Stop press

November 5 2013

Bonfire of the vanities

Pembrokeshire County Council has launched a counter attack against my recent revelations with a press release in praise of the commercial property grants scheme in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock.
It features Cabinet member for economic development Cllr David Pugh and highlights No 31 Dimond Street Pembroke Dock, now a rather elegant flower shop, as the poster boy for the scheme.
You will be surprised to hear that Old Grumpy and Cllr Pugh are in complete agreement, because it is only a few weeks ago that I was also singing the praises of No 31 (Price differentials).
However, as you might have anticipated, while we agree on the quality of the work done at No 31, that's as far as it goes.
The photograph which accompanies the press release shows a beaming Cllr Pugh and the owner of the flower shop standing outside No 31.
Interestingly, on the far left of the picture can be seen part of the blue shop front of No 29 (Paul Sartori).
Today of all days doesn't seem the right time to pee on Cllr Pugh's bonfire, but as I pointed out in (Price differentials) the contrast between these two properties is striking, with No.29 costing two-and-a-half times as much for only half the floor space.
For the record, the grant awarded to No. 31 for the refurbishment of 98 sq m of floor space was £35,590, while No. 29 next door (50 sq m) attracted a grant of £81,000.
Or, put another way, £1621 sq m for No. 29 compared to £363 sq m for No. 31.
And the comparison doesn't stop there because, as I wrote on my website on September 12: "No. 31 has a modern shop front and interior, while if you if you wander into Paul Sartori (No. 29) you will find that little or no work has been carried out to the interior of the shop."
While Cllr Pugh is right to hold up No 31 Dimond Street as an example of what can be achieved, you might think he also has duty to explain to taxpayers why so much of their money has been spent at No 29 to achieve so little.
And while he is about it he might tell the public why Nos 25 and 27; both in the same ownership as No.29, were awarded grants equivalent to £1852 sq m and £997 sq m respectively, especially as the interior of No. 25 appears not to have had any work done on it whatsoever.
I'm afraid this attempt to cherry pick the evidence simply won't wash.
Nice try, but no cigar.
With spending cuts high on the agenda, perhaps it is time we councillors asked whether expenditure on the production of this sort of blatant propaganda can be justified.

October 16 2013

Cool Keith counsels caution

The latest edition of the county council's house magazine (aka Western Telegraph) gives over a good part of page 24 to a large picture of IPPG loyalist, Cllr Keith Lewis, followed by his plea for "patience" over the pensions' affair.
Last week, the paper devoted most of page two to a similar puff by IPPG leader Cllr Jamie Adams.
The issue, for anyone who has not been keeping up, is that the Wales Audit Office (WAO) has cast doubt on the legality of pension arrangements for the council's most highly paid officers agreed by the senior staff committee back in September 2011.
This latest piece of propaganda hangs on the slender justification that Cllr Lewis was one of the members of the corporate governance who voted to approve the council's accounts in spite of the WAO's reservations over the legality of the pensions' scheme.
It doesn't seem to have occurred to the newspaper that, in the interests of balance, it might also have sought the views of the six members who voted against.
Cllr Lewis tells the newspaper: "I feel a moderate voice is needs to be heard here".
As one of the six opposition members present at the corporate governance committee, I don't recall Cllr Lewis's moderate voice being raised on that occasion..
Like the rest of his party colleagues, he was happy to let the Leader do the talking.
He is also quoted as saying: "The situation as I understand it was that the Senior Staff Committee, a politically balanced group, received a paper regarding pension provision for senior staff."
While, to the unwary, "politically balanced" might sound cosily democratic, the fact is that the six-member senior staff committee was made up of four members of the IPG (Leader, Cllr John Davies and three of his cabinet colleagues - Cllrs Jamie Adams, John Allen-Mirehouse and David Wildman, all of whom owed their positions (and £15,000 SRAs) to the leader's patronage) and two members of the opposition.
So the reality was that the, then, Leader had effective control over this committee.
Like the current Leader's offering last week, Cllr Lewis concentrates entirely on the legal aspects of the pension arrangements.
He says: "As a county council our legal advice is that this element of pension provision is legal and they [WAO] take a different view."
But, as I have said previously, the pension arrangements are only part of the story.
Had he been paying attention at corporate governance he would have heard me ask the representative of the WAO whether in the parallel case in Caerphilly the chief executive's presence during a meeting where his salary was determined was an issue.
The answer was: Yes.
The WAO's public interest report on the Caerphilly case can be read here
For anyone who is too busy to read the full report, the most relevant passage reads:
"I accept that the decision was ultimately taken by the members of the Committee.
However, I am concerned as to the presence of the officers throughout the meeting,
the lack of declarations of interest and the apparent failure to consider the options
contained in the Hay report. In my view, the participation of these officers in the
decision-making process renders the decision of the Committee ultra vires and
therefore unlawful, on this further ground.
(My emphasis) "

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October 9 2013

Today's Western Telegraph has given over most of page two to an interview with county council leader Jamie Adams in which he tries to explain the council's position over the pensions' business.
According to Cllr Adams the decision was perfectly legal and the WAO's challenge is without merit.
One thing that caught my eye was his statement with regard to the legal opinion the council has received.
Cllr Adams told the paper: "At the moment, apart from myself as corporate leader; I would consider that the majority of members do not have a need to know. They might wish to, or have a desire to know. I understand that."
This is interesting because the author of that other website has been trying to persuade the legal department that all members should have a copy of this document.
So far he has been met with a blank refusal.
I have now written to the council asking why Cllr Adams has been given privileged access.
On the question of whether the officers present should, as potential beneficiaries of the proposed pension arrangements, have declared an interest, Cllr Adams says:
"The chief executive and head of HR were both present and had no interest to declare because they were not part of the decision making process".
I'm not sure about that because the head of HR presented the report, which he had coauthored with the director of finance, and which contained a recommendation that the changes outlined in the report should be adopted.
While it is true that neither of them had a vote, that looks like part of the decision making process to me.
In any case the declaration of interest is not the end of it.
The other issue is whether they should have stayed in the room while the matter was discussed.
For authority on that subject we can turn to the WAO's public interest report here on events in Caerphilly where the chief executive and his deputy attended a meeting where it was decided to give them a pay rise.
The auditor says: " In addition to my concern regarding the advertisement of the meeting, I also have concerns in respect of the following aspects of the meeting held on 5 September 2012:
Certain officers, including the Chief Executive, who would have been (and were) beneficiaries of the decision were present throughout the meeting to approve the salary increases. No declarations of interest were made and these officers did not leave the room whilst the decision was made. In doing so, they participated in the decision-making process.
The report presented to the Committee was authored by the Chief Executive who was a direct beneficiary of the decision made and who gave advice on a matter in which he had a pecuniary interest.
In my view, these additional matters in themselves render the decisions taken by the Committee unlawful."

I think what the auditor means by "in doing so" is that they stayed in the room.
The very presence of someone in the room can affect the decision.
That is certainly the principle applied in the members' code of conduct where following a declaration of a prejudicial interest there is a requirement that the member withdraws from the meeting.
And there is case law to the effect that moving to the public gallery will not meet the requirements of the code.
The member must leave the room where the meeting is being held.
And what's sauce for the goose, etc.

