Thursday, 12 April 2018

Leading up to Easter

In early March we had the most important council meeting of the year - the Budget!  Of course necessary as all local authorities are required by law to agree a balanced budget, but definitely heavy going at nearly 4 hours.

As with other councillors I hold a regular monthly surgery where any resident can drop in to raise an issue that they need help with.  As I hold it in the Phoenix Centre it also gives me an opportunity to touch base with the staff there.  And some of you may be interested in going to see the old photos of Townhill, Mayhill & Gors which they currently have on show in the cafe.

With the Friends of group (Mayhill Washing Lake & Community Food Garden) we have started a regular litter pick both in the immediate area around the pond just down from the corner of Creidiol & Nicander, and the grass above and around.  This takes place every second Sunday of the month from 2 til 3pm - all welcome.

Rest of the month was quite busy with the 'regulars' and another full council, possibly the shortest on record at less than an hour!!!  Then off for a break & a rest over Easter.


Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Quite a range for one month

Full Governors' meetings are generally once a term, and I find it frustrating when it clashes with something else so that I cannot attend.  Without being at these meetings it's easy to lose track, and even any real understanding of what's happening.  So I was pleased to be able to go to February's meeting, and pleasantly surprised that I was still 'on the ball' with most of it.

Also attended briefing on Japanese Knotweed - a plant which whilst quite pretty unfortunately can take over whole areas if left unchecked.  This is not helped by the fact it has no real natural predators, and to get rid of it takes a lot of time & money.  However it can be controlled and sometimes that is the best option.

I was invited to a Scrutiny Focus Group where as councillors we were being asked for 'good' and 'bad' about how Swansea carries scrutiny out.  The process the council has adopted over the last few years has been held up as role model, but even so we managed be objective and included issues that still had to be addressed as well as what has been working well.

And very pleased to go to the re-opening ceremony of Townhill Library after it's refurbishment. Now recognised as more integral to the Phoenix Centre I can certainly see both continuing to offer a good range of services to the local community.  


Monday, 5 February 2018

The Months Fly By

December seems a very long time ago and as Christmas approached my meetings did tail off.  But it's well worth mentioning the community event which is held every year and that's the Lantern Parade.  Very simple idea - make a sort of 'Chinese' lantern with a light inside (non flammable) and walk round the streets allowing them to glow in the dark, with the optional carol sung from time to time.  Albeit only a light flurry, but as if by magic it actually snowed!

And at our last full council meeting before Christmas all got in the spirit of the season wearing suitable attire to raise money for local charities.

January has included all my 'standard' committee meetings bar Audit, and again I attended a Scrutiny Working Group, this time looking at Swansea's roads.  There has been a scheme running for quite a while, whereby the council has promised to deal with potholes within 48 hours of being notified - by officers, councillors, and public alike.  This appears to have worked quite well, still ongoing.

Another meeting of note has to be a 'special' for our Friends of Mayhill Washing 'Lake' and Community Food Garden.  One advantage of forming a constituted group is that we can now apply for grants, and have been successful with one of them.  So we met and had an excellent session to discuss how to progress the food garden, as in how best to make use of the money.  So good to see this coming together.


Monday, 4 December 2017

A Tale of Two Working Groups

As well as the regulars - Audit, Licensing, Poverty policy group, and Council - I attended two Scrutiny Working Groups on totally different topics, one being Hate Crime and the other Car Parking Charges. 

The former assessed the progress the council has been making to address this issue, sadly on the increase and affecting numerous & wide ranging 'minority' groups.  On the whole I'm pleased to say we are at least going in the right direction but as ever there's no room for complacency and there's always more we can be doing. 

Talking politically with a small 'p' I have never understood how anyone can judge someone else because there is something different about them.  The fact is we are all different - I may have a doppleganger somewhere but you can bet she will not have exactly the same interests, views, personality etc etc. and the world would be worse off if this wasn't the case.  Variety - in everything from colour & race, to language & opinions - definitely is the spice of life.  And how on earth can someone hate someone else they have never even met?!

