A DEBATE on a routine agenda item saw Labour Group leader Rob James take a major hit to his credibility.
The item before Wednesday’s Full Council (Oct 9) and was an apparently anodyne item of business relating to the governance arrangements for the Swansea Bay City Deal.
Emlyn Dole opened the matter briefly, plainly anticipating no substantial intervention. After his brief remarks, Chair Kevin Madge appeared ready to move the business on when Cllr James caught his eye.
The Labour leader chairs the City Deal Scrutiny Committee.
He raised three issues relating to the recommendations and suggested amendments to each. Two of them were superficially anodyne and related to quorum arrangements at meetings and the transaction of business. The third related to an unspecified ‘indemnity’ for the City Deal’s Programme Director.
After some tart comments about Carmarthenshire County Council’s chequered history with such indemnities, which include retaining an unlawful indemnity within the Council constitution, Cllr James said that the points he raised were agreed by the Joint Scrutiny which he chaired and should be incorporated into the text of the draft agreements.
Cllr Emlyn Dole reacted with a combination of surprise and (more predictably) outrage.
He claimed to have received no written notification of the issues Rob James claimed were agreed by the Scrutiny Committee. As far as he was concerned, no issues arose from scrutiny which would affect the reframed agreement and nothing substantive had ever been advanced concerning those points raised by Cllr James. He added a quick jibe, saying that the proposals before the Council were agreed by the City Deal Committee in July and Cllr James had ample time to raise the issue in writing since then.
Undaunted, the Labour leader stuck to his guns and insisted that it was only right that scrutiny had a role. He repeated that the amendments he put forward had been agreed by the scrutiny committee.
At that point, advice was sought from Wendy Waters, the Council’s Chief Executive.
She confirmed that late on Tuesday afternoon a letter from Cllr James, signed as Chair of the Scrutiny Committee had been received by the Council.
Head of Legal, Linda Rees Jones confirmed that shortly after the letter arrived, raising the points made by Cllr James, draft minutes of the relevant meeting had also been received.
Cllr Dole said he had not received those documents and a row between him and Cllr James over who knew what and when broke out.
While Emlyn Dole accused Cllr James of holding up the process, again and again, Cllr James said that scrutiny was essential and could not be ignored.
At that point, Cllr Darren Price intervened. Cllr Price is also a member of the Joint Scrutiny Committee.
He told councillors that not only was his recollection of what happened at the scrutiny significantly different from Cllr James’, but also that he had not received the draft minutes sent to the Council. He said he had briefly checked his emails during the meeting and could find no trace of either the agreed text of a letter or the minutes. He said he was relying on his own memory, but did not recollect what Cllr James said happened as being a settled decision and more of a point of discussion during the committee meeting.
He was soon followed by Cllr Giles Morgan, who rose to his feet carrying his tablet computer.
Cllr Morgan could never be confused for a fan of the Labour leader.
He told the meeting that he had checked his own notes of the scrutiny committee, of which he was also a member. Cllr Morgan said his notes did not agree with the interpretation Cllr James placed on events at the meeting. He said there had been a discussion on the individual points, but no resolution relating to the committee making amendments to the documents before the Council.
The intervention by Cllrs Morgan and Price left the Labour leader with nowhere to go. He replied that he was being subjected to a personal attack on his credibility and would, therefore, abstain when the motion regarding City Deal governance went to a vote.
The substantive agreement was approved by the Council.
A wounded Cllr James might now face a considerable struggle to regain his credibility. Much will depend on him proving what he said the scrutiny committee agreed is what committee members actually approved.
Those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster should get jabbed by end of June
ALL those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster are being urged to take up their offer of the vaccine before the end of next month.
A deadline of 30 June has been introduced to ensure all those eligible for the spring booster will have a long-enough interval between this and the autumn 2022 booster, if they are also eligible.
An announcement by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) about which groups will be eligible for the autumn booster is due to be published shortly.
