Councillors are always busy but 20th – 25th May 2019 was full of such interesting meetings and events I thought I’d share it as an example of the range of things we do int he process of representing residents and fulfilling the manifesto on which we were elected.
I was really thrilled to present a conference on “Local Action to Solve Poverty”, which the Bevan Foundation and the WLGA agreed to organise. I asked them to do this when a private company invited me to speak at a conference in the Senedd. They don’t pay speakers, or even cover their expenses, yet charge participants £200 a ticket, are based in Bracknell and pay their directors about half a million a year … so I decided not to support them in their efforts to suck cash out of Wales via a conference on Welsh poverty, and to hold my own instead. Cllr Matthew Brown, Leader of Preston Council and the famous “Preston Model” of economic regeneration (which relies on keeping money in your locality) was also persuaded to abandon their programme and join mine. It was great to have him alongside speakers on topics like fair pay, food poverty, housing, debt and how councils are working to support people suffering because of universal credit. We had excellent feedback and will be gathering info from around Wales on what colleagues in local government have done in response to what they heard and discussed here.
As I have now left the cabinet of Swansea Council I had a meeting with the Deputy Chief Executive to make sure that he, like my colleagues who now take over cabinet duties, is aware of issues that need to not lose momentum. We discussed plans to further embed the Well-Being of Future Generations Act into our everyday work; ways to reinforce communication and links between the Safer Swansea Partnership and the Area Planning Board (which commissions the substance misuse services in the region); some concerns which the VAWDASV Strategic Partnership has raised and now need to be taken up by the Safer Swansea Partnership; progress on an imminent Digital Inclusion Strategy; progress on our Poverty Truth Commission (which I will now continue to drive forward in my new role as Poverty Reduction Policy Development Committee Chair); equalities (particularly the sex pay gap, poor representation of BAME people in our workforce and how to continue healthy engagement with groups representing people with disabilities and other special interests) and new arrangements for the Public Service Board which I hope will improve communication and engagement. Later I met with the guys behind Urban Foundry and Uplands Market, local residents themselves, who have great ideas for improving Gwydr square and making it more people-friendly.
In my role as joint WLGA spokesperson for Equality, Anti-Poverty and Welfare Reform I met with Deputy Minister Jane Hutt to discuss period poverty, sex equality, the need for councils to be more representative of the population and her wish to bring the socioeconomic duty into the Equality Act Wales. This is really important in my opinion, proposing to make discrimination against someone on a low income as illegal as discrimination on grounds of race, sex, age and any other protected characteristic.
I spent a brilliant hour in discussion with Julie James AM, about planning, licensing, nuclear power and waste, the importance of local procurement for economic regeneration and good jobs, the importance of investing in the social care workforce, climate change and pensions. Great to hear about some of the initiatives Julie is pushing forward in her ministerial role which could make it easier – for example – for us to resist seeing a bar open in Uplands where a restaurant has been. I then met with a small group of people interested in ways of measuring the ecological footprint of activities and developments in the region, and seeing if local businesses and communities could work together to help drastically reduce Swansea’s impact on the planet.
I accompanied my daughter to the demonstration in town in support of Youth Strike for Climate, very skilfully organised by some volunteers from the University and Unite the union, who kept everyone organised and safe without dominating the event. Young people spoke freely about their ideas and concerns, and were pleased to hear about the Council’s Climate Emergency declaration, responding with the brilliant chant: “Thank you … But Hurry Up.”
A busy councillor surgery stall at the market with Nick. We had a long visit from a gentleman concerned about water pollution which we will follow up with some questions and try to get further information. Wheelrights stopped by with details about a forthcoming event with Lee Waters AM talking about active travel. A resident asked us to make sure we mention littering – particularly plastic – and other kinds of environmental pollution when we attend Licensing Committee to oppose the Jack Murphy’s application. A few kind people stopped by with words of congratulation about the recent appeal on St Helen’s Avenue – pleased to see the council able to refuse HMOs at long last.