COUNCIL AFFAIRS- ROCKY ROAD FOR THE COALITION? 17th 23th May. 2011.

The Leader of my council( the name I dare not print for fear of further reprisals from my friends in South Wales) dismissed fears over the Coalition in the Flintshire Standard.  Responding to suggestions of divisions in County Hall and a possible breakaway by some members the Leader stated that “ we are perfectly sound or solid with our without the particular group!”  Cllr Fred Gillmore, who must be congratulated for his recent progress from back bencher to leader of the Alliance group and is now the County’s vice chair  was also mentioned in the same newspaper.  Now that Cllr Gilmore will be featuring regularly in the press from now on, may I offer a word of caution. It is he who was quoted in the Flintshire Standard in his flat denial of any infighting and “It was a typical council meeting”.  “We are all determined to keep making this (Coalition) work”, he said.  Hang on vice chair!  More disenchanted members may feel this statement is a trifle hypocritical!  It is said that you demanded that the New Independents ( the breakaway group whose Leader you yourself defeated by one vote last October) should be thrown out of the ruling Coalition just days after that AGM.  The item was not on the Coalition agenda and your motion lost when put to the vote. Perhaps the journalist got your comment wrong or you did not demand that the New Independents should leave the Coalition and you sincerely think there “is no infighting in the Coalition.”  I’m very happy to print your side of this story if you give me the facts.  There does appear to be inconsistency in your stance towards the Coalition and what you think of your ex Independent team mates! I am shocked that the New Independents,  a properly constituted political party still have been denied the political balance they deserve on committees and on allocation of chairs. The group has quality members, people of integrity and sound judgement who are not against the Coalition but against what they see as poor leadership and over powerful officers, one of whom is considered to be no friend to several independently minder members. The Coalition must be struggling to hold together under the weight of ongoing bad publicity. A surprising number of hands went up to vote against the Leader at the AGM.  22 more should have followed had the Labour group stayed strong and not been swayed by the sudden visit of the newly appointed Commissioner to Anglesey.  A fly on the wall admitted there is no way Labour wants to resume government with only a year to go before the next election.  The best bet was to vote to abstain rather than the more honest desire to vote the Leader out of power.  Our canny friends in Opposition also realised that as the Coalition continues to make headlines for all the worst reasons, it’s easy for Labour to pick off the ruling group and make capital of ever increasing gaffes.  So the Coalition (with infighting or not), remains in power thanks to the Opposition who as yet does not want the job.  Not good! Unhelpful press reports don’t auger well for some cllrs who will struggle to be re-elected against this backdrop of bad publicity.  The budget is by no means secure and the latest alleged council overspend of yet another £100K or whatever is yet another nail in the coffin of good governance and accountability.  A recent audit report slammed the way the Authority deals with Housing and Council Tax overpayments.  ‘The Council has also poor financial arrangements to prevent  benefits overpayment, and is poor too at identifying overpayments’.  The Council did better with the rate of debt recovery which had improved but the completed audit concluded that were ‘significant weaknesses in the way the county manages its affairs’.  Of course, Leader Woolley is also the Executive Member for Finances! Not good again! FLINTSHIRE SCHOOLS ON THE WAY UP. I end with good news. An FOI request to the Welsh Government has disclosed that this county is no longer the bottom of the list for performance in Wales.  On the contrary one or two schools have moved into the top division.  Well done Conservative Executive member and his officers for making this very welcome breakthrough on performance. Well done too the staff pupils parents and governors that have driven that improvement. My congratulations must also go to our new Chairman, Hilary McGuill and her consort, brother John.  She’s chosen her charities well, Great Ormond Street and Macmillan nurses. I enjoyed my year as the consort to Colin Legg and I know you will both have great year and serve Flintshire well.

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