Posts Tagged ‘Housing’

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” …..

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 …..

No Laptops for Housing

At a recent Community and Housing meeting, I was cross to learn that progress was behind schedule when rolling out a computerised means of council tenants reporting faults which, when up and running should make big savings and speed up the maintenance service. When visiting Canton, the Housing and Maintenance HQ some weeks ago, we saw a system that seemed to be working well and I was impressed. Tenants are issued with a computerised manual to make reporting a fault much easier to identify so that the fault can be fully logged and agreed without the need to send work people to identify the problem before a repair can be effected. The reason for the delay to this project was not made clear and we also learned of slippage on a system designed to track the whereabouts of all council transport. Again, the reason for the delay was vague! This scheme also has the potential to make big savings and so any delay in introducing it is regrettable.