The JCVI has advised that people over-75, older care home residents and all those aged 12 years and over who are immunosuppressed are eligible for the spring booster.
Those who are 75 on or before 30 June, can get their booster at any point up to the deadline.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “It is important we continue our very high take up levels of the vaccine to help protect us against the risk of serious illness from Covid-19. I would urge everyone who is offered a spring booster vaccination takes up the invitation.”
If someone eligible for a spring booster has had a Covid infection recently, they will need to wait 28 days from the date they tested positive before they can be vaccinated. They will still be able to get vaccinated after 30 June as part of this campaign if they have to postpone their appointment.
All those eligible for spring boosters will be invited by their health board or GP.
It is not too late for anyone who needs a primary dose (first, second or third) to be vaccinated.
Please check for local arrangements.
Young people in Wales being failed when moving from child to adult mental health services
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES are failing young people when they move from child to adult services, says a mental health charity.
Mind Cymru is calling for Welsh Government to make urgent changes to improve the system.
Nia Evans, Children and Young People Manager at Mind Cymru, said: “Young people have told us that their needs, thoughts, and feelings about moving to adult services are often unheard, or ignored.
“Welsh Government must support Local Health Boards to make sure this doesn’t happen, change the way services are run and make sure our young people are being heard and properly cared for.”
Mind Cymru has published a report, in ate the result of interviews with young people about their experiences of moving from Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services – (SCAMHS) to AMHS.
They highlighted five key areas where services are failing young people:
– Poor information offered to young people, particularly on their rights
– Inconsistent use and follow through of care and treatment plans
– High thresholds for SCAMHS and AMHS referrals to be accepted
– Feeling abandoned / cut off from SCAMHS
– Age still dominates decision making process for moving from SCAMHS to AMHS
Nia Evans said: “Any one of these issues could make the process of moving from children’s services to adult services difficult for our young people. But often, more than one is happening at any one time.”
“Our young people have a right to care and support from a mental health system that has been put in place to help them recover. Action must be taken immediately to make sure support systems are robust and doing the job they were designed to do.”
Mind Cymru is asking people to email their Member of the Senedd (MS) and amplify the voices of these young people whose experiences are often unheard, and use the #SortTheSwitch hashtag on social media.
The full report is available here, including what a good move from SCAMHS to AMHS would look like for young people, and where the current system could improve.
Average UK price of diesel hits record of more than £1.80 a litre
LESS than two months after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a 5p a litre cut on the average price of fuel – diesel prices have reached a record high price of 180.29p a litre.
The previous high of 179.90p was recorded on March 23rd 2022 – the day of the Spring Statement from Sunak.
In recent weeks, the UK government has tried to move away from its reliance on importing Russian oil, following President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Worryingly for drivers of petrol cars, the price per litre is fast approaching the record levels of 167.3p per litre set on March 22nd.
This latest price rise adds another challenge to UK households, as the cost of living crisis continues to impact families across the country.
RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Sadly, despite the Chancellor’s 5p a litre duty cut the average price of a litre of diesel has hit a new record high at 180.29p.”
“Efforts to move away from importing Russian diesel have led to a tightening of supply and pushed up the price retailers pay for diesel.”
“While the wholesale price has eased in the last few days this is likely to be temporary, especially if the EU agrees to ban imports of Russian oil.”
“Unfortunately, drivers with diesel vehicles need to brace themselves for yet more pain at the pumps. Had Mr Sunak reduced VAT to 15% as we call on him to do instead of cutting duty by 5p, drivers of diesel vehicles would be around 2p a litre better off, or £1 for every full tank.”
“As it is, drivers are still paying 27p VAT on petrol and 29p on diesel, which is just the same as before the Spring Statement.”
“The average price of petrol is also on the rise having gone up nearly 3p a litre since the start of the month to 166.65p which means it’s less than a penny away from the all-time high of 167.30p set on 22 March.”
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