AIRBUS DAY. A plane going over, reminded me of a super occasion courtesy of Brian Fleet and the senior management of our prestigious wings maker in Broughton.  As excellent buffet lunch was followed by a tour of the factory where we ogled in sheer disbelief at the size of the new wings. They seemed even bigger that when I saw them first as guest of Barry Jones, then MP for that ward, who took us round the factory floor in 2001 when I was an Assembly Member.  Then off to the airfield to watch an amazing variety of planes and displays, including the Red Devils, freefalling at up to 120 mph with red smoke gushing from their parachute canopies.  Back on the ground, the group nonchalantly packed away their gear and then took off for another display elsewhere.  Two ladies performed on the wings of their by planes, somersaulting and waving legs and arms as the little planes swooped over head.  The act was advertising a cosmetics firm and the commentator suggested it must be very good to give the protection needed to cope with extreme open flying conditions. We marvelled at the world war oldies including one that was powered by 18 pistons that was capable of hanging around airborne at slow speed to protect a downed crew.  The excellent commentator told us that the pilot finds it tricky getting in to the cockpit but even trickier getting out as by this time, the plane is smothered in oil from the piston engine. The Red Arrows swept over just once, on route for another air show and then anticipation rose as the appearance of the real stars of the afternoon grew closer, the Vulcan, soon to be followed by the A380.   The sleek black delta wings of the Vulcan grew from a silent speck in the distance to a huge black, roaring flying war machine that dipped its wheels as it lumbered across in its first fly past.  “There is only one left in the world and the public gave £8 million to restore it”, an enthusiastic plane spotter told me. Whilst snapping away with his camera as the Vulcan went through its paces, he also reported that when attempting to bomb the enemy runway in the Falklands, it missed every time.  My knowledgeable friend did not tell me why! By total contrast, the silvery, whispering giant of the A380 finally arrived and the crew allowed this huge machine to glide across the airfield in slow motion, all 565 tonnes of it.  What a superb plane and we were stunned that something so big could be so graceful and so quiet.  The Airbus logo “the World flies on our wings” seemed very appropriate. The Airbus families and friends who flocked to celebrate the 40 years of Airbus must have been so very proud of what they have achieved.  Thank you Airbus and staff for creating in our midst, the most modern airplane factory in the world and for giving us such a memorable day.

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