Thursday, January 29, 2009

2.99% it is then.

Edna Mopbucket's been on - laughing like a drain. Never known her so jolly. When she told me it was all thanks to the Lib Dems, I was worried. The sheer symbolism of Edna deserting me would do very bad things to my confidence. And then she explained. I didn't think it was that funny - but I suppose you had to be there.

Edna's working full-time for Powys County Council at the moment. When I asked her if she was one of these thousand plus employees on over £30,000, she audibly snarled down the phone something about 'peanuts' and the b******s wanting to charge for parking her car. In truth she only took the job because of this thing she's got for Councillor Bob Mills. Goes all gooey when I mention his name. And she knew he'd be there today. Anyway back to the story.

It was budget day at County Hall. The motion from the Management Board, which had been put forward by the Lib Dems and the Montgomeryshire Independents was an increase in Council Tax of 2.99 %. I'd been expecting two amendments - an increase of 3.99% from the Powys Independents, and just 2% from my lot. I guessed that the two amendments would probably lose, with the motion to carry. The Conservatives knew that if their amendment was lost, the arithmetic demanded they vote for the motion - or the Council would be in the same boat as the Scottish Parliament. No budget at all.

And then the fun started. The Lib Dems began talking about an amendment. That's right - to their own motion! Even dafter it involved charging Council employees for parking their cars. Edna reckons they were beaming with pride - coming up with such a brilliant wheeze. She reckons she heard one of them say "Bound to make the papers - that's all that matters". Then someone said this must be put in writing, and the only bit of paper they could find was the back of a canteen menu that Richard White happened to have in his pocket - or so Edna said. I never know when to believe her. Everyone started laughing. Then they took a break so that one of them could write it out, and photocopy it for everyone. But no-one could read the writing, and the figures didn't add up. People were laughing so much that a doctor was sent for - so Edna says. Then someone asked what the union response had been to this idea. The poor Lib Dem leader looked as if a rat had run up his trouser leg. They hadn't thought of that. And then someone asked what plans the Lib Dems had to stop staff parking on the grass, or in the nearby Metropole car park and taking up all the free car parking in the town. Questions were coming in thick and fast. The whole chamber was erupting in joyous laughter. Then they started falling out amongst themselves, and the Lib Dem leader started dancing around wildly. The rat was clearly sinking its teeth into something tender! The amendment wasn't so much withdrawn as forgotten about. Took ages to calm things whole. I'm sure Edna exaggerates sometimes. It sounds as if it was almost as ridiculous as the political column of the Daily Sport.

Edna told me that all the Conservative speakers were polished and persuasive - so much so that the Montgomeryshire Independents abstained on the Conservative amendment. Everyone opposed the Powys Independents amendment, and everyone but them voted for the 2.99% increase in Council Tax. So 2.99% it is. But fair play to the Lib Dems. They brought joy and hilarity to what would otherwise have been an austere debate.


Anonymous said...

I heard that ‘your lot’ proposed that councillors pay should not increase for 2 years and that meal allowances for councillors should be scrapped.
An independent councillor claimed he was worth his ‘free meal’ and criticized ‘your lots’ proposals and said that he wouldn’t bother coming in if he didn’t get his free meal. Well done to the new Tory group.

How much did the Lib Dems want to charge staff per day for parking in the council car parks and would visitors have to pay as well?

Anonymous said...

I here to day one off my friends Ricky T Bridge went to watch the big debate and he was shocked to see one of the independents say that he was worth his wait in food. Luckily for the people of Powys hot air is light and should not cost us much

Anonymous said...

We need Edna back in the "Bay" where she belongs on not in our County Hall - please ask her to go back Glyn so we can get some of the great stories the Western Mail or Liverpool Post miss out on. Understand there could be some good stories about - if she starts cleaning out the Plaid Office. I hear that there is a little more to Janet Ryders " departure" as their Education spokesperson! Did she jump before being pushed with new girl Delyth Evans taking over ..also heard there may be some interesting cross party joint working between a Plaid high flyer and one of your former pals....but lets get the facts and ask Edna to return.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - I heard about the Councillor who said he wouldn't come in if he didn't have his subsidised lunch - and and I'd say he was a Powys independent except that he'd probably sue me! I'm not sure that even the Lib Dems would be able to tell you, or who was going to pay. Its cruel to do anything but let this quietly slip away.