October 8 2013

It is quite a while since Old Grumpy received one of those large plain brown envelopes containing top secret material.
Indeed, I was beginning to wonder if the IPPG had taken on an expert trapper who had consigned my velvety little friends to that great and glorious molehill in the sky.
So it was a great relief when I came downstairs this morning to find one of these mysterious packages lying on the doormat.
It contained an anonymised Ombudsman's letter which began:


After a brief review of the Ombudsman's powers it continues:

It is not clear what changes in the rules ex-Cllr Wildman had in mind, but it seems he is suggesting that it should be OK for Cabinet members to use council computers for party political purposes.
Welcome to democracy IPPG-style!
The Ombudsman goes on to say that Cllr Wildman has now resigned from the the council and

There seem to be two injustices in all this.
First ex-Cllr Wildman has been fingered for misuse of council computers while his confederate, deputy Leader Cllr Rob Lewis, seems to have emerged unscathed. This is doubly unfair because the fingerprints of Cllr Lewis (the election coordinator for the IPG (as it was then known)) are all over the illicitly produced election material.
Indeed, my understanding after talking to IPG insiders is that David Wildman only became involved after Cllr Lewis found himself having to contest his Martletwy seat.
And even more unfair is that the Partygate story only came to light as a result of diligent research by the author of that other website, but I got the plain brown envelope and the scoop.
Were it not for the fact that, just a couple of weeks ago, the young upstart had the temerity to refer to me on his website as "the old duffer", I might find it in my heart to feel sorry for him.

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October 1 2013

There was a lively debate when the senior officers' tax planning activities was discussed at Monday's corporate governance committee.
What struck Old Grumpy was how little the IPPG's top guns had to contribute to the deliberations.
The Leader, Cllr Jamie Adams, did most of the talking while the other six (Cllrs Brian Hall, Keith Lewis, Mike James, Peter Morgan, Tom Richards, Huw George) sat in almost complete silence.
Though, when it came to voting, they all seemed to know what was expected of them.
Given this lack of ideas I had to remind myself that these are the IPPG's creme de la creme being in order of appearance two scrutiny chairmen, vice-chairman of PCNPA, former council chairman, future council chairman and, grandest of all, Cabinet member.
That this lot make up the leadership of the IPPG speaks volumes of the led.
The Leader explained why the senior staff committee of September 2011, where the decision to allow senior officers to opt out of the local government pension scheme, didn't have any independent advice on the legality of the proposed scheme.
It seems that the former Leader, Cllr John Davies, had some knowledge of these matters from another organisation with which he was associated and the committee had relied on his expertise.
Now, I always suspected that Cllr Davies might know more about dairy cow nutrition and grassland management than the rest of us, but it had never occurred to me that he had also mastered the complexities of the UK tax code.
Old Grumpy remembers that Cllr Davies has form in this area because it was he who initiated the process which led to the chief executive getting a substantial pay rise back in 2006 (Two-jobs).
However, the tax angle is not, in my opinion, the most worrying aspect of this affair.
That, I believe, concerns the way the decision was reached.
Most unusually, the senior staff committee meeting was held in the chief executive's office which is not an area freely accessible to the public, though S 100 LG Act 1972 requires that all meetings of the council should be open to the public until such time as the committee resolves to exclude them.
What the legislation says is the the committee MAY (my emphasis) exclude the public if "exempt information" is likely to be disclosed.
The resolution must include a description of the nature of the exempt information "in terms of Schedule 12A of the Act".
In this case Paragraph 12 of the Schedule was cited.
It refers to information concerning "a particular employee" or "a particular office holder" though there was no reference to either in the minutes.
Another concern is that the report to the committee, with a recommendation that the proposal be adopted, was a joint effort by the director of finance and the head of human resources - both potential beneficiaries of the changes - and the chief executive - as of the 31 March 2013, the only senior officer to have taken advantage of the scheme - was present throughout the meeting, though there is no indication in the minutes that any officer declared an interest.
In answer to my questions, it was claimed that officers were not obliged to declare an interest in such matters, but when I asked the representatives of the WAO, who was present at the meeting, if the failure to declare an interest in similar circumstances was at the heart of the long-running controversy in Caerphilly, the answer was yes
For the record, the chief executive of Caerphilly, and his deputy, are currently under suspension while an investigation takes place into their failure to declare an interest during a meeting at which both were awarded a large pay rise.

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24 September 2013

The county council's audit committee is not usually on my list of not-to-be-missed events, but even the dullest sounding acts can sometimes provide high class entertainment.
I was present because on the programme was an internal audit report stemming from my scribblings about the grants in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock.
However, that was a bit of a sideshow because also up for discussion was an item detailing why the Welsh Audit Office (WAO) was refusing to sign off the council's accounts for 2012-2013.
This concerned a decision taken by the senior staff committee back in September 2011 to allow senior officers to opt out of having tax-payer funded employer's contributions paid in to the local government pension fund.
Instead they would be allowed to have the money to invest themselves.
According to the committees minutes:
Pensions Arrangements:
Having convened in private session under the terms of Paragraph 12 of Part 4 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, the Committee considered a report regarding the effects upon pension contribution arrangements of recent changes in taxation provisions affecting higher earners and which had imposed limitations and penalties on the levels of annual contributions and the taking of benefits. As a consequence, at certain points in their careers, staying as active contributing members of the pension scheme would create substantial tax liability for individuals (including on promotion), thereby reducing incentives for recruitment.
In order to aid recruitment and retention, it was suggested that individuals in this position should be given the option of receiving the equivalent of the employer’s contribution so that they make their own alternative arrangements for saving for retirement. This would be on the basis that there would be no additional cost in relation to the Authority’s existing contractual obligations to those individuals.
TheWAO has now cast doubt over the legality of the scheme and are refusing to sign off the accounts until the dispute is resolved.
Aside from the legality, there seems to be an ethical issue when officers whose pay cheques are met from the public purse seek to avoid paying their allotted share of tax.
When this was decided back in 2011, I seem to recall that even the usually sleepy Western Telegraph raised an eyebrow.
It will be interesting to see what it makes of this latest development.
For the record, during the financial year 2012-2013, only one officer availed themselves of this tax advantage - Chief Executive, Bryn Parry-Jones - though the director of finance, Mark Lewis, told the audit committee that a second member had signed up during the current financial year.

The internal audit report into the grant situation in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock gave the system a clean bill of health.
Unfortunately the report concentrated on whether all the paperwork was in order, whereas my own concerns were about what actually happened (or didn't happen) on the ground.
With that in mind, I produced a four-page report which I emailed to the audit officers and members of the committee at 10.00 am last Friday.
When the matter came up for debate, Cllr Michael Williams (Plaid), who had taken the trouble to read my submission, proposed that the matter be deferred so that members could consider what I had to say.
That didn't find favour with the rest who were content to accept the internal auditor's report.
Several of the members claimed to have only received my missive that morning, or not at all.
Seems it would have been quicker to post it.
Not that it matters because this issue will not go away.
In due course I am hopeful that the Information Commissioner will find in my favour and the unredacted documents will be released.
Failing that, perhaps someone will pluck up the courage to sue me, in which case the issues can be examined in court where the level of forensic analysis can be relied upon to be rather more robust than that found in the council's audit committee.

