Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Final Hurdle

It’s been a rather strange few weeks, partly because I  have had one eye op to remove unwanted cataracts, which broke up the council flow a bit.  So far so good, and now waiting to get the date for the other one to be done.  And as it seems to be my month for health issues I have also managed to squeeze in a couple of heart check-ups.  Again things are looking OK, so long as I keep taking the tablets (though I'm having trouble swallowing the large black rectangular one Jeff keeps leaving around!)

In the meantime there has a steady flow of meetings, with a bit of other ‘life’ like work, a couple of rugby internationals (thank goodness didn’t pay to go and see the Ireland Wales match!) a wonderful weekend seeing friends in Leicester etc.

But now is the time of reckoning.  We have finally reached the point where the council budget for 14-15 is ready to be decided, at Tuesday’s council meeting.  It’s been a long hard slog, not so much for me but for all the cabinet who have been faced with tough decisions since a provisional £4m increase of a year ago, in money the council gets to spend, went in reverse to over £12m in cuts.

Not the best of times.


Tuesday, 14 January 2014

I'm back!

The Guildhall
I will remember last week as one where as many meetings didn’t happen as did!

Had a really positive one with Lasa credit union, and Pheonix CafĂ©, to give my support in relaunching the collection point there, and to get a clearer idea of what I, as local coucnillor, could be doing to help.  Still working on getting one in Sea View School, so watch this space.

But on Tuesday only one out of a possible 3 took place, which was planning.  Not many applications in front of us but some good arguments were put forward, not just councillors but also by members of the public.  When the council chamber finally gets it’s facelift and provides even more seating for the public hopefully there will get even more people attending.
Wednesday saw a change of venue with a Democratic Services meeting being held in the Guildhall (despite the fact that this building is currently having major repair & refurbishing works).  I’ve probably said this before but I like this committee as it looks at the machinery of council, with regard to both officers & councillors, which suits my strong organising streak.

Thursday saw yet another cancelled meeting – bit annoying as I only found out by going to the venue, but fortunately only a short drive up to Townhill.  However both evening meetings were on, and worth attending, I’m pleased to say – excellent talk by Mitch Theaker, Cabinet member for Children & Young People, on his role.  Swansea Council is very lucky to have someone as keen, enthusiastic and hard working.


Saturday, 14 December 2013

Year's End

Things have certainly quietened down over the last two/three weeks, and although I have had some meetings they haven’t been quite so ‘wall-to-wall’ of late.  That having said I’ve still be chasing up on some casework issues, some that have been dragging on for ages.  Tempting fate of course but hopefully this time next week a couple of them will have been sorted at long last.  Fingers crossed!

One event of interest was when I went up to Seaview school to be interviewed by a couple of year 6 pupils, Joshua & Daniel.  One asked the questions whilst the other ‘filmed’ me using an Ipad.  I’m very grateful they gave me a copy of the questions before I went as I would have been floored by some of them, but in the end it passed off OK (I think!)  And I have to say that the older I get the more amazed I am at how adept children can be.  These Ipads are making such a big difference to their levels of confidence.

And the other meeting to mention is the working group I’ve joined to look at what the council itself could be doing about payday loan companies.  As I’ve mentioned before now I am very involved in the Swansea Bay Fair Credit group.  Whilst there has been some recent success, such as the government finally agreeing to set a cap on interest rates, there is still much to do. 

Well that’s it for now, signing off for Christmas,  

and here's wishing you a great festive season.

Cheers all!


Friday, 22 November 2013

Local & National

Two real things of note worth mentioning this blog…

Firstly, along with various officers and one of my fellow ward councillors, I undertook a very interesting, useful and positive ‘walkabout’ around Mayhill.  You may recall in my last blog I said all three of us had been looking to get some street improvements carried out.  This walkabout followed on from those discussions and in doing so I was able to see for myself some of the environmental issues in the area.  As we went round we all pretty much agreed on a number of actions which would help enhance the area – not major work so not too costly but enough to make a difference and show that we were bothering.  The next step is some form of consultation with residents, to make sure we have their support in the main.  And for someone like me who spends most of my day in a sedentary position, an added bonus of the exercise was just that – the exercise!

The second?  Well apart from the usual plethora of meetings there was full council on Tuesday.  And for me yet another first even after 18 months, my maiden speech.  I’ve always said that I’m not bothering to waste my time and everyone elses by just talking for talkings sake - there are plenty who do that already!  So I’ve bided my time until now.  I spoke on a motion about payday lenders and other legal loan sharks, and how to curtail their activities – I feel very strongly that they are parasites, making money off people who haven't got it.  Apparently recent stats have them raking in £1 million a week!  After the proposer did his bit, it was then seconded by the Leader who in turn very graciously passed on to me to give my speech.  Must have been OK as I was applauded!!  And I'm very pleased that I’m pretty sure everyone present, including the opposition, voted for it anyway. 

