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Rocke's Roles since last time

Apologies for what's becoming a bit haphazard.
This time of year is extremely busy for me and the leisure time I usually have for updates isn't there.

On the personal front, after the upheaval of a few weeks ago, as a result of democracy, Blaenau Gwent style, which means that those you vote out of power ( and in at least one instance almost out of office ) get to have a say 3 years later, I'm still on 6 committees but my Vice Chair of Education and Leisure has been swapped for the one on Regeneration and Housing, not that anyone told me that was going to happen. I'm still chairing Environment Scrutiny.

A lot of people seem to paying a lot of attention to this medium for communicating with 'the masses'. I've had quite a few comments regarding er...  comments. I get the distinct impression that some think being able to interact here is giving me some sort of unfair advantage in that I can say what I want without fear of retribution.
Ask the Public Services Ombudsman I suggest.

I also think that some are worried about how I could influence the election. Well that's not going to happen for a number of reasons.

A colleague ( one of the other lot ) last week gave me a piece of good advice however. Me being me said that I am as I am and it hasn't actually harmed me but their words were not just well-intentioned but well made.  It's strange that most councillors seem to get on with each other, regardless of political colour.

Anyway, to business. Highlights of the past few weeks:

Last week's Crime and Disorder meeting saw 3 police officers together in one place. No, I'm not being sarcastic, just getting it in before some wag does.

An item on PCSOs involved Supt Warrinder who has just transferred from being the divisional boss covering Blaenau Gwent to another role in Gwent Police, and his successor Chief Inspector Budden. Interesting, lose a Super and gain a Chief Inspector.

BG pays for 6 PCSos on top of the number Gwent Police allocates to the area. The Welsh Govt has now funded a further 500-odd PCSOs and Gwent's having 101 of them.
Of these Blaenau Gwent, as one of 5 councils in the area that Gwent Police covers will be be getting um... 14.  
I questioned it but apparently they do some sort of modelling - crime rates, population etc. to come up with the numbers.
I then asked if BG has only 14% of the overall number of PCSOs. No-one knew, but I'll be told.
Most councillors said that PCSOs in their area had helped a lot with issues, especially anti-social behaviour. Llanhilleth's PCSO has actually been nominated for a National (UK) award as PCSO of the year. Cllr Bartlett was full of praise for the work she's done down there.

Next up was policing in the Brynmawr and Abertillery area.
Inspector Clinton gave a presentation on their work. Note - now 1 Inspector for both areas, and he's based in Brynmawr.
The original plan of having 60 officers reporting to Tredegar and then being spread about has now been replaced ( surprise, surprise, given the issues ) by 30 officers for this valley. It seems as well that one of the reasons for a drop-off in certain types of crime is that persistent offenders are targetted. Preventing a serial burglar from going about their unlawful business cuts down I suppose but of course the public still want a visible police presence ( or so most of you tell me ).

Environment was a great example of Scrutiny in motion last week.  
There's been a number of changes to this Committee. I had to welcome the new Executive Member ( back to the future, new member, old hat but that's the way it is I suppose ), Cllrs Bard and Dally, both of whom made their mark with very useful contributions, an officer making their first ever report presentation to committee ( and their second as well ) and congratulate 'Big Daddy' on the birth of he and his partner's first child.

Increases in Impounding charges on the agenda and after a very good debate 2 opposing motions, a draw at 4-4 until I voted ( as Chair I leave it until last. It's not for me to lead comnmittee as I see it ) so the first one lost.
The next then saw the slightly bizarre situation where it again ended up 4-4 but this time, because I didn't totally agree with either proposal I abstained. And then had to use my Casting Vote to break the impasse I'd created.
So, before we increase the charges we will be having a report on what costs we've incurred ( the contract means there's no massive financial impact anyway ) and getting the views of Commoners and representatives of reputable owners who take sufficient precautions to prevent their livestock etc. straying.

Of course, this doesn't prevent exactly the opposite being recommended when we vote the next time !!

Commercial waste charges for 2012/13 generated a bit of debate, which is a bit weird since they're not being increased at all !!

Unfortunately though, Government rules now mean that the council must charge Care Homes, charities and other good causes for collection. Of course, it's us that will get it in the neck.

Talking of getting it in the neck, I've had a couple of reports of our 'litter hitters' being a bit keen in the advice they've given people and in one case a fine that's been handed out.
It's early days and zero tolerance doesn't mean that everything will automatically be correct and proper.
One thing I would like to say is that the personnel have on board cameras. These are not simply there to provide evidence against the person fined. There are there so anyone ( with a right to view ) can see exactly what happened from XFOR's perspective.
Things can sometimes look bad when they're not - for example someone could walk past a warden, pull out a handkerchief on the blind side and out comes litter they're taking home.
Side on it might look like wanton dropping.
So if you have issues don't get involved in a debate, just leave it and do it through the channel you'll get in the post.
It's like being red-carded. The Ref won't ask you back into play but upon review if it's harsh then there might not be any punishment.
If the imposition is genuine you'll find it very difficult to disprove, although of course you're well within your rights to try.                

Probably the major talking point has been young Harley and what I can tell you is a near-miraculous escape from not just the ultimate tragedy of a young life cut brutally short but also a long life of disability.
He's a remarkable little fellow who while I visiting was a typical lively 6 year old deciding to make 'fireworks' ( I didn't see any salt or sugar out so I assume they were dummies ).

Unbelievably the council went a week without knowing anything official at all, including a name or address. I must stress that I do not think this ignorance is the fault of the council.
Rules of confidentiality etc. meant that the Police, Ambulance, and NHS didn't reveal it. I know that council staff were waiting for information almost from it happening.

Our on-call staff attended and the Police responded to the 999 and spoke to others ( the ambulance didn't attend the site, young Harley had amazingly got himself home ). It seems that no official approach was made ( in these circumstances you'd expect a complaint or something, but of course Harley's mum wouldn't have been thinking about that at the time would she ? ).
It took until his Aunt approached me as I was going to Leisure Services for that very matter as it happened that we had a contact. In fact the family were in town.

I made arrangements to visit and it was only then that the council was able to get things in motion.

Unbelievable in this day of modern communication.
I'll be mentioning this and seeing if we can ensure that this doesn't happen again, that somehow we always try to get a name etc.

What of course we all want to ensure is that walls don't fail and end up injuring people. We need to look at what went wrong and identify the cause and hence how to prevent a reoccurence.  

I've heard the usual comments ( it's surreal listening to people talking nonsense, which they admittedly don't know is, when you're sat on the bus behind them, or in a cafe 3 seats away ).

Let's just wait and see what the investigations reveal.

Finally, my thanks to many people in Cwmtillery ( and the many more who I hope this week will become involved ) and in the wider area for making what was simply a desire less than 3 months ago become the reality that it will on Friday, when Cpl Jenkins' headstone will be dedicated at St Paul's at 12 pm.


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