Side effects

As I’ve said before, the webcasting of council meetings is the best thing since sliced bread.
And it is not simply because we now have an accurate record of what is said – the off-stage antics of members can also be very revealing.
So it was that I was able to provide a detailed account of the peregrinations of Cllr Keith “Hokey Cokey” Lewis during the extraordinary meeting on 14 February.
Last week’s episode also provided a valuable insight into the machinations of the IPPG.
This came during the speech by Cllr John Allen-Mirehouse on the question of the recovery of unlawful pension payments to the Chief Executive and A N Other.
First Cllr Allen-Mirehouse tried to make a clever point about the destination of any reclaimed money, which, he asserted, would go into the pension fund.
Unfortunately for Squirehouse, as he is affectionately known, this was challenged by Cllr Paul Miller, and the director of finance confirmed that any returned monies would remain the property of the council.
He then changed tack and claimed that the two officers would lose their pensions for three years, only to be told by the director of finance that this wasn’t true either.
That prompted Cllr Miller to intervene to suggest that Cllr Allen-Mirehouse, who had been a member of the senior staff committee that made the original decision, didn’t know what he was talking about.
Unabashed, the member for Angle promised that, in due course, he would “enlighten” Cllr Miller.
But enlightenment came there none – only proof that nonsense is not redeemed by being delivered in a posh accent.
Next, he spent a couple of minutes waffling on about the audit committee and when it was pointed out to him that he meant the senior staff committee he responded: “Sorry, well ultimately the audit committee should have picked it up 12 months earlier, but, of course, that is another story.”

The other story, which Cllr Allen-Mirehouse chose to ignore, is that the senior staff committee made the decision in September 2011 and the audit committee, of which he is also a member, wasn’t established until the AGM on May 24 2012 and held its first meeting on 10 September 2012.
So, short of a trip in Cllr Brian Hall’s Tardis, it is not easy to see how it can be blamed for this fiasco.
He then waffled on about section 54, whatever that might be, and concluded that the only flaw in the council’s procedures was a breach of the Equality Act.
However, the Wales Audit Office public interest report clearly identifies several other examples of unlawfulness including that: “Senior officers who have a disqualifying personal and pecuniary interest in the decision, participated in the decision-making process.”
In addition, the committee’s decision to exclude the public was also unlawful.
Undeterred, Squirehouse ploughed on – telling us that the 28 grand involved was “a relatively small sum” only to be put firmly in his place by Cllr Pat Davies.
Clearly not a man to listen to the advice, variously attributed to Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain and Dennis Thatcher, that it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
Regular readers will recall that Cllr Allen-Mirehouse was the member who said that I was someone who wouldn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story during the debate on my concerns about the grant system.
But I digress.
Almost as revealing as the seamless drivel pouring from the former deputy leader’s mouth, was what was going on around him.
Sitting on his left, Cllr Umelda Havard seems to be ruminating on his every word, while on his right Cllr Pearl Llewellyn is trying her best not to look bored.
And alert observers will notice that, 1.08.08 hours into the webcast, a hand appears from his right and taps him on the arm.
This was during Cllr Allen-Mirehouse’s floundering attempt to explain away his earlier silly remark about £28,000 being “a relatively small sum”.
This hand belongs to Cllr Brian Hall who is passing on a message from the Leader to the effect that the hole was now plenty deep enough and excavations should cease.
And, sure enough, within a few seconds Johnny sat down.
As Charles Darwin said: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”
And I think it was Socrates who observed that the most dangerous form of ignorance is not knowing how ignorant you are.
As neither of these great thinkers had access to a time machine, one can only assume that Johnny’s sort have existed throughout history.