August 5, 2016

My book of the month is ‘ The Forgiven’ by Lawrence Osborn. This is a dark story that is utterly compelling and with a twist at the end. I haven’t yet found a single character in this author’s books that I actually sympathise with, but perhaps that’s deliberate. It’s fascinating to dislike the main characters but still feel gripped by their story. I’m looking forward to his next book.

One of Denbighshire County Council’s great strengths is that it has some brilliant staff. This month two things have happened that illustrate this so clearly and deserve special mention. First, when the Welsh football team made the semi-final of Euro 2016 staff in our Leisure Services managed to organise a FanZone, which 7800 people enjoyed, within 48 hours, working their socks off to make it happen. Second, when the council was informed – the day before – that GHA Coaches would stop their buses, our transport staff worked overnight to ensure that all children had transport to get to school the next morning. One member of staff noticed a group of elderly ladies waiting at a bus stop. He approached them, explained who he was, showed them his ID and offered to take them to their destination in his own car, in his own time. That’s outstanding care.

There was an attempted military coup in Turkey. Until recently military coups used to happen in Turkey roughly every decade and they were always successful – I.e., they managed to overthrow the elected government. But this one failed and social media played a key role. Turkey’s President’s call, on FaceTime, for people to get out into the streets and stop the coup worked and we all witnessed it. We know that social media can be used for good and bad, but this was a lesson on the power of social media to change World events. The official Turkish view is very critical of western countries, seeing them as either complicit, indifferent or more concerned about the reaction to the coup than expressing concern and support for the democratically elected government. During the EU referendum campaign the then British Prime Minister said that Turkey’s application to joint the EU wouldn’t be considered, probably, until the year 3000. That might have been a slight exaggeration then, but right now it seems implausible that the Turkish government would wish it to be considered before than anyway.



July 5, 2016

My book of the month is ‘The House at the edge of the World’, by Julia Rochester. I’ve really enjoyed reading this novel because I like stories that keep you intrigued right to the end, plus it’s really well written. To make the most of my Rome visit last month I’ve read ‘SPQR – A History of Ancient Rome’ by Mary Beard and watched her BBC programmes on catchup. What I really like about Mary Beard is that she communicates with the reader at both the general and the detailed levels in a really interesting and clear way.

It was my birthday this month. I usually receive my first message of this day from either my wife or my children, but this year they were beaten to it by loveholidays.comLoveholidays.com sent me an email at 6am wishing me ‘happy birthday’ and also attaching a present:a £10 voucher for any holiday. I’ve unsubscribed from all the junk emails now but they are still coming. ‘Are you sure?’, ‘Did you make a mistake?’ etc. I’ll be a lot more careful about inadvertently subscribing to such email ‘newsletters’ in future. To complete the Italian theme we went to an Italian restaurant for my birthday, and thought about backing Italy for the Euro 2016, but obviously that wasn’t possible with Wales there!

We now know that there isn’t going to be a Local Government Reorganisation in the next five years, and probably beyond that. This is both good and potentially bad. On the positive side spending the next few years developing ambitious improvements rather than managing a messy reorganisation is more inspiring and better for our county and Wales. However, 22 local councils,  the demands and expectations on our health services, lots of Welsh Government bureaucracy and hundreds of public bodies are even more unsustainable now than they were a year ago and deciding to leave these structures as they are is not, in itself, an answer to the sustainability problem. Welsh Government must set out a clear alternative to LGR otherwise we’ll simply replace ‘an answer’ with ‘no answer’.