Saturday, 31 March 2007

New twist for bendy bus

Another factor which is supposed to have spawned disaffection among errant coalition councillors comes under sharper political focus next week.

The Environment Scrutiny committee is to examine the workings of the Bendy Bus (aka Swansea Metro) and its doubtful future.

Many critics suspect that the thinking behind this multi-million pound transportation pet-project may not be as joined up as the vehicles which will be traversing Swansea's streets.

Growing public pressure for the Quadrant bus station to be the main priority has led some to speculate that the cabinet might try to pre-empt the committee and quietly truncate the controversial scheme - having already spent a huge chunk of money rearranging the city centre to accommodate its contortions.

However, it might be slightly difficult to get all the answers if only because the scheme's main proponent, Anthony O'Sullivan - and someone potentialy more articulate than the buses - left the authority yesterday to take up a directorate post at Caerphilly council.

Stop the presses!

What is the world coming to? A news item on election protocol for the National Assembly that doesn’t include a comment from Lib Dem Peter Black. Amazing!

Friday, 30 March 2007

Tactical withdrawal

The word among the unwashed is that urgent and private inter-party talks, as the jargon puts it, have averted a sticky situation at next Monday's special council - which has now been cancelled.

As previously reported, the formal meeting had been convened following a notice of motion by council leader Chris Holley who wanted to reverse an earlier decision that had dumped "outspoken" Ioan Richard from the running to be Swansea's next Lord Mayor.

But despite earlier allusions to a public outcry that prompted his intervention he now seems to be content that the democratic process was properly observed.

It's entirely possible that this revised stance is a result of other parties signalling their united opposition to the move combined with insufficient backing from councillors within the Lib Dem & Independent minority administration.

We suspect that another factor was the suggestion that an outcome which ended in the move being defeated would be interpreted as a vote of no confidence in Holley's leadership - thus forcing his resignation.

In a statement issued last night, and which a helpful Rene Kinzett reportedly authored, Holley stated "I am pleased that we have now found a way forward which will preserve the integrity of the office of Lord Mayor and maintain the dignity of the election process for that office" - although he didn't actually say what had been agreed.

Anyway, it apparently fails to meet with Ioan's approval. The latest is that he is alleged to have told his political patrons where to stick their largesse and issued a press statement of his own.

Could somebody let the Western Mail know the score?

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Disservice deserves an explanation

We read that Chris Holley is understandably upset about the casino decision in which his bid was trumped by a full house, so to speak. No doubt he will be sending a stern rebuke to all those Liberal Democrat MPs and Peers who voted against the proposal - and the aspirations of their Swansea colleagues.

Update (30 March): According the press, "Plans hang in the balance after the Lords backed an amendment by Liberal Democrat Lord Clement-Jones calling for a joint committee of the Lords and Commons to look again at the decision-making process".

Delusions of achievement

Oh dear. Are we alone is getting the impression that Swansea Insider is confusing his “regional” role with his involvement in the Swansea Administration. Or is it just a pathetic attempt to grab credit for other peoples' work which has resulted in the excellent news of investment by Amazon.co.uk at Jersey Marine?

The absence of anyone from Swansea Council at today’s event in the Towers Hotel firmly debunks any Lib Dem claims of "regional partnership" - as does the story that Neath & Port Talbot Council, who took less than a month to sort out the planning application, are still waiting for Swansea to respond to a consultation enquiry about the project.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Eastern promise

While Swansea’s Lib Dem-run cabinet is still working on its plethora of strategies and master plans – in between fending off the odd financial crisis – a neighbouring local authority manages to quietly deliver the “largest job-creating inward investment scheme Wales has seen for seven years”.

As one reader puts it, “It's a pity that Swansea Council does not have the same go ahead attitude. Perhaps they need to buy another strategy from Neath to see how its done.”

Update: East and West seems best.

Make your bets

Tonight, on prime time parliamentary TV, you can follow the madcap antics of those zany MPs as they debate the fate of the bid by Holley & Co for Swansea to be one of 11 host cities for a “small” super casino.

