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.


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.