Thursday, March 05, 2009

Blogging and 'Leaks'.

Not much time for blogging at the moment. Evenings are being spent visiting the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, and eating out with Mrs D afterwards. But I'd like to run a bit further with the local Powys Council theme that caused a bit of a stir earlier in the week.

I've been really surprised by some of the reaction to my posts. It seems that I should not have posted on the resignation of the Chief Executive - before the Council had itself announced it. This despite someone from County Hall surreptitiously communicating the information to the media before I posted on it. That was OK, I suppose. It seems that I should not have reported on the discussions that have been taking place about replacing the Chair of the Executive Board - despite my knowing it to be a fact. I thought it in the public interest to know that the Chair (Leader) can, in theory be 'elected' by no more than 20% of the Councillors (at present its around 40%). Electors don't know these things. So what's wrong with telling them. Its good for democracy.

I'm not at all sure that all councillors in Powys have grasped the new world where control of information has passed from the grasp of the Council's establishment. It started a few years back when someone leaked that several peripatetic teachers had not been CRB checked. Hell of a scandal. The Council had tried to keep the information secret. Thousands of pounds were spent on a outside consultant trying to find the 'whistle blower'. Because there was a suspicion that I might have been involved, I suddenly found Council staff telephoning me with inside stories. Since the fuss about my posts earlier this week, I have already received two calls asking me to 'leak' stories on this blog - which brings with it responsibility about I should publish.

One issue that I decided not to blog on was a call from Edna Mopbucket that she'd found evidence that approval of the Council's small business grants were to be moved from the 'shire' committees to the responsible Board Member. This would be seen as a 'centralising' move and would cause an unholy row if it were true. But I cannot make this story stand up, so I decided not to run with it. The other issue that has been leaked to me is a very important story concerning Council investments, which will eventually be very much in the public interest. But I do not believe that final decisions have yet been taken. So I have decided to keep it to myself - for now..

Final point I'll make is that there would be no leaks at all if there is an entirely open and transparent approach by the Council to all of its work. Information that becomes public via leaks always seems more significant and interesting than if it is volunteered. Anyway, my snout Edna Mopbucket has decided to spend a lot more time in Powys County Hall over the next few weeks. So keep the leaks coming is my message.


Anonymous said...

Need for Mrs M in the "Bay" Glyn I hear....her absence has led to old habits returning within the Plaid lot.

The free fall of labour at at UK level is giving courage to those who wished a link up with your former group.

Might just be worth asking Mrs M to do a little extra cleaning in and around the office of a certain recently "retired" Plaid Minister.

Could also be worth some dusting the tops of the desk of a certain former Lib Dem leader who seems to be tired of his long promised wait for the call to wear the ermine robes.

Jeff Jones said...

I'm always interested to read the leak stories regarding Powys CC on your blog. I have very fond memories of County Hall in Llandod where the WLGA held its monthly meetings. Driving back to Swansea to lecture on a Friday afternoon at breakneck speed after these meetings was always an interesting experience particularly when sometimes you met GB Rally drivers coming towards you on the back roads! They never used to say very much but I always found the Powys leaders to be perfect gentlemen. Powys politics seemed to have the feel of the 18th century about it with local bigwigs deciding who should represent the area in order to avoid an election. They even tolerated in Baldwin fashion the Labour contingent from the top of the Swansea valley. The problem with this relaxed approach to politics unfortunately is that it isn't much use in the future now being faced by local government throughout the UK.Settlements are bound to get worse.Unpopular decisions can't be postponed any longeras they have been in Powys. It will be difficult in authorities where there is strong leadership ssuch as Tory controlled Essex. In authorities such as Powys where no one can be certain how councillors will vote on a proposal it could be disastrous. The resignation of the Chief Executive is a clear sign that there is something wrong with the decision making process in the County. Independent members have a part to play in local government but they must realise that if they form an administration they have to devise a strategy and a vision for the future of the area. Drift is no longer an option which was the message that the Admiral was trying to get across in his interview. If they have the courage then councillors should vote for the candidate for future Chief Executive who is brutally honest about the future prospects for the county and outlines his or her strategy for taking the county through what will be the most difficult period for local government since the 1980s.

Anonymous said...

What an astonishing revelation from the County Council, which indicates that it wants to work behind a smoke screen and not be transparent in its conduct. The county council is accountable to its ratepayers and so should be answerable to them.

I believe that there is too much business of the council delegated to the officers, some of whom, from my experience, are less than mediocre in their abilities.

It is time the councillors, themselves acted as decision makers, rather than the officers. The officers are there to provide informed advice to the councillors.

May the leaks continue, so at least we know what is going on.

Anonymous said...

I realy think you should team up with Jeff Jones, Glyn. You could learn many of the arts of spin he was and is still well known for in Bridgend.

His history lesson on Powys by-gone days is of course correct - other than we are still living it here!

As an Radnor boy who taught in Maesteg for over 25 years I must however marvel at his attack on a few select people making backdoor decsions. It was well known on the old Ogwr Council in which front room on Sunday mornings you could find a select number of our councillors meeting to decide the votes!

local_worker said...

When you leaked the story of the CE's resignation, it was before the councillors had voted on whether or not to accept his resignation, they were still standing around talking in small huddles at this point, making all the staff wonder what the h**l was going on.

I suspect the fact that the press knew and were starting to ask questions before the vote took place influenced some to vote to accept it. I may be wrong there, but i think it did have an affect - it made it all inevitable.

I guess thats why the person leaked it in the first place - as soon as it was out it was an inevitability - they obviously didn't think much of Mark Kerr - but in my mind it was very wrong of them to do that - adversly affecting deocracy.

I should say though Glyn, that you aren't to be blamed for any of that - and I don't suppose you knew the fact that they hadn't yet voted on the matter.

As a member of staff its all a bit strange at the moment, and surprisingly disorientating when something like this happens, not that i ever had anything to do with him, but it was sad to see him go.

And can I just take the opportunity to say also that council workers get a lot of bad press from some of the people who comment on this blog (not your fault glyn). Its quite destructive and frustrating. Most of us work bl***y hard and we are council tax payers too don't forget. We would also like the councillors to lead and provide us with some direction, but if they don't then officers are forced to come up with something.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - One reason Edna is not happy leaking stuff from the Bay is that I've not been using. She was on the phone all afternoon when the Conservative reshuffle was going on last week - and I refused to use any of it. Its all still so febrile and humourless. More fun in Llandrindod.

Jeff - I know exactly what you mean - but Powys politics is changing now, to some extent as a result of the new Tory group, which I think is a modern professional disciplined group, which argues its corner, without officer direction. Hopefully politely and accepting of democratic defeat. I do not think it will change properly until it gets shot of this Executive Board system. And there des not seem much appetite for this in any of the groups at present.

Anon 2 - and there's too much training of councillors to behave like officers. Personal opinion this.

Anon 3 - Don't know enough to comment.

Local Worker - I posted what I was told - that Mark Kerr had tendered hid resignation, and that the Council had taken a long break for the groups to discuss whether to accept it or not. I said they were going back in to vote.

Now while I like transparency, I think it was reasonable to dfeal with this issue without the press. I also think it was improper for someone to contact the media during the morning.

Your last para is instuctive. There will always be negative comments about Council employees on blogs. One consolation is that there will always be more about politicians!! I hope I've never been guilty of stereotyping council staff. Like all occupations, there are some very good and some not so good. And I don't blame senior officers for giving direction, when they feel they have to. Its up to the Councillors to take charge and provide the leadereship.