It seems to be a mixture of principle and parochial politics driving Lib Dem, Conservative and rebel Labour parliamentarians who oppose the idea. But the result is too close to call, according to media reports.

Update: Lords scupper super-casino plan - and Swansea's plans too.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Beanz Meanz Brickbatz

Whatever the background, the perception in yesterday’s front page is that Swansea Council is managed by a bunch of jobsworths when it comes to charitable events.

But we would argue that this impression is more than a little unfair and is based on a single instance against a record of local authority staff who stage, support and participate in charities such as the Swansea 10K run, the Gower Bike Ride and a range of other events.

We’re sure that the Beanz Bath will go ahead in one form or another but it’s a pity that the cabinet members who push staff aside in their rush to be photographed over good news stories don’t have the same enthusiasm in defending the people who do the actual work and sometimes take stick for it.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Chicken run

All this selection gossip seems to have set off a further spate (if you'll pardon the expression) of scenarios, according to some disaffected sources.

One intriguing possibility is that next year's council elections in Landore will see three or even four Liberal Democrat candidates chasing two seats. We also hear that the cold-shouldering continues in Sketty whilst the betting is at least two of the current Uplands councillors will be standing under an independent ticket.

Meanwhile the prospect is emerging that the three sitting councillors in Cwmbwrla will face opposition from former members of their own Focus Team.

Never a dull moment in Lib Dem land.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Computer clecs

We’re hear that a new batch of e-mails from a familiar source have been received at various locations.

The person - who is especially keen to highlight the misdeeds of tory group leader Rene Kinzett and others - signs himself either as Dyngwyrdd@yahoo.co.uk or aptrefor@yahoo.co.uk depending on the content.

Real People Power

Another flagship Lib Dem policy falls apart, thanks to real people power, but barely a mention appears in the aftermath.

Three out of four voting tenants have told the Council to stick their plans to transfer council housing into an arms length management company. It is a massive snub for a controversial move which had the very public backing of the council leader, his cabinet and most of his administration.

Yet a low-key official press release only refers to “proposals to transfer homes” as if it was someone else’s idea - instead of a Council-backed campaign costing £1.5 million involving a shedfull of professional pro-transfer propaganda which even included posters stuck on the side of local authority vehicles.

And the outcome barely rates an editorial in the Beans on Toast – which is strange.
For when you look at the amount of free publicity given to the under-resourced and slightly ramshackle NO campaign in the form of letters and articles, you would think that the paper would take some deserved credit for the outcome. Could they be slightly embarrassed?

In another life, the paper would also be enthusiastically quoting the strident demands of opposition party spokesmen that those politicians behind the idea should resign immediately and then later quietly report that senior officers involved in its ineffective execution were leaving the Council to spend more time with their pensions.

Even the little band behind the Burning Turkey spin-site have gone bo-bo’s on the subject – and everything else it seems. Perhaps they’re still busy thinking up new identities after Rockin Rene outed them the other day.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Just follow the signs

It must confusing as hell to be in the Swansea Administration at the moment - especially when it comes to the media.

In one breath, the lack of forethought that went into egovernment is given almost daily critical media coverage by the local paper while its editor unashamedly urges a damn-the-torpedoes attititude to public consultation considered necessary before costly strategies are implemented.

Why does the phase "set-up" come to mind?

Pulling the chain

A quick confirmation of yesterday’s rumour - and possibly an unwise gamble by the Lib Dem leadership.

Depending on the number of votes that the Swansea Administration can press-gang into attending on the day, the result could be very interesting indeed. For not only will it be a quite a stretch of constitutional arrangements, it could also mean that other aspirations are flushed away if the vote goes against Holley.

Convention dictates that a council leader who puts forward a notice of motion, only to see it defeated, will have also essentially lost a vote of confidence and should resign.

As for “people power”, you have to wonder what would happen if a notice of motion was put in to re-instate the Slip Bridge, don’t you?

Friday, 23 March 2007

Going for silver

Overstated sightings of Lib Dem Peter Black in ‘masonic’ regalia are explained in this post. As for his decision to attend a dinner commemorating 25 years of Swansea having a Lord Mayor, having recently announced he was foregoing the role himself. Well, surely it’s no different than the author who once stated that ‘just because I dislike ice-cream doesn’t mean I disapprove of it”.

