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. …..
Archive for ‘Council Capers’
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 …..
The Curious Case of Croes Atti The debate in Westminster over the need to rip up Green Belt to help developers build houses seems totally daft. With thousands of plots already having planning consent, why not build first on what’s already approved? This English debate resonated in Flintshire’s Council Chamber during the Planning Committee on 5th September. YET again, we were debating an application from Anwels, owner of the massive Flint Croes Atti site. I’ve lost count of the number of applications submitted by the developer but this latest one to me really smacked of arrogance. Last December, the Planning Committee had debated the need to erect a barrier that would give the Prince of Wales Avenue residents some sort of quality of life once the traffic flows on and off the site picked up. It was a really heavy debate that after much arguing was put to the vote. I was in the chair & I thought it would be lost as our planners had recommended acceptance! Members went against officers and threw their recommendation out even though our Planners were content that traffic was manageable around the site! The result of the independent traffic survey seemed odd! Flint’s …..
How things have changed in the world of royal reticence. I took a week off to visit the Isle of Wight recently and visited Osborne House, the favourite haunt of Queen Victoria & her beloved Albert. I was keen to see the newly refurbished bathing machine with plumbed in loo and big wheels to drag the contraption into the sea. The information placards showed a cut from the film “Mrs Brown” in which Judy Dench played the queen fully clothed in a long sleeved dress & wearing a hat in the water. Victoria cherished her privacy to such an extent that this is what she her female swimming companions did in 1846. What an effort for the bathing maid to deal with a voluminous soggy robe after the royal dip. Contrast this extreme modesty with Prince Harry’s almost full frontal courtesy of the Sun. Ouch! The Sun’s owner, Rupert Murdock must have jumped for joy when the decision to publish Harry’s Vegas antics fell to him. Bet Lord Justice Leveson will have taken note of the paper’s rebuff to our Queen and may duly reflect it in his forthcoming report on press morals. Having done stupid things in my life …..
Since the 3rd May election, the transition from the Coalition to a Labour led administration has been smooth with Messrs Shotton & Attridge moving into Cabinet mode. They got the majority needed to govern after Tony Sharps abandoned his former albatross Leader and formed an alliance with Labour to put Aaron into the all powerful top slot. No matter! Arnold Woolley came to power when the rightful leader in waiting, Patrick Heesom was denied the job, (Blogs passim) Cllr Woolley still hung on to the leadership role in the most dubious circumstances as have been described (ad nauseous) before. Time for a welcome change! Regular readers will know that Patrick was tossed into the waiting arms of the Ombudsman on a bullying allegation. It will be known that despite the still rising legal bill of over £3million, in an enquiry that started in March 2009, Patrick’s tribunal has still not finished! Its scheduled to resume in September 2012, some three years on. Justice delayed is justice denied will not dent our Teflon Ombudsman Peter Tyndall. Patrick’s Adjudication Panel seem unable to grasp that Patrick’s tribunal should now be stopped once and for all now that a High Court decision was …..
Flintshire Councillors met on the 27th March for the last Council Meeting of the 4th year of Coalition administration. Its been a mixed time for me personally. Health wobble, commitment to Flintshire Chairman as his consort plus my own heavy committee & ward workload. If that was not enough, I had to defend myself against the relentless pursuit of the Ombudsman’s investigator. Of course, that Adjudication Panel chaired by Ms Helen Cole, a specialist in non contentious legal matters going to find me guilty but that’s water under the bridge. This four years Council term has been a series of “if only!” If only the alleged misuse of a photocopier had not barred the rightful candidate for leadership of the Authority and allowed the present incumbent to take to the top slot. If only the Corporate Management Team had not alleged bullying by Patrick Heesom in March 2009, which allowed the Ombudsman’s investigation to start we would not have had to endure Arnold Woolley’s now officially criticised leadership. If only I had not volunteered a statement for Patrick Heesom as I had not witnessed any inappropriate behaviour during a housing selection panel I would not have stumped up £10.5K for …..
I missed the bang when a Huws Grey crane lorry foolishly tried to drive under the Station Road, Queens ferry bridge but it must have just happened. Driver looked shocked but how he thought a sticking-up crane could clear the bridge, I know not. I was heading for the Post Office Sorting Office and was able to drive past so I saw the crane touching the upper masonry and the dislodged lumps that lay on the road. The Sorting Office’s gates were closed and entry is on foot only owing to some health and safely rule. Amazing! In the past parking was laid out for customer’s use. All very convenient but not now. By the time I had collected my package, a police car had sealed the road and I had to make the detour though Garden City. Disruption to traffic flows were evident as vehicles were queuing up to get to the Asda roundabout. A few seconds earlier and I would have been able to pop back under that damaged bridge before it was closed. At least no one was injured. I have an uneasy feeling that the Council may have to pay for the bridge repair under some …..
The Coalition’s fourth budget of the current administration went through despite being voted down by Labour who complained that it was dreadful. The vote split was 37 to 13. I agree that the Estyn school report and a Welsh Audit Office report were not good. Estyn judged the schools inspection as “adequate”. Welsh Audit Office made uncomplimentary comments about the leadership of this administration and policies were poorly presented. (Both sadly true). Despite the ongoing presence of our heavily damaged Leader of the Council, backbencher members and Executive have made solid progress particularly when we cast minds back to the mess the Coalition inherited in May 2008. Welsh Government seem unable to plan sufficiently far ahead as very late withdrawal of a vital transport grant caused problems and money had to be found and again at short notice, Welsh Government has sliced the Bus Service Operators Grant from 1st April. (More on this in later blog bu it is not good news for bus users.) The budget has been achieved without redundancies or any heavy loss of front line services. The pain of year by year cuts cuts is far from over but council tax increases have been as modest …..
On Sunday I made a couple of visits to my patch. Level Lane Play area was first and as I suspected from heavy silence from the dog poo bin overseer/manager that only two of the three assigned three bins had been installed. As council staff were erecting them in December, a nameless man passed by threatened to wreck it as he had objected to its position. I was cross. I had the agreement of the nearest resident who did not object and thus the choice of position should not have caused any problem. So having installed one, the men left and no more was heard. This battle for the bins has dragged on since August. I had meantime identified another site close to the cut through leading to Green Meadows and yet again, my quest for information fell on stony ground. Now, I ‘ve asked Executive Member Nancy Matthews if she can wave a magic wand and get her staff to finish the job. Nancy as been under huge pressure from waste collection complaints but answered at once that she would see what she could do. The one complaint I received regarding brown bin collection was dealt with promptly and …..
The Corporate Resources Meeting was more interesting that I had expected and the Chief Executive played a major part in taking members through the complexities of the forthcoming budget proposals. As I had expected, I did not learn much more about the Early Retirement issue that was up for discussion. Both the elected chair for the meeting and another member closed any debate down, an action I accepted as the press was present. The press is frequently used to get a story out that a member wishes to have published in a round about way, but obviously my story and my concerns of a certain early retirement did not press the right buttons on this occasion. I was chuffed when the Head of Human Resources credited me with pressing officers to bring the costs etc. of early retirements to members’ regular attention. Head of HR graciously agreed that this policy had fallen by the way side and my doggedness had put it back on the agenda once more. I was happy to praise officers in return as I thought our Chief Executive, Colin Everett had displayed a masterful command of the budget brief. He answered detailed and complex questions without …..