Anon - Why does no-one name this independent. Perhaps we're all afraid of being sued.

Anon - Edna finds the atmosphere in Cardiff so febrile and tetchy since the allowances row, with everyone thrashing around for someone else to blame that Edna hotfooted it out of the place. She cannot stand working anywhere where a sense of humour is banned.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon 3 - Its Nerys Evans. Delyth Evans was a very good Labour AM who took the place of Alun Michael

Anonymous said...

The Conservative Group have shown they are the only part of PCC who have the courage to take the bold decisions in the interest of their residents. I'm sure it was pleasing to see the faces of PIGs when their snouts were pulled away from the trough of greed. All power to the Tories! (soon anyway)

Garibaldi Biscuit said...

How can anyone take Powys CC seriously? Most of the members seem to act as if they were in the Italian Parliament before 1914. They should also realise that the criticism in the Estyn report regarding the failure of councillors to take decisions was aimed at Powys.

anon said...

I am led to believe it was a PIG who's ward is not to far away from where you live.

I also understand Councillor Gary Price voted to increase council tax by 3.99%, has he suddenly become a PIG? Surely not.

Anonymous said...

They wanted to charge £1 per day per space, 250 spaces at county hall, £250 per day, times 5, times 48 working weeks, how much would that have given them?

The lib dem leader withdrew his motion because he knew they were not going to gain support, my question was why were they ...... to suggest it in the first place?

JPT said...

I wonder what next years will have to be...?

Glyn Davies said...

Roman - Non Conservatives are telling me that our team put on a good team performance. They did not win the vote, but I think they persuaded a few.

Garibaldi - Independently run councils can seem a bit haphazard, and unpopular decisions are often not taken. My own opinion is that when Councils take decisions they must argue their case. Closure of small schools is a good example. Powys have played silly games with this, doing everything but put the case. They want to close schools, but are not prepared to argue that it delivers a better education, which they must believe if they are going to do it. I've told Councillors that I will support the threatened school (because they will ask me for help) but if the Council so believe in their policy that they ignore me, I will not criticise them.

Anon - again this reluctance to state the name. We are all afraid of this man who needs his subsidised lunch!

Anon 2 - better ask him. I'm told he didn't have many answers yesterday.

JPT - There should be no reason to. This increase is way ahead of what inflation will be through the year. The Council has got to realise that people are not going to hav ethe money to pay these large increases for years to come.

Anonymous said...

The council meeting was a farce; the Powys Independents’ were in a destructive mood, they have put the future of the Wyeside Arts Centre at risk in a fit of peak because they couldn’t get their own way. The Lib Dem group tried, bless, in their ham-fisted/back of a fag packet way to amend their own motion to save the centre, it ended in disaster with their own whip voting against their own motion. Both groups also voted against the Conservative group which had at least had a £25k element in their proposal to buy the arts centre some time. The Powys Independents also poured scorn on the Conservative idea of freezing the Councillors pay and scraping the meal allowance. God help us.

Read and weep from DC said...

In today's Daily Post: "BUSINESS leaders in North Wales are urging the Welsh Assembly Government to rethink a planned above-inflation rise in business rates."

Jane said...

The anonymous powys independent everyone is talking about or rather not talking for that matter is Cllr Wynne Jones from Abermule.

He did say he would stay at home and find something else to do, presumably his residents are thrilled with that idea.

I think he is also the portfolio holder for Regeneration and he balked at the idea of putting £25,000.oo extra in to tourism, surely he would be happy to get the extra money, apparently not.

Anonymous said...

Didn't have many answers? He didn't have any answers, 3.99% surely he did not expect his residents to pay that.

What did Edna think of that?

I thought he was on the cusp of becoming a conservative, so I imagine it was quite a shock for some of 'your lot' when he failed to support them and went at nearly twice what they were proposing.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - I thought it was a good idea to freeze allowances. Councillors should recognise the pain people are suffering.