But does any of this have a bearing on rumours of an attempt to re-run the mayoral election vote and elect the previously rejected candidate of Ioan Richard?

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Getting the word out

Despite providing a record amount of coverage per cabinet member, courtesy of the Swansea Leader and other publications, it seems that the communications section at Swansea Council is not held in the highest esteem by its political masters.

Entre nous, their heinous crime - according to an administration insider - is that Wormtongue et al remain incapable of turning a pig’s ear into anything resembling a silk purse and failed to avert a succession of critical headlines.

The view is that its time to go looking for new blood – a consideration that might also have something to do with a recent move to cut premium rates for Sunday working over at Adelaide Street.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Tenants reject transfer

After the prediction come the results:

For: 2,186 (27.9%)
Against: 5,661 (72.1%)

Turnout: 7,847 (56.3%)

All of which gets a confused response from a Council leadership that is clearly becoming a bit punchy.

Or could it actually be true that the Council was "forced" to publish this kind of article against its will by that nasty old Welsh Assembly and never really wanted to unload its council housing?

Update: the Beeb speaks.

On the rocks

"SWANSEA Council is launching a new era of openness and honesty with the people of Swansea", clamoured the Swansea Leader propaganda sheet in August 2004.

"The Swansea Administration was elected to make a difference for the people of Swansea, and that is what we are delivering", stated Chris Holley.

Well, it’s different all right – although the bit about being “elected” is stretching things.

Then he went on to promise to "remove the barriers that have prevented people from connecting with this council. For far too long they have been left on the outside, isolated from decisions and the people making them".

But, as is usually the case with the Lib Dems and their cronies, the reality is very different from the rhetoric – and both openness & honesty ran aground directly after leaving the slipway.

Because since that article was printed, there has actually been a proliferation of private and non-accountable working groups who discuss issues ranging from council house stock transfer to fundamental constitutional changes.

Unlike the former Cabinet Advisory Committees, which were scrapped by Holley & Co, none of these working groups meet in public, produce minutes or advertise their existence – until something go wrong and the blame game begins.

Take for example the Stadium Advisory Group. This was a single party body (so much for inclusiveness) which managed to turn a financial headache into a disaster when it recommended writing off a multi-million pound loan to StadCo and gained a critical auditors report for the Council in the process.

Then there is the E-government working party which seems to have been populated by a bunch of mushrooms chasing something between a mirage and a moving target, if recent press accounts are to be believed. No wonder no-one ever came up with a final figure.

And what about the Open Swansea Working Group which still meets behind closed doors – or so we assume?

Under their regime, the Lib Dem led coalition has not just isolated people from the decisions that affect them; they have gone out of their way to ignore them entirely.

Ever since the Slip Bridge fiasco the cabinet has restricted its consultations to stakeholders, i.e. special interest groups who depend on Council patronage in some form and can be relied upon to nod things through.

And of course, if things get really difficult, the leadership can exercise their tried and tested options of claiming that key documentation cannot be found or that an independent enquiry would “too expensive” or resort to lying through their teeth.

And don't worry about the Freedom of Information Act - nobody else does.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Voices in the machine

Renegade Rene has managed to wind up the Lib Dem spinners to the extent that they are now imagining things.

In today's Beans on Toast, the former administration spokesman lambasts Swansea Council for "a lack of information and confusion over its multi-million pound eGovernment programme".

This provoked the Spitting Feathers spin-site into debunking his stinging criticism with a followig riposte: "as Cabinet member, Mary Jones points out, he [Kinzett] is chair of the Councils' e-government working group, which body receives monthly updates".

Except that, according to the damaging article they mention, Ms Jones wasn't available for comment.

Another vote of no confidence?

We hear that the gloomy prediction recently made at a recent inner cabinet briefing is that the housing transfer ballot could produce a NO result.

We obviously have no indication either way, but whatever the outcome, the Council’s campaign is unlikely to win any accolades for inspiring tenants' trust.

