At the Council AGM on Wednesday 28th newly appointed leader Andrew Morgan announced that he would make a statement on the outcome of the judicial review against the nursery education cuts by the end of the week. The judicial review judgement announced on 23rd May was that the Labour run Council had acted unlawfully in making the decision to cut education for three year olds from full to part time. They had failed to consider their statutory duties with regard to education, childcare and the wider child poverty agenda.
The statement from Cllr Morgan was issued to all RCT Councillors via email at 5.11 pm on 30th May and placed on the Council website here.
Whether the statement was actually written by Cllr Morgan himself or on his behalf by a member of the expansive PR department is unclear - as indeed is the content of the statement itself. To issue such a statement when parents are worried sick about what is happening to their children's education and their own jobs, and when staff have this week been issued with redundancy notices is crass and arrogant.
It shows just how removed from the views of the public the Labour administration have become, exhibits an alarming level of naivety from the leader and demonstrates just how poor the advice they are being given is. Parents involved in the campaign are furious and rightly so.
The statement says that "the case was lost due to issues associated with the process adopted: no challenge was brought on the basis that the decision itself was an unreasonable one." The case was lost because the process adopted was so appalling that it was unlawful. Nobody - including or perhaps especially, the leader of the Council - is able to assess whether or not the decision was reasonable or otherwise because the information needed to make that judgement was not available.
If any of the Cabinet had seen fit to attend the two day judicial review, as did I and a number of parents, then they would have heard first-hand the arguments being presented on each side. The ONLY Councillor to attend the hearing was Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillor Mike Powell. The Labour decision makers chose to hide away instead - after all we wouldn't want any of the Cabinet actually earning their significant salaries. Indeed when the decision was announced in London the only ones from Rhondda Cynon Taff there to hear it were three parents. The barrister representing the Council had nobody there from who he could take direction on such basic questions as to whether they would lodge an appeal.
There is absolutely nothing in the leader's comments which express any level of regret over the situation. No reassurance that there will be any in depth look at what went wrong and how such things can be avoided in future. Not a hint at an apology to all those who have lived with a substantial amount of stress over the past few months worrying over the Council's decision and what it could mean for them.
RCT Labour Council have spent a substantial - although as yet unknown - sum of money on this case, especially as costs were awarded against them. Taxpayers' money downs the drain because they were unable to make a decision by lawful means. They were far too concerned with making easy savings to really look at the needs of the area and where they could and should be cutting costs on non-essential services. Yet there is no sign of contrition. Indeed the tone of the letter is almost threatening - we have to cut something so look out.
Instead of showing any remorse Cllr Morgan unbelievably launches into yet another attack on us. Of course there is the now obligatory line about how the cuts are a result of the evil Westminster Government - a claim which even to Labour ears must be wearing thin now. It is time that this Council administration started taking some responsibility.
Andrew Morgan says that "As a politician and new Leader, it would be easy for me to engage in a popularity contest like other Councillors have sought to do on this issue." Apart from being an example of quite appalling grammar it is a totally unprovoked and unnecessary attack. Now it is all well and good having a political spat, but it should not be done using Council resources.
He continues "I remain disappointed by the approach of opposition Councillors who continue to disagree with every proposal, yet fail to present any alternatives to bridge the massive funding gap caused by public sector funding cuts made in London."
This is an outright lie. Maybe he would like to read the submission put into the consultations by RCT Welsh Liberal Democrats and individually by myself and Cllr Mike Powell. Perhaps he should now and again keep his fellow Labour members in check and listen to what Mike and indeed others have to say in the Chamber rather than indulge in the childish yah boo attitude that is their norm.
There has been no opposition to every proposal. Just those which are obviously unjust and poorly thought through - such as the cuts to nursery provision.
As for putting alternative ideas forward then we have done as much as we have been able to given the limited amount of financial information that has been made available. These have included cutting the PR and Strategy Department - otherwise known as the Labour propaganda machine - substantially. The department is run by the son of a Cabinet Member, who is a former Labour Council candidate and who was promoted to the post that had been specifically created for him and was not subject to advertisement or interview.
Cut a layer of management - why is there the need for so many Heads of Service reporting to Group Directors who then report to the Chief Executive? Having such a raft of highly paid Officers obviously does not mean the quality of advice can be relied on, as last week's judgement shows.
The leader appears to have forgotten he is subject to a code of conduct which states, amongst other things:
"You must not do anything which compromises, or which is likely to compromise, the impartiality of those who work for, or on behalf of, your authority." Sending out a statement attacking political opponents via a Council website hardly seems in the spirit of that.
"You must not use or attempt to use your position improperly to confer on or secure for yourself, or any other person, an advantage or create or avoid for yourself, or any other person, a disadvantage." Yet surely such blatant political comments are doing just that?
"You must not use, or authorise others to use, the resources of your authority improperly for political purposes." I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that.
On top of that there is the Members Protocol which states:
Members are expected to:
Show respect to each other
Not to make personal abusive comments about each other
Not to publish anything insulting about each other
Not to make malicious allegations against each other
Not to publish or spread any false information about each other
Councillor Morgan clearly either has not read it or intends to completely ignore it. A fine start for the new leader.
The statement finishes by stating that if anyone wants more information they should contact Christian Hanagan - the aforementioned Head of PR and Strategy. I would suggest that instead you go straight to the top and ask Cllr Morgan himself just what it is he thinks he is playing at.
Telephone 01443 479545 or email: Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org
If this is an example of how the new regime is to continue then I fear for the future of Rhondda Cynon Taff.
Chair / Campaign Manager RCT Welsh Liberal Democrats
RCTC code of conduct