David Phillips column: Process had to be followed over traveller site proposals
MONDAY evening's special council on proposals for a second permanent gypsy and traveller site was always going to be difficult. And so it proved.
The special council has said we should look at the issue again for a number of reasons. Its recommendation to cabinet isn't an end to the matter. Swansea Council has a legal and a moral obligation to find and develop a second site; the issue now is about the correct location.
There does seem to be a great deal of confusion about council procedures and what happened on Monday. I have been asked why we went ahead with the meeting when it was clear there were misgivings about the recommendations.
Firstly, the agenda had been published and the meeting had to take place, it would have been illegal to do otherwise.
Secondly, to presume an outcome without hearing the professional advice and what councillors and the public had to say in response to it, would have been improper and illogical.
You should also understand that democracy isn't free, it isn't a perfect animal and sometimes might seem perverse. But none of that makes it wrong.
I've mentioned in this column before that leadership is about facing up to difficult issues.
The council has been considering the provision of a second gypsy traveller site for many years and across several administrations. When Labour was elected to run Swansea Council we inherited the current process from the previous LibDem led coalition(I make no political point here, just state a fact).
It was widely expected we would ditch this process and start again as all the sites shortlisted were in Labour-held wards.
Rather than starting again we hoped that, by adding a two-stage process and an "open" council meeting where we could hear the views of all the parties, it would provide an earlier resolution of the issue.
But it was always possible this wouldn't happen.
It should be remembered that we have been in power for only 18 months and we have made more progress on this issue than anyone before us.
I spent a great deal of time studying the council report and supporting information when it was published. It was certainly comprehensive, covering more than 1,000 potential locations on council land which were whittled down to two officer-recommended sites.
I cannot (and will not) deny that having read it I had concerns. My confidential email, regrettably leaked to this paper, confirms that. But this was my personal initial view.
I and my cabinet colleagues had taken no view on any of the sites in advance of the report. I wanted to hear what special council and the public had to say and to consider the report to cabinet before coming to any decision, which my colleagues and I will do in November.
But my message to anyone who thinks this means there will be no second permanent gypsy traveller site is this: we have a legal and moral obligation to provide one and we shall.
I am very pleased to say the Living Wage will be paid to all entitled employees in next month's pay.
Although the Single Status issue is still to be formally resolved, we have found a way to commence the Living Wage now.
This will be a welcome boost to our lowest-paid employees especially in the run-up to Christmas. Now I want to finally put the Single Status issue to bed so our staff (mostly women) who have been underpaid for years will get their just entitlement.