August 9 2012

Unchained disharmony

Old Grumpy is growing increasingly concerned by what is going on at that other website which yesterday published an op ed about the row in Milford Haven Town Council (MHTC) over the procedural niceties surrounding the wearing of the mayoral chain.
Cllr Jacob Williams' articles about drainage problems in Ford Lane, and the machinations of Cllr John Davies during his bid to become Tory candidate for the post of elected police commissioner, are one thing, but unfurling his banner on my doorstep I regard as a declaration of war.
However, as revenge is a dish best eaten cold, retribution will wait for another day.
In the meantime, I would say that I am on Cllr Woodham's side on this one.
While there may be issues regarding the appropriateness of appearing bechained at functions to which he has not been formally invited, including the insurance of the chain when he is on frolic of his own, on balance the principle that the Mayor should get out and meet the people is one that should be supported.
What cannot be supported is the idea that some of Cllr Woodham's detractors seem to be promoting that there are certain sections of the community with which the Mayor should not engage.
Perhaps, these elitists also believe that there are certain sections of the community who are not fit to pay the council tax which keeps MHTC in business.
The issue certainly stirred up emotions in the comment section on the Mercury's website where there were more than 30 contributors.
One that caught the eye was that posted by OldeGrumpee - not to be confused with the real thing - which included the following:
"The bottom line is, Town Councillors have no power to change the town at all, all they do is make representation to the County Council and part of the reason that Milford and the surrounding wards have become so run down is that their county council representatives have been steadfast in their refusal to join John Davies/Jonny Allen-Mirehouse & Jamie Adams in their IPG."
While OldeGrumpee is right about the powers of Town Councils, the rest of this statement is not in accord with the facts, because, until recently, Milford Haven had two county councillors who were members of the IPG: Anne Hughes and Danny Fellows.
Ex-councillor Fellows, having resigned from the chairmanship of the children and young persons scrutiny committee in the aftermath of the critical CSSIW report on child safeguarding, decided, perhaps wisely, not to seek re-election, and we all know what happened to ex-councillor Hughes.
Indeed, there are serious students of local politics who think that it was ex-councillor Hughes' increasingly desperate attempts to explain how, given the doctrine of collective Cabinet responsibility, she could at one and the same time be a member of the IPG and its Cabinet and a "truly independent" councillor as promised in her election material, that was the principal cause of her downfall.
But it is OldeGrumpee's claim that the town is "so run down" because of the "steadfast" refusal of Milford Haven councillors to join the IPG, that is interesting.
As one of these refusniks, this is something I take very seriously indeed.
The idea that membership of the IPG will enhance your prospects of re-election because it helps you "to get things done in your ward", is well entrenched.
Indeed, it is one of the group's unique selling points.
At its post-election recruitment meeting held on 8 May, Cllr Peter Stock told the assembled throng: "So I say to everyone who has not signed up: think hard because, if you love your ward in the way that you do, you will need help to get the best" and ". . . you will not be able to do it alone, you need the support of the group."
This would seem to suggest that those members of Labour, Plaid Cymru, and the independents who haven't joined the IPPG, don't love their wards and can't expect to get the best for their constituents.
I don't know where Cllr Stock got these ideas from but I can say with some confidence it was not though reading serious books on constitutional law.
The council has a duty to everyone regardless of whether their councillor is a member of the ruling group, or should that be clique?
As I explained previously (Missed opportunity) for members to use their position in the ruling group to seek preferential treatment for their wards and constituents would be in breach of the members' code of conduct, and possibly the law (see Dame Shirley Porter) any any officer who allowed himself to be swayed by such pressure would be in breach of the officers' code of conduct.