Reda and Weep - To raise business rates as the Assembly Government has is sheer madness - a tax on jobs. Inflation for the year in question is probably going to about 1%.

Jane - prepered to be sued. Only joking Wynne.

Anon - Though I felt very strongly that the increase should have been 2%, I can understand why some voted for 4%. Looking at the matter from a Council perspective, I can see great concern about the ability to fund services. It depends from where you view the situation.

Anonymous said...

This article is so sad...sad for the people of Powys and sad for the democratic process. But we have been there before. We put up idiots and they behave like idiots. We even have a gorilla (previously 'done' for GBH - yes GBH!!)as a Chairman of the Planning Committee - and for anyone having turned up to watch the debacle of a Committee at work, you can see why policy has had to be tightened and greater delegation given to officers. I am used to submitting planning applications on both sides of the border and I can tell you that the planners at Powys are more approachable and helpful than their English counterparts. It is the system that has become more complex (and I do laugh when you recount the good ol' days of MDC when you were Chairman of the Planning Committee - the dark days I would suggest of getting planing permission for farming friends contrary to planning policy). I now hear that yet another meeting has taken place at the County Offices between agents and the planning staff - this time with the Chief Executive present (see earlier blog "30 Angry Men"). It appears though that your own agent (a former CE for Montgomery DC) has been appointed as spokesman for the Angry Men. Unfortneatley I wouldn't appoint any of those Angry Men as my planning agent and in my view they are reacting not to the planning staff but to their own (professional) (in)abilities to deal effectively with the complexities of the planning process. I do suspect a conspiracy here and wonder whether you Glyn are in league with Mr Kerr to dismantle the planning system in Powys. We hear through Edna that Powys planning will be shunted off lock stock and barrel to Capita consultancy who have already earned £90k from dealing with the planning application backlog last year in Powys. Edna also tells me that Mr Kerr is in discussions with Ceredigion who do indeed have a failing planning service and who have also been charmed by Mr Kerr to off-load their planning department to Capita Consultancy. According to the Local Govt Chronicle a similar venture between an East Anglian District Council and Capita cost that Council £35 million with the promise of £2m savings p.a. What savings on democracy one wonders? Of course as Powys councillors take their eyes off the ball yet again in their in-house squabbling games (is this really politics?), they play right into Mr Kerr's salty hands who is now on a personal crusade to dismantle local government in Mid Wales. Back to planning - whilst the spokesman attending this week's meeting was vitriolic about the quality of Powys planning service, according to Edna, Mr Kerr notably did not utter a word - not one word in defence of a planning department under HIS command but who are so obviously struggling and in need of supportive leadership.

Anonymous said...

Living in a band E property the difference between a 2.9% and 3.9% increase actually means me paying £1.22 a month less on my council tax bill. Which on any western budget is negligible.

But I think it means around £850,000 less income for the council, which may be small in comparison to the overall budget, but still means less money for services which will become even more crucial as the financial crisis worsens.

I'm sorry to rain on your parade Glyn, but the conservative councillors voted at 2% (knowing full well it wouldn't get through) purely as a PR exercise to make us all think they're on our side. Good timing with a general election possibly around the corner.

People will never be happy about an increase in council tax, but really £1.22 a month?

The tories have done nothing amazing in this - just tried to get good PR out of a financial crisis. :(

Glyn Davies said...

Anon 1 - Why don't you come and say your piece to the next agent's meeting. I think its on the 11th. Since the 40 plus who turned up to meet the planners take a very different view from you, your contribution would be a very useful balance. And it would be interesting to see who you are.
And why on earth would I want to dismantle the planning service. Edna is keeping me informed about the discussions going on about developing community interest companies within the Council. She tells me that development control is not included - at present anyway. And anyway, I am but a mere observer of the developing situation. I certainly cannot answer for what Mr Kerr does.

Anon 2 Your logic leads to 'no upper limit'. There are two factors in deciding Council Tax - the need to provide services, and the ability of people to pay. I've read your comment twice and it strikes me that you must be someone with a few quid. You seem completely out of touch with all the peoplewho talk to me. And perhaps you didn't notive that one of the other groups abstained on the Conservative amendment. I don't think you listened to the contributions of the Conservative speakers, or you would not be so dismissive of their efforts to represent the interests of the peaople of Powys.

