Home Page

Who Runs This Town?

or

Who's snout is in the trough?


Like too many of my projects, this is another "work in progress". If my facts are wrong, please let me know, and I'll correct it! And if you think there are areas that need expanding, please feel free to make suggestions and contributions.

Document Date : April 2008


"What are they doing!", "They should never have done that!", and "They should do something about it!" are examples of phrases that are often floating about in general conversation. As this website seems to have received more than it's share of complaints in the past when "they" haven't done something, it's time to try and clarify who "they" are!

In most examples, "they" are either the council or the government. But the council and government are not always the real culprits. It can be argued that when all is said and done, the government is responsible for everything - but to be honest, I personally would much prefer FAR LESS government intervention in my life, let alone handing them carte blanche to rule my every move!

Please note that these are my opinions and understanding of complex arrangements. If I am factually incorrect, I would welcome correct information, as I don't claim to know it all! If you think my opinions are harsh, then I don't mind opposing points of view, but I reserve the right to hold my views!

To outline what follows (so you don't have to read it all) -

We are ruled my many masters (most of whom claim to be our servants!) Some of our rulers are elected (so we can theoretically get rid of them every four years or so), but the majority are non-political employees who pretty much have a job for life.

Central government (Whitehall) sets the overall direction, and delegates authority to other organisations. Central government responsibilities include the armed forces, pensions, taxation and law and order.

In Wales, we have the Welsh Assembly - another form of central government, but theoretically more in tune with "the (Welsh) people". Whitehall still takes some decisions (including how much money to give the assembly!) but delegates some authority to the assembly, such as health, education, economic development and transport. Both of these forms of central government can set up agencies to handle some of their responsibilities. In the case of the former Wales Tourist Board, ELWA and the WDA, the Welsh assembly has re-absorbed them - which is supposed to improve services, reduce overheads, but has lost some of the biggest and most well-known global Welsh brands.

We then have "the (local) council" who are responsible for much of the day-to day running of the town. This council is now the Vale of Glamorgan County Borough Council, and is responsible for things like education, social services, transport and highways, planning, consumer protection, refuse collection and disposal, smallholdings, libraries, housing, building regulation, environmental health, parks, leisure and recreation. They are primarily funded by the Welsh Assembly with about 25% of their income coming from the "poll tax" (or whatever it's called now!). They occasionally have access to other government and EU funds as long as they can put up "their share".

Barry Town Council is responsible only for Barry cemetery, and pays for much of the running of the Memorial Hall (but theoretically does not have control of it!).

Much of the Holton Road area is in the hands a few private landlords. Private individuals and businesses own the remainder, and some were owned by the church but administered by another local authority (Monmouth!). The latter included the disused and derelict Halfords store, plus a few surrounding properties. These were recently sold and are now in private hands.

Holton road was dug up a few years ago by one of the Utility Companies. These are what used to be called the Gas, Water and Electricity Board. Add BT (though maybe not NTL) and you have organisations that are entitled to dig up the town whenever they need to or want to! And the following year, ANOTHER utility did the same thing!

Associated British Ports (ABP) own the dockland area. In conjunction with the WDA (now the Assembly - see above) they are selling off the land for redevelopment. A consortium of house builders - Persimmon/Wimpey, Barratt - have become the preferred bidder and have 5 years in which to gain planning permission and then pay between £55 Million and £66 Million for the privilege. This sum of money is going to the Assembly and not being reinvested in Barry. Pride In Barry has raised the issue at the highest level of Assembly Government and is fighting for some of this money to be spent in the town. It can be argued that now the WDA is part of the Assembly, there is an in-built potential conflict of interest, as all roads (and monies!!) lead to the Assembly.

Frequently issues fall between these different bodies, and when that happens it can be a real pain getting any of them to accept responsibility!

