JAMIE ADAMS is confident and well-briefed – if a little tired after a night looking after his young twins.
Discussing the Welsh Government’s plans to scrap smaller authorities and merge them he offers a robust critique and criticism of Cardiff Bay’s plans. “While the process has been going on for some time, it seems like the Welsh Government has now come to a snap decision. Very often the justification for it is the fact that they consider small authorities are unable to meet their statutory obligation.
The First Minister has pointed out that six authorities have been in special measures. But the credibility of his position is somewhat undermined by the recent good news in Pembrokeshire and also in Anglesey and Rhondda Cynon Taf. “The obvious person to consult with when you are considering change is the person affected by the changes you propose. The Welsh Government has set out its stall and its aspiration. I do not for one minute think that is the finished article. The Welsh Government will have to give evidence to justify its position. “With respect, the Welsh Government has to understand the pressures and complexities of local government. I pay tribute to the staff of local government who deliver critical services to the people of their counties.
Against that, I set the fact that apart from a few direct services, such as the Trunk Road Agency, the Welsh Government delivers no direct services. If you take an overarching view like the WG has done, it is difficult to understand the detail of the processes you are trying to change. “The Welsh Government has a tendency to categorise councils in one of two ways. We are badged as a rural authority but we have pockets of urbanization and real deprivation. Nevertheless we are obliged to deliver services over a wide geographical area.
The details of service delivery are not well understood by Welsh Government.” And in Pembrokeshire? “Pembrokeshire is unique in many ways and we are often accused by the WG of being different. I don’t mind being different. We are very resilient as a county and as a people. We have a sense of community spirit and identity that is second to none. “I would fight in the last ditch for Pembrokeshire.
I believe we have the ability and talent within this authority and within Pembrokeshire to deliver local services for Pembrokeshire. We have had a glowing report from the Wales Audit Office on our progress and performance this year, education is moving forward. “But it is not only about the administrative side of things, this Council. It is something more than that. The brand of Pembrokeshire, for tourism, business, agriculture and produce is extremely strong. In most parts of the UK the Pembrokeshire name is synonymous with those and it is hard to think of another county with such a strong brand identity.” Is Williams a challenge to local democracy? “The proposal from Welsh Government does not include a proposal for district councils and there is a danger of making decision-making too remote from the people we serve.
There would be real issues with that. Look at newspapers, for example, if the decisions are made miles away how are you going to be able to hold the decision-makers to account? “We have sixty councillors who are out, about and contactable within their communities. They can be held to account. There is a considerable advantage to the fact that if you make a decision you believe to be right but is unpopular then you can be voted out. So, if I thought I did the right thing and lost an election, I would not be delighted but I could at least say that I did the right thing as I saw it. “But many professional politicians are in the position that they want to cling to their livelihoods.
We have an increasing number of democratic representatives who have not worked outside of politics and they are remote from those they represent. Increasing numbers of Assembly Members in Cardiff Bay is something we need to be wary. I question the need for additional assembly members. “Having said that, there are in my opinion too many county councillors. It was very strange thing to go so far down the process of re-assessing the number of county councillors and then changing direction. Discussing the complexities of local government funding, Jamie Adams believes that economies can be made by reducing bureaucracy: “My outlook is simple.
I want to deliver the best services we can within the budget we have. “There is a need for the process of funding services to be streamlined by the Welsh Government. There are around 120 grants for education from the Welsh Government. Now those schemes may have been set up with the best of intentions, but it increases the burden of bureaucracy. You have people in councils applying for these grants and another tier of people at the Welsh Government administering them.
So much of the funding that should flow down is instead being filtered down and sticking to the sides. “Local Government is far better placed to understand the needs of their communities and address those needs as we can provide a little bit of initiative or entrepreneurship rather than just follow a prescription from Cardiff Bay. In a way, I am frustrated by what can appear like box-ticking, but I know there have to be checks and balances to ensure we provide value for money. “The relationship with Welsh Government must be developed to build trust to allow them to consider more bespoke ways of delivering services with the funding provided.
The governance arrangements could be simplified. The simplification can begin between the WG and us, and the WAO could oversee and verify the process to ensure our services are continually improving.” Addressing the challenge of potential further administrative upheaval, Jamie Adams responds: “I think Williams has been a long time in the coming from Welsh Labour. It is a reaction to some very disappointing results for Labour in 2008’s elections. We are now in a different place in the local government family.
We don’t have that many disagreements, really and Labour functions in coalition in councils across Wales. “The proof of the pudding is the fact that no other parties in the Welsh Government are signing up to Williams. It is untested that Welsh Labour’s proposals will either improve services or reduce costs. And I am not convinced that it is best to sign up to a process that can show neither of those things. “That said, I am not afraid of change. I am very relaxed that in the future a council such as Pembrokeshire will not provide all of the services we do at the moment. But in terms of being held to account for their delivery, you have to have a touchable, reachable democratic body. As a council, perhaps we do not need all the tools in the box.
Greater fluidity about service delivery might be a way of reducing costs or delivering them more efficiently. “We already work in consortia with other councils to support improvements in our schools. We work on support and challenge with Carmarthenshire for our schools and we are already grouping together with five other counties within ERW, the regional education authority. We are already working together. But strangely, the Welsh Government broke down the transport service back to individual authorities and that seems inconsistent with what it is now saying about wanting to join things together to save money.
