Friday, 4 September 2015

Not so quiet

I've mentioned many in previous blogs, but as well as actual council arranged meetings there are usually a lot more that councillors can go to, some looking at specific projects.   We have two ongoing at the moment that will I hope benefit the ward and all communities in those areas.  Interestingly both overlap with our neighbouring Castle ward.

Those of you who know Swansea may well know the Boys & Girls club which technically is in Castle ward but actually right on the border with Townhill.  Castle Cllr David Phillips has been working on this for years, and his hard work appears to have paid off as at long last the building looks like it will be brought back into use by the Boys & Girls Club of Wales.   A very good public meeting was held mid August where the architects provided impressions of what it could look like.  And whilst reservations were raised, all being quite valid concerns that will need to be addressed, the general consensus seemed very positive.  It's still very early days but a good start none the less.

And let me tell you a bit more about Mayhill "Washing" Pond, which is just up
the hill from Castle ward's North Hill Road.  It's so called because historically people would do their washing there.  Some people have been using it as a dumping ground for their rubbish, either through not knowing better or simply not caring.  However, as mentioned in my last blog, local residents, councillors in both wards, and Communities 1st, have all been looking to assure it's long term future as a family picnic spot.  There will be a public meeting in September to help take this forward.

On another tack, people often ask me if we councillors have a summer break.  It's certainly true that things quieten down but in fact meetings continue throughout, and I make a point of not taking a break from doing my monthly surgery.  I's a very useful way for me to meet people, as well as it being a place for them to air their issues, and it makes sense to me that if the poster says 'every month' then it should be so.  And has it happened August's was one of my busiest!


Monday, 3 August 2015

Long Term Plans

Whilst I haven't had many meetings over the past month or so I have had time to make a bit more progress on a couple of long term projects. 

I have become very interested in the possibility of introducing 'Friends of' schemes in Townhill ward, and Mayhill "Washing" Pond seems an ideal spot to see if this can take off.  Residents & Communities 1st have already being making inroads in getting the pond tidy but I, along with others, think the long term answer to keep it tidy is definitely getting a group of residents on board and this is what we intend looking into in the coming months.

I have also looked in more details as to how the NEAT team works - these are people with learning disabilities but through support are able to learn practical skills by doing outdoor work, not just clearing litter but bringing patches of derelict land into leisure use.  To get a better idea I visited Polly Park in St Thomas.  The improvements they have made really show just what great work they can do given the right expert guidance. 

And to finish on another positive, I am delighted to 

see the wonderful wild flowers yet again in full bloom, such as on the corner of Penygraig & Dyfed, and also half way down Gwent Road.  I hope everyone can agree that it does make such a difference.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Catching Up!

Apologies for the lack of blog - been very busy, particularly in April, leading up to the General Election.  And there was also a By-Election in the ward I represent, Townhill, where one of my fellow councillors stood down, so all in all very hectic.  Since May 7th it's been a long slow return to normal (and I did sneak a very restful week off!)

During March & April I still aimed & managed to attend meetings where possible, including the two Cabinet Advisory Committees (CACs) that I am on.  These have been set up to give support to cabinet members in the work they need to be doing to effectively carry out their portfolios. Over the last few months these committees have been gradually taking shape, and at the same time they have certainly helped me, as a back bencher, to have a better understanding of what particular portfolios are.  

I also believe is a good way of making the cabinet system
work more openly as it has potentially opened up involvement in council business to all councillors.  I now have the opportunity to have a say in the areas covered by the two committees I am on.  And in this way I am hoping to use the relevant CAC to help further the 'behind the scenes' work I have been doing on an issue that I feel strongly about, that of tackling flytipping.  As with other areas in Swansea it adversely affects the ward not just visually but in giving an impression of an area not cared for which is so unfair to residents.  But I also realise it needs to be looked at not just by itself but together with everything relating to waste management.  I will keep you posted on any progress that I make on this project - but it will no doubt be a very long haul!

Quite recently the actual way councils in Wales are set up has been a topic of debate, with a Welsh Government White Paper going out for consultation.  I had a very useful discussion with my own AM which provided me with much food for thought, and enabled me to give a considered response to the questionnaire - whilst feedback won't necessarily make a difference I believe you should say what you think when given the opportunity.  We will see what the future of local government in Wales turns out to be, so again do continue to watch this space!!


