It Beggars Belief

31st October. The cold that had been building up for days finally began to grow into a real stonker with a irritating cough and much lethargy. Not the best week to manifest itself but got though the site planning visit without problem. The number of members is dropping again and sending apologies is also slipping. I’ve always thought that to see the site is crucial and that was certainly true of Overlea Drive, Hawarden. Redrow acquired the land and had planned to develop it for years having won a the Planning Inspector enquiry. Another hurdle was cleared when it also passed muster from an internal planning panel of councillors so it stayed in the Unitary Development plan. That was partly my fault. I had been gullible and was prepared to support officer’s recommendation that the site was satisfactory and I had not realised politics was also being played. That’s all water under the bridge.

The bus rolled up to a field squeezed between an an estate of bungalows and a railway line. Apprehensive residents & local councillors greeted us and led us onto the area to be inspected. The pond, the railway line running down a border, and a footpath that crossed the plot were all noted as was the fact that the plot towered over a battalion of bungalows that populated the lower slopes of Cllr. Clive Carver’s ward. Clive addressed us, various questions asked and back on the bus for the next visit. Members were concerned that the proposed houses would tower over the existing bungalows. No play area on the site was also noted and we were bemused to learn that play areas did exist locally but the route would take the kiddies over that railway line. Of course, no decisions are ever made on a site visit.

I got to Aqua class on the morning of 1st November. Upon reflection was not wise as I knew that the ‘lurgy’ was getting closer and closer. That afternoon, my mood was definitely scratchy when I attended the Audit Committee. Amongst other topics we were served up was a report on Flintshire’ use of consultants.(Again). IT WAS EXCEPTIONALLY BAD. No wonder the CE and our Welsh Assembly Auditors (who were on campus), did not manage to attend the meeting. Despite promises that the rules were far tighter and all sorts of mechanisms introduced, total cost had gone up to a staggering £1,610,898 for a few months. I accept that the North Wales Regional Waste Management collaboration gobbles up an eye watering £130,404, (a sum I think needs further probing) but Human Resources spent £438K on its consulting services; even more than Environment, who needed the talents of £336k worth of consultant’s to help with that large and varied department. So in all the press reckon the Council has spent over £3m in just 12 months This beggars belief as we are supposed to be broke!!

“We pay our directors well and the report indicates incompetence”, I growled. No one disagreed. Thus, all directors including the CE, must be called to the next Audit committee to answer questions. Again, no one disagreed. The next Audit meeting could be very interesting and it is open to the public.

The next highlight of the week occurred on 8th November when a joint housing seminar was held when Wrexham and Flintshire came together in a workshop to study how to respond to housing needs across the two Authorities. It was very well attended but I thought a few more Flintshire councillors could have put in an appearance. However, the most notable absence was the Leader of the Authority who did a “no show”. Rumour was that he was being quizzed by Welsh Audit Officers”. I have the WAO document that tells us how we have done! That might have been the basis for the alleged grilling. It does not make scintillating reading. Seems our accounts have not been fully signed off as they are not totally accurate, complete or fully correct? For the Leader to miss this showcase event particularly as former Minister Sue Essex was the lead speaker must mean that there may have been much to discuss with our Auditor masters.

This Administration has just over 5 months to run before elections in May 2012. The past three & half years has been very depressing. Since March 09, it seems; we have reeled from crisis to crisis under a CE, I consider to be a control freak and I’m frustrated that he is now resorting to cutting off the email thread if the questions seem too intense! If that’s not bad enough, the other top player in this administration is a Leader who is not doing that – leading this administration. Of course, he has much on his mind as he is still waiting a knock on his door from NW Police for alleged perjury.

The Adjudication Panel of the Presiding Officer for Wales has been asked by the police for all material to help with this serious allegation in early October. Amazingly, the request is still being “considered”. Why the delay? The Ombudsman has already twice refused to accept my complaint that the journal is false. No thought of trying to protect the PSWO’s star witness in both tribunals by slowing things down. Surely not?

I was invited to a service of Remembrance at Hawarden High School , on the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year. It was really moving and more of this later.

All the leaves are now off the tree and Moel Famu is in view once more from upstairs windows. Yet further proof to mark the ever increasing passage of time through this year.

PS. Last Wednesday, the Planning Committee amazed me by rejecting the development of the Redrow site in Hawarden. There will be much jubilation in the village & Cllrs Clive & Cheryl Carver will be properly feted for seemingly slaying the Redrow giant! I fear celebrations will be short-lived however. An appeal will surely follow and a further refusal could land the Council with a fat legal bill. That’s how planning works. Now if Redrow were to build a good number of affordable houses rather than big multi bedroomed ones, members might be more amenable to developing that field. The joint Flintshire Wrexham seminar identified the need for housing alright but those that less well off can afford to buy.

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