A couple of weeks ago I reported that the council had responded to my request for the final accounts for some of these grant projects with a copy of the summary sheet from the Bills of Quantities with all financial information blacked out (redacted).
Also blacked out was the box containing the name of the officer who signed off these documents.
I forwarded a copy of the email containing these heavily edited final accounts to all my fellow councillors observing, ironically, that I felt it only fair that they should share the information I had been sent.
Cllr Michael Williams produced this document at the audit committee meeting and asked why the name of the officer had been blacked out.
The person in charge accepted that the name shouldn't have been redacted - only the signature which fell within the provisions of the Data Protection Act (DPA).
Now, the DPA is a hot issue with the county council at the moment because it is currently under investigation by the Information Commissioner after personal details of children in its care was accidentally released to a third party.
And if officers' signatures are sensitive personal information as defined by the DPA they will have to explain why, during the public audit inspection, I was able to take copies of a final account for Coronation School containing the signature of the same officer whose name has been blacked out in these most recent FoI releases.
Indeed there are literally thousands of documents bearing officers' signatures freely available to any member of the public who cares to look.
And even more concerning is that, also contained in the public audit files were several documents bearing the grant applicant's bank details.
It seems to me that the DPA is something that is wheeled out when it suits the council's purposes, but is largely ignored on other occasions.
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4 July 2013

Members allowances and expenses 2012 - 2013

 Name  Allowances  I T allowance  Travel/subs
 J Adams  43,917  500  4,649
 J Allen-Mirehouse  14,574  500  1,125
P Baker  13,159  500  
 R Bowen  13,159  500  374
 T Brinsden  13,159  500  567
 Daphne Bush  11,865  450  587
 D Bryan  13,968  500  440
 J Davies  15,856  500  832
 Pat Davies  11,865  450  574
 M Edwards  13,159  500  
 W Evans  13,159  500  2,924
 M Evans  13,159  500  
 L Frayling  13,159  500  
 H George  29,848  500  1,342
 B Hall  20,625  500  416
 S Hancock  26,498  500  1,247
 P Harries  11,865  450  935
 Umelda Havard  13,159  500  79
 Tessa Hodgson  11,865  450  527
 D Howlett  20,625  500  
 S Hudson  13,429  500  400
 O James  13,159  500  
 M James  13,159  500  1,841
 Lyn Jenkins  11,865  450  640
 M John  13,159  500  
 S Joseph  11,865  450  
 P Kidney  11,865  450  
 B Kilmister  13,159  500  337
 Alison Lee  11,865  450  185
 K Lewis  19,331  450  873
 R Lewis  29,848  500  3,065
 Pearl Llewellyn  20,625  500  
 D Lloyd  11,865  450  414
 P Miller  12,593  450  65
 P Morgan  20,646  500  574
 E Morse  26,498  500  1,358
 D Neale  13,159  500  
 J Nutting  11,865  450  
 R Owens  11,865  450  260
 M Pepper  20,625  500  1,225
 Sue Perkins  26,768  500  
 J Preston  11,865  450  
 G Price  11,865  450  
 D Pugh  28,398  500  1943
 D Rees  13,150  500  581
 T Richards  13,968  500  181
 K Rowlands  27,847  500  798
 D Simpson  27.847  500  2,520
 R Sinnett  21,434  500  
 P Stock  13,968  500  173
 M Stoddart  13,159  250  
 Vivien Stoddart  13,159  250  
 T Tudor  19,898  500  
A Wilcox  13,159  500  377
 D Wildman  25,449  458  906
A Williams  16,917  500  206
 J Williams  11,865  450  
 M Williams  20,895  500  79
 G Woodham  11,865  450  
 S Yelland  11,865  450  
       

2012 -2013 being an election year the figures are somewhat out of kilter.
The allowances of those members elected in May 2012 only cover 11 out of the 12 months and some of the payments to sitting members include special responsibility allowances for part of a year.
The members allowance scheme for a full year is:
Basic allowance £13,175
Senior Salaries (including Basic Salary)
Leader of the Council £47,500
Deputy Leaders of the Council (x2) £31,120
Cabinet Members £28,780
Chairmen of Committees £21,910
Leader - largest Opposition Group (who do not have a Member in the Executive) £21,910
In addition, all members receive an allowance of £500 to cover IT/office expenses

March 27 2013

A mole from the Burton/Rosemarket area has emailed to report the sighting of IPPG campaigners in the ward ahead of the by-election on 11 April.
This is a vital contest for the IPPG because, should it fail to hold the seat vacated by party loyalist David Wildman, it will surrender its majority on the council together with its monopoly of Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs).
My informant was unable to identify the two campaigners, but from his description - a dark haired man of medium height with a pronounced Martletwy accent - I have a hunch that one of them might have been the IPPG's election mastermind Cllr Rob Lewis. (see jacobwilliams.com)
As for the identity of the other - a smartly-dressed, middle-aged blond woman - I cannot say.
What they were doing knocking on doors it is hard to fathom because so far as I am aware the IPPG doesn't have an official candidate in the election, though there is speculation that Rob Summons is the non-political, political party's man.
I wonder if these two canvassers were carrying copies of the manifesto - only joking because it doesn't have one.
Indeed, one reader has suggested that, because of the party's failure to tell the voters what it would do if it attained power , it should be renamed Independent Pig in a Poke Group.
One talking point in the tearoom is the Leader's failure to appoint a Cabinet replacement for David Wildman.
Some generous souls suggest that, as Cllr Adams has only recently been married in South Africa, his mind might be on higher things, but the conspiracy theorists are adamant that this Cabinet place is being kept vacant so that, should the Burton result not go according to plan, he has bait for his hook when he goes fishing in the opposition pool for someone to restore his majority.
While I favour the first explanation, the second has a precedent because shortly after the last election when his majority was anything but secure Cllr Adams used this tactic to entice a member of the Labour Group to cross the political divide.
PS. Word reaches me that, in his election leaflet, Rob Summons has come out as a potential member of the IPPG.
To the best of my knowledge, this is a first.
Perhaps, if he wins, this will encourage other members of the party to level with the voters at future elections.
For those interested, the serial misrepresentations on which this organisation is based can be found at (Through the looking-glass)
PPS. Someone has kindly provided me with a copy of Rob Summons' leaflet.
I notice he says that, if elected, he will join the "Independent Plus Group".
This is all of a piece with the eagerness of its members to conceal the political nature of the beast.
However, it should be pointed out that its full statutory title is Independent Plus Political Group as can be seen from the document signed by its members on joining up (Party animals).

March 9 2013

The Burton by election looks like being a hotly-contested affair.
Old Grumpy hears that the Tories have selected their candidate and the campaign gets underway this morning (Saturday) with big guns such as Stephen Crabb MP and Paul Davies AM out on the stump.
I hope it doesn't rain on them.
And, contrary to what I suggested last week, they seem to have found themselves a serious candidate who actually lives in the ward. (The race is on)
He is, I am told, one Robin Wilson a former boss at James Williams in Narberth.
Mr Wilson, my sources tell me, now runs a local wine business, so he must be a good egg.
Labour is also about to enter the fray, but have yet to announce the identity of its candidate.
However, word is that Cllr Paul Miller, the party's dynamic young leader on the county council, is keen to test his mettle in what can hardly be regarded as natural Labour territory.
I can just about remember when I was young and optimistic.
As reported earlier, retiring councillor David Wildman is backing local boy Rob Summons, so we must assume that he is the IPPG's "official" candidate.
What is not yet known is whether there is a dictionary independent [a person who is not affiliated to or who acts independently of a political party] lurking in the wings.
The outcome of this by election could have wide repercussions in county hall where Cllr Jamie Adams needs to retain the seat if he is to maintain his iron grip on the council.
Should the IPPG lose out, it will be 30-all.
And if the rumoured defections to Cllr Peter Stock's Pembrokeshire Alliance Party (PAP) materialise, it will be game, set and match.
If the Tories win, they will be entitled to a seat on the National Park at the expense of the unaffiliated members.
And should Labour pull it off, then, provided they can shake off their "executive group" status, they could take the scrutiny chairmanship (SRA £8,900) currently occupied by the Tories.
So, as they say, it's all to play for.

