Thursday, 13 July 2017

Getting Back into the Flow

A bit late with my blog for last month.  But the last few weeks, since the beginning of the new council 5 year term, has been pretty busy with training, as well as some meetings continuing as normal.

I remain on most of the committees as before but with a couple of newbys, Licensing bring one.  This covers moreorless every type of licence you can think of, from food & drink, HMOs, street trading - you name it, we deal with it.  So far meetings have been about making decisions on taxi and hackney cab issues, but it's early days as I am sure my remit will broaden in time.  In any event it has been quite interesting reviewing a person's entitlement to a licence, when taking into account their circumstances.

As school governor, you may recall in my last blog

I mentioned going to Dylan Thomas School's BandAlong launch - a music project to get all of year 7 involved in forming a band.  Well, last month I went to the Summer Concert to see the outcome.  Astounding I think is one word for it, when you realise the fantastic progress they had made in such a short space of time.  They made as good a sound as many other amateur orchestras I've ever heard in the past.  I'm sure I've said this before but kids & young people never do cease to amaze me!


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The End & The Beginning

A double dose of blog today, for various reasons, as I cover both April and May.  The end of my first term as councillor and the beginning of my second - in a way it's another first!

Much of April & early May was taken up with door knocking, to encourage people to vote in the local election on 4th May - a lot of hard work but at least I had my reward by being re-elected. Nonetheless I had a smattering of meetings including Governors, and full council.  Plus we had our annual photo taken - rather special as some would not be returning after May 4th.

I also went to something very rewarding at Dylan Thomas School, as I attended the launch of BandAlong, an excellent idea of getting all year 7 pupils to take up an instrument with a view to performing sometime in the summer term.  I was amazed at how much progress was made in just a short time, and impressed how the teacher seemed to get the best out of everyone.  There were lots of giggles initially - only natural when they tried and usually failed first time at getting a note - but all those who took part honestly gave their all.  Quite inspiring!

In the first few weeks of a new term a lot of time is spent on induction for new councillors and refresher training for ones carrying on.  It's also when all councillors are allocated to various committees, and I have accepted to go on Licensing - again a first.  Training this week and a meeting next week, so will let you know how I get on, and whatever else I've been doing, in my next blog.


Sunday, 9 April 2017

And yet again another first!

It's very hard to believe that I have been a councillor for nearly 5 years, and this time next month I will know whether or not my fate is sealed for another 5 - we shall see!

And quite remarkably in March I had another 'first time' experience as convenor/chair on a Scrutiny Working Party which was looking at Digital Inclusion.  Quite few issues were raised in asking whether with the increase in use of smart phones, I-pads etc is the council inadvertently leaving some people excluded, and/or doing enough to 'get people online' where possible.  In theory these working parties just take up one meeting but it's quite possible that the topic will be revisited later in the year.

For the city as a whole it was really pleasing that the long awaited City Deal, which will benefit 4 local authorities across South to West Wales to the tune of £1.3 billion, was finally signed in Swansea by the PM. 
As with any project of this size a lot of hard work has been done behind the scenes to get this off the ground, but many will say that the real work starts now.  And of course there will be setbacks along the way but one gets the feeling that a lot of enthusiasm has been created by it, so it looks likely that all those involved will make every effort to ensure it succeeds.

And as well as the usual council meetings, the Friends of Mayhill Washing Lake & Community Food Garden have met quite a few times.  It's been a very long time coming, but things are suddenly starting to happen.  It's so encouraging how many people of taking an interest, both in looking after the pond area to keep it looking good as a picnic site, and in developing a food garden which will also benefit those in the surrounding community.


Thursday, 9 March 2017

Another first, even after all this time

Visited Swansea Mosque on its national open day.  Fascinating, and as primarily a place of worship certainly not what you might expect.  The building is multifunctional, definitely a great example of what a community venue should be all about.  But the current building too small so they have been renovating the old church opposite.  They held their first event there quite recently, but whilst not yet confirmed I am looking forward to being at the official opening.

