Thursday, 5 November 2015

Non stop!

OK so it wasn't non-stop just because of my work as a councillor but then we all have our own lives to lead.  I'm sure I've said this before, but it's worth saying again - to be a good councillor you must have a life outside.  That said I must admit I've been having a bit too much 'life' and have lately looked again at reducing my other activities.  But I've still had a number of tasks all falling in October - my business tax return, dealing with year end as treasurer for a business group, and preparing questions & running an annual quiz.  Yet looking through my diary I also managed to squeeze in a number of council activities.

The recurring theme this month has been children and education.

Firstly I went to an art exhibition at the National Waterfront Museum mainly the work of primary schools.  It never ceases to amaze me how good children's artwork can be.  I've said it before and I'll no doubt say it again, one should never underestimate kids!

Then half way through the month I attended a full governor's meeting at Dylan Thomas School.  Whilst having been on that governing body a while I am still learning the ropes as far as secondary schools are concerned.  Later in November I will be getting training on statistics by going to a session on Understanding Data which should help.

Also I know I've mentioned the Cabinet Advisory committees that I am on.  These have been rejigged and one I am now on is looking at ways of helping all children leave school prepared & ready to going into work, or take up further training, or get involved in something with purpose.  The meeting in the latter part of October looked at how we should do this piece of work, and who to ask for advice & information.  Whilst there will always young people who when they leave school fall through the net I hope we can at least come up with some suggestions to reduce the number which do.


Friday, 9 October 2015

And busier still ...

I enjoyed a late holiday break in early September, which was lovely at the time but it took me ages to catch up when I got back.  Plus the quieter times of less meetings over the summer have definitely gone, so my days during this month have certainly been busier.  And if that wasn't enough I've had quite a bit else on, so it's been a precarious juggling act which on the whole I've just about managed.  To help in the future I am reducing my involvement in one of the activities I do outside council - time will tell if this pays off.

But on a very positive note the meeting to progress the Mayhill Pond project was really worthwhile.  And although there was a temporary hiccough over who would carry it forward, it now appears to be back on track, with great support from officers.  I will come back to this with regular updates.

Apart from that there's been the 'regulars' such as full council, and the not so frequent meeting to check progress of Communities 1st - still doing some great work as in, amongst other things, helping get people back into work, or at least work ready.


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.