Friday, 6 May 2016

Back to the grind

And what a lovely, restful break it was! 

Back all too soon, and to a pretty full week, especially Wednesday - very hectic with four meetings one after each other, but all different and all useful. 

The last one was again looking at making progress in setting up a Friends of group to look after the Mayhill Washing 'Lake' - this word comes from Old English and actually refers to the stream than runs through this area - and the plan has now been expanded to encompass a Community Food Garden as well.  You may recall I mentioned this project back in October, but  unfortunately the 'hiccough' has lasted a lot longer than I would have hoped.  Fingers crossed we are back on track.

As well as standard meetings like Student Liaison, Audit and Council, I was fortunate enough to be at the ceremonial event to confer the Freedom of the City on 'Mr Swansea', Mel Nurse.  It's always good to be able to recognise someone who has given so much to their city, and in particular for the help he gave to save his beloved football team.

Another one-off was in going to the launch trialling Swansea' first smoke-fee beach, Caswell Bay.  It was 'opened' by the Lord Mayor, and supported by various groups including children from a local primary school.  It will be interesting to see how this pans out - another case of 'watch this space!

The rest of April has been quiet on the council front as we all go pounding the streets hoping to persuade the residents of Swansea to go and vote in the Welsh Assembly elections.  Shoe shops & repairers must love this time of year!


Friday, 1 April 2016

The not so usual

This month I have had more non standard meetings than usual.

I am on a scrutiny working group which is looking at the issue around horses being tethered on public land, specifically council owned, a practice that has existed in Swansea for decades if not centuries.  It has created quite a lot of interest including a spot on BBC Radio Wales morning show.  To ban, or not to ban, that has been the question especially at the most recent meeting I went to, and as ever the two sides have each thrown up valid points. 

I've also attended a special audit committee meeting looking at just the one item, reviewing a particular project to see what lessens could be learned from it.  We were going to deal with it at the previous meeting, but just as well we didn't try as we spent two hours on it!

In addition there have been the 'regulars', a full governor's meeting, and the monthly trust meeting at the Phoenix Centre which I go to support those in the running of the centre.

Now I'm off for a week away from it all - a well earned (well I think so!) break.


Thursday, 3 March 2016

Never a dull moment

As well as formal council meetings there are of course plenty of other ones that I can attend.  I have probably mentioned before that as a 'back bencher' ie not being a cabinet member, I am able to choose scrutiny groups where the topic is something I want to have a say in.  Lately I have been going along to discuss the issue tethered horses, and how best to resolve the plight of those horses where they are not being looked after.  A very emotive topic as you can imagine.

Another 'meeting' in February was in fact a celebration of Townhill Library, based in the Phoenix Centre.  They have been there 15 years, ever since the centre was opened.  It was a joy to hear singing by children from Townhill School, and poetry from Poets on the Hill.

And February is the month where the full council decides on the budget.
  Now that really is a test of stamina, although this year not quite so long as has been the case, a mere 3 and a half hours!  To make the event more interesting there was a protest outside, but I have to say it was the nicest one I have ever encountered.  Through the efforts of the young people gathered there we enjoyed some great music - a refreshing way to start any meeting!


Monday, 1 February 2016

Where did January go?!

First meeting after the festive season held on 6th January (rather apt it being the last day of Christmas) and picked up back where we had left off, continuing to look at how to improve the prospects of those children who can so often slip through the proverbial net.  This is going to be a long haul.

This was one of my Cabinet Advisory Committees which are now held exactly a week apart so a week later sees me at the other one, with the 'main feature' this time looking at a particular loan that the council could apply for.  Even with grants there are always catches, but with loans if nothing else there's the biggest catch of all, you have to pay it back!  And as with all of them, whether a grant or loan, there are very specific criteria that you need to meet so that they are not always worth applying for. 

It's budget time of year again and the council does it's best to involve the public by offering a number of ways to get involved.  I attended a public drop-in session, and whilst not that busy those that did come had very useful questions & suggestions to raise.  (I always try to look positively on public consultation - it's never perfect, as many will claim "they never knew about it", but if only one person makes use of it,

it's still better than none at all!)

And the last week of January has been the busiest, out every night, Monday to Thursday.  I could have attended 7 council related meetings/events so I think getting to 6 of them ain't bad!


Wednesday, 6 January 2016

A quieter lead into the festive season

One of the highlights in December was the presentation given by young 'looked after' people.  As a council we have a corporate responsibility to ensure they get the best outcome possible and it is very rewarding to see that they can not only survive difficult circumstances but also come out as great as they do.  They reminded us that they are no different to any other young person, and they have a right to be heard.

As it happens the Education & Young People Cabinet Advisory Committee which I sit on is currently looking at how to reduce the number of school pupils who leave at 16 without something else to do, be it job, training, or planned gap year etc. I'm sure this has been looked at many times in the past but we must keep trying to find ways to empower ALL young people so that they are equipped for life, whether they are academics or have practical skills that cannot always be measured by exam results. 

Also attended the last governors meeting of the calendar year - I have a 50 page document to sift through for our meeting in January full of stats and tables for me to get my head round! - and a smattering of the usual monthly committee meetings, ready for a welcome break in which to recharge my batteries.


Sunday, 6 December 2015

Always more ...

When I look through my diary for November there's one thing that stands out - still lots on! 

I thought it might ease up after October, and of course it's not all to do with the council.  For instance I was desperately trying to attend enough choir sessions to be reasonably confident for the concert, and at least managed most in the month but fell at almost the last hurdle when it clashed against full council.  If the meeting had kept to the average length no problem, but it was just one of those with a lot of important issues which ended up as a four hour marathon. 

A concert which I went to rather than take part in, was
as part of the Remembrance events, which took place on the Saturday before 11th November.  Whilst I could have been there simply as a member of the public I knew about it through being a councillor.  And as with last year, I joined one of my fellow councillors in attending the short service which they hold each year at TOPIC House.  Both were moving in their own way.

Two meetings that don't come around that often ...

Student Liaison : Townhill doesn't have much of a student presence but it borders on Castle & Uplands which do.  Whilst student issues have been ever present we have been employing an officer who has certainly helped considerably in liaising between students, residents & the universities & colleges;
and Trustees : here we allocate grants in support of community groups from money that has put by specifically for that purpose.  So this is probably the most positive meeting I regularly attend.


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.