Inside the Chamber: Cllr Jayne Cowan – Cardiff Council February 2011

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.

Jayne Cowan

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 – jcowan@cardiff.gov.uk, tel 029 2062 7757 or direct mobile 079 7001 3332.  I can be followed on twitter also on twitter.com/jaynecowan

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St. Mellons Parish Church Open Days

St. Mellons Parish Church is at the heart of the community

St. Mellons Parish Church will be holding open mornings on Saturday during Lent.
Everybody is welcome to visit the church between 10am – 12noon on the following dates.
Sat 12th March
Sat 19th March
Sat 26th March
Sat 2nd April – coffee and cake will be served on the eve of Mothering Sunday
Sat 9th April
Sat 16th April

Revd. David Kellen

The first records for the Church appear in 1254. It is dedicated to St. Mellonius – first Bishop of Rouen. This is a wonderful opportunity to see one of Cardiff’s most beautiful churches. St. Mellons Parish Church is a thriving community of Christian worship ministered to by Revd. David Kellen, Vicar of the Parish since 1988.

Go to the St. Mellons Parish Church website here

Inside the Chamber: Cllr Jayne Cowan – Cardiff Council January 2011

Council chamber in City Hall

Councillor 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 27th January 2011.

The monthly Council Meeting was opened by the Lord Mayor at 4.30pm and was immediately suspended as the microphones were not working.  The meeting was then re-opened by the Lord Mayor who asked a selection of Councillors and Officer to vacate their seats whilst the microphones were checked.  After 15 minutes or so, the meeting was reconvened and the Chaplain opened the meeting with prayers.

The meeting agreed the minutes of the previous meeting, and the Lord Mayor made announcements.  A few Councillors then submitted petitions to the Council for answer.

Continue reading

Judicial Review of Rumney Rec Decision

Don Taylor, Chair of RREEL at Rumney Rec

RREEL Action Group yesterday served a formal letter on Cardiff Council as the first step in a possible judicial review challenge to the Council’s refusal to register Rumney Recreation ground as a Village Green. Lawyers acting for the community action group submitted a detailed letter setting out why the Councils’ failure to protect the green open space of Rumney Rec may be unlawful. The Council’s Public Protection Committee voted on 13 January 2011 not to register the Rec as a village green. The committee was split with all Lib Dem Councillors voting against registration. Lib Dem chair Cllr Ed Bridges used his casting vote to deny registration.

Don Taylor Chair of RREEL commented:

“We committed to fighting to save the Rec for current and future generations. We believe we have a very reasonable case that the decision was wrong. Cllr Derrick Morgan warned the Public Protection committee that we were contemplating this action. Tory, Labour and Plaid councillors on the committee all believed the Council should think again. Sadly Lib Dem members of that committee would not listen.”

We still believe this could be resolved without spending more Council tax payers’ money. However the ball is in the Council’s court. We had no choice but to take this step to protect the community’s interest.”

The lawyer assisting RREEL Vaughan Gething confirmed:

“The letter delivered today is the first formal stage before issuing any court proceedings. There are serious concerns about the advice the Council are relying upon. The Council now have 14 days to respond. “

“Rumney Rec: No-one should think the fight it over”

Vaughan Gething, Labour candidate for Cardiff South & Penarth with Lorraine Barrett AM

If you aren’t angry that Cardiff Lib Dems decided not to register Rumney Rec as a village green then you are in a small minority. The village green application included a long history of facts and difficult legal questions to answer. The uninterested observer may think the anger at the Council committee is simply disappointment after all a public inquiry with a QC was held to help resolve these questions.”

That isn’t the full picture. As Cllr Derrick Morgan rightly said Rumney Rec is an issue that arouses passionate feeling and the overwhelming support of local people. Derrick Morgan set out a number of problem areas in the advice that did not make sense and required further explanation. However the Public Protection Committee decision was scarred by Lib Dem intransigence and the refusal to listen to local people. Hardly surprising as only the Lib Dem led Council objected to the village green application.

Don Taylor from RREEL wanted to address to committee as did I. I told the chair of the committee that I didn’t want to filibuster, I wanted to ask questions and address elected representatives on an issue of huge importance of people in East Cardiff. We could have been allowed to speak, even for a brief period of time. However the Lib Dem Chair of the Committee decided that the public should not be allowed to address their elected representatives for any period of time.

