Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Hillbillies

This lady's name is Linda Rowe, and she lives in the village of Kerry, in Montgomeryshire. She is the lead singer with The Hillbillies, and as well as having a strong voice, has strong opinions - especially in respect of the damage that wind turbines and associated power cables inflict on the landscape. I'd not met Linda until this weekend, but when she told me her name, I remembered that I'd been email lobbied by her about the new 32 kv power cable which is to built near Kerry to carry power from the proposed replacement wind farm at Llandinam to the National Grid. Didn't speak to her for long, but got the feeling that she's not one to be tangled with. But its admiration rather than fear that has instigated this post, which is meant to be considered as a promotion of the Hillbillies.

Last night's do was the 'Shire' Chairman's Dinner. The background to this annual event needs explanation. In 1994, the then Conservative Government did a terrible thing. It tried to wipe the county of Montgomeryshire off the map - merging it with Radnorshire and Breconshire to form the new County of Powys. This Powys is a ridiculous construct, which councillors have no choice but try to make some sense of. Its not to be confused with the old Powis, which took in Montgomeryshire, and parts of Meirionydd and the old Denbighshire, an area which marches well together , and made more sense. Many Montgomeryshire people have never accepted this 'constitutional crime' (including moi). Several Powys County Councillors have not accepted it either, and a 'Shire' Committee continues to meet in Montgomeryshire on a regular basis. This year's Chair of the 'Shire' Committee is Councillor Roche Davies, who represents Llandinam. He is a good friend of mine, which led to my being invited to his Annual Dinner. (And before you hair shirt types comment, we all paid for our tickets). A good time was had by all, and The Hillbillies played their part.


Anonymous said...

Living in the past is no role for a politician, Glyn. The so called Shire Committee structure is a disgrace and a complete waste of resources. The role given to your Montgomeryshire "Shire" members is a joke - the Committee has no responsibilities but nevertheless manage to meet at monthly meetings where they discuss matters more akin to lower tiers of Local Government - the dreaded Community Council - the odd traffic order - or worse - complaining and moaning about what happened last week at County Hall (which is the real power base). The Shire structure has played right into the hands of the County Council officers, who actually run the show as our Shire councillors squabble about petty irrelevancies and hark after the good old times when decisions were made on purely parochial grounds. It is not so surprising that these same councillors are demanding the return of the Shire Planning Committees. After all, this is where councillors derived their "power" within their own community - giving favours to friends in the form of dodgy planning consents. This last bastion of paternalism and favour was removed by the recently departed Chief Executive because of irregularities in planning decisions. Not surprising then that he was subsequently removed from office after speaking out about the lack of strategic thinking from our Shire Members - ironically on planning matters (albeit on wind farm planning issues). Please Glyn, do not insult our intelligence that the Shire Committee structure in Powys is something to behold. Speak to a Shire Member when s/he is at County Hall - you would not believe s/he is the same person. Return to the County Offices in Welshpool - that same Councillor would be unrecognisable! The downside of all this - it is we the Council tax payer who has to pay for all this ludicrous and unnecessary bureacracy. Let us have real politics, with a controlling party giving strategic direction for officers to follow. We could then vote for something we understand and if the direction is not right, vote for somebody else. The Shire structure should have died in 1996. Instead we have the Powys pudding and councillors who are living in the past and are incapable of modernising our ailing County.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - I do not think that the delivery of public services on the basis of Montgomeryshire is the only the past. It could be the future as well. I can well envisage a 'regional structure' of local government in Wales, with the whole of Mid Wales being the 'region'. Service delivery would be through sub regions, of which Montgomeryshire would be one. I've always believed that the current Powys is so geographically disconnected that as things stand now, services should be delivered on a North and South basis - many services are. Where I do agree with you is that the current role of the 'Shire' committee is limited to relatively unimportant issues. The financial pressures that will be brought to bear on the Council over the next few years is going to force a rethink on how services are delivered. I pesonally believe that there should be a wholesale devolution of power from the centre at Llandrindod to Community Councils and the the shire committees. We shall see how this pans out.

I thought the previous Chief Executive removed himself! He resigned when there seemed absolutely no reason to do so. I thought that Mark Kerr was a good man, but I was never sure that he understood what democracy was. He was displeased that elected representatives should hold opinions that differed from that of the controlling officers.

I personally also agree with you about there being a need for clearer political control - which is why I have never supported the Executive Board system. I would prefer there to be a 'ruling group' and an opposition - but others, including the Conservatives, do not agree with me. However I do not believe that this precludes reconsideration of the structure through which services should be delivered.

Its quite something that anyone who has read this post has a clear opinion, even if it is disagreement. There can't be many of us!

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

"Let's hear it for Linda Rowe"; I like that lady and I especially like her opinions! "She's darn well right" (line from the album "Breakfast Over America" - if memory serves).

But Ms. Rowe is so RIGHT!

Those wind-turbine farms are scaring the landscape - the pylons and construction pollutes otherwise beautiful landscape.

Good for Linda Rowe!