Welsh Liberal Democrats in RCT have expressed their disappointment at the continued unwillingness of Cabinet Members to meet with traders in Pontypridd.
This follows a freedom of information request which revealed that Councillor Paul Cannon, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, has met only once with two local retailers in the past two years. Councillor Mike Powell says it raises questions over just how serious they are about public engagement.
"The question I asked was a simple one - times, dates and locations of any meetings held between Cabinet Members and the Pontypridd town centre business forum / Chamber of Trade / other such representative bodies over the last two years.
"This followed a substantial number of complaints from traders in the town that the Town Forum had been discontinued, and that a new Business Forum set up at the beginning of the year had been unable to attract Council representatives along.
"The response I received was somewhat puzzling and stated that ' I have been informed that the majority of such meetings would have involved Councillor Russell Roberts, and as he is no longer an elected member, the Authority therefore no longer holds the information as access to his diary is no longer available.'
"Considering Councillor Cannon has held the economic development portfolio for some time I am at a loss to understand why Russell would have been involved to begin with, and find it very odd that his appointments diary appears to have been wiped. Surely it should have been kept as part of the audit trail if nothing else?
With all that is happening in Pontypridd at the moment, the regeneration works, the Lido plans, and the further set back following the news that the precinct developers have gone into receivership surely now more than ever there is a need for direct contact with businesses in the town - and indeed in other towns across RCT."
Welsh Liberal Democrat campaign manager Karen Roberts added
"In the light of evidence such as this I think the public will rightly be questioning just what Cabinet Members are doing to earn their salaries. They are the elected representatives of the people, it is not good enough for them to leave all forms of public engagement in the hands of Officers. They get paid almost £32,000 a year to carry out what should be a full time job. They shouldn't be there only for the photo opportunities, which it seems all too often is the case.
"There have been numerous complaints in the local press recently from business people in the town who feel the Council is not paying attention to their problems. At a public meeting held by the local MP in July there were criticisms along similar lines. Cabinet Members should be at the front line, interacting with the public, instead they hide away apparently afraid of any face to face discussion or confrontation. It is not good enough."