Many of us are out tomorrow afternoon in the city centre, asking Jo & Jill Public what they think.  There was a very good item on TV last night highlighting the issue.  It included the amazing mums from Bonymaen.  They had who kicked all this off in the first place by realising they were being ripped off, decided they'd had enough of it, and were going to fight back.  It’s been a privilege fighting the cause alongside them.


Saturday, 9 November 2013

Quieter on the council front

A quieter fortnight on the council front thank goodness!  But some very useful meetings nonetheless, staring with a recent scrutiny group I have joined.  We intend to assess how we can best engage with the public, and after taking time to decide on the scope of the inquiry we are now in a position to get to work.  To the outsider it might appear that the process is a bit cumbersome to begin with as it takes a couple of meetings to get to this point.  But it’s really important to make sure we all understand & agree the issue from the outset, so in my view it’s time well spent.

I managed to get to the PACT meeting in TOPIC House.  I’ve probably said before that this venue is the Older People’s Information Centre and that these meetings are open to residents from the whole of Swansea.  But there are regulars who come from the ward itself, and of course it’s useful to keep in touch with those who run centres like this.  And they do a cracking range of cakes, (for which Jeff is very grateful!)

This last week has concentrated very much on the ward.  As local councillors all three of us have put forward various ideas for street scene improvements as we all feel even minor ones can definitely make a difference to residents.  But of course, as you probably all well know, the council is a big lumbering organisation and the wheels can grind very (and frustratingly!) slowly.  However we’ve had a double whammy of help, from another cabinet member and a director, so some of our suggestions might finally come to fruition in the not so distant future.

Outside direct council meetings I’ve also been to my once termly Finance subcommittee up in Seaview Community School.  It always surprises me how much I get from my involvement with the school as I would never have put me down as school governor material.  But then years back I would never have dreamt of being a councillor!


Sunday, 27 October 2013

A week is a long time in politics – a fortnight is even longer!

It’s been an interesting but very heavy going fortnight.  We attended not one but two full council meetings this week, with the extra one dedicated to the difficult issue of where to have a second council maintained gypsy traveller site.  Many of you will know that this is still unresolved as it was genuinely felt that none
of those proposed fitted the bill.  So we begin again but not from scratch, and in any case this is far too important a decision to be made in haste but get it wrong.

And there are more clouds on the political horizon with the news confirming that the budget would need substantial cuts next year.  The cabinet members have been wrestling with the figures to see how this can be achieved with the least impact, and as a council we have opened up the debate to staff and the public.  It’s still not going to be easy but maybe with their involvement we can at least work on this together instead of giving everyone affected a fait a complis.

It was good to end on a high note by attending a training session Friday morning on what being a Corporate Parent is all about.  What was very encouraging is the obvious dedication of the professionals who came to explain their roles in helping ‘looked after’ children.  It was clear to me that there was, almost without exception, the right balance of caring & expertise, to give children in care the best possible opportunity to develop their potential just like any other.


Monday, 7 October 2013

Past, Present & Future

Causeway to Lindisfarne, Northumberland
Put off blog entry from last week as had a well earned (well, I think so!) long weekend away –  bit of a trek all the way to Northumberland but had a lovely 2 days there.

It’s good when something positive happens in your ward, whether or not you had any hand in it.  Cabinet Member Mitch Theaker managed to get a half-pipe skateboard run installed at the top off Gors Park which been very popular from the outset.  You may have already had the fortune (or mis!) to see my mugshot in the local paper recently, alongside Mitch, amongst others, watching kids truly excelling themselves – very uplifting.

After this photo op, as well as those which are becoming regulars, such as Equalities, Democratic Services & Planning, over the past couple of weeks or so, I've even had the chance of going to three meetings at the same time!  But as I’m not quite that flexible it meant, of course, choosing the one most relevant at that time.  It’s rather strange but whenever this has happened it’s never been that difficult deciding which one’s best.

Mingled with doing business, today I've been catching up on casework - a mix of phone calls & e-mails, some new enquiries and some where chasing up existing ones.  Amazing how long it takes!

Just to tease you I’ll finish by saying that my next blog will include what happened at what is probably going to be quite a contentious meeting, but you’ll just have to wait!