And then there's the European Parliament in Brussels! The EU gives grants to deprived areas, which is why much of Wales receives what is known as Objective One funding. Despite having some of the most deprived areas in Wales, Barry did not get Objective One status because EU rules meant Barry was averaged up within the Vale of Glamorgan economic indicators. So, the relative affluence of the Vale has not helped Barry receive a fair entitlement. Similarly, Barry has also missed out on Objective Two monies.

 

A more detailed breakdown of the local setup follows -


The Organisations

The set-up of Local Government is extremely confusing. The fact that some things take an inordinate amount of time merely aggravates this understanding. In 1974 Local government was reorganised, and then again in 1996. Some of the decisions made that are still issues were actually made by previous organisations, under different officers, and different members with possibly different political allegiances.

However, we need someone to vent the spleen on, so&ldots;

Up until the last set of changes made in the 1996 Local Government Disorganisation, service provision in this area was roughly divided between two tiers as follows:

South Glamorgan County Council (One) was responsible for -

  • Education

  • Social Services
  • Transport and Highways
  • Strategic Planning
  • Consumer Protection
  • Refuse Disposal
  • Smallholdings
  • Libraries

District Councils (Two - Vale of Glamorgan, and Cardiff) were responsible for -

  • Local Planning

  • Housing
  • Building Regulation
  • Environmental Health
  • Refuse Collection
  • Leisure and Recreation

This split allowed organisations to make "promises" that they didn't have to deliver. For example, South Glamorgan, the Highway Authority, had no input to the design of either the Gladstone Road bridge in Barry or the Butetown Tunnel in Cardiff - but was expected to adopt the highways and add the maintenance of both structures into its budgets! The two layers were perhaps more rivals than partners.

Some functions as Fire, Police, and Public Transport were exercised through Joint Boards to which all the Local Authorities in an area (including others outside South Glamorgan) appointed members.

Unitary Authorities

The 22 Welsh single-tier councils created by the disorganisation in 1996 are called Unitary Authorities and were created by merging various District Councils (with some minor boundary changes) and abolishing the County Councils. (The fact that County Council staff outnumbered their district colleagues by about 4 to 1 is ignored!)

Vale of Glamorgan Civic OfficesThe current Vale of Glamorgan Country Borough Council covers (administers) pretty much the entire South Glamorgan area excluding Cardiff. The Major towns covered include Barry, Penarth, Sully, Wenvoe, Rhoose, and Llantwit Major, plus the majority of the rural land south of the M4 and East of the river at Ogmore.

In Wales the terms County Council or County Borough Council are titles of honour which do not affect the functions of a local authority, and refer to the status which areas had before the 1973 re-organisations.

The bottom line is that the Vale of Glamorgan County Borough Council is responsible for providing most of the statutory services within the Vale. So a lot of it (but not all of it!) is their fault!

It is interesting to note that at the time of publication, the structure of Health Boards has been reduced from 22 to 8 Super Boards, and this has recently been mirrored in Education. There is also much talk about reducing the 22 Local Authorities down to 8, as many of the new Unitaries are considered too small to have the capabilities required to offer quality services throughout. Whether this means the Vale will be swallowed up by Cardiff & Bridgend remains to be seen. What a whopping redundancy bill that will be, as well as a complete U-turn of the 1996 reorganisation which saw the disbanding of the County Councils!

Addresses

Barry is actually in South Glamorgan as far as addresses are concerned. This was set by the Post Office in 1974. As far as I know (an expert minority of one!), the fact that the name of our local government administration area has changed has not affected our postal address, which might take an Act of Parliament to resolve. For some reason, the old historical counties still exist in postal land, but this might actually prove useful as we swing back to larger Authorities - possibly The South Glamorgan super-duper all-singing-and-dancing Authority.

Town, Parish and Community Councils

Town, Parish and Community Councils cover areas smaller than Districts and have very limited responsibilities. There is no difference in powers between these councils. Very small parishes may not have an elected council, in which case open meetings take decisions. At the last count there were 867 "communities" in Wales.

