Posts Tagged ‘Flintshire’

Flintshire Planning Committee

The Ombudsman and me!

I’ve been rather preoccupied since 15th June 2009, when I received a bombshell letter from the Head of Investigations, a member of the Wales Public Service Ombudsman. I learnt that the Ombudsman considered that I had been contradictory and there was “prime face evidence that I have or may have broken two of the council’s codes of conduct”. An investigation would be carried out. On 3rd June, I had volunteered a statement to offer support to a very knowledgeable and experienced Cllr who had been accused also of breaking council codes over how he had conducted himself at a Head of Housing Selection panel last February. As I had been a panel member, I did not think he had broken any code. Knowing the misery, stress and loneliness of being accused of breaking rules in a former life, I knew it was my duty to stand up and tell it how it was! Big mistake! I then was caught up in the Ombudsman’s web and soon discovered that his office gives him immense and really frightening powers. A councillor “must comply with any request of the Ombudsman or the Monitoring Officer in connection with an investigation Code 6.2.” “Any request” …..

County Pomp & Circumstance

Momentous day for Cllr Colin Legg, because at the 11am County Council meeting, the outgoing Chairman was to relinquish his chain of office & present it to the incoming chairman: Cllr. Colin of Halkyn Ward. I would be in on the act too as I had accepted Colin’s invitation to be his consort for his Civic Year. The practice run the day before had been a little chaotic & I had been reminded that after my chain was bestowed, I would return to my seat in the chamber to finish the rest of the business. During the real ceremony Quentin Dodd handed over his chain, oath was signed under the watchful eye of the Chief Executive and then I was called to the dais to collect my chain. Kisses and handshakes all round after the heavy metal piece of Flintshire history was laid on my shoulders. Sadly, my name won’t appear on the roll of honour. It will never appear on Hawarden Community Council’s Chairman’s role of honour board either – I would have liked to have been engraved somewhere! What vanity! Owen Thomas, as the incoming deputy chair was then called and the ritual was repeated. Bouquets appeared from …..

No Supa Pub for Ewloe

Ewloe proposed Supa Pub application was rejected by a handsome majority to Flintshire’s Planning Committee yesterday. No Christmas card will be sent by my residents to the Queensferry councillor who pushed hard for the pub to go ahead but lost his motion with the most helpful contributions by several members but mostly by the sound common sense from Chris Bithell, Mold East Ward. Queensferry councillor was on his feet the second our Planning Officer had described the reason why his officers were supporting this application. The Planners though the pub would complement the wider employment site, 50 to 70 jobs were promised and yes, Ewloe was recognised as having a history of parking problems but 81 gated parking spaces would not exacerbate the problem. No mention was made of this provision being less than the number of spaces (114), specified in the Council’s Parking standards and no mention was made of further displacement onto these congested roads by placing double yellow lines into the hammerhead that runs beside the HSOB offices that would become the way into the pub site. That is part of a veryt busy ATM service. The weakest part of the Planning case was that the land …..

AUDIT COMMITEE- the facts don’t add up!

Last week’s Flintshire Chronicle had “Council in Chaos” emblazoned across the front page that depicted County Hall being rent in half with a bolt of lightning. All very dramatic and rather an exaggeration as the Coalition has set its first budget with a promise of more savings in the pipe line and most of the senior vacancies have been filled with excellent calibre staff. Our Executive members are working hard, clearly at ease with their portfolios & we are led by a professional and deeply committed public servant; Cllr. Arnold Woolley. However, saying all that a few odd things are happening that have raised eyebrows. A sharp eyed colleague pushed under my nose a report of the Executive Decision made on 10th March which related to the last Audit committee meeting- (27th Jan. See earlier blog!) I read with incredulity that members are requested to : ‘Support the extension of the contract with RMS Bentley Jennison and the work to achieve a transfer of the management of the Internal Audit function back in-house no later than 1st April 2010.’ “We didn’t agree that my informant complained, what was the word we agreed?” Review in a year was in fact what …..

Councillor Capers. March 2009.

