Thursday 20 January 2011

Formal briefs and cosy chats

When Carmarthenshire County Council was faced with a difficult decision about the siting of a new secondary school, the Assembly Government agreed to pay for the council to hire some consultants to consider the options.  The fact that the Assembly Government was paying was enough for some of the councillors to claim that it was the Government, not the county council, which had employed the consultants, so the county council was only accepting the site selected for them by the Government.  Politically convenient, if utterly disingenuous.
Interestingly, one local blogger issued a FoI request to the county council to see a copy of the brief given to the consultants.  Clearly, they had to have some sort of ToR for a study of this sort, costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds, didn’t they?
Well, er, apparently not.  The council’s reply is that there was no formal brief at all, and no written ToR; they simply had a few little (unrecorded and unminuted) chats with the consultants and then left them to get on with it.  Apart from giving the county council what Richard Nixon used to refer to as ‘credible deniability’, it means that no-one (except those party to the little chats) is in any position to assess whether the report did or did not fulfil the brief, or whether it represented value for money.
It’s just one more flaw in an already very badly flawed process aimed at closing schools.  It’s neither transparent nor democratic.  Will the Welsh Government raise any issues over the way in which the money they gave the county council has been spent?  I suspect not – after all, the Welsh Government has been complicit from the outset in the flawed process.  In closing schools and denying the right to Welsh-medium secondary education in the Tywi Valley, the county is merely implementing the will of the government.

1 comment:

Spirit of BME said...

Grateful if you could give the name of the councilors , to a consultant they seem to be Farther Christmas and the Birthday Fairy rolled into one.