Like buses that always arrive 3 at a time, my council meetings invariably all stack up into a three day whirl of committee papers and meetings followed by a fallow meeting-free week. So, the last days of September have found me immersed in Planning, County Council and Audit committee papers, and then on the Monday 7th, October, planning site visits followed straight away that afternoon by a meeting with Chairs of Scrutiny Committees & then on to chair our Audit Committee. Not bad for one who retired in 1992 as a colleague said. The 25 September was however a black day in my personal councillor calendar, when on strong constitutional grounds and on this occasion a very last minute delivery of the committee papers, I agreed with some members advice that the meeting needed to be postponed as we simply had no time to do justice to a massive document which had some highly challengeable reports and recommendations. We had only seen it in draft form as the committee cycle operated, a few weeks earlier, and when we finally got the papers much had changed. As Chair, I simply could not recommend it to full Council. The rest is history. …..
The summer recess has been joyous but sadly the Monday Planning site visit broke my holiday torpor fanned by an article by my most despised politician. ( no, worse even than Edwina Hart, maverick Welsh transport minister). Tony Blair had been given free rein in my paper & arrogantly made out a case to attack Syria. He is still in denial over his craven decision to go to war on flawed facts. His views were cleverly brought down to earth by the Times cartoonist who showed two badgers in their sett, with a silhouette of a marksman with weapon cocked, framed in the entrance. Badger one was reading the “B Liar” article, big grinning teeth & topknot sketched in, whilst distraught Badger 2 was wringing her paws under a caption, “Hasn’t TB caused enough death as it is !?” If not humiliating enough, the following day’s lead letter was from GENERAL SIR MICHAEL ROSE who wrote, ” I was surprised that you gave so much space to Tony Blair’s views on Syria. It’s like having an arsonist advise on how to put out a fire he lit”. When the Labour Party was refashioning itself with its “Third Way”, all those …..
Aqua class, Village Hotel, my Tuesday routine when council work allows. Now into recess so grab my usual spot and take no notice of grey haired man wallowing in the shallow end playing with children. Soon a fellow swimmer bounces over to me. “Isn’t he the first minister,” she warbles. Too far away for me to be sure. Waddle over & tune in on Mo, the instructor asking him to leave. Pool booked for Aqua only. Not having seen Carwyn for 10 years, and certainly not without clothes, threw me for an instant but I recognised the voice as he asked if he had to leave. Graciously, he & family accepted Mo’s explanation & he took up residence in the paddling pool whilst the ladies continued to hog the main pool. I waddled over to the submerged minister, “Carwyn, come and join us”, I called. Head popped, “Alison”, he replied at once shaking hands. No difficulty with his “Instant Recognition” skills. “I’m too big”, he jested and flopped back into the kiddies pool. I waded back to my spec, watched by eye rolling ladies. “Yes, it’s the first minister,” I confirmed. I told Mo she had ordered the First Minister …..
CLLR. HEESOM’S TORMENTORS SERVE UP EXPECTED SANCTION. Patrick’s supporters promptly attended at 11am for the anticipated start but the Panel is not known for punctuality. Meanwhile, 4 legal bods, probably on up to £500 an hour; twiddled their collective thumbs. The cotton bag caught our attention under the feet of Ombudsman’s lawyer. “Ombudsman’s Association”. “Independent complaints resolution” the bag boasted. This produced gales of muffled laughter. We thought the bag was telling “porkies”. Its owner, a thin, humourless lady hurriedly pushed the object of our mirth under her feet. Former Cllr Peter Pemberton and I passed the time discussing our mutual exchange of lettuce plants whilst a former officer of the Council quietly regaled us with stories of a Cllr with an alleged reputation for bullying. The Cllr had laboured under the uncharitable names of ‘Adolph’ or Mr Beetroot as the face went red as the fury rose.’ Who did he mean? 12.10 p.m.; we were asked to switch off mobiles and then at 12.30, the Panel filed in. Having spent yesterday softening us up the previous day for big sentence, Hywel James pronounced that Stage 3, the punishment had arrived. Panel’s decision unanimous there had been 14 breaches amounting …..
(Cllr Patrick Heesom’s tribunal. Day 57? ) Tuesday at 2pm, the Panel reconvened at the Village hotel after many months delay. At the same time, in County Hall, Flintshire County cllrs were about to agree a new way of dealing with alleged breaches of their codes of conduct. The Ombudsman for Wales finally accepted all allegations against cllrs need no longer be sent automatically to his office for judgement. A local resolution strategy is to be introduced to deal with alleged breaches, leaving only the more serious cases to go to the Ombudsman. The scheme is years overdue Mr Ombudsman. I told the Chief Executive in his office five years ago, that this was how Cllr Patrick Heesom should have his alleged code breach dealt with. Let the Group Leaders & the local Standards Panel rule first. To involve the Public services officer for Wales. (PSOW), would all end in tears. This marathon tribunal, some 58 days stale & still unending; will certainly end in tears. But whose? Certainly the taxpayer who will some day be asked to pay the enormous cost of the arrogance of the Ombudsman, his biased procedures and of his Adjudication Panel teammates. Grinning Chair, District …..
