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.

Les

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.


Les

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.  


Les

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!



Les

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!


Les

Saturday, 4 June 2016

A bit of Pomp and Circumstance

This month has seen some more progress in getting the Friends of group off the ground.  My main aim is to help keep the area around Mayhill Washing 'Lake' tidy, and as far as possible free from flytipping.  But now we have others on board interested in a community garden, that gives us more scope and hopefully more activists.

I continue to be involved in Swansea Bay Fair Credit, one of many groups trying to point out the issues in using payday lenders and such like.  We realise that for some payday loans are their preferred choice, and actually work fine for them, but we simply want to help the public know the alternatives, such as credit unions, when getting a loan, so they can make the right decision.

May is the month when the new Lord Mayor is elected
and this year it happens to be one of my fellow ward councillors, David Hopkins.  He gave a great acceptance speech, and I get the feeling that not only will he make a very good job of it, he will also have a great time doing it!

And a triple dose of the Phoenix Centre, with my regular monthly surgery, and meeting of the Hill Community Development Trust, plus a birthday celebration for 15 years of the centre itself.  The latter was an outdoor event, with that particular Sunday starting off very wet, but by some wonderful miracle the clouds disappeared, the sun came out and a good time was definitely had by all!


Les

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!


Les