No matter how altruistic the intentions behind the proposal, the local authority began the process with the kind of imperious attitude more associated with those landowners who used to demolish entire villages to improve the view from the baronial hall. And they managed to conclude matters by throwing money and promises into a campaign with all the finesse of Del and Rodney on a bad day.

Of course we accept that the port-mortem might yet be premature in this case

But what is remarkable is that whether it’s the Morfa tennis centre, Dylan Thomas School or Manselton Road, the Lib Dems still retain the effortless ability to alienate entire communities and engender effective opposition campaigns into the bargain.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Scrutiny@Swansea

Lets' hope that the scrutiny investigation into egovernment failings at Swansea Council is a bit more constructive than the Beans on Toast manages to imply in its pages.

Just because the Lib Dem led admininstration have been responsible for a few dodgy contractual decisions during their watch - and the odd whitewash report - doesn't mean that the whole thing should now become a finger-pointing exercise.

Nevertheless, it's interesting to learn that "senior council officers and cabinet members, as well as Capgemini representatives and other experts, will be asked to give evidence about what went wrong".

How will they possibly manage without a council press spokesman?

Missing the bus (and the station)

An unsurprising outcome about the Quadrant bus station is reported in the local press - along with an equally expected shrug from the Lib Dem led administration.

And another instance where their spokesmen spout about "future priorities" more in hope than ambition - and fail to match those of the fare-paying public.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Enforcing consensus

We hear that squabbles@scrutiny continue within the Administration and elsewhere with officers not sure who to consult over what issue. But we also read that the entire issue might yet end up being taken out of local control anyway.

Pity. It was getting to be more entertaining than Casualty does Fame Acadamy on Ice in the Jungle (and the ballroom)- or something like that.

The stuff of nightmares

For all the recent anodyne guff emanating from the Clockwork Chicken spin-site and their corporate counterparts, the question which still remains unanswered is that if everything is going according to plan, then why are key members of the administration leaving its ranks or else distancing themselves from the leadership?

Perhaps part of the answer is provided by this in-depth and uncompromising analysis of Shambles@Swansea which, in describing a dream that turned into a PR disaster, includes the comments:
--
Council leaders failed to acknowledge the monumental U-turn of dropping its all-singing, all-dancing call centre. In fact there was no mention of it in the press release, which included quotes from council leader Chris Holley and councillor Mary Jones, who is in charge of the eGovernment projet. Both have been fully behind the idea of a call centre in the past.
--
No doubt a Beans on Toast editorial will also describe this as a 'canny move' in times to come.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Contrition

An apology in tonight's Beans on Toast to the Lib Dem's hate figure rockin' Rene Kinzett who, it turns out, was not actually contacted for comment over his role in the ditching of Ioan Richard as mayor and should not have been quoted as refusing to give his reasons.

However, it seems that he did vote against the nomination but members of his group didn't even though the paper said they did. (Is any of this making sense?)

Anyway, it's a longer and more fulsome apology than was eventually made to CapGemini - and will probably irritate the hell out of the Administration for that reason alone.

Bollards!

EP reader Mr Thomas obviously feels strongly about illegal parking on the pedestrian area of Princess Way in the city centre - and quite right too.

She also asks why there are no barriers to stop inconsiderate types from leaving their motors on what is supposed to be a walkway to the waterfront. Good question.

When the cabinet get over congratulating themselves about grafitti removal, they might want to check if this basic bit of city centre management is included in the frequently heralded £3.5 million make-over.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Not making the news

We can understand why the authors of the Stuffed Duck spin-site refuse to address themselves to the reasons for Rob Speht’s exit from the Swansea Administration. After all, what could they possibly add to Chris Holley’s inimitable comments at the time?

But what we find strange is that the news of a high-profile councillor – not to mention parliamentary hopeful – leaving their already depleted ranks because “there is no collective decision- making” only merits one mention in the local press.

You'd think that the departure of former deputy environment cabinet member was an everyday sort of event to go by their scant mention and that his claims being "not really included in a wider sense” are just an inevitable consequence of a cabinet system. Ho, hum.