As well as the usual meetings, such as my Cabinet Advisory, Audit etc the best thing to happen this month was at last successfully forming our Friends of group, to help look after Mayhill Washing 'Lake' and develop a community food garden.  The future for both is really looking good.

But the main council event in the month of February is as ever the Budget Council meeting.  In the past these have been a marathon of ridiculous proportions, so 3 and a half hours was nothing!


Monday, 13 February 2017

A quietish start to the year

Unfortunately not a great start to the year as I brought back an unwelcome guest from our lovely New Year mini cruise - a ghastly stomach bug!  So I missed a couple of meetings in the first week but did manage to attend a special one.  The first of many I am sure, we have started looking into the future for the Townhill Campus of UWTSD (formerly the Swansea Institute) now that they are building a new one on Fabian Way. Strictly speaking it's in Uplands ward but right on the corner with Townhill.  The next step will be to get together with those councillors, to take things further.

I got to both of my cabinet advisory committees.  In the
one on Education, we continue to look at ways to help all pupils avoid ending up leaving school with nothing on the horizon, be it a job, further education, or maybe a positive decision to take a year out.  I don't think for one moment any of us on that committee believe we are going to completely eradicate this issue which has been around for decades (probably a lot longer!)  But we can at least make some contribution to helping those who do not neatly fit in with what the education system currently offers.

Two council meetings, the monthly one but also a 'special'.  I feel quite privileged to be around now that Swansea appears to be on the cusp of great things (even better if the Swans manage to stay up!)  We were there to vote on the City Deal which if it comes to fruition, will bring £millions, and lots of jobs, into the region.  And what a great opportunity for all councillors to agree unanimously.

Interesting end to the month, and another first albeit it in a 'non' sort of way.  We should have had another special council, but it was no longer required.  However to adhere to the constitution the meeting couldn't be cancelled as such, so we were just told not to go!


Sunday, 8 January 2017

The End of Another Year

The month started with something wonderful - the turf cutting ceremony for the Mayhill Medical Centre.  This project has been in the offing since early 2000s so a long time coming, but hopefully the local residents will be pleased that the wait is now over.

Whilst I still had a smattering of the usual meetings such as Audit & Democratic Services, being December it was of course a fairly Christmassy month, Firstly me singing with Voices on the Hill both in St Nicholas church one week, then the church hall a week later.  Then following the termly governors meeting I went for the first time to Dylan Thomas School annual concert in St Peters - the talent that kids have never ceases to amaze me, but then us adults always do have a terrible habit of underestimating them.  And after council mid month we managed to get to the 'council' concert in St Marys, always worth going to.

And the month even finished with something wonderful when I discovered that the broken railings towards one end of Pantycelyn have finally been replaced with 'tidy' wooden posts, now matching up with the rest of the road.  Believe it or not my best Christmas present!


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

More Old & New and a bit in the middle!

November saw me having training on a new IT system where I could log my casework - it certainly looks good and should make it a lot easier to make sure the issue gets to the right officer, and in a timely fashion.

I continue to attend meetings to seek a solution to the tethered horses issue.  Making progress which is very encouraging as we are working with various groups who do not necessarily agree on the same approach and yet have still managed to come together.  As with many other projects I have been involved in I'd say watch this space!

At long last I have managed to have training on the mysteries of school data - how it's collated and what it all means.  Was actually more understandable than I thought but it helped that I already knew quite a lot of the terminology.

Interesting occurrence at full council that doesn't happen very often. When councillor questions are raised beforehand to the relevant cabinet member, a written answer is included in with the papers for the meeting.  If they wish to, they can ask further questions at the meeting - there are usually plenty, but there is a time limit.  For the first time in ages we only got about half way through when the presiding officer called 'times up' - bit like the end of an exam!!

And the month finished with a meeting which included, amongst other items, a discussion on how the front line call centre is working in the Civic Centre.  There are issues to iron out not the least being able to ensure we are able to respond effectively to all forms of communication, but at the same time trying to encourage the public to use electronic communication as much as possible.  But those that attend the site visit (I was unable to make it) were very impressed with the front line officers who work hard in difficult circumstances.  My thanks to all of them.