In complete contrast the Car Parking Charges meeting threw up some interesting concerns from members of the public regarding some of Swansea foreshore car parks.  This was followed by an interesting (yes, really!) discussion raising a number of points about how car parks will fit into the future of Swansea, in the city, around Mumbles & on Gower.  And it made me realise that something you would have thought would be fairly straightforward, that is how council car parks should be run and in particular what to charge, is in fact far more complex that at first it appears. This is mainly and importantly because they do not 'stand alone' but to work well they need to be assessed as part of the bigger picture alongside all other aspects regarding transport.

(And being slightly frivolous, I do find the pay machines rather stressful when you have to put in your car registration - there's nothing more embarrassing than standing there, far away from where you have parked it, trying to remember!)


Thursday, 9 November 2017

Fits & Starts

Interesting start to the month when alongside other councillors we met with the body who looks into the pay & conditions of councillors.  One way they do this is by going around different authorities to get feedback off us, both cabinet members - those who lead on particular area of the council such as Education - and the rest of us 'backbenchers'.  It felt good that they were listening to our comments, and definitely not just a box ticking exercise.

The rest of the month has been one of fits & starts - some weeks few or no meetings or appointments, another week full to capacity (well it felt like it!)

I attended two council meetings which do not meet very often during the year.  Also with both it was the first time since May so we needed to elect new chair/vice chair, and it turns out that I am now vice chair on both.  As it happened I then chaired the Trustees meeting, which administers specific pots of money that have been entrusted to the council to allocate to worthy applicants.  A bit of a challenge to do this without any prior notice or preparation but I think I managed it quite well.

In the busier week that followed I had Student Liaison - my other vice chair - 
Poverty group, and full council.  Just a bit more on the Poverty meeting as this can be quite a heavy topic yet we had two excellent & inspiring presentations.  One of these was on how a Swansea community, helped in the main by a local
housing association, managed to provide meals during the summer to bridge the gap between term time. Such a positive project, and a positive outcome.


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

A varied month

During my time as a councillor I have done what I can to support initiatives aimed at reducing poverty.  There are a number of groups address this issues from various perspectives, one being the Financial Inclusion Steering Group (FISG), with part of its remit to encourage partnership working, and which I have recently started attending.  Having now served a full term I feel a bit surer of my role as a councillor and feel I can now give this more attention.

We are still keeping busy tending the area around Mayhill Washing 'Lake'.  Husband Jeff is secretary of the Friends of group and really helps retain the momentum.  There are still jobs to do over Autumn & Winter, including being ever watchful to ensure the area doesn't go back to the bad old days of black bag flytipping.

A sad reflection on the times, one of the training courses I have attended has been about radicalism.  The internet & social media has opened up vast opportunities but also threats as people can be indoctrinated behind closed doors without anyone being any the wiser.

Our regular Audit meeting included annual reports from the Welsh Audit Office, fortunately good ones too!  And it's the time of year when the council approves (or not!) the annual accounts.  As it happens this is something else which comes through Audit first.

I went to the AGM of the local credit union as I am the council representative to their board.  There are plenty of places where one can access loans but credit unions also encourage people who become members to save as well.  Over the coming months I hope I can do more to spread the word about them.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Going Batty!

Not so many meetings, and the training has eased off this month, with just the one I attended. This looked in detail at the Social Services & Wellbeing Act which came into force in April.  It used the usual presentation & talk style but we are gradually being encouraged to do more via the e-learning platform.

Occasionally we have an extra council meeting, as was the case this month.  It celebrated the work done by long standing councillors who have since stood down, 
by awarding them the title of Alderman or Alderwoman.  I wouldn't want all meetings to have the pomp & ceremony that these do, but once in a while it makes a change, and I'm all for saying 'thank you' as much as possible.

Further progress with our Friends of group - Mayhill Washing Lake & Community Food Garden - as we have made more new contacts to help support this project, especially with the food garden and applying for grants.  And we ended the month with an excellent Bat Walk up the Black Road and were rewarded with both a lovely evening and lots of bats!