It has been cynically implied in some quarters that the low-key coverage is due to the original press release about Speht’s exit being issued by his chum Rene Kinzett – who is not exactly enjoying the most constructive of relationships with the press at the moment.

Others suspect the editorial line is that any suggestion of the Lib Dem regime being in danger of getting dumped must be avoided at all costs ..... at least until a deal is done for an ice-rink.

Update: Some late breaking news (very late as it happens)

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Making the news

A mixed political bag on today’s newsfront.

Having reported the fallout of Ioan Richard’s e-mail indiscretions in some detail – including large sections of the actual transcript – the EP is now outraged that no-one involved in voting down his mayoral nomination is willing to give their reasons on the record.

Meanwhile the state of Swansea’s bus station is back on Plaid's agenda (if only to give Dai Lloyd something to do) and an unhappy Manselton resident points the finger at Lib Dems who don’t listen.

Sooner or later, someone will mention the Assembly elections and then things will get really exciting.

Matrix

It’s very apt that the Lib Dem run Spinning Chicken blogsite should use the image entitled ‘Matrix’ to accompany their latest post about moving things forward.

The concept of a society based upon a seemingly substantial illusion must be very attractive to them at the moment. Unfortunately however, there are not enough of the right coloured pills to go around.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Under the net

While Peter Black is celebrating his ‘subversive’ status in China we can also confirm a growing number of similar hits despite our patently parochial content. But we are intrigued to see if PMB somehow manages to turn this bit of trivia into a press release for a slow news day.

Maverick on the move?

Although it’s possible that someone has been listening at the wrong keyholes, we hear of a persistent rumour that maverick Richard Lewis is ready to declare his departure from the Swansea Administration (again).

Depending on which version you wish to believe, Richard is either greatly annoyed that his coalition chums failed to back his mayoral ambitions this side of the elections or else thinks that greater leverage can be exerted by gambling on an arrangement with Ray Welsby, Rob Speht and one other.

Quite frankly, we don’t find either scenario remotely credible. Nevertheless, stranger things have happened in recent times and as many have found out to their cost, the one reliable thing about Richard is his consistent unreliability.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Follow the money

As much as it might be a temptation to refer to lies, damned lies and performance indicators, the real issue is not whether the education department of Swansea Council is failing to measure up – or if residents will welcome the ‘prioritisation’ of cleaner streets rather than something more tangible, like the evidence of their own eyes.

The main question is whatever happened to the budgetary info that is supposed to go hand in hand with performance reports to the cabinet?

The last time it was ‘delayed’ (for several months) it was to allow the incorporation of the extra cost of Service@Swansea and reveal that the borrowing figure had virtually doubled.

There's just no pleasing some people

Guto Thomas, BBC Wales political correspondent, seems to have had a miserable weekend in Swansea. Read more.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

AWOL

An intriguing footnote to the recent vote which has reportedly embarrassed the deputy mayor is why some of his Swansea Administration colleagues felt that they had more pressing calls on their time than to attend a Council meeting – especially when there were seven Environment portfolio items on the agenda.

As leader Chris Holley put it: “We had assurances from many people that they were going to vote for him, and in the end they just didn't”. Or just didn’t turn up, as the case may be.

It is not for us to speculate if the absences were related to the previously declared (but apparently flexible) Plaid Cymru stance about the relevance of a mayor in contemporary local government or if the lure of Rosso versus Azzurri was more tempting.

But whatever the reason, and as one member of the opposition has already observed, the alleged link between the result and a poor turnout is remarkably apposite - given the theme of an earlier email.

Update: (Sunday 11 March)
Members of the Swansea Administration managed to break radio silence this morning in accusing opposition councillors of voting en bloc - a claim disputed by Plaid's Darren Price.

But they also blew it by repeatedly referring to Richard Lewis in their comparisons – who has seniority, according to the protocol – and thereby raising the sticky question of how his continued non-eligible status was determined beforehand.

Could that have possibly been a Swansea Administration en bloc decision?

Friday, 9 March 2007

It's all gone quiet over there

By all accounts, yesterday’s council meting was a depressing affair for the Lib Dem-run Swansea Administration – of which a significant number pushed off early (including their downcast looking leader who had a dinner appointment in Neath).

