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.


Friday, 11 November 2016

Old & New

A bit late I know but after another short break I ended up with cold which developed into an awful cough, which has really laid me low but hopefully now at last gone.  So back to getting into the swing of things ...

Anyone who is a school governor will know that like all other committees there is what is known as an Annual General Meeting, or AGM.  I believe the school is fortunate in having both a chair & head who work hard as individuals but also well together.  Being an effective governor is no easy task, and even after a couple of years I still feel that I have a lot to learn. 

Before the monthly Education Cabinet Advisory Committee we had some training on what is known as VAP.  This is a way of using certain indicators, both within & outside of a school, to help identify those pupils who may need extra support.  The point is not to use the results as if set in tablets of stone, but they can at least point staff in the right direction.

And the following day believe it or not I had another first!  I gave evidence at a scrutiny committee, something that even over 4 years as councillor I had never done before.  This scrutiny panel has been set up to look at how the council is doing in tackling poverty, and I was asked to say a bit about Swansea Bay Fair Credit group, set up originally to get the government to cap the interest rates on loans which companies could charge.  Since the success of that campaign we have gone further by looking at all the different loans on offer so that we can provide better information for the public who can make sensible choices as to which loan to take out.

In complete contrast I spent the following afternoon showing two officers around the Mayhill Washing 'Lake', and the plot where we are looking to set up the Community Food Garden.  They were both very enthusiastic which certainly bodes well for setting up a 'Friends of' group to look after the picnic area & support the garden.

But probably the highlight of the month for me as a councillor was being able to be part of the ceremonial meeting which awarded Chris Coleman the Freedom of the City of Swansea in recognition of Wales football team success in the summer.  A lovely man, so pleased for him.


Friday, 7 October 2016

A Tale of Two CACs

Had a break early September but back into things after a week or so. 

Mid month I attended one of my Cabinet Advisory Committees (CACs), Education and Young People.  Unfortunately I had been unable to get to Pentrehafod School that same afternoon, which was a visit to find out what it does to help motivate pupils who might otherwise end up with no plans for what they will do on leaving school.  From being on this committee, and as a governor, I get the feeling that most schools have a better approach these days, try to be inclusive, providing far more help & support within the school itself, and go to greater lengths in order to see potential in all pupils.

Towards the end of the month I also went to my other CAC. 
This one looks at all aspects of the council as a corporate body - quite a range of topics to cover!  One area we have been helping to steer is that of making more public places smoke-free.  Started earlier in the year with Caswell Bay Beach we are now looking at Primary school gates, and will be trialling this venture at Seaview in October.  So do look out for more on this in the future.  


Monday, 5 September 2016

Being Helpful

Early in August I helped out with a litter pick around the Boys & Girls Club.  Technically in Castle ward, this building is actually right on the border of with Townhill.  The Boys & Girls Club of Wales is hoping to bring it back into community use.

On a more social level I have joined the Voices on the Hill, a group of local singers who meet once a week in the Phoenix Centre.  Quite a contrast to my usual repertoire when I join in with 'I want to be like you' from Disney's the Jungle Book!

As with a lot of councillors across Swansea we carry out Street Surgeries, where you knock on doors and simply ask if someone needs our help.  We aim to do this regularly as it not only helps to pick up issues, but it's also a really good way of getting to know the ward & residents better.

And in late August, ending the month with the same task as I started it, I was helped out by a couple of volunteers from the Lifepoint Church when we did some litter picking and general tidying up around the Mayhill Washing Lake.  As you will know if you follow my blog regularly, we are still making progress, slow but sure, in setting up a Friends of group, and had another meeting to take this a bit further.   So once again I recommend you watch this space!


Tuesday, 2 August 2016

A Double Dose

Don't quite know where the last two months went but I somehow missed out doing June's blog entry!  So here's two months in one ...

Scrutiny carries out various types of investigations, one of which is via a Working Group which in theory takes one, maybe two sessions.  This doesn't always pan out, as the one on Tethered Horses has been the case.  It's turned out to be a more complex subject than perhaps was thought at first.  I think we have made some headway but it hasn't been easy.  It has been a balancing act between the tradition of those who have kept horses for generations, against the backdrop of too many allowing their horses to suffer through being tethered without sufficient food & water, and protection from the weather.  We have been working other groups with various approaches to the problem.  Will keep you posted.

On Sunday 12th June we held a Bog Lunch at Mayhill Washing Pond, marred slightly by the fact that some idiots though it highly amusing to set fire to the supposedly indestructible picnic table the night before.  But it was still a lovely afternoon.

I attended a very useful meeting of the Swansea Friends Forum, where any members of Friends of groups can go along and share stories, information, advice etc.  And in late June I went to the Armed Forces Day celebration in Castle Square.

Along with the usual meetings - CACs, full council etc - we had another 'ceremonial' council to recognise the contribution made by former Cllr Bryon Owen, who not long ago had to stand down through ill health.  As well as finding out more about a councillor and the good work they have done, it's also interesting when you learn something personal about them.  In Bryon's case it so happens he was both a good singer, and a poet.  People never cease to surprise me!