As I recall, at the 1996 Disorganisation, the people of Rhoose decided to rid themselves of both their community council and the financial burden that it would have involved. Barry chose not to (at significant waste of taxpayers money in holding a ballot [from memory over £100,000]) and the Barry Town Council survived.

Barry Memorial Hall - home of the Barry Town CouncilBarry Town Council has responsibility for the Barry Cemetery (and I believe, Porthkerry Church graveyard by an agreement with the church). Barry Town Council thought it had control of the Memorial Hall, but that has recently (2006) become complicated by the realisation that under the terms (covenant? agreement?) of the hall, it has to be managed by an independent trust. This has the interesting result that the Town Council now supports the Memorial Hall by providing staff, but gains no income from the hall fees, which are controlled by the board of trustees! The Town Council accounts thus look very strange!

Barry Town Council (and its 20? councillors) is now responsible SOLELY for the cemetery. So don't go asking them to repair the roads - it's nothing to do with them!

So any references to "the council" from here on almost certainly mean the Vale of Glamorgan County Borough Council.

Central Government

Following creation of the self-styled (I'm not sure what this means, but it sounds like an insult, so that's fine by me!) "Welsh Assembly Government", central decision-making has partly devolved to the Welsh Assembly from Whitehall (or more accurately, from the Welsh Office, which was part of Whitehall). However, The British government and European Assembly also shoves its oar in occasionally, although the British Government probably has the option to ignore some of the EU stuff, or at least delay it!

This central government is theoretically responsible for things like law and order, military services, foreign policy and other stuff, which maybe doesn't concern us, but has a habit of coming back and biting us on the backside! I bet the Environment Agency comes under here somewhere. And the Health and Safety Executive.

Barry (or the Vale) now seems to have representatives in the Welsh Assembly - Jane Hutt & David Melding were directly elected, and others were appointed by the parties in a form of Proportional Representation (PR) - Chris Franks & Alun Cairns. We also have a Member of Parliament (MP) in Whitehall - John Smith. And I gather the Welsh Office still exists.

Central Government responsibility and financial support for Local Government in Wales now falls to the Welsh Assembly Local Government Group.

 

Other Bodies

In addition to those mentioned already, there are many other organisations that can put their oar into what happens within the town, or are affected by how the town is run.

Examples include "Statutory Authorities" which is (as I recall!) the name that the "Public Utilities" now go under. This means the gas board, the electricity board, BT (or whatever they call themselves this week), and the water board (amongst others). Alterations in the rules mean that a French company may now provide our water, so it's difficult to know who to blame for some of this! But if (for example) the water board decides it needs to tear up Holton Road as happened in (2006?), that's all there is to it! The timescale may be open to some negotiation, but it's going to happen! And if the SWEB wants to put a pylon in your back garden, just lie back and take it!

The Wales Tourist Board, Welsh Development Agency, and ELWA are other "shadowy" bodies - unelected, a drain on the public purse, and who knows exactly what they do? These used to be called "Quangos" - "Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisations" - not exactly used as a term of endearment, and considered by many as "jobs for the boys". Some of these are being or have been absorbed into the Welsh Assembly. And the result&ldots;.?

Decisions by the Ministry of Defence (spend money at St Athan or close it?) can have a BIG effect on the economy of the surrounding area. The Defence Training Academy could be a major investor into St Athan. At the time of publication, figures and timescales are uncertain, but if and when it happens, this one is the biggest single investment in Wales - and it's on our doorstep!

The NHS overlaps with the council, for example in social services. Care of the elderly is a council social services responsibility, and lack of care spaces for example, causes "bed blocking" in hospitals, leading to cancelled operations and disruption within the NHS. (Not that the NHS needs any help in this matter - just ask about angioplasty waiting lists!)

And on a more local level, who runs the Bus Companies? And the Railway?


The People

Councillors

Also know as "Elected Members", councillors represent geographical wards and serve for four years before needing to seek re-election. A ward may be represented by 1, 2 or 3 councillors. Welsh Unitaries elect all their councillors at once, every 4 years. Elections are by the "first-past-the-post" method. Most councillors stand on behalf of one of the four main Parties.