His and other high profile but unexplained absences from the front bench gave education cabinet member Mike Day the opportunity to do a stint as stand-in leader and thereby demonstrate why opposition parties desperately want Holley to remain in post.

What remained of the coalition hierarchy could see how things were going to shape up after the vote on mayoral nominations and predictably tried to indulge their opponents with an offer to allow a future debate (quite a novel proposition) on the much publicised Swansea Bay Strategy. It was even admitted that Local Democracy Week might be a bit more democratic if other political parties were involved in the event.

But it seems that these concessions were not enough to stop a white-wash response to a critical auditors report getting chucked back at its authors with demands for something more substantial – and possibly bearing a closer resemblance to the facts.

The array of smacked gobs among cabinet members and their management team puppeteers was quite a sight, according to our sources.

We’re also told that there was a distinct lack of the usual ebullience among the administration members when they went on to get stuffed in two successive debates over school sprinkler systems and housing stock transfer.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Parlour games

We're reliably informed that mayoral hopeful Ioan Richard failed to get enough votes this evening to secure his parlour seat - and the indications are that the outcome is pretty much one of his own making.

Very few councillors were impressed by his insincere contrition over a silly and offensive e-mail that urged 'trench warfare' to hold onto positions despite the administration becoming a minority. And the reports are that he didn't help himself by appearing to make good on threats of exploiting illness & bereavements among the opposition benches at a recent licensing committee.

Following a few bizarre moments when councillors had to decide if Richard Lewis was an acceptable alternative (he apparently received 4 votes out of a possible 63) and whether Margaret Smith could deputise, the nominations for mayor and deputy finally went to Lib Dem Sue Waller and Independent Gareth Sullivan respectively.

Update (9 March): Confirmation from the Beans on Toast - albeit slightly low key.

Pointing the finger

As mentioned below, comments on the Lib Dem spin-site that Rene Kinzett faces possible action for his egovenment whistle-blowing has provoked an amazing retaliatory e-mail from the tory group leader.

Before this grudging disclaimer appeared in the EP, Kinzett sent out a widely circulated tirade in which he slams officers and cabinet member Mary Jones for potential claims against the Council and for keeping councillors out of the loop.

But the former Lib Dem also issued a stark warning to a few of his former colleagues:

“As for the following statement from [name deleted by us], writing under his ‘Insider’ sobriquet: ‘No clue as yet as to what action if any will be taken against the perpetrator of these serious allegations’ - let me just make it quite clear that if he, or any officer or cabinet member has an accusation to make against me, please have the courage to make it direct to me and not whilst hiding behind some childish alter-ego”.

It continues ..“And before he protests that he did not write what appears on www.swanseaphoenix.blogspot.com, he should remember that I used to write with him on the old Inside Swansea blogspot and I know who all the little people are who write for the blogspot and their little nicknames”.


We’ve already the mentioned speculation as to why the old Lib Dem spin-site was abandoned earlier this year. It appears that Rene has managed to fill in some of the gaps – but it remains to be seen who loses out more from his admission.

Making the connections

It’s not often that we quote any news story that appears in the South Wales Echo (in fact, this is probably the first time) but we were intrigued by their headline “Council 'connects' with Swansea for service”.

No report has been issued, no official announcement made to Council or decision made by cabinet but the newspaper can nevertheless state that “council executives in West Wales have turned to Cardiff for help in developing a cutting-edge service based on the capital's highly successful Connect to Cardiff (C2C)”.

It adds: “Michelle Morris, assistant chief executive of Swansea council, said: “There may be rivalries on the sporting field between Cardiff and Swansea but there is far more co-operation in other areas.’”

Well, isn’t that nice.

Update (on a related issue): We hear that a post on the Spinning Chicken website re. a possible EP retraction over alleged claims that CapGemini are suing the Council has upset Renegade Rene with their implications that he will also face repercussions. More later.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Walking the walk

Swansea's messy approach roads – Fabian Way in this instance – could be damaging to the city's efforts to build a reputation as a first-class tourist destination claims a spokesman for the Keep Wales Tidy campaign. And anyone who travels the route regularly would have to agree.