February 27 2013

I was in county hall yesterday afternoon for a meeting at 5.30 pm.
Arriving early to give myself a chance to catch up on the tea room gossip, I noticed that a meeting was in progress in the committee room at the top of the stairs.
Through the glass in the door at the end of the committee room, I recognised the familiar profile of former leader Cllr John Davies.
One doesn't like to stare, but I also caught a glimpse of the present leader Cllr Jamie Adams.
By the time I reached the double doors 10 metres further up the corridor, I had worked out that what I was witnessing was the IPPG's pre-council secret meeting.
So, walking slowly, I took a longer peek.
Well, if people weren't supposed to look in, they wouldn't have put glass in these doors.
What I noticed was that the assembled members were, with one exception, all seated around a big table.
The exception was Cllr Brian Hall who was sitting in solitary confinement at the back of the room.
As I said, one doesn't like to stare, but I couldn't fail to notice that Cllr Hall was in full flow with much arm-waving and finger-pointing.
I continued on my way to the tea room.
Fifteen minutes later, as I retraced my step on my way to my meeting, I had another gander and there was Cllr Hall, red in face and tooth and claw, arms waving, giving the assembled the throng the benefit of his opinion.
Now, you should never go further than the evidence warrants, so I can't be sure whether this was a continuation of the same oration that I had witnessed earlier, or two separate events.
It seems what was exercising Cllr Hall was the fact that, despite the failings which led to his resignation from the education portfolio, Cllr Huw George remains a member of the Cabinet (environment) and deputy leader of the council, and that this was making an easy target for the IPPG's critics.
He also seems to have an issue with the fact that the frequency with which Cllr George's photo appears in the local papers has not been diminished by his fall from grace.
He might also have mentioned that Cllr Adams appointed Cllr George deputy leader following last May's election, so his promotion came a full six months after the publication of the critical reports by Estyn and CSSIW that led to his eventual downfall.
It is difficult to deny that Cllr Hall has a point, though making the IPPG an easy target for its critics is not one of those things that keeps me awake at nights.
Indeed, the more the light is shone on this anti-democratic, non-political political party, the better I am
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There are 99 items on the agenda for tomorrow's meeting of full council, so it could be a long day.
Prominent among them are several Notices of Motion on the recent pay grading exercise which has left a significant number of staff, especially those on the lower pay grades, facing substantial cuts to their salaries.
This is a very complex area where it is unwise to base strong opinions on weak evidence.
There is a very fair account of the position regarding member involvement in this process on That other website is no need to repeat it here.
What can be said is that the first elected councillors knew about this was when distressed members of staff began to contact us to express their concerns.
A seminar was hastily called to brief members on the situation.
Several members were vociferous in their condemnation of the fact that this seminar had been called after the event and Leader Jamie Adams conceded that we should have been put in the picture before letters went out to staff.
Another area of concern was the ultimatum issued to staff that if they didn't sign up to the new arrangements before the end of February they would surrender their entitlement to hardship payments and, in the final analysis, their jobs.
Labour Leader, Cllr Paul Miller, has submitted a notice of motion in which he accuses the council of holding a gun to the heads of staff and, allowing for a bit of poetic licence, it is easy to see what he means.
Normally, notices of motion are remitted to the relevant committee for further consideration before coming back to the next meeting of full council for determination.
Cllr Miller is calling for this and other notices of motion on pay regrading to be debated there and then and, given the looming deadline, it is difficult to see on what grounds this reasonable request might be refused.
However, the fly in the ointment is that a visit to Brawdy has been arranged for 2.00 pm on Thursday which means that, if members are to be given time for a bite to eat before making the journey, the meeting will need to end by 1.15 pm at the latest.
As the mathematicians among you will already have worked out, dealing with 99 items in the 195 minutes between 10 am and 1.15 pm will allow less that two minutes apiece.
And as one of the 99 items is the budget, which, in a proper functioning democracy would on its own be worth at least two hours , it is not difficult to calculate that the rest of the agenda which, in addition to the NoM of staff pay, includes an important motion on the future of the health service in Pembrokeshire, will be somewhat cramped for time.
I know that several members have emailed the council asking for the Brawdy trip to be rearranged, but all to no avail.
It will be a disgrace if debate on these important issues is curtailed to accommodate this outing.
Though I am given to believe that, at yesterday's secret group gathering , that is exactly what the IPPG decided to do.

19 February 2013

Trying to keep up

That other website has had a couple of interesting scoops of late.
I must admit that I put down his earlier successes to beginner's luck, but it seems my position at the top of the local blogging tree may be under threat.
Judging from the comments, some readers of that other website are not impressed by the latest revelations, but it seems to me that the methods used to appoint people such as Cllr David Wildman to important bodies like Hywel Dda Health Board are of considerable public interest.
Indeed the application form for the post occupied by CllrWildman gives a nod in the direction of the problem with the words "In order to preserve the highest standards of integrity and propriety we are unable to accept Assembly Members or Welsh Assembly Government employees as referees for applications for membership of Public Bodies."
How much more does that apply to references provided by members of the executive whose activities the board is supposed to scrutinise?
The suspicion must be that this incestuous process is designed to appoint someone who will not make waves.
If that was the intention it seems to have been a massive success because we have have heard not a peep out of Cllr Wildman about the Board's much criticised plans to downgrade Withybush Hospital.
The other scoop concerned the recently constituted Police and Crime Panels (PCP) which seems to have spent most of its first meeting discussing how to get what its members considered to be their fair share of the gravy.
I needn't go into the details here because the matter is well covered on that other website and he needs all the hits he can get.
The resignation of Cllr Wildman - timed for the day after the next council meeting - leaves Cllr Jamie Adams without a majority and urgent steps are being taken to rectify that situation by winning back the seat.
A mole tells me the idea was to keep news of Cllr Wildman's departure under wraps until the very last minute so that the IPPG would have a head start in the by-election.
However, as Robbie Burns said: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley" and my revelations a couple of weeks ago (see below) blew a hole in that strategy.
I am told the IPPG already have a candidate in place: local boy and former policeman Rob Summons.
He will know all about the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so we can be sure that, if his intention is to join the IPPG, he will make that clear in his election address.
There has to be a first time for everything!
I understand that Labour are intending to field a candidate and there is also a rumour that a former member of the IPPG, who was unseated at the last election, is considering making a run.
It will be interesting to see whether the Conservatives put up a credible candidate - Cllr Wildman originally won the seat under the Tory flag before defecting to the IPG - or whether they will be content to merely make up the numbers.
And what is not known is whether there is a dictionary-owning independent in the Burton-Rosemarket ward.
It could be that all bets are off, because a mole tells me that Cllr Peter Stock's Pembrokeshire Alliance Party (PAP) is again on the prowl and there is a strong rumour that its formation will be announced by the end of the week.
People in the know tell me that estimates of its strength vary from six to ten which, if true, would bring in the nearly £9,000 that goes to the leader of the largest non-executive opposition group.
Plus a scrutiny committee chair (approx £9,000) and a seat on the National Park (£3,000) though you can bet your life that SRAs will not feature strongly among the reasons given for its formation.
Rationale or rationalisation - you can decide.
I'm afraid I can't tell you the identity of Cllr Stock's confederates because that is such a well-kept secret that even my highly-placed moles have been kept in the dark.
I don't usually deal in speculation and rumour but pressure from that other website has rather forced my hand.