Until recently, most council decisions were taken by committees appointed from within the Council, with only the most important decisions being taken by the entire Council. There are rules to ensure that the political composition of the committees reflects that of the whole Council. The Local Government Act 2000 has changed this in all but the smallest districts, to a system where decisions are taken by one of a few Cabinet or Executive Councillors with the committees reduced to an advisory or scrutiny role.

This is accompanied by a change in the role of Mayor. In the past, the Mayor of a Borough has been appointed by the council from among its own members and combined the role of Chair of Council Meetings with a ceremonial role as "First Citizen". There is now provision for councils to have a directly elected Mayor responsible for most decisions in association with a small cabinet of Councillors.

Councillors are "ordinary people" who decide to stand as councillors, and are voted in by their friends and neighbours. They do not draw a wage (as far as I know!), but do get an "allowance" for certain duties (attending meetings, etc.) and expenses for running their "political machine" (postage, secretarial services, etc.)

Being a councillor used to be poorly paid (low to middle-grade managers in Cardiff Council in the mid 1990's were earning more than the Lord Mayor at that time (around £24,000) but this may have changed following disorganisation in 1996. Now, all Councillors receive a standard allowance of approximately £10,000. Then, if they sit on and Chair Committees or become a Cabinet Member, they receive a much larger Responsibility Allowance. So, this can now be a full-time role with earnings in excess of £40,000 per year.

Political Parties

What to say? A bit of research on the Vale website is in order..

Oh! To use any of their information, I apparently have to apply to the council under the Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005. Stuff that! Yet another example of why these organisations are so hated!

So, 47 Councillors, apparently representing Conservative, Labour, Plaid Cymru or independent. (Whatever happened to those nice Lib Dems? I rather liked Charles Kennedy, but they got rid of him, and some of their local candidates have been completely unelectable! (Uncharacteristic tact on my part!)) (Come to that, where are the Conservatives? I've seen plenty of Labour and Plaid signs, but NOT ONE Conservative one! Ah! They apparently live out in the Vale!).

Anyway, apparently we have 16 Labour councillors, 8 Plaid Cymru, 20 Conservative (Well!) and 3 independents. So no overall majority, and Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Independents sharing power. A coalition, since December 2006.

And, on closer examination, the 3 independents are all representing Llantwit Major. And if I count correctly, 17 Conservative candidates of the 20 represent wards outside Barry Town.

The council is run by a cabinet of 10 councillors (6 Labour, 3 Plaid, 1 Independent).

Independents (should be a small "i" because I'm talking principle here, not necessarily about any of the present independents!) may get elected on a single issue, but that doesn't mean they'll be any good when it comes to managing the wide-ranging interests of the council.

The effect that the councillors' political party has on the quality of the decisions made is complex (OK, that means I don't know!). Certainly, the inter-party bickering that apparently goes on at all levels of government does not create a good impression with me! And I guess that "voting the party line" means you are voting for something that you don't really support - isn't that called hypocrisy? Or is it Politics?

So the real question is, do you trust any of them with your interests..?

Officers

The other people working in Local Government (if that isn't too much of a contradiction!) are the so-called "professionals". These are the people who draw a regular wage and are supposed to be public servants (and that is one contradiction too far for me!). The vast majority are probably quite competent, and trying to do a good job, but there are also enough "Jobsworths", who seem to do everything in their power to make life difficult for as many people as they can, especially if it means saying "no", that they leave a lasting impression and tar the whole organisation with their brush.

The "Professionals" range from the people on minimum wage working in the kitchen of a care home, up to the Chief Executive, who may be on a six-figure salary. These top layer people are probably more politician than professional, and are the people who make the day-to-day decisions that affect us, subject to whatever control the councillors can or choose to exert. The professionals give the councillors their "professional advice", and my guess is that this carries great weight and influence with "non professional" councillors.

