Friday 14 May 2010

Who's being reckless?

According to a report in the Western Mail today, the Plaid group on Carmarthenshire was being 'reckless' in challenging the location of a new school proposed for the Dinefwr area. It would be easy to simply point out that the comment came from Labour Group leader Kevin Madge, who does have something of a propensity for hyperbole when he gets a bit worked up (which generally happens at least once in each council meeting).

The basic problem is that the council has, from the outset, been trying to bulldoze its plans through with minimal discussion, consultation, or consideration of the alternatives. At every discussion prior to the one at Wednesday's meeting of the council, councillors were told that no final decision was being made about the siting, and that there would be an opportunity to discuss that later.

By this week, the position had suddenly become that it's too late to change the location now, the business plan has been prepared on the basis of the selected site. The blame, of course, is placed at the door of the external consultants engaged by the council to evaluate a range of alternative sites. Their recommended site was announced to councillors at a (non decision-making) seminar a couple of months ago, and has somehow become the de facto choice since then.

Many of the councillors from the ruling parties seem to think that the consultants have taken the decision for them. That's a nonsense of course. The consultants gave them a list of pros and cons for each site, and drew attention to the fact that one site matched the brief they were given by the council better than the others - but that never meant that the council had no alternative.

In any event, as an ex-consultant, I've always believed that the definition of a consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time. The real decision is taken by those who prepare the brief.

It's an echo of yesterday's post in many ways. Just as when preparing a business plan the real decision is which business plan you choose to write, so when employing consultants the real decision is not what you do with their report but the brief that you write for them in the first place.

And in a further echo of yesterday's post, having come to a conclusion on the site, the council has prepared an outline business plan for submission to the Assembly Government. It 'proves' that the council's proposals are viable, of course. But then it was never going to do otherwise. It is, in essence, a device to unlock funding for a decision which was taken three years ago, not a basis for taking that decision.

1 comment:

caebrwyn said...

There is still angry opposition in Llandovery to the closure of Pantecelyn, it will have a dire effect on town as well as meaning hours of travelling for the children. I also understand from the report to the council meeting that there is still a possibility that they will not secure 100% funding from WAG and may have to contribute up to £20 million which the council hasn't got and is, worryingly, proposing to take it from a 'squeezed'and 'reduced' education budget over the next few years. This is not good.