Cleaning the city is no easy task – although when in opposition, the Lib Dems seemed to think that it would be a doddle and subsequently put it down as a quick win on finding themselves in office.

But the reality has turned out to be very different; and for all the recent spin about improvements, the local paper today claims that “the comments are part of a growing tide of complaints about litter in the city.”

Could this be another ‘campaign of misrepresentation’ by the Beans on Toast or is it simply a sign that the hapless Swansea Administration is failing to deliver on another of its stated priorities?

Party games

We understand that Swansea has the dubious honour of hosting the Welsh Lib Dem Spring conference this week.

The event is being held in Swansea Vale which will doubtlessly be claimed by Holley as yet another of his regime's visionary achievements - if his speech at the city centre strategy launch is any indicator.

Having previously received an internal party award for ‘Best Performing Group’, the local crowd will have some explaining to do over how their parliamentary candidates for Swansea East and West in 2005 have both since done a runner.

But our mole has been explaining the constitutional conundrum facing the Lib Dems that although Rob Speht has left the Swansea Administration, he still remains his party’s official parliamentary spokesman for Swansea East unless he resigns or is sacked from the post.

We are told that he might even be going along to the conference.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Late call

We’re told that the promised joint rebuttal statement from ICT firm CapGemini and the Council that the former wasn’t really suing the latter over a Shortfall@Swansea – but just submitting a ‘healthy’ claim - was never actually sent.

Instead the company was left to issue its own demands for a retraction – after everyone in the Beans on Toast had gone home.

Yep. Sounds about right.

Update: The latest is that the newspaper is grateful for the call but advises that complaint is in a queue because all the lines are busy. Nevertheless, the newspaper values customer feedback on its articles and will get onto the matter as soon as a representative becomes available.

Monday, 5 March 2007

Ambition reaches a critical condition

Better services at the heart of ambition was the bold headline emblazoned on the Swansea Leader newsletter - otherwise known as Pravda - as it dropped through city letter boxes in January 2005.

"Customers will no longer be forced to travel to either County Hall or the Guildhall to meet staff". Well, that turned out to be bollocks.

And today, the Lib Dem dominated cabal will attempt to spin another off-the-shelf strategy as its own while looking to recycle the 'European city of distinction' idea that it inherited from the previous regime.

But there will also be a key question at today's launch to which the embattled leadership would be hard pressed to provide an answer if it was asked .... if the Swansea Administration is making such advances then why is there a continuing exit of disillusioned councillors seeking to distance themselves from its works?

And these are not the political flotsam that a crony coalition normally attracts but committed & astute individuals who were not so long ago considered by their peers to be potential AMs or MPs.

We are asked to believe that the answer lays in another patently undelivered claim but we suspect that Peter Black was probably more accurate when he made the comment:

“Unfortunately, that is the problem when you form an electoral alliance on the basis of popularism and of being anti-Labour. The moment you start to think about what you really stand for is when the group begins to come apart at the seams.”

Update: As if to prove our point, the naff attempt by the Braised Turkey spin-site to support dubious claims of making improvements in the city centre uses a picture of a scheme commissioned by the previous administration ...

... and we can't wait to hear how putting the bus station on the back burner is yet another example of moving Swansea forward.

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Sulking@Swansea

It’s not often that you see spinners in a spin, but the events of the week have clearly had an effect on the alter-egoist behind the Crispy Duck blog-site.

Hence, we assume, the long winded diatribe about an alleged consistent “campaign of misrepresentation” waged against Shambles at Swansea by the nasty Evening Post and Renegade Rene. The new tory leader is obviously becoming uncomfortably effective at using his media-savvy skills against the rump coalition to have provoked such a reaction.

Yet despite all the diversionary prattle, there is no specific mention from the Lib Dems of the departure by parliamentary spokesman and candidate Rob Speht or the circumstances which prompted his abrupt exit.

However, we suggest that the Lib Dems start practising their excuses because we hear that one of their Swansea West number is contemplating a similar move – although probably a little closer to the Assembly elections for maximum effect.