Certainly, there are many councils in Wales reported to be paying over £100,000 a year for some officers, and according to recent newspaper reports, at least 7 are in the Vale.

Theoretically, the Professionals are in fear of the Elected Members. And the Elected Members should be in fear of the Electorate (that's you and me!). But in reality my guess is that the senior officers run rings around us all!

MP's and Civil Servants

Like councillors and officers in local government, central government has elected "Members of Parliament" (MP's) and "professional" "civil servants". Civil servants are supposed to be non-political - they get the right to vote, same as everybody else, but they leave their political preferences at the door when they go to work. (Maybe some of them do!). The civil servants are the ones that in my opinion really run the country - they are the ones pushing most of the hare-brained schemes that come out of government, aided and abetted by very expensive consultants! And their "expert advice" affects us all! Sounds just like local government, really!

Other People

There are many other bodies in Barry and the Vale who get linked with issues. Some examples are -

Chamber of Trade, Holton Road Traders Association, High Street Traders Association, Barry Business Club - groups of shop keepers and business owners who meet to try and get business, and lobby in favour of their business interests. This includes trying to get money out of the council for Christmas Lights, planning events such as Easter festivals and Christmas Parades - anything that might increase trade in the town and their businesses. Don't argue that this is selfish! These people are in business to provide a service to their customers and make a living for themselves. If you choose not to use their services, don't be surprised if they are not there in the future when you might want them! Apart from things like grants for Christmas lights, these bodies are not supported by the public purse (although there are too many (defined as any positive number!) "businesses" funded by the government amongst their members!)

(insert name here) Action Group - groups of "concerned residents" who decide to make a difference. Some meet and lobby for a particular (often narrow) agenda, others decide to take action themselves to alter things. Possibly visionaries, possibly misguided - for example, had the original plans for the redevelopment of King Square gone ahead unopposed, we would certainly have a different (and possibly worse) town centre to the one we have "enjoyed" for the last 20 years! Had the people who signed the "save the Knap pool" petition actually USED the pool when it was open, perhaps it would never have closed. I have no crystal ball - I don't know all the answers, and I'm cynical about people who claim to! Some of these groups achieve more recognisable improvements by their own efforts, such as those set up to preserve, maintain and improve various woodland areas within the town.

Recent examples include the "Save the Cinema" campaign and the group set up to oppose the developments in Cemetery road.

Rotary, Round Table, Rotaract - I don't know much about these organisations, but like some of the action groups above, they get on with it, providing help and assistance to a variety of people, and running their own fund raising. The annual Rotary Club Bonfire Night at Barry Island is the result of a lot of planning, time and effort by the volunteers from the Rotary Club, with assistance from sponsoring organisations who share the cost of the fireworks. The bucket collection on the night raises a small sum (shame on us!) which is ploughed back into Rotary events and local charities.

Youth Clubs and associations, including Scouts, Guides, Boys (and Girls) Brigade, and various Cadet Corps. - mainly groups of unpaid volunteers, often supported (or hindered!) by a "professional" organisation that many consider "a million miles from the grass roots". Scouts and guides each have a London headquarters, but locally are responsible for all fund raising, and provision of leaders, accommodation and equipment, and members (including leaders!) are responsible for paying their own "subs" and expenses, and providing the uniform. (In 2006 the Scout Association valued the time of its unpaid leaders at over £383 million). Boys and Girls brigade probably have a similar arrangement. Cadet Corps are similar, but get some support from the armed services (i.e. Central Government!) in the way of uniform, equipment and accommodation provision. Their church generally supports Church youth clubs.

The council used to provide a "paid youth service" that used the "Youth Wing" of the Boys Comprehensive Middle School on Colcot Road in the early 1970's. This eventually closed, although it is possible that the Vibe at "Area 41" (Holton Road) is the latest incarnation of the paid youth service. Funding for this probably comes from a combination of the council and the police. Apart from any direct support that some organisations may receive, most are also able to apply for limited government grants for capital expenditure.

