Monday 20 April 2009

Interesting arguments

At the last meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council, the Plaid group tabled a notice of motion, asking the county council to hold a public consultation on a change to the way the county is run. The aim of the Plaid group was to have a management board reflecting the political balance within the council rather than an administration drawn only from one or two groups. (Legal rules require a public consultation before the council can change its constitution in this way).

Unsurprisingly, it was defeated, with every member of the Labour and 'Independent' groups voting the same way as their leaders, against the Plaid motion. But sitting in the public gallery listening to the debate, what interested me most were some of the arguments being put against the idea.

One 'Independent' councillor told the meeting that there was no point asking the public what they wanted, because the Labour and 'Independent' groups had already decided that they would not accept any change. Still, I suppose it's entirely consistent with the council's usual approach to 'consultation'.

Another pointed out that, since being placed in an opposition role, Plaid councillors had dared to criticise some of the ruling groups' decisions. In his strange world, any disagreement apparently means that there is no way of working together.

Yet another claimed that councils which had adopted such a model were inherently unstable - apparently because the cabinet was actually answerable to the other councillors rather than able to proceed regardless.

The Council's sole semi-Tory (he used to be one, but is no longer) argued that for the council to function, someone had to be an opposition. "I don't see how anything can be achieved if all politicians come together" is certainly a novel concept. Working together as a barrier to progress is a new one on me.

I would have happily recorded the thoughts of the Labour Group leader here as well, but I'm afraid that I didn't entirely understand the points he was making. (I don't think I was alone in that respect.)

People in Carmarthenshire still find it hard to understand why a party (Plaid) which doubled the number of its seats last May (to 30) is excluded from power, whilst a party (Labour) which lost more than half its seats and now has only 11 remains in power. The reasons are probably clearer now.


Plaid Gwersyllt said...

A politically balanced Executive Board works perfectly well although one needs to have the ability to compromise but the decisions arrived at are invariably sound. Although there are 2 Labour opposition members on the Executive Board they had the option of joining and taking on Lead Member responsibility but their masters in Transport House forbade them from doing so, sop all they do now is sit on the sidelines whingeing and sniping...totally ineffective as an opposition.
If the ruling coalition in Carmarthenshire are that undemocratic why don't you call for a public referendum like was done in Rhostyllen with the National Trust.?

caebrwyn said...

A public referendum in Carmarthenshire? - that's very unlikely isn't it?. If political balance is seen by those in power as a barrier to progress, and public consultation dismissed as a waste of money then this situation will continue. Perhaps we should be asking why and how was the Executive Board and ruling coalition allowed to be so unrepresentative in the first place.

Ryan said...

I think a managment committee won't work, especially under the current policial climate in County Hall. I would much rather see a referendum for a directly-elected mayor. The power can be put back directly into the hands of the people.