Update: According to the Beans on Toast, Councillor Speht is now officially the only Lib Dem in the village, citing a lack of structure and inclusiveness within the ruling administration for his decision. Where have we heard that one before?

Further Update: No sign of any grey area in this forthright EP editorial which feels that "changing the name outside the one-stop shop is not going to be enough to salvage this shambles".

Friday, 2 March 2007

Unstuck@Swansea

What a difference a week makes. Well, not really.

On Monday, the Lib Dems managed to kibosh an earlier claim of putting the city on the front-line of the knowledge economy when they back pedalled on their Service@Swansea ambitions – whilst announcing a cut-price deal to piggyback onto a Cardiff based call centre.

By Friday, we read that the council’s ‘IT partners’ are preparing a whopping great claim for project delays and which the Beans on Toast states could result in a "significant financial impact" on council funds.

The paper continues with the point that this latest chapter in the controversial scheme comes just weeks after the council dismissed the possibility of any penalty charges for dropping the second phase.

Earlier in the week, Chris Holley and Mary Jones were attempting to spin their failure to deliver a viable second phase as some sort of saving – instead of putting their hands up to a crap outcome.

No wonder that C.Soloman of Uplands feels that one unilateral action deserves another.

We know that the Spinning Chicken crowd get very upset when we use words like ‘incompetent’, but somehow ‘unlucky’ doesn’t quite capture the moment, does it?

Update: We note that all reference to today's disclosures has disappeared off the EP website. We suspect that there might be an issue of semantics involved but no doubt the Lib Dem spinners will elucidate - once they've got over their pouting.

Credibility again

Whether the Council spin-machine’s claims about spending on care for the elderly are sparked by earlier criticisms that Swansea is letting down its older population is not clear but its interesting they feel the need to make them.

The same goes for the continuing ‘revelation’ that £30 million reportedly needs to be spent on the Guildhall. Strangely however, there is still no sign of a technical report actually quoting this figure.

What we find remarkable is that such a massive amount has not triggered a major enquiry into the background and who was responsible - as happened with the leisure centre.

Now why is that, do you think?

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Another one gone

The urgent question was asked yesterday on the Stuffed Duck spin-site if all was well with the coalition – and today we finally understand the reason behind this cryptic reference.

The reports in County Hall are that Landore councillor Rob Speht has walked out of the Lib Dem fold on Swansea Council - and although no reasons have been given for this high profile resignation the speculation is already rife.

It is known that having worked the Swansea East constituency for some years, he took it very badly when the Lib Dem assembly candidature was hijacked by a Peter Black acolyte. This slap in the face, compounded by the loss of his committee chairmanship - which he loudly declared to be down to the inability of Chris Holley to do a rescue deal - seems to have been enough for him to finally move out.

There is no word if Speht, an expert in the alternative energy business, has defected to another party or if he will declare himself non-aligned.

Update: According to a petulant Swansea Insider, the above is entirely moo-pooh (not the bit about Speht leaving, apparently, but the likely reasons).

Never having to say you're sorry

Although we didn't really think that Ioan Richard's more grudging than grovelling apology made just before the budget meeting merited a mention, the Beans on Toast apparently think otherwise.

It could be they have picked up on rumblings over whether he will get enough support for his mayoral bid from the opposition parties that he was so keen to shaft.

Although the emerging consensus appears to be that Ioan has done a more than adequate job as deputy, it remains obvious than he is less sorry for what he wrote than for getting caught out doing it.

Jackboots

Yesterday’s news that the BNP are to field Assembly candidates in May also appears to confirm a strategy of contesting next year’s council elections, according to Plaid Cymru veteran Ian Titherington.

In case you didn’t know, Swansea is in the South West Wales regional area in which Nick Griffin will be seeking to raise his profile and reports from a number of sources indicate the fascists - what else would you call them? - are getting ready to target a number of wards, including Castle, Cockett, Landore, Cwmbwrla, Morriston, Llansamlet and possibly St Thomas.

The lessons of the past make it clear that this is a trend that needs to be stopped before it begins. (Link)

Update: The EP also have the story and claim that Griffin will be seen on Swansea's streets. Someone should give him a brush while he's out there.