Sunday, August 12, 2012

Community involvement & politics are not mutually exclusive

One of the main battles we who are involved in the often murky world of politics have is against voter apathy and distrust which has built up over the years.  It is easy to see why this has happened, but nonetheless the cries of ‘you’re all the same’ do get a little wearing.

It is especially difficult on a community level when it seems we can never win.  If we don’t get involved then we are not interested except at election time.  If we do then it must be because we are trying to make it political and get some electoral benefit for ourselves for it.

I have been involved in community groups well before any political involvement came about- it is why I was first asked to stand for Council. I have kept that going, during the five years I was a County Councillor and since. As Vice Chair of Governors at a Secondary School I never bring my politics into school – although unfortunately the same can’t be said of some others.  I Chair a Development Trust and Vice Chair of a football Trust locally.  Neither of these bring me any political benefit as they are located in the Rhondda and my political activities now centre around Pontypridd.  Yet I still give my time and energy to them because I believe they are worthwhile.

There are of course times when the political and the community interests come together.  A case in point is the fight to save Pontypridd paddling pool.  We (RCT Welsh Lib Dems) have been against this all along, and yes we have made a political point of that, because it is a political issue.  The decision on the renovation of the Lido and the removal of the pool is a Council one, a political one.

Councillor Mike Powell is the ONLY one who voted against the plans at Development Control Committee. He was the only Councillor who went along to the Cabinet meeting and questioned the Officers’ report and the recommendation to approve the project. He asked for the decision to be called in. If anyone out there thinks it is easy to be on your own amongst 75 Councillors in that Chamber then think again.

Yet there are people who still say that the politics should be kept out of the campaign.  Really?  Where then would the campaign be now.

We brought this to the attention of the public.  I have spent hours writing leaflets and press releases, we have given up our time to get those out and keep people informed.  We have reported back from Council meetings which the public would know nothing about. We have set up a Facebook group again to pass on information. Yes we have put our Party name on it, but why shouldn’t we?  It is what we are.  It would be far more suspicious if we didn’t.

We have now set up a community meeting to discuss areferendum, and again there are a few (very few) who condemn us for that.  Yet what have they done?  We are a campaigning unit, we know how to go about these things. So whilst the few who are against all things political sit and complain we have set up a time and date, issued the press release, produced the posters, and there are a couple of thousand leaflets publicising it ready to go out.

Hopefully the majority of people will see this for the community issue it is, regardless of who is taking the lead, and just be grateful somebody is. If they don’t then there is nothing else we can do, and there will be little point complaining once the paddling pool is gone.

Friday, August 10, 2012

RCT Council antics make Yes Minister look like a documentary

Just what size catheter I wonder is being used by RCT Director of Strategy and Public Relations to extract the urine these days?

At least I am assuming it is this gentleman who is giving political advice and direction to the Cabinet.  The position is after all a political appointment – albeit you would never get the Labour party to admit to it.  He is a former Labour Council candidate and son of a Cabinet Member. He was with the Labour contingent at the election count, and is ever present at meetings keeping a close eye on things.

He also somewhere in his department has a responsibility for tourism, although quite why I have never been able to fathom, suppose it says a lot about RCT Council’s attitude to the potential of that for economic development.  The Lido renovation is going to bring tourists to Ponty in droves apparently, so it is only natural he should take an interest.

But I digress. What you may ask has brought about this cloud of wonderment at the ways RCT Council find to extract the proverbial?   Well not surprisingly it is the latest in the farce surrounding the decision to renovate the Lido in Ynysangharad Park and remove the paddling pool.

I am not repeating the whole story as enough has been written about that both here and at  but in summary the Labour Cabinet made a decision, Welsh Lib Dem Cllr Mike Powell instigated a call in to ask Scrutiny Committee to ask them to look at it again, Labour who have a huge majority on that and every other committee voted no.

There have been doubts expressed all along about the level of public consultation – even the Labour MP for Pontypridd said it was poor.  But it was ok because the Trustees of the Park were fully in favour.  The Director of Regeneration said so – they had been consulted and had no objection at all to the plans.

Why then has a special meeting been called of the Trustees on the 15th August to look at the same report yet again with a view endorsing the decision?  Or not?  Don’t think Paddy Power will be taking bets on that one.  Who are the Trustees in question?  Why it's a subcommittee of the Labour Cabinet.

You really couldn’t make it up could you?  Yet this is what passes as democracy in the totalitarian state of RCT.

Don’t know what size catheter they are using but I sure know where I’d like to pour what they are extracting.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Permission to c**p all over us Sir

I went along to watch a Council Scrutiny meeting this morning.  It was a special meeting of Overview & Scrutiny following a call in request initiated by Cllr Mike Powell and supported by the Plaid Members on the committee. It was to discuss the scheme to renovate the Lido in Ynysangharad Park and remove the paddling pool which has caused some considerable degree of consternation amongst locals.

It was a perfect reminder if ever I needed one of what arrogant, pig headed, ignorant individuals the Labour party in RCT are.

There were 13 members of the committee present not including the Labour Chair, plus a Cabinet Member (Deputy leader Paul Cannon) and three other Labour Members watching from the sidelines.

Mike opened the so called debate, and then the two Plaid members spoke.  Not a single Labour member opened their mouths.  Not a question, not a comment. They sat there in silence and then at the appointed time all dutifully raised their hands in the air to vote against asking the Cabinet to look at the decision again.  The details of the meeting are here – one has to ask between the Officers and the Members which are the organ grinders and which the monkeys as they defend each other so perfectly.

The whole thing was a joke.  Around about 50 minutes of time wasted as they didn’t even have the intelligence to pretend to take an interest or to consider the proposal in front of them.

And the most galling thing is that they do this with the authorisation of the people of RCT. So keen were the majority of those to do as Labour suggested and ‘send a message to Cameron and Clegg’ that they forgot the message they were sending to the local Labour party was quite simple.

The message was that they were willing to continue being c*****d upon from a great height.  That they are happy for Labour to carry on as before.  To carry on taking no notice at all of public opinion and having no regard whatsoever for the people they are allegedly elected to serve.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Keeping the politics out of it

It makes me so angry when people complain about Council decisions or lack of action and then get all uptight that it shouldn’t be made ‘political.’
It happens a lot, and is perhaps a measure of how disengaged the public generally are with the democratic process.
The decision to renovate the Lido in Ynysangharad Park has been much to the forefront of the minds of RCT Welsh Lib Dems recently  - well certainly in the case of Cllr Mike Powell and myself.  The plans involve the removal of the current paddling pool and a lot of people have got hot under the collar about it.
We have put out no end of press comments and written letters and set up a petition and survey.  We have been trying to alert people to this for years and have opposed the plans all along.  Not to make a political point – our support came before the public outcry – but because we think the decision is wrong.
A number of Facebook groups have now sprung up in protest at the decision, which is good.  But the thing that amazes and annoys me is the number of people who claim it should be ‘non-political.’   How can it be non political?  This decision like almost every other decision which affects the area is made by politicians.
So people will instead gripe on Facebook, or down the pub, or maybe with the occasional letter to the press. They’ll stay away from ‘politics’ because that’s a dirty word isn’t it?  Then they will lie down and let the crap keep on coming.
What will it take for people to really get involved, take control, and really make this a democratic country?