February 6 2013

Gone for a Burton

A reader in Burton tells me that word in the village is that Cllr David Wildman is about to resign from the county council.
Cllr Wildman was originally elected as a Tory but jumped ship and landed on the more SRA-friendly shores of Ipgland where he has been a Cabinet member since 2004 and before that Chairman of the older persons scrutiny committee.
In monetary terms this was a smart move because since then he has picked up king's ransom in Special Responsibility Allowances in addition to the more than ten grand a year he has been receiving as our unelected representative on Hywel Dda Health Board where he has been defending our interests by rubber-stamping the deeply-unpopular, recently-announced reductions in services at Withybush Hospital.
The reasons for Cllr Wildman giving up his season ticket on the gravy train are not known at this time.
However, my mole tells me that his successor has already been lined up, though he was unable to be absolutely certain as to the identity of the new man/woman.
It's all rather hazy at the moment but my educated guess is that the anointed heir is one of Cllr Wildman's colleagues on Burton Community Council and, as the police are fond of saying: enquiries are ongoing.
I will report further, once I have had time to subject the evidence to closer inspection.
( Thanks to Jacob for the splendid heading)

Going straight

4 February 2013

A reprinted newspaper report of a corruption trial in which I was involved has appeared in Pembrokeshire's Best.
Several people have contacted my about this report which seems to suggest that I was in some way involved in this corrupt scheme.
The facts are that I carried out a contract to build a large furniture store at Goshawk Road Haverfordwest for the Property Services Agency (PSA) - a branch of the Department of the Environment..
The contract price was somewhere around £45,000.
One Sunday morning, after the work was completed, I received a phone call from the PSA's quantity surveyor, Donald Hagger who put forward the proposition that in exchange for a payment by me he would inflate the final account for the contract.
The figures in the newspaper report are given as £200 and £1,000, though my own recollection is that both numbers were somewhat larger than this.
Not that it matters, because the principle is the same - in exchange for a kick-back, he was offering to pay taxpayers' money for work I hadn't done.
The following day I went to Haverfordwest police station where I made a complaint and was interviewed by Detective Inspector Derek Davies and Detective Sergeant Ron Lloyd.
They asked me to play along and from then on all my actions were under the supervision of the police.
About a month later, Mr Hagger rang again to arrange a meeting to conclude the deal.
The meeting took place on a Sunday morning at the offices of Parkhouse Dairies - then owned by my brother - at Haven Road, Haverfordwest.
Prior to the meeting the police had provided me with a bundle of marked notes, and had concealed a recording device under my jacket.
Another tape recorder was installed in the office next door, where the two policemen were stationed.
Following a ten minute conversation, the cash was handed over and, as Hagger left the office, he was arrested by D. I. Derek Davies.
At the end of a seven-day trial Hagger, was convicted and sentenced to 15-months in jail.
After sentencing, Mr Justice Pitchforth called me to the front of the court where he thanked me for my public service in bringing this corruption to light.
"In going to the police, you knew you were turning down an easy £1,000", he said. Adding: "If there were more public spirited people like you in the world, and fewer greedy people, there would be less corruption."
I couldn't wish for a better endorsement of my battle to expose the truth about what goes on in county hall than that.


23 January 2013

Stock clear out

Word reaches Old Grumpy that, following Cllr Peter Stock's defection from the county council's ruling Independent Plus Political Group (IPPG), he has been relieved of all his committee places, including the chairmanship (unpaid) of the influential corporate governance committee.
This is a blow for the opposition because Cllr Stock had of late been showing refreshing signs of having a mind of his own.
Indeed, he even went against the IPPG-dominated committee's recommendation with regard to my notice of motion to increase the number of seats on committees by one (Win some- lose some).
With the IPPG's majority on this committee reduced to one, and a rebellious Cllr Stock with the casting vote, there were high hopes that this particular roadblock to constitutional reform might have been removed.
However, he has been cut off at the knees before he could get into his stride.
Cllr Stock also tells me that Cllr Adams, has stripped him of his seat on the Police and Crime Panel (PCP).
Sacked like a dog, as we used to say in the building trade.
"Pleased be advised that you no longer represent this council on this panel" was the curt message.
This is very interesting because the minutes of last October's meeting of council record that Cllr Tessa Hodgson put down the following question on this issue:
"What criteria did the Leader use when selecting independent members to sit on the Police and Crime Panel?"
The Leader responded that: ". . . he had sought to balance the appointments taking into account long experience and fresh perspective. He
pointed out that the appointments made reflected a balance of gender, a balance of new and experienced Members and a geographical balance between rural and urban representation."
His two appointees: Cllr Stock (Haverfordwest) and Lyn Jenkins (Solva) perfectly fitted the Leader's bill; male and female; town and country; and experienced and novice.
Cllr Hodgson's interest in this matter followed her discovery that Pembrokeshire County Council's 13 unaffiliated members had been counted as "independents" when the political balance of the PCP was calculated (Useful idiots).
In a supplementary question, which is not recorded in the minutes, Cllr Hodgson sought an assurance from the Leader that, as they had been used to acquire these seats, the unaffiliated members had been taken into consideration when the seats were allocated
Cllr Adams confirmed that this was the case.
Cllr Hodgson then asked how Cllr Adams could claim to have considered the unaffiliated members for these positions when he had made no enquiries as to their particular interests and expertise.
That was met with an extended wafflathon.
The sacking of Cllr Stock gives the lie to all the Leader's claims.
Unless, that is, leaving the IPPG has somehow diminished Cllr Stock's long experience.
What is also puzzling is that Cllr Stock's replacement is Cllr SteveYelland.
Cllr Yelland was elected only last year and represents leafy Rudbaxton.
The other member, Cllr Lyn Jenkins from rural Solva, was also elected last May..
So, apart from the fact that he is a man, Cllr Yelland fulfils none of the the criteria (experienced, urban) set out in Cllr Adam's answer to October's meeting.
We are well used to the IPPG's half-truths but they now seem to have descended to third-truths.
The fact is that there is only one qualification that matters: loyalty to the IPPG.
For further insight into this subject see (Rules are optional).
I'm afraid the way Pembrokeshire County Council is governed is perfectly expressed in the quote that appears on my home page: "Authoritarians have an extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of the man who can fabricate it (Hannah Arendt: Origins of Totalitarianism)

18 December 2012

How time flies!