Clubs and Associations - such as sports clubs, computer clubs and chrysanthemum societies are similar to the above, but are largely self-funding. Many sports clubs (such as Barry Yacht Club or Barry Rugby Club) appear quite wealthy, with nice accommodation and facilities. I guess that in most cases this is the result of many years work by enthusiastic volunteers, with the occasional successful grant or sponsorship deal to assist. And then you look at Jenner Park, and wonder what the story is there!

Land owners - savvy businessmen, benevolent gentlefolk, or descendants of the biggest bastards on the block in years gone by?

I'm guessing here, but I don't think the council necessarily owns much land, although "Concerned Citizen" has to occasionally remind the Council that it cannot utilise land it doesn't own - see recent case of the Cemetery Action Group. Some of it, such as the Island Promenade, the parks, and Porthkerry, were probably left to "the public" by previous owners, such as the Earl of Plymouth, Bute etc. And no matter what they believe, the Council is not "the public" - so a lot of this land maybe safe from them. That said, "the public" often go out of their way to vandalise these areas, and the council, which has assumed or been given responsibility for maintaining these assets, sometimes chooses to let them fall apart. (Personally, I think both groups need their collective heads banging together and to be told to cut it out!).

Much of Holton Road is in private ownership, some having been handed down the generations over the years. Like any businessman, a landowner needs his investment to make money. If his rents are too low, he won't make money. If he makes money, then it can be ploughed back into the economy by being spent. He can afford to improve his properties, which means he can charge more rent for them. Alternatively, he can let them fall down, and then nobody will want to rent them, we will end up with a derelict town centre, and nobody wins.

Should the Churches go here as land owners? And if so, how do the churches gat their money?

 

You and Me - We can criticise, or we can get involved!

Barry Action - a partnership between the WDA and the Vale of Glamorgan County Borough Council. Purely "them".

Pride in Barry - Independent people trying to "boost" the town. Us.

Grosvenor Waterside - Partnership between the WDA and ABP. Them.

Barry Regeneration Partnership Board - established in 2005 and made up of Councillors, Assembly officers, and Non-Executives representing Pride In Barry, Barry Chamber of Trade, Holton Road Traders Association, Dow Corning, and other Local Business Representatives. This Board has established a Strategy and Priorities for the continuing regeneration of Barry. It is hamstrung at the moment as it has difficulties getting the Assembly to commit long-term funding which is required to plan projects which can straddle several financial years. It's that old central and local government annual funding problem yet again!

Rates - set locally or nationally? Both?


Knap Pool - Built in the 1920's, in the 70's(?) the opening of the Barry Leisure Centre sounded the death knell for the outdoor pool. Competition from the more comfortable indoor pool, difficulties with maintenance of the elderly pumping and filtration system, neglect by the Vale of Glamorgan council, vandalism by members of the public, ever more restrictive rules applied to users (NO flippers, masks, snorkels, inner tube rings, airbeds and "bumsmacker" shorts (cut down jeans)), and shorter opening seasons and hours eventually led to the virtual abandonment of the pool. Dereliction followed, and eventually it was decided that something HAD to be done about it.

In spite of a well-organised petition (almost certainly signed by many people who had not supported the pool when it was still open) the pool was scheduled for demolition. This was termed "regeneration" by the Vale of Glamorgan Council!

Knap Pool ShamblesIt was apparently intended to use the demolition rubble from Butlins in the hole, but this didn't happen, and fill was imported. The project dragged on for nearly THREE YEARS now and is subject to flooding when it rains, although this has apparently been cured, but take your wellies and canoe, just in case! I wonder who was at fault for the staggering incompetence - but I guess we will never find out.

As an ironic comparison, if you visit the Empire State Building website and read the history, that ENTIRE project took about 15 months from start to finish.

It seems that the council is never afraid of a challenge and appears to be trying to surpass this with the cleaning out of the Knap Lake project. This currently stands at 4 months. You wonder how they use to be able to do this years ago in a couple of weeks, with a few workers with shovels and without JCB's?

