Monday, September 08, 2008
A Free Lunch in Llandrindod.
Don't tell me that blogs are a waste of time. It gets me into all sorts of interesting places. Today it was the Annual Conference of the Society of Local Council Clerks in the Metropole at Llandrindod Wells. I was on immediately pre lunch, which is always a good slot - as long as things are not running late. They weren't today. My invite came courtesy of Jim Griffiths, who acts as Clerk to the Society as well as Aberystwyth Town Council. He also reads this blog. The photo is of me between two serious big wigs in the local council world.
Must admit I blanched a bit when I turned up. For some reason I'd been expecting a fairly informal meeting of around 30/40. I arrived to find 105 delegates in a highly professional setting. Huge display boards, various presentation equipment and what looked like a horribly well informed audience. I was billed as President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, but Jim had told me I could talk about whatever I wanted - so I did just that. It must be the thespian in me, because I really enjoy this sort of thing. And I have the added benefit that I enjoy it more when I just talk out of my head with no preparation beyond a basic speech structure of 3/4 reference points in my mind.
I stayed on to hear Alan Southerby, who emerged from the Planning Department of Powys County Council to tell the representatives of Welsh Town and Community Councils how they could 'make their views count'. If you listen carefully, you may be able to hear me snort derisively as I type out these words. It would probably have been the same irrespective of which planner's bunker, the speaker had emerged from. The line that caught my attention was that the fact that objection to a proposal from every single resident in a community has absolutely no relevance when a planning application is being considered. It makes not one jot of difference. I wanted to shout out "Why the b***** h*** not", but retained control. Left thinking to myself 'What has happened to the idea of 'local democracy' in Wales'. The problem is that the vast majority of planning applications are now decided by 'officials'. Elected councillors have only the miniest walk-on role. It wouldn't be so bad, but during the 30 years I've been involved in public life, I've never heard so much complaint from virtually everyone involved in trying to secure permission to do something. Sorry Alan, I'm not just picking on you. Its probably the same everywhere. For some bizarre reason in Britain we've reached a position where only the 'trained elite' are deemed competent to take decisions. Its even worse in the European Union. And then I read Janet Daley when I stopped for a coffee in Jay's in Newtown on the way home.
Good day though. Thanks for the invite Jim.