Thursday, 21 May 2015

The House of Cards Wrexham style!

We have previously written here and here about Wrexham Council's Tory/Independent coalition's move to grab more power...and money by gerrymandering the constitution on the back of unseen legal advice.

Last night, Wednesday the 20th May 2015, the report outlining the reasons for subverting democracy was presented to the Full Council. It was a long and 'fiery' debate with the administration's plans the subject of withering attack from Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrat and Labour Councillors.

This is what I had to say on the matter:

My fundamental objection to changing the method of governance of this council is that it is unnecessary. The claim is that we are not compliant with the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011, in fact the Wales Audit Office confirm that a political balanced ExecutiveBoard is in fact compliant. What is not compliant is the way thecouncil allocated the Chairs of Audit and Democratic ServicesCommittees back in September last year; I will say no more about that at this point as that is the subject of an internal audit complaint 
The second point I wish to make is that the constitutional change is based on counsel’s legal advice that in fact few of us have seen. How can we be expected to vote on something we have not seen? Therefusal to release this report again raises the point of for whosebenefit was this legal advice? The offer of a release of ‘relevantparts’ with conditions is not acceptable and we need to see thewhole advice to understand the whole context of the advice especially what Counsel was asked to advise on! Has anyone seenthe question posed to counsel? 
The third point I wish to make is the short time frame in which toconsult; this is a complex area and this change to the constitution should have been brought to the recent workshop on theConstitution. We can only draw our own conclusions at to why itwas not. 
The fourth point I wish to make is around what I call the ‘powergrab’. Any change from a politically balance Executive Board of 10 to a partisan coalition of 10 is nothing more than securing their ownpower base and diminishing the influence of the opposition especially as the coalition also retains 5 Chairs of Committees. In fact33 Coalition members will share 15 posts that pay a Senior Salary a 2:1 ratio whilst 19 members of the opposition will share 3 or 4 poststhat pay a senior salary, 1:5 ratio. 
Finally we have the costs involved and as you have quoted yourselves the additional cost of this constitutional change in seniorsalaries is £63,000 per annum. So what we have in this age ofausterity is council employees doing more for less and Councillorsdoing less for more. The public perception will be that were not all in this together.

The three opposition groups moved a series of amendments most of which were defeated by 29 - 14, including one NOT to pay a senior salary to the 3 extra cabinet lead members.

The main proposal to change the constitution was passed 29 - 17, with Plaid Cymru, Labour and Lib Dem Councillors voting against. The vote was recorded so we can all see who voted for more of the gravy train.

The whole debacle received extensive coverage from our hyperlocal website Wrexham.com here and here , but we can only speculate as to why our local regional MSM printed papers 'played this whole issue down.'

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