At the last Council meeting it was great to see so many people in the public gallery asking well-considered questions. Engagement like this is great for Swansea and the Council. Why was the gallery so full? Principally because the Council was due to vote on a motion to declare a climate emergency, but also because it was due to reaffirm its support for the ‘WASPI’ Women, born in the 1950s and effectively robbed by the Westminster government changing their pension age.
So why were these items, one affecting millions of women and the other affecting our existence as a species, only dealt with after many people had had to leave? They were stuck at the very end of the agenda and only discussed after very long discussions about rubbish caught in shrubbery and the merits of transparent lids for dog mess bins. Some councillors seemed oblivious to the presence in the public gallery of…the public! (Well it doesn’t happen often…)
Dog mess, litter and uncollected rubbish all matter to people. They affect our quality of life. But these issues, instead of taking up time in a public meeting, can be dealt with in other ways, e.g. an email, phone call or meeting with the cabinet member.
Firstly, when people are interested enough to come along to full council, they don’t deserve to sit through things that can be dealt with elsewhere. Nick and Mary are asking about getting the agenda rearranged to help with this.
Secondly, we already have a problem with people not understanding councillors’ roles. Instead of seeing them as elected politicians working hard on policy change to improve their communities, their city and society as a whole, they are mistaken for glorified neighbourhood caretakers. Meetings like this don’t help.
Finally, this happens because so many opposition councillors like to fill the council agenda with questions that make them appear busy and interested, but achieve very little. Their constituents may wish to ask how much time they spend in committees or working groups actually trying to improve these matters.