Three years ago, on a whim, I ordered some asparagus plants. They were squeezed into a series of containers with roots so long, I struggled to get the soil depth to cover them. All I had to do was to wait three years and when matured, I could start cutting. Amazingly, they all survived their modest surroundings; that is until that snow a few weeks ago. It’s frustrating. Having resisted the desire to cut even a single spear but just allow the fronds to wither, it seems that not all have survived the deep freeze. A holiday in Aigues Mortes in the 80′s started the passion. Miles of sandy, almost desert like soil produced rows of sentinel spears, standing proudly from this grey & hostile earth. We ate asparagus at every meal. Not sure I will be eating my crop at every meal, but the three years have flashed by. The years since the Waterhouse Child Abuse enquiry was held in Ewloe’s former council buildings,under the stern gaze of Sir Ronald Waterhouse, have also flashed by. “Private Eye” was bursting regularly with speculation over who was a Freemason or not! The jury was out on Sir R & other gentlemen …..
How cruel of the camera to capture the Chancellor’s moment of lachrymosity at the funeral! When do you capitulate & acknowledge the wet spot by wiping it furtively away or do you wait for it to dry up on its own so no one sees the quick brushing away? I know how George Osborne felt. I’ve been there in a police uniform. “Maggie” watchers will know she would not have approved of such public blubbering although even she slipped a bit in the not for public sobbing stakes. Her traumatic departure from No 10, after eleven outstanding years was one and at the funeral of Dennis, when her deep grief naturally flowed. She shed a small tear when Mark, favoured, prodigal son was lost in the desert but she mostly maintained her Iron Lady role! She certainly did when she attended Liverpool cathedral for the first Hillsborough memorial service. I bet hers was the only dry eye in the congregation when the organ began to play, “You’ll never walk alone’. As I’ve described in “No way up the Greasy Pole, (1992/3), she marched past the assembled ranks of police officers, myself included, without showing a flicker of emotion. For myself, …..
CHEERS FOR NEW LEADER JOURNALIST. At Hawarden Community Council, Monday night, a young woman slipped in and started taking notes. I sincerely hope that she publishes what she heard as without exception, cllrs are sick of being given the proverbial “two fingers” by the Chief Constable who together with his officers have let us down. The elected members are now on a collision course as every request to ask officers to attend the occasional council meeting is just ignored. For 18 months we’ve tried every tack to keep a dialogue going with our local police. Months ago, a community support officer would attend which always led to a useful exchange of information between cllrs and cops but not now. I’ve tried to stick up for them, saying that their time is too precious to meet every month and let’s try a regular email exchange or meeting with us. So often over the months, the police’s grand promises of improved communications have just fizzled out. The best North Wales police can do is to delegate a temporary inspector( sergeant) to drop us a line. We’ve invited the Police Commissioner to address us but that produced a vague letter from his CE …..
The chamber was full for Friday afternoon budget meeting at County hall on St David’s Day. Even a sick member had been dragged from his bed to bring out the vote. Setting a budget is a legal requirement and hard choices are inevitable. But the Lib Dems had located a pot of money available to be spent and my group, as part of the Opposition tabled an amendment that offered innovative ways of helping the community. Four really good schemes were outlined by Robin Guest the Lib Dem leader, buoyant from the Eastleigh election result. He had to demand that our amendment was handed out for members to read and he was cross that Labour had already quickly circulated amazing changes to their own budget proposals. These late submissions made a mockery of the official budget proposal we had received within the proper committee time frame. Our proposals would enable play schemes to continue as before with help from Town and Community councils as grants had been slashed. We would give a swimming subsidy of £23K to help Flintshire compete at all levels, spend £17K on keeping open public loos in Caerwys and Cilcain and give £96K for a one …..
Never buy a Baxi Combi boiler if you want reliability and peace of mind. I was bounced into believing this was the best on offer some 8 years ago and what a mistake to make. Mother board needed changing within weeks and only by shelling out for annual maintenance, have I kept the CH up and running, or mostly. Last February, almost with identical timing, it chose to break down when I came home from India with a 79 year old lady who had not taken the long trip too well. A cold snap welcomed us and we had no proper heat and no hot water. It took 4 days to get the part and to regain warmth to the house. Stuff of nightmares with a sick friend staying.The Gas engineer who got the boiler working last year, reported if it happened again, Baxi would be asked to modify the part as he saw further problems. And, so it came to pass. When the gas service contract rocketed to £39 a month, a £10 hike, I took cover with my house insurance provider straight away. As soon as the boiler was given its per-inspection on 19th February this year, I …..