Under the prudent and wise leadership of Cllr Arnold Woolley, Flintshire’s Leader, the Coalition ( in government for almost a year now); set its first budget. The first attempt pitched it at a 3.5% increase; fully aware of the prospect of swingeing cuts next year by WAG. The only real stumbling block to a Coalition consensus was the newly proposed Ward Councillor scheme, which allowed members to spend up to a given sum on their own ward improvements. Rural members of my Group favoured it whilst I, sharing Ewloe with an Independent Cllr, felt conflict could arise. I worried about transparency in how the projects were chosen & also the cost of policing & administering the scheme. Cynical County Hall watchers could easily dismiss this project as a local member ward jolly and argue that the scheme should be shelved in favour of a smaller council tax rise. Arnold and the Finance team were prepared to offer smaller amounts and build in extra monitoring which resulted in the original draft budget increase being shaved down again. When my Group met under our leader, Nigel Steele Mortimer on 3rd March, it seemed that the Ward Scheme had been ditched complexly completely …..

Happy New Year

12 plus days into the New Year is a little late to wish all constituents a happy one but better late than never. The first Ewloe ward battle for 2009 has arrived with the public announcement; spotted by a sharp eyed constituent heralding the fact that a developer proposed to build a pub, restaurant and accommodation by the St David’s Park roundabout. The last open space in the middle of this obscenely overdeveloped area is about to be concreted over:- not without a fight it won’t! The 21 day objection period is now running and if any constituent wants to object, please make urgent contact with me or the Planning Officer, Mark Harris on 01352 703269. There is no need for another pub with all its anticipated anti-social and increased traffic problems in Ewloe.

Christmas Capers.

On 16th December, we took a break from budgets problems, scrutiny committees and single status debates to enjoy carols and music courtesy of Flintshire Youth Group in the Council Chamber. We then processed to an excellent traditional turkey and Christmas pudding lunch specially served to cllrs and guests in a committee rooms. (Guests had to pay but why not)! I had to forgo pud to attend a 2.30pm meeting in Chester with my favourite local charity, Save the Family. We had important business to discuss with the new and very impressive Chief Executive as STF is on the threshold of doubling its much needed accommodation and all sorts of detail had to be explored. With repossessions rising and homelessness seriously on the increase, the demands on this charity by destitute, homeless families is just going to go though the roof. My last council engagement before the Recess was a meeting with Mark Isherwood and Brynle Williams, our Welsh Conservative AM’s. Over sandwiches, Mark gave a very illuminating brief on housing transfer strategy. I might have got the wrong end of the stick but he was not aware that there had been any agreement with FCC and the Deputy housing minister …..

COALITION MEETS FORMALLY AT LAST.

Taking as long as I had to find a solution to the disability access problem, the first INAUGURAL MEETING of the Official Coalition finally got under way in County Hall on 11th December. Cllr George Hardcastle as the Alliance leader took the chair whilst we resolved that Executive members were already too busy to chair this group and that whoever was nominated, the chairmanship would be rotated yearly. A paper ballot secured the role of chairman to Cllr Robin Guest and Veronica Gay was the vice chair. Out of the blue, Cllr Patrick Heesom asked if I would be the Coalition Secretary and although I muttered I never went hunting for work, the decision was forced by a show of hands. I was projected onto the top table armed with a pen and a few scrappy bits of paper on which to take the note. I wonder if my obsession for writing throughout meetings had been noted by Patrick. I confess that it was a skill I learnt years ago when judging if young officers had what it took to make them special and fast track officers. Of course, the trick is not just writing fast but to decipher what’s …..

Ewloe Access Improvements

Shrugging off the effects of flu recently, I headed to a rendezvous in Ewloe to keep a promise I had made to a then potential constituent last April. Whilst canvassing for the May Council elections, I was asked what I would do to improve access to some of the food and retail outlets in Ewloe. I had seen this person on his motor scooter but we had never spoken till then. I promised I would do what I could and apart from downloading an official government disability news sheet and posting it though his door, I did nothing for months. The law was not clear and it seemed to be up the shop keeper to determine if they could afford a ramp or whatever necessary to assist non walking people.