“It’s a very difficult thing to resolve as no evidence has been put forward to support what is simply an assertion made by the WG. The Williams Report provides NO cost/benefit analysis for anything and to proceed without it is pure folly. It grabs the headlines to reduce the number of CEO’s. As an easy sell, what could be better? But it is an argument that is not followed through. With Dyfed previously we ended up with a lot of substructures and increased bureaucracy and any savings could be swallowed up by that factor.
“Looking at Williams: we are potentially facing a 9 to 12% rise in Council Tax depending on whether we are merged with Ceredigion or a reconstituted Dyfed. People in Pembrokeshire are worried about the potential rise in Council Tax and do not see why they should pay more for their services. And I agree with them.” Looking at the number of controversies involving it, is Pembrokeshire County Council worth saving? “I appreciate that people are frustrated with what is reported in the papers about the Council. Some of our problems have arisen from the way we have dealt with issues in the past and a lot of them have arisen from the last term of council. “In terms of the evidence, I can say look where we were in 2012 and where we are now.
We have had a great outcome from Estyn and a very positive annual assessment from the WAO. We have renewed confidence in our governance arrangements and in scrutiny to hold the executive to account. “We have the ability to plan for the future. In that future, we will not look as we do now. We will have to change to reflect the cuts in budgets that are likely to continue for some time ahead. But in terms of our ability to deliver good quality services, we are beyond a doubt well placed to do that. “Where we have to work hard is to develop trust amongst ourselves: between councillors and officers and amongst councillors. We have to ensure our focus is on managing the budget, delivering services and not scoring political points for the sake of it. With that in mind, I am confident for the future of Pembrokeshire.”
Hywel Dda provides teaching equipment on infant feeding for over 100 midwives.
THANKS to donations, Hywel Dda Health Charities has been able to provide bags containing teaching equipment on infant feeding to over 100 midwives across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.
Each bag contains a doll and knitted breast, so that the midwives can give advice to new mums and mums-to-be on breast-feeding, along with laminated cards with information.
All the community midwives across the three counties, plus the maternity units at Glangwili,
Bronglais and Withybush hospitals have received the bags.
Hywel Dda’s Infant Feeding Co-ordinator, Christena Phelan O’Riordan (pictured in the foreground with Health Care Support Worker Jan Jones), said the dolls and knitted breasts were proving to be extremely useful as teaching aids.
“It has made such a difference having these visual aids to give pregnant and post-natal mothers advice on breast-feeding,” she said.
“Whether face-to-face in hospital or at home, or virtually through WhatsApp calls, these aids are great props for when we are teaching about breast-feeding.”
Nicola Llewelyn, Head of Hywel Dda Health Charities, the official charity of Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “Donations are making a real difference to the lives of patients, service-users and staff in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area.
“We are very grateful for all the support we receive from our local communities.”
For more details about the charity and how you can help support local NHS patients and staff, go to www.hywelddahealthcharities.org.uk.
Recognition given to long-standing members of Council committee
AT AN Ethics and Standards Committee (virtual) meeting held on 17 September 2021, Rif Winfield and Hywel Wyn Jones were given recognition for their 10 years’ of service to the Committee between 2011 and 2021. A small plaque was presented to both.
Hywel was Chair of the Committee for 3 years.
In their place, two new independent members Alan Davies and Caryl Davies have been appointed.
Eifion Evans, Chief Executive of Ceredigion County Council said, “Ceredigion County Council has benefitted from a decade of advice and considerations provided by Rif & Hywel. We welcome the new members of the committee and their input to the function of the Committee will be greatly appreciated.”
Standards Committees of local authorities exist to do all that is possible to promote and safeguard the standards that the public rightly expect from their elected representatives.
Ceredigion County Council Chairman, Councillor Paul Hinge, said, “Our thanks go to Rif and Hywel who have given their time to contribute to the Committee and we welcome the new members.”
The Committee is made up of five independent members, two county councillors and two town/community councillors. Meeting quarterly, reports for the Ethics and Standards Committee including dispensation applications can be found on the Council website: www.ceredigion.gov.uk.
Exciting new developments on the horizon for Lampeter Wellbeing Centre
At a Cabinet meeting held on 01 December 2020, it was agreed that Lampeter Leisure Centre would become the location of the Council’s first Wellbeing Centre in the County.
A significant amount of work and investment is to be made at the Leisure Centre which will improve the facility and the resources for years to come.
Over the coming months, as we see the plans and proposals for Wellbeing Centre develop, they will be shared with service users and the residents of Ceredigion.
Architects have been appointed to oversee the project and work will now begin on the proposed layout for the facility. The layout will be a reconfiguration of the existing facility in order to provide a Wellbeing Centre that can provide an enhanced range of Through Age Services, including Leisure Services to the residents of Lampeter and the mid of the county.
Councillor Catherine Hughes, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member, said: “We are looking forward to the development of the new Wellbeing Centre at Lampeter. This will provide a range of services to residents within their local community.
This development comes at a welcome time, as Ceredigion Public Service Board is carrying out an Assessment of Local Wellbeing, in order to find out about the wellbeing of local people and communities, now and in the future.”
Lampeter Leisure Centre will be closed during the building works, but during this period alternative provision will be made available for all service users and clubs.
We look forward to being able to share these alternative plans with you over the coming weeks, as soon as these arrangements have been finalised.
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