Last week I reported on the county council meeting where my motion of no confidence in Cllr Huw George the Cabinet member for education went down by 32 votes to 15 with nine abstentions.
As I said, the great unknown was the contents of the two reports by the Welsh Audit Office (WAO) and schools' inspectorate Estyn which were due to be published the following Monday.
The only person who had seen the reports was Leader Cllr Jamie Adams. but when I challenged him to assure members that they contained no unpleasant surprises that might affect the way people might vote, he pleaded confidentiality.
Though it should be said that they were not so confidential as to prevent Cllr Adams from informing the meeting that they contained evidence of "green shoots" in the education system.
Now those reports have been published and we know the truth - and so do those who obediently expressed their confidence in Cllr George.
The Estyn report is particularly damning with the county's education system being rated adequate under six headings and unsatisfactory in the other six, with not a "good" or "excellent" in sight.
In fact things are so bad that Estyn is recommending that Welsh Ministers should put the council's education service in special measures i.e.send in commissioners to run it.
I will deal with the details of the report later in the week.
In the meantime, let us examine Cllr Adams' "green shoots".
These seem to have emerged in August/September 2012 which is more than a year after the publication of the original highly critical reports by Estyn and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate for Wales (CSSIW).
I don't think it is any coincidence that this was shortly after the Welsh Minister, alarmed by the lack of signs of improvement, gave the Pembrokeshire Ministerial Board (PMB) powers to direct the council to take whatever action the Board thought necessary.
It was only after having this particular gun held to its head that the council began to sit up and take notice.
In the run up to the issuing of these powers of direction the PMB informed the Minister: “The logical consequence of this situation is that the Board is placed in the position of being unable to perform, in relation to officers, the role for which it was appointed. It is not possible to be a productive “critical friend” to a person who essentially does not wish to be befriended. Indeed, there is the further consideration that persistence by the “friend” in such a relationship in effect colludes with the maintenance of the status quo.”
In his letter to the council Education Minister Leighton Andrews said that PMB has informed him that …”there is ongoing failure (by the authority) to understand real concerns and criticisms; or alternatively, a deliberate decision to ignore them” and “overall, there is an ongoing failure to address the fundamental issues”.
So, more than a year after Estyn and CSSIW had flashed the red light, the council was still in denial of the need for fundamental change.
And it was only after the minister had fired a warning shot across its bows that the seeds of change were sown.
Had prompt action been taken to address the issues identified in those two original reports, rather than green shoots we could have had the crop safely stowed away in the barn.
Are we to suppose that those who had to be forcibly prodded into taking remedial action are now the best people to carry forward the necessary changes?
By the looks on the faces of some of the IPPG members at Monday's presentation of the Estyn report, I wouldn't be surprised if not a few of those who loyally supported Cllr George are asking the same question.
It will be interesting to see whether the Western Telegraph publishes the full result of the recorded vote. Just in case they can't find the space, it can be found at (Win some - lose some)
Back to home page

December 12 2012

Victimhood

Word reaches Old Grumpy that PCC Leader Jamie Adams has been ringing opposition councillors in an attempt to drum up support for Cabinet member for education Cllr Huw George ahead of tomorrow's vote on my motion of no confidence.
I would imagine he has been doing the same to members of his own Independent Plus Political Group - the ones, you may remember, who are never told how to vote.
Of course, Cllr Adams is entitled to ring anyone he likes.
However, what I do object to is that he is putting it about that my motion of no confidence is part of a personal vendetta against Cllr George.
This is the old trick that the IPPG always falls back on when they have nothing sensible to say (Whitehall farce) (Simple explanation) (Hall's resignation statement).
And even more recently Cllr Adams, himself, stooped to telling the Western Telegraph that my NoM was a "personal attack on Cllr George" (24 October).
Of course, this tactic is designed to divert attention away from the substance of the debate, much like the naughty schoolboy who has been caught in the act responds: "why are you always picking on me, Sir?"
I would point out that, throughout this whole business, I have not canvassed the support of a single member of the council - not even my own family.
Several members have approached me offering their backing and I have been happy to discuss the issues with them.
One unaffiliated member did ring me prior to the October meeting, when my motion of no confidence was first presented, to inform me that he intended to vote in favour of Cllr George.
I can assure you that I made no attempt to persuade him to do otherwise.
Indeed, some members of the opposition have criticised me for my lack of activism in promoting my NoM.
Quite simply, I don't do arm-round-the-shoulder politics.
I much prefer to put my case forward and let people make up their own minds.
And while the views of councillors are important in the short term, at the end of the day it is what the voters think that really matters.
I take heart from the fact that I have always expressed my antipathy to the IPPG in the clearest possible terms in both my election addresses and on my website and the electors of Hakin have always given me solid support (Thoughts of Chairman Mo) despite (or because of) my being opposed by former IPG leader Eric Harries.
And it seems to be working on a wider scale because, following last May's election, the IPPG's majority is down from 39 - 21 to 32 - 28 (31 - 29 before they enticed Cllr Simon Hancock away from Labour).
You can fool some of the people some of the time, etc.
And, when things go against me, I always console myself with the thought that, eventually, the truth will have its day.

Back to home page

Wednesday 5 December 2012

 

Foregone conclusion

 

According to this week's Western Telegraph there was "No support for no confidence motion" at Monday's meeting of cabinet.
This is a reference to my no confidence motion in Cllr Huw George, the cabinet member for education.
It should come as no surprise that my motion didn't receive a single vote because the people doing the voting were Cllr George's cabinet colleagues, including Cllr George himself, all of whom hold their positions at the pleasure of the Leader Jamie Adams who appointed Cllr George to his post and, despite a string of adverse reports over the last 15 months about the council's education/child safeguarding performance, recently promoted him to Deputy Leader.
So, hardly what you might call an impartial tribunal.
Before the cabinet was my submission as to why I thought Cllr George should go (Submission) though there was no attempt during the Cabinet "debate" to counter any of my arguments.
Instead, The Leader said a few words about how he had "considerable confidence" in Cllr George, followed swiftly by the vote.
Readers will remember that, at the meeting of full council on October 18, I put down a notice of no confidence in Cllr Huw George.
The vice-chairman Cllr Arwyn Williams, who chaired that meeting in the absence of Cllr Peter Morgan, decided to remit my notice of motion for consideration by the Cabinet.
This came as something of a surprise to those who understand how democracy is supposed to work because there is no way the Cabinet can be expected to look objectively on the performance of one of its own members.
In any case, the chairman's word is final, so, as required by the rules, I put in a written submission in support of my case for Cllr George's removal (Submission).
Thanks to a recent change in the constitution I also had the right to put my case to Monday's meeting of Cabinet.
Having concluded that my chances of influencing the Cabinet on this issue were somewhere between zero and vanishing point, I instead made the following statement.
"As one of those who fought hard over many years for the right of members to address Cabinet, it gives me no pleasure to be here today.
This Notice of Motion should have been debated at full council on October 18, but, for whatever reason, the vice-chairman used his discretion to remit it to Cabinet.
I am frankly amazed that the vice-Chairman of this council should think that this Cabinet was an appropriate forum for a debate on a motion of no confidence in one of its own members.
That seems to offend against the principle of Natural Justice that says a man shouldn't be a judge in his own cause.
No doubt members will have read my submission in support of my Notice of Motion.
I am content to let that submission speak for itself, and will not dignify these proceedings by taking any further part in this undemocratic charade."
Chief Executive, Bryn Parry Jones, countered that the council's constitution provided that, having been moved and seconded, notices of motion that come before the council "stand referred without discussion to the Executive [Cabinet] or any such committee(s) as the council may determine. for consideration and report back to the council for determination".
So, on the face of it, my complaint about the vice chairman remitting my NoM to Cabinet was groundless.
However what the Chief Executive neglected to mention was that the constitution also states that: "Provided that the chairman may, if he/she considers it essential and conducive to the dispatch of business, allow the motion to be dealt with at the meeting at which it was brought forward."
Indeed, that was the process followed at the same October 18 meeting with regard to a NoM on NHS reorganisation submitted by Cllr David Lloyd.
The reason for remitting NoMs to Cabinet or Committee is to allow for detailed discussion in a less formal setting than full council.
Or, as our former Leader used to be fond of saying, "to add value" to the process.
As the decision was the most foregone of foregone conclusions it is difficult to see what purpose was achieved by sending it to Cabinet.
The only surprise was that Cllr Sue Perkins (Lab?) abstained
Even some of my opposition colleagues were doubtful about my use of "charade" but after considering "pantomime" (seasonal) and "farce" I came to the conclusion that charade most aptly described the situation.