Central Park - In the 1970's plans were submitted for the redevelopment of the King Square area. The "Centros Miller" proposal involved drastic changes, and was heavily opposed by the "Barry Citizens Action Group". Over the following 20 or more years successive proposals were fought, developers pulled out, interested new retailers lost interest, and central park and the town hall were allowed to fall into disrepair by the Vale of Glamorgan Council. There appears to have been some idiocy over the funding, with the council apparently wanting to be able to keep the (EU grant?) money even if they didn't go ahead with the project.

Central ParkEventually "something had to be done" and we now have a nice new library (seems to have far fewer books that the old one though!), a nice Central Park that the local idiots are alrready writing all over, and a new King Square that the skaters can vandalise. The council eventually added "disincentive bars" to some of the features before the skater damage became too extreme - but too little, too late!

And trade in Holton Road is seriously damaged.

Butlins & The Hospitality Centre - The story of the Butlins Site is a saga of epic proportions. Butlins pulled out of Barry, and Rick Wright (also former owner of Cardiff City FC) bought it and operated as the Majestic Holiday Camp. In 1996/97, a huge row developed between the Vale Council and Majestic with regard to Fire Certification, which stopped the camp from opening. After a legal battle, the Council ended up buying the camp from Mr Wright. In the process, the Vale lost its leader and Chief Executive. The headland lost its 45 acre tourism site, which then had to have 30+ acres sold for housing to recover the monies that the bungling buffoons spent buying the site. Ken Rogers of Hypervalue wanted to buy and operate the camp, but the buffoons thought they knew better.

Since that time, the Island has suffered from the loss of over 2000 bedspaces, and this issue has still not been addressed by the Vale Council.

Butlins DemolitionThe Assembly gave a £1,000,000 grant to demolish the remaining holiday camp buildings. Then UWIC tried to put together a scheme to establish a Wales University for Tourism, Hospitality, Leisure & Catering. Following much lobbying and support from Traders and organisations like Pride In Barry, there was still a shortfall of £24m and this project has recently been abandoned. Only time will tell whether the Vale Council will do the predictable thing and build houses on the remaining 11 acres - although many in Barry will fight this tooth and nail!

Top BBC comedy "Gavin and Stacey" is putting Barry Island back into the public consciousness, and one wonders if the Vale will seize the marketing opportunities created.

Council Budget - this information is in the public domain (that means we are entitled to see it!), but unless you are an accountant (I'm NOT!) it may not mean much. I have a fairly recent copy (somewhere!), and I gave it a cursory look, but it didn't really help me understand what was going on. Some of this stuff is available on the Welsh Assembly website, but much of it seems designed to obscure rather than reveal - but that's accountants and politicians for you!

And when you get your council tax demand, they also provide this sort of information - see the table below for as much detail as this gives. Unfortunately, much of the data is aggregated (a standard dishonest politician's trick) so that (for example) the "easy to understand" pie chart shows that "Public Protection and Policy" spend is 11% (Page 5), but in fact, as can be seen from the table on Page 6, spend on Public Protection AND Registrars is £3.5 Million (1.5%), but Policy spend is a relatively massive £23.4 Million (9.7%). In the same way, why do we have to have any "&'s" at all in the table? Why can't we have separate figures for Planning AND Transportation?

But my summary interpretation is -

  • The council plans on spending about £285,000,000 (that's WELL OVER A QUARTER OF A BILLION POUNDS) next year! That's money that they take from us!

  • In spite of this, they need to demand £100,000 from developers for planning permission for the Waters Edge development (a Section 106 agreement, which seems to me too much like legalised corporate bribery or extortion!) so that they can perform essential (and many years overdue!) maintenance on the Knap lake shelters.
  • Nearly half of the council budget is spent on schools, and nearly a quarter on social services (not a bad empire for something that didn't even exist a few decades ago!)
  • Sod all is spent on the roads.
  • Housing nearly pays its way.