The report of Mr Blohm itself contains a number of factual inconsistencies. For example he found that Squire Williams regulated use of the land that is now the Rec. No evidence was presented that this was the case. In fact evidence that Squire Williams did not regulate use was given at the inquiry by the Hobbs Sisters, Joyce Pitman, Ray Connolly and Jeffrey Bonsey. Despite people who were there at the time telling him what happened Mr Blohm reached the opposite conclusion.

The report also had puzzling legal findings that none of the Lib Dem members of the committee were interested in asking questions about. For example Mr Blohm’s conclusions on implied licence appear to directly contradict advice that he gave on his own chambers website on 8 March 2010.

All this and more was highlighted to the Committee. All of it was ignored by the Lib Dem members including East Cardiff Trowbridge Cllr Geraldine Grant who decided that the Rec should not be protected. I know from being a Cllr that it isn’t good enough to follow blindly every piece of advice without asking questions. It isn’t just reasonable for Cllrs to ask questions and demand answers when they don’t understand the advice they are being given or when the advice does not make sense. It is the duty of Cllrs to ask questions when that happens. If they aren’t prepared to do that why bother standing for election?”

When I was a Cllr we had meetings where external lawyers were present so Cllrs could ask questions to ensure they understood the advice they were being given. Yesterday the Committee were told that they wouldn’t get any more answers regardless of the questions they asked.

Labour Cllrs, Tory Cllrs and even a Plaid Cllr wanted to have their questions answered. However the determination to see off the Rec came from Lib Dem Cllrs who looked and talked like they were acting as a party block. Its no wonder watching Llanrumney Cllrs Heather Joyce and Jackie Parry were furious.

No-one should think the fight is over. A legal challenge and judicial review is difficult and expensive. Even if that does not go forward there is a still a planning process to contend with and a Council election in 2012. Somehow I don’t think we’ll see much of Rodney Berman and Neil McEvoy in East Cardiff when the 2012 Council election comes around.

The community fight to save the Rec has shown dignity, passion and rare ability to present a convincing case. The campaign will continue and I will continue to be in people’s corner.

Vaughan GethingLabour and Co-operative Party  Welsh Assembly Candidate for Cardiff South & Penarth

Vaughan Gething’s website – click here

Vaughan Gething on twitter – click here

Read Guardian Cardiff coverage – click here

 

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 6,700 times in 2010. That’s about 16 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 43 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 132 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 69mb. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was July 26th with 786 views. The most popular post that day was CARDIFF EAST EXCLUSIVE: John Dixon reflects on new media’s role in ‘Stupidgate’ .

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were twitter.com, guardian.co.uk, facebook.com, mail.live.com, and iconfactory.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for cardiff east blog, cerys furlong, llanrumney, http://www.cardiffeast.org, and cardiff east wordpress.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

CARDIFF EAST EXCLUSIVE: John Dixon reflects on new media’s role in ‘Stupidgate’ July 2010
3 comments

2

Opposition to new Sainsbury’s store in Rumney Village July 2010
3 comments

3

CARDIFF EAST EXCLUSIVE: Jonathan Morgan AM – Let the people elect Cardiff’s Mayor August 2010
10 comments

4

Llanrumney June 2010

5

Old St. Mellons & Pontprennau July 2010

Rumney Rec Is Not A Village Green says QC

In another controversial twist to the Rumney Rec saga the report by Leslie Blohm QC following September’s Public Enquiry has been made public.
Click here to read the report in full – 2010

Llanrumney's Labour Councillors continue to fight to save the Rec

The QC, Queen’s Counsel, who was paid over £10 thousand pounds to direct the Public Enquiry determined that Rumney Rec has failed to meet the criteria required for it to fulfill village green status. The controversy is likely to be fuelled by the fact that Mr. Blohm devotes a MERE 12 lines to the residents’ central argument that Section 15(7) of the Commons Act 2006 allows the Rec to be designated as a village green.
Alun Michael MP last night stated that “The battle to save Rumney Rec goes on.”