 

Party piece

 

It is not difficult to guess what might be the main item on the agenda at the following "gathering", though, as we are told that IPPG members "are never told how to vote", you have to wonder what its purpose is.
What would I give to be a fly on the wall of Committee Room 2 next Monday afternoon?

To all members of the IPPG

"Sent: Tuesday, 30 October 2012, 17:14
Subject:

Hi All
At our last Group meeting, some time was spent discussing the timing of Group gatherings. Following on from these discussions, I have booked Committee Room 2 for 3 pm on Monday 10th of December.
I had hoped to arrange the meeting for the Tuesday, but, as there are no rooms available, on this occasion we will have to meet on the Monday - hence the early notice. I will send out a reminder nearer the date.
Regards
Rob
R M Lewis
County Councillor for the Martletwy Ward
&
Deputy Leader
Responsible for Highways, Transportation,
Planning and Major Events.
Tel 01437 77 66 17
**************************************************************************************************************
This document should only be read by those persons to whom it is addressed, and be used by them for its intended purpose; and must not otherwise be reproduced, copied, disseminated, disclosed, modified, distributed, published or actioned. If you have received this email in error, please notify us immediately by telephone on 01437 764551 and delete it from your computer immediately. This email address must not be passed on to any third party nor be used for any other purpose.
Pembrokeshire County Council Website - http://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk
Please Note: Incoming and outgoing e-mail messages are routinely monitored for compliance with our IT Security, and Email/Internet Policy.
This signature also confirms that this email message has been swept for the presence of computer viruses and malicious code."

Yet another example of the IPPG's inability to distinguish between the business of government and party politics.
This email was sent by R M Lewis chairman of the IPPG and not by R M Lewis Deputy Leader Responsible for Highways, Transportation, Planning and Major Events.
Indeed, according to that other website, the last major event he organised was the IPPG's recent election campaign.
I have solid information is that some members of the IPPG back my NoM, so it will be interesting to see how many of these "truly independent" councillors have the courage of their convictions when it comes to the vote at full council on December 13.
I'm afraid it is more likely to be yet another case of cometh the hour, cometh the sham.
Back to home page

a.m. Monday 12 November

Events over the weekend have left me considerably less pessimistic about the coming economic meltdown.
It seems that a country can default on its debts; suffer a 30% devaluation in its currency; and a huge drop in its living standards without it having any effect on the really important things in life.

Still more revelations on
that other website about the IPG's sophisticated election machine.
While there are issues with all this concerning the use of council resources, the key point is that these computer files demonstrate beyond doubt that the IPG is a quasi-political party whose existence is concealed from the electorate.
In other words: a gigantic con-trick.
It would also seem that it is not just the voters who are being taken for a ride - even some of the non-political, political party's own members were unaware of its operations.
I have already discussed the case of IPG member Cllr David Bryan who was somewhat surprised to discover that "the party" was running the election campaign of his challenger Byron Frayling (see July 10 below and Faulty memory).
Then, as
that other website reveals, some of those members who were elected on an independent/no description ticket were, unknown to them, running against "official" IPG candidates.
To entice them into the fold, they were invited to a meeting of the IPG shortly after the election where they were told by the party's putative Leader Cllr Jamie Adams: "As you know, there are nine Labour members returned, five Plaid, three Tories and one Lib Dem and the question is would it be correct to allow a group that's politically aligned to undertake the responsibility for the administration of the authority. When you consider that the largest group has nine out of the sixty you do question whether they have a mandate to undertake that."
I would have thought that, by definition, a party with nine out of 60 seats didn't have a mandate and, furthermore, it is not clear what system of arithmetic would enable that party to get its Leader elected as Leader of the council, as it would be required to do if it was to form the administration.
But you shouldn't expect too much by way of intellectual rigour from someone whose sole aim is to get his hands on the levers of power.

a.m. Monday 5 November

A mole has provided me with the email of 11 May 2012 that was sent to all signed-up members of the IPG (as it was then known) by Cabinet member Rob Lewis.
In order to accommodate Cllr Simon Hancock, it has now become the Independent Plus Political Group (IPPG).(see 24 May below)
Not so much a case of taking the Pee, but adding one.
Attached to this email is a letter from IPG (as it then was) Leader, Cllr Jamie Adams, informing the Political Group's members of his decision to appoint Cllr Sue Perkins to his Cabinet.
My analysis follows the email and attachment.



Sent: Friday, 11 May 2012, 16:39
Subject: Confidential

Dear Group Member
The Leader has asked me to forward the attached to you all. As you will see at the moment the aforesaid letter is highly confidential and we would appreciate if you could treat it as such until such time as further notified.
Many thanks
Rob <<Dear Independent Group Member.doc>>
R M Lewis
County Councillor for the Martletwy Ward
&
Cabinet Member for Sport,Leisure,Tourism, Communities
and Cultural services.
Tel 01437 77 66 17
**************************************************************************************************************
This document should only be read by those persons to whom it is addressed, and be used by them for its intended purpose; and must not otherwise be reproduced, copied, disseminated, disclosed, modified, distributed, published or actioned. If you have received this email in error, please notify us immediately by telephone on 01437 764551 and delete it from your computer immediately. This email address must not be passed on to any third party nor be used for any other purpose.
Pembrokeshire County Council Website - http://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk
Please Note: Incoming and outgoing e-mail messages are routinely monitored for compliance with our IT Security, and Email/Internet Policy.
This signature also confirms that this email message has been swept for the presence of computer viruses and malicious code.
***************************************************************************************************************
Dim ond y sawl y mae'r ddogfen hon wedi'i chyfeirio atynt ddylai ei darllen, a'i defnyddio ganddynt ar gyfer ei dibenion bwriadedig; ac ni ddylid fel arall ei hatgynhyrchu, copio, lledaenu, datgelu, addasu, dosbarthu, cyhoeddi na'i rhoi ar waith chwaith. Os ydych chi wedi derbyn yr e-bost hwn trwy gamgymeriad, byddwch cystal a rhoi gwybod i ni ar unwaith trwy ffonio 01437 764551 a'i ddileu oddi ar eich cyfrifiadur ar unwaith. Ni ddylid rhoi'r cyfeiriad e-bost i unrhyw drydydd parti na'i ddefnyddio ar gyfer unrhyw ddiben arall chwaith.
Gwefan Cyngor Sir Penfro - http://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk
Sylwer: Mae negeseuon e-bost sy’n cael eu hanfon a’u derbyn yn cael eu monitro’n rheolaidd ar gyfer cydymffurfio â’n Diogelwch TG, a’n Polisi E-bost/Rhyngrwyd.
Mae'r llofnod hwn hefyd yn cadarnhau bod y neges e-bost hon wedi cael ei harchwilio am fodolaeth firysau cyfrifiadurol a chod maleisus.
***************************************************************************************************************

