Jayne Cowan, first elected to Cardiff Council in 1999, represents the Rhiwbina ward and sits as an Independent Councillor. Cowan is widely regarded as one of the hardest working councillors in Cardiff. In an exclusive post for Cardiff East Councillor Cowan offers a unique eye-witness account of the council meeting that took place on Thursday 24th February 2011.
When I approached the City Hall Car Park, I noticed several barriers were in place with Council Officers and members of the Police Force standing close to the protestors. Councillors were handed leaflets from an organisation called, “Cardiff Against the Cuts”.
Very few people were in the public gallery at the start of the meeting. I wondered why the protestors weren’t there watching the debate.
The Council Meeting was opened by the Lord Mayors Chaplain with prayers.
The minutes of the previous meeting were accepted with a minor correction – the number of people who abstained at a vote from the previous meeting. The Lord Mayor asked Councillors to declare any interests they had in accordance with the Code of Conduct. Councillors need to complete forms and declare their interest to the Chamber if they have interests in any of the items debated.
A number of announcements were made, including a reference made by a Councillor who confirmed that the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service will be going to New Zealand to assist in the aftermath of the recent earthquake.
I am pleased that I wrote to the Lord Mayor asking if all Groups could say a few words about an officer in charge of Committee and Member Services who was leaving the employ of the Council after 42 years service. All Group Leaders paid tribute to the gentleman who is well respected across the political divide and will be sorely missed.
Three public questions were tabled for answer. The issues raised related to CO2 emissions from waste incineration to the financial implications for Cardiff Council regarding a residual waste treatment facility or facilities and issues relating to Prosiect Gwyrdd
Two petitions were presented on behalf of residents. One by myself regarding a highways and traffic issue in Rhiwbina and one by a Liberal Democrat Councillor regarding an aspect of the Council’s budget.
The Corporate Plan was discussed by several members across the political divide. A request was made for the document to be referred back to a scrutiny committee, but this was rejected. The Executive felt the document was positive for Cardiff, but the opposition groups highlighted the considerable failings including fly tipping, graffiti removal, the long time people needed to wait for disabled facilities grants which is set to become even longer. The report was, however, passed.
The next item on the agenda was the Council’s budget. The Labour Group did not table any alternative proposals, so the only two groups who had alternative proposals were the Independent Group and Conservative Group. I was surprised to see the Conservative proposals on the order paper as there were statements which did not relate to specific savings which could be tracked. One example is that the group asked the Chief Executive to find them half a million pounds worth of savings which is inappropriate to say the least. There was a lengthy debate, and several members rose to their feet and made contributions. The two sets of alternative proposals were lost and the Liberal Democrat and Plaid Budget was passed, seeing a Council Tax increase of nearly 2% to the Council taxpayer. I felt that we could have had a slight reduction in Council Tax this year.
Council questions were tabled, and by this time less than half the Councillors were in the Chamber. There were several issues under discussion including The Royal Wedding, information about Danescourt Primary School and Asylum Seekers.
The Council proceedings were over at around 9pm, after two buffets paid for by the Council taxpayers were consumed, and 100 bottles of water at £1 per head were on offer. The Independent Group are the only group not to partake in any of the refreshments or bottled water.
Members of the Public are able to table a question at a Council Meeting and can obtain more information by contacting me – firstname.lastname@example.org, tel 029 2062 7757 or direct mobile 079 7001 3332. I can be followed on twitter also on twitter.com/jaynecowan