Anonymous said...

I remain Anon. because of the sensitivity of planning in Powys and the embarrassment of exposing fellow agents. I think you are contributing to the demise of planning in Powys - I have heard this evening that Kerr is not only partnering with Ceredigion but also with Gwynedd. So we could get 3 authority areas disposing of its planning services to a private company - Capita Consulting. I would say to the 30 Angry Men that you will certainly be exposed under a Capita Planning Authority. You will not have the support and advice of local planning officers who have by and large supported this area well. Rather you will be confronted by the professional might of a privatised local planning authority who have a totally professional approach to planning matters. There will be no room for parochialism; there will be no room for taking that personal local line. Instead agents, you will have to do things properly for once. There will be no room for shoddy workmanship and the blame for failing to get clients' planning consent will rest with you. Glyn you are being dupicitous. You ask why I believe you want to dismantle the planning service...easy - you have agent friends who haven't the ability to promote planning applications that comply with the complex requirements of today's planning system.

Caws said...

Glyn I'm always grateful of your blog and the information you provide us tory followers. With regard to PCC and its current situation what would it take to review the electoral boundaries in the county? Do we really need 4 (I think) councillors to look after a population the size of Newtown? In this day and age this is over excessive and could surely save us some money across the piece. Secondly has any looked in to the amount the council spends on lease cars for the officers. My understanding that the numbers are huge. Is this cost efficient for us as a tax payer? I'm sure an FOI and some clever calculations would find this costs us far too much.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - Astonishing comment if I might say so, especially the offensive and unjustified use of the word duplicitous. I was as surprised as anyone when Edna told me that there was a possibility of some sort of 'community interest' cross-county arrangement being discussed. You are so well informed that I suspect you must be connected with the Council. I do not know whether I will support this arrangement yet, (not that my opinion matters) because I have not seen the detail. In fact I would be surprised if anything is anywhere near finalised. To suggest that I would want to dismantle the local planning system is plain wrong, as any of the agents etc. that I've spoken to will tell you. As far as I know, the 30 (now more I think) agents etc just want the present system to work more effectively. My understanding is that last weeks Agent's Forum went quite well.
And what's this about remaining anonymous to protect agent's. Over 40 of them turned up to meet the top planning team the Council could put out last week. The only person that I know of who wishes to hide behind the 'anonymous' screen is you.

caws - Two points here. Firstly I believe there are discussions about reducing the number of councillors. There is a general acceptance that the current (83 or thereabouts I think) is too many. But more significantly than that, the Council is going to have to look seriously at how it reduces its budget over the next few years, because of the current financial problems. I think I'll post on that subject now.

Anonymous said...


No, i'm afraid I don't have a few quid at all, and live on a very tight budget with a small family and a part time job.

£1.22 a month though IS within my budget, and within everybody elses. Yes there has to be an upper limit obviously - what irritates is the political mileage you are trying to get out of this - its blindingly obvious that your group put in the lowest figure for the prime purpose of good PR. A good councillor will balance what the public can afford from their pocket, at what services they can afford to lose. I don't accept your lot did this.


Glyn Davies said...

Anon - Unfortunately, you seem to want to gratuitously insult the Conservative councillors, simply because they do not agree with your viewpoint. Well I think you are wrong, and I'm proud of the stance they took.

Russ George said...

Dear Anonymous

I am one of the 9 conservative Councillors who voted for an increase of 2%

I voted for this because there are people in my ward who have recently been made redundant, there are elderly people I have spoken with who are finding it difficult to pay bills, there are people who have businesses who are struggling to make a living.

It seems in your judgement CT should have been set at 3.99%, I spoke with one person who wanted a CT increase of over 5%, in my judgement it should be 2%. There is no logical reason to use the 3.99% as a base (e.g.£1.22 is affordable) why not use 10%?

I voted for what I believed to correct. I did not vote for good PR

That is the truth; you can either believe or disbelieve that – That’s up to you.