When buying an Audi is the “cheapest” option?

Recently elected Plaid councilor, Elwyn Vaughan, last week highlighted the outrageous fact that Powys County Council has spent £36,000 on a new Audi car for its Chairman. I’m enough of a realist to know that such things are why some people enter politics. However, it certainly stings when you see in the local press, right next to the report of the new car, an article about how the Council will be consulting the public on how to cut £200,000 from youth services.

Must cut back on Youth Service, but not the Chairman’s hot wheels

Or how about the fact that our children will start school two years later than other counties’ children in order to save money. Placing financial burden on young families of the County.

Then you have the while funding of social care and day centres for the elderly being under threat due to County Hall tightening it’s belt.

The Council’s response?

The council has issued a statement claiming that spending the £36,000 is the cheapest option for them. In the tstatement he council claims that after the Chairman’s tenure ends in a year, the car will be sold and that they will have recouped £33,000.

However, a quick look at the second hand car market prices suggest that a year old Audi A6, automatic gearbox, with 20,000 miles on the clock are going for no more than £25,500. Meaning rather than costing £3,000, the car will cost Powys citizens £10,500.

The main thrust of the Council’s argument, however, is the fact that the Chairman needs an automatic vehicle due to a disability. It is only right and proper for this to be taken into consideration, but here is where the Council’s reasoning starts to leak. Why must the car be a prestigious brand costing £36,000? Do Ford focus’ not come in automatic? Or any other make that cost far less than £36,000? Why must it also be a brand new one, which will devalue far more than a nearly new car?

The council then claims that this option is far cheaper than paying travel expenses to the Chairman, which, according to them, would amount to £7,000. Again, this is true, apart from the fact than the £7,000 is fuel costs. Surely, it will cost £7,000 on top of the £3,000 to run the expensive Audi A6? So, at best this car is costing the citizens of Powys £10,000, that is if the council gets a good price for its sale in a year’s time. So that would be £3,000 more than paying the Chairman his milage cost for his own car.

I don’t doubt that the council will recoup some of the cost of the car in a year’s time, but there are some questions that linger.

  1. Why not opt for a cheaper model?
  2. What else could that £36,000 have gone to pay for for this one year?
  3. How much is it going to cost us next year to buy another car after the sale of this one?
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Another Conservative Councillor in Powys is suspended!

It was only a week ago I highlighted the fact that two Conservative councillors had been suspended recently in Powys. Today, the Council announced that a third Conservative councillor has been suspended from his duties for a period of three weeks.

Councillor Gwynfor Thomas, Llansanffraid ward, has been found guilty of breached the Code of Conduct and “bringing his office or council/authority into disrepute”.

Let’s hope this is publicised far and wide before people go to the polls in May.

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What’s going on in Powys?

It would seem that in the final weeks of their tenure in office, Powys’ Conservative group have checked out. Recently a member of the Conservative group had been suspended from the council.

Today, the leader of the group on the Council has been suspended! I’m not a PR person, but i wouldn’t say this is a great way to kick off campaigning for the May elections!

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Opening access to local democracy

A year or two ago, I blogged a lot about getting local councils to transmit their meetings online, for voters to see what was going on. This was sparked by the event of @caebrwyn being arrested for filming at a council meeting at Carmarthenshire county hall.

I found it strange that a council would go to the trouble of calling the police on someone filming a meeting, which was open to the public. Surely the public should be allowed to see and hear what was being discussed and decided in their name at county hall.

As a result of this, I, and a few others went about making requests under the freedom of information act for information on what councils were doing to allow filming, and broadcasting in council meetings. As I recall, it was allowed at the discretion of the chairperson, although few councils bothered to broadcast their meetings online.

It was good to read this article today, and encouraging to see that more councils are now attempting to use the internet to open access to local democracy. This certainly makes democracy far more transparent, especially at the level that impacts on citizen’s every day lives.  It would seem that £1.25m will be available to install broadcasting equipment at county halls.

Get askin’ them questions!

After hearing the terrible way Carmarthenshire County council treated a Jacqui Thompson and seeing that a FOI request was sent to the council in question about their policies on blogging, tweeting, and filming at council meetings, I thought it would be great to see how each of Wales’ 22 councils treat these issues.  So I have already put a request into my council, Powys.  I urge you to do so with your council.