The Leader's letter

Dear Independent Group Member

I trust those of you who are new members are enjoying your first experience of life as a County Councillor
My reason for this confidential email is to inform you of one important decision I have made in terms of Cabinet positions
The critical post of Cabinet Member for Safeguarding was previously held by Cllr Anne Hughes who undertook the role with great dedication and empathy. Unfortunately we lost Anne’s company through the election process and so my thoughts have been prioritised to fill this critical role.
I have considered for some time that there is a need to cast a wide net to ensure that as Members we all understand that it is not somebody else’s responsibility to consider safeguarding but indeed a responsibility placed on us all. It is also paramount to ensure that this particular role is fulfilled by a Member who inspires confidence throughout the Authority and indeed beyond.
I have chosen a member who has had considerable experience in Council and in particular in the field of Children’s services as a long-standing member and latterly vice chair of Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and also contributed constructively on the Safeguarding Board This member represents a ward which covers a Communities First area and some of the most challenging environments in which to bring up children and young people in our County. It is unusual I know for a majority group leader to even consider appointing a Member from another group to Cabinet but I place such importance on this role that I am convinced that we must embrace the experience of Cllr Sue Perkins to undertake this demanding role.
I hope you feel that you can support me in this decision and I look forward to meeting with you all next week

Kind regards

Jamie

1. Though this is clearly an internal party matter, this email was sent from a county council computer.
2. It contains the standard county council warning about the email being only used for its intended purpose etc, though as it wasn't an official county council email these words had no force whatsoever.
3. It is signed by Cllr R M Lewis Cabinet member for Sport, Leisure, Tourism, Communiuties and Cultural Services, though it was actually sent by Cllr R M Lewis Chairman of the Independent Political Group.
4. The email is dated 11 May 2012, though it wasn't until 24 May 2012 that Cllr Jamie Adams was elected as Leader of the council. So, prior to the 24 May, he was in no position to appoint Sue Perkins, or anyone else, to the Cabinet.
5. The mailing list reveals that when the email was sent the IPG (as it was then known) had only 28 paid-up members - not enough to guarantee that Cllr Adams would be elected Leader of the council.
So his reference to himself as "a majority group leader" is clearly inaccurate. Cllr David Bryan, who was on the original list, subsequently resigned and Cllrs Brian Hall, Lyn Jenkins, Reg Owen and Tom Richards were later persuaded to sign up and, together with Cllr Simon Hancock, poached from Labour and rapidly promoted to Cabinet rank, provided the IPPG (as it is now known) with its present 32-28 majority.

What this seems to show is that the email's author, Cllr Rob Lewis, fails to understand the distinction between Cabinet and party business.
Further evidence of this confusion can be found on That other website where Cllr Lewis's electioneering activities are laid bare.

p.m. 31 October

The "Party" is in full swing over on That other website where Jacob Williams has posted further documentary proof of the lengths to which the non-political, political party known as the IPG was prepared to go to retain its grip on power.
Old Grumpy was particularly taken by the documents created by Cllr Rob Lewis in which the three truly independent councillors: Malcolm Calver, Grumpette and myself, are described as IDIOTS.
We were later joined by Cllr Phil Baker (Saundersfoot) who refused the IPG's offer to throw away his dictionary and sign up for what the Western Telegraph once referred to as the "oxymoron" party.
Just think, this is the same party whose chairman Johnny Allen-Mirehouse reported me to the Ombudsman for being disrespectful to his members.
However, as the High Court recently decided, we politicians are expected to have thick skins so I am not going to allow myself to get too upset by Rob Lewis's name-calling (see 29 September below) .
After all, I was once branded a liar by twice-defeated, former IPG leader Maurice Hughes (Smear-Leader) (Pot and Kettle) so having my intelligence insulted by Rob Lewis is a relatively minor matter.
In any case, it has been suggested to me that taking IDIOT as a comment on my IQ might be evidence of paranoia because, equally, it could be an acronym for Intelligent Dictionary- Inspired Opersition Types.
Before Isa Pedant emails to point out that it should be "opposition" not "opersition" I would say that is the way Rob Lewis spells it and, as he's a Cabinet member, it would be disrespectful for a peasant (I nearly said pleb) like me to draw attention to his deficiencies in the literacy department.
Perhaps he was educated at the school whose head teacher wrote to all county council members saying that Cllr Huw George's efforts on behalf of children "can not be faltered".
Alternatively, he could have attended the school whose "professional expert" [Council leader Cllr Jamie Adams' description] wrote that ". . . I feel strongly convicted to voice my support for the work that Cllr Huw George undertakes in his role"
It is not clear what offence this head teacher might have committed.
Crimes against the language, perhaps.
PS Alas, there is no escape from the pedants. One of them has just emailed to say that there is a logical inconsistency in the paragraph above that begins "alternatively" because both "faltered" and "convicted" appear in the same letter.
Do these people never sleep?

 

a.m. 24 October

Today's Western Telegraph article on my motion of no confidence in Cllr Huw George repays careful study
First the headline: "Council denies rallying support for under fire county councillor" followed by the county council's denial that it has conducted an "orchestrated campaign" in support of Cllr George, is the type of "straw man" argument much beloved of those who wish to divert attention away from the real issue.
This is a reference to the 23 letters sent to all county councillors by a selection of the county's head teachers singing Cllr George's praises and condemning my notice of motion with emotive terms like shame, disgust, shocked, disappointment, alarmed and horrified.
It will be noticed that my statement published in the article makes no allegations about this being an "orchestrated campaign", so there is nothing to deny.
And it is interesting to note the council doesn't say the letter-writing campaign wasn't orchestrated, merely that it was not wielding the baton.
That, of course, doesn't exclude the possibility that a member or members of the county council were operating behind the the scenes, or that a head teacher(s) was the driving force.
Applying the iron principle that you should never believe anything until has been officially denied, I have been taking a closer look at these letters and the evidence, which will have to wait for a later blog, would seem to indicate that somebody was playing the Barbirolli role.
My statement to the paper concentrates on two areas: the apparent conflict between these letters and the code of conduct which requires council employees to be politically neutral, and the attempt, by the use of emotive language, to challenge my democratic right to put down notices of motion about any subject that I consider worthy of public debate.
Council leader Cllr Jamie Adams is quoted in the WT as saying: "Not content with a personal attack on Cllr Huw George, Cllr Stoddart now wishes to challenge the wider education community in Pembrokeshire by questioning the views voluntarily offered by professional experts."
So, the straw man having received a good kicking, Cllr Adams resorts to his stock-in-trade smear tactics.
To characterise my no confidence motion as a "personal attack" on Cllr Huw George is, I'm afraid, a descent into the political gutter.
All I am doing is initiating a debate on whether the Cabinet member, who was in charge during the period leading up to the damning reports highlighting the serious flaws in the council's child safeguarding procedures, should be held to account.
It is my strongly held view that he should.
And it is my even more strongly held view I that I have the right to say so.
As for the bit about challenging the views of the "professional experts" that only serves to demonstrate how little Cllr Adams understands about the workings of democracy.
If it is not to challenge the experts, what are elected members for?
Turning up at meetings and putting up their hands for whatever the experts decree