Faulty memory

The Newsquest Group; owners of the Western Telegraph and Milford Mercury, have finally got round to covering the story about how, prior to May’s elections, a senior member of the IPG (Cllr David Wildman) produced election material for a rival (Byron Frayling) to one of the IPG’s own members (Cllr David Bryan).
I first broke this story on July 10 (Stop press) so you might wonder what took our local papers so long.
It seems they were jolted into action by Cllr Bryan, who, as you might imagine, wasn't best pleased to read that a close colleague had been plotting against him behind his back.
I was contacted by the WT who asked if I had any evidence to back my claims.
Naturally, given my antipathy to the IPG, I was keen to see the story reach a wider audience, so I emailed a copy of what I am told is called a “page splash” of a document entitled: “Byron vote tomorrow. doc”.
This page splash shows a copy of the actual document and its properties.
These properties show that the documents author was David Wildman and that it had been created on 20/4/2012.
There is also a section under properties labelled “Company” alongside which appears PCC.
On right clicking this item a box appears containing the words “What’s this” and on left clicking that box you are informed: "Displays the name of the company or publisher where the item originated".
So, on the face of it, Byron Frayling’s election material was produced on a Pembrokeshire County Council computer by one David Wildman.
The apparent use of the county council’s computer seems to me to be the most serious aspect of this business, though it must be admitted that the the sight of the IPG plotting against one of its own is the most newsworthy angle.
After these allegations appeared on my website, Cllr Bryan confronted David Wildman who denied all knowledge.
He told Cllr Bryan: "Can I say I did not write an election address for Byron Frayling and I can guarantee that his election material was not printed by me or anyone else in Cabinet."
You have to keep your wits about you because at no time did I say election materials had been printed by Cllr Wildman or anyone else.
This is an example of the spin doctor's art: denying an allegation that has never been made.
Faced with the evidence, he now tells the Milford Mercury that, while he denies composing Byron Frayling’s election address, he did help to prepare a leaflet (the one on the page splash) using a 2008 template as a favour to Cllr Lyndon Frayling, Byron’s brother.
"I didn't think of the implications at the time", he told the newspaper, “and it went out of my mind.”
You might think it strange that someone in Cllr Wildman’s senior position should be blind to the implications of producing election material for the opponent of one of his party colleagues, but we'll let that pass.
What is interesting is that the blank denial contained in his email to Cllr Bryan has now morphed into a bout of forgetfulness, though you might wonder why Cllr Bryan's questions back in early July, didn't jog his memory.
It is all part of the spin doctor’s art of only ever admitting the minimum that the evidence demands.
It struck me a long time ago that, if, as he claimed in his email to Cllr Bryan, he had nothing whatsoever to do with producing Byron Frayling’s election material, it was strange that he hadn’t complained to the Ombudsman regarding my apparently false allegations.
According to the Mercury the explanation for this is that: "The allegation appeared on a blog and Cllr Wildman said he had not complained as it is not widely read.”
Of course Cllr Wildman has no idea how many people read my blog.
And the lack of readership, or otherwise, did not deter the chairman of the IPG, Cllr Johnny Allen Mirehouse, from complaining to the Ombudsman about its contents (Once more into the breach).
Also, I would point out that, in no small part due to my scribblings, Milford Haven is now an IPG-free zone.
Not that any of that is relevant because the real reason Cllr Wildman hasn't complained to the Ombudsman is that what I wrote about this episode is, by his own admission, true.
My mole has also read the article in the Mercury and has been in touch to suggest that Cllr Wildman would be wise to choose less categorical language when discussing his involvement with Byron Frayling's election address.
"If evidence was to surface that showed he was the author of that document, he would have to plead another lapse of memory", my mole writes, "and that might begin to resemble the condition that psychiatrists refer to as selective amnesia".
It would also raise some interesting questions about what really goes on in County Hall because Mr Frayling's election address contains the following:
"One concern I have at present, which I know is shared by many of you, is the manner in which Pembrokeshire County Council is selling off a part of our history and heritage at the castle."
It seems hardly believable that a member of the Cabinet that unanimously approved the disposal of the castle would author a document which sought to exploit Cllr Bryan's on-the-record support for this unpopular sale in order to gain an electoral advantage for his opponent.

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