Sunday, 15 March 2015

2 for 1, and still late!

The last couple of months have been very hectic and some of you may well have noticed that we are now well into March.  So this is a double dose for you to take all at once!

Why so hectic?  Mainly as the topic in council over the recent months has been the budget, with additional meetings, consulting both staff & the public, reviewing all feedback, and finally putting a proposal together.  This has been a long slog but of course a very important one.  Now the trick is to make it work!

But the rest of council has continued regardless, requiring me to attend a number of my usual meetings.  (I've tried to give myself a complete contrast by rejoining my choir - trouble is that's been hard work too!)  And just to make life even more interesting, councillors & certain officers have moved out of the Civic Centre into the Guildhall.  I do try to make sure I've got the right place in my diary but have already been to the wrong building for a meeting!

So arguably the word 'hectic' is a bit of an understatement!


Sunday, 11 January 2015

Year's End

Well 2015 already - I don't know where last year went! - and the final month of 2014 was dominated by discussions around the budget for 15-16. 

It can be difficult enough when an organisation doesn't get the increase hoped for but in these hard times everyone's budget in the public sector is being cut.  All involved on the council - officers & councillors alike - realise the challenge and know that a new approach has to be applied, be more efficient & effective, and seek ways of giving support so residents can do more for themselves.  And as with last year the council is asking residents what they think and so make decisions in the light of that feedback.

There were of course the usual meetings such as council, Labour Group, planning
and so forth.  But also, and interestingly even after all this time as a councillor, I had another 'first'.  Although I have been a governor before, this was my first meeting at Dylan Thomas School, and I was made to feel very welcome.

And Jeff & I were able this year to attend the annual council Christmas Carol Concert - a lovely way to lead into the festive period. 


Monday, 8 December 2014

Some things new

Early in November we had the privilege of attending an extra council meeting presented by some of Swansea's Looked After Children (ie these are young people supported for a period of time by the council's social services).  Not surprisingly they are not keen on this label, and judging by the quality of their performance it seems ridiculous and totally unnecessary.  They were all extremely competent and their presentation was far superior to many of the countless ones I've had to endure in the past.  Without doubt they showed "give us the right support and the sky's the limit!"

A couple of meetings which on first glance would appear rather 'dry' were both in fact interesting, to me at least...
A working group I went to looked at car parking in Swansea, asking questions like were there enough spaces? and in the right place? was Park & Ride working? and were parking charges at the right level?  And we were told a converted 'camera car' will hopefully be ready in the New Year to help with illegal parking.  So the issueing of fines should be more efficient, easier and cheaper to deal with, although a council officer will have the last word.
And I also took part in a Forum organised by the Welsh Audit Office, to examine how well we as councillors felt Swansea was being run.  I was well aware that I needed to strike a balance between valid praise and constructive criticism, not that easy!

As this year 'celebrates' the beginning of the first World War the Remembrance service at TOPIC House was all the more poignant.  I have never carried one of the wreathes before, another privilege which I won't forget.

Since the new leader has been in place it was decided to try out cross-party cabinet advisory committees, another measure to help backbenchers be & feel far more involved.  I attended both those that I am on, and of course time will tell if these are successful or not, but I think they are a step in the right direction.


Thursday, 13 November 2014

DT's Month

October was an encouraging settling-in period for our new leader.  As I said in an earlier blog, different style but same aims.  One change is that we now have cross-party Cabinet Advisory Committees, and I am looking forward to getting involved on the two I am on.  At first glance it certainly looks like it will give us backbenchers more of a feeling that we are contributing.

In ward context I managed to have a fruitful meeting with my colleagues, albeit 'busy' as it was during a ward surgery.  Usually a quieter session, but of course on this occasion everyone turned up with their various issues!

The most inspiring event of the month was definitely listening to some of the cast - all local to Townhill - talking about their experiences being involved in the TV series Lovely Ugly Swansea.  This was part of the Dylan Thomas celebrations, as in the programmes where they put on a variation of his Under Milk Wood - indeed a very fitting tribute to the man.