Unfortunately, there is not sufficient detail to answer the sort of questions I'd like to ask, such as -

  • How much does the council spend picking up litter that WE deposit on our own doorstep?

  • How much of the money spent is on bureaucracy? Sorry, I mean salaries!
  • How much is spent on Councillors who are making decisions that are against the wishes of Barrians?
  • How much money is spent on "consultants" - and where?
  • How much money is spent on "enforcement" functions? (AKA Grind the bastards down!)

 

Budget 2008/9 Details (source: Council Tax News, 2008) -

 

Presumably Revenue Expenditure

Service

Gross Exp

Income

Net Exp

Net Exp %

Housing

£18,628,000

£15,215,000

£3,413,000

1.8%

Housing & Council Tax Benefits

£35,014,000

£34,126,000

£888,000

0.5%

Education (including Libraries)

£107,210,000

£15,571,000

£91,639,000

48.4%

Social Services

£53,434,000

£8,258,000

£45,176,000

23.9%

Planning & Transportation

£6,384,000

£3,207,000

£3,177,000

1.7%

Economic Development & Leisure

£10,412,000

£4,132,000

£6,280,000

3.3%

Building & Visible Services

£22,665,000

£3,088,000

£19,577,000

10.3%

Public Protection & Registrars

£3,592,000

£769,000

£2,823,000

1.5%

Policy

£23,428,000

£5,142,000

£18,286,000

9.7%

Capital Expenditure from revenue

£4,359,000

£0

£4,359,000

2.3%

Sub Total

£285,126,000

£89,508,000

£195,618,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

Town & Community Councils

£1,911,000

£0

£1,911,000

1.0%

Transfer to/from reserves

£757,000

£8,912,000

-£8,155,000

-4.3%

Total Expenditure

£287,794,000

£98,420,000

£189,374,000

100.0%

 

 

 

 

 

Income

 

 

 

 

Discretionary non-domestic Rate Relief

 

-£150,000

£150,000

-0.1%

Revenue Support Grant

 

£110,226,000

-£110,226,000

58.2%

National Non-Domestic Rate Pool

 

£31,929,000

-£31,929,000

16.9%

Council Tax

 

£47,369,000

-£47,369,000

25.0%

Total Income

 

£189,374,000

-£189,374,000

100.0%

 

 

 

 

 

Buried in the above expenditure figures are payments to -

 

 

 

 

South Wales Fire Authority

 

 

£6,048,000

3.1%

Cardiff Port Health Authority

 

 

£13,000

0.0%

Swansea Port Health Authority

 

 

£3,000

0.0%

South Wales Sea Fisheries

 

 

£39,000

0.0%

Glamorgan Record Office

 

 

£97,000

0.0%

Total

 

 

£6,200,000

3.2%

 

 

 

 

 

Capital Expenditure

 

 

 

 

Housing - Council Properties

 

 

£5,781,000

22.5%

Housing - Grants & Loans

 

 

£2,000,000

7.8%

Education (including libraries)

 

 

£7,538,000

29.4%

Social Services

 

 

£618,000

2.4%

Economic Development & Leisure

 

 

£5,055,000

19.7%

Building & Visible Services

 

 

£4,052,000

15.8%

Policy

 

 

£624,000

2.4%

Total

 

 

£25,668,000

100.0%

 

 

 

 

 

Capital Expenditure Financed by -

 

 

 

 

Loans

 

 

£6,151,000

 

Capital Receipts

 

 

£4,979,000

 

Grants

 

 

£12,045,000

 

Revenue Contribution, Renewal etc.

 

 

£2,493,000

 

Total

 

 

£25,668,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

Estimated Reserves at 31/3/2009

 

 

 

 

General Fund

 

 

£3,421,000

 

Housing Revenue Account

 

 

£5,035,000

 

Reserves for Specific Purposes

 

 

£18,082,000

 

Total

 

 

£26,538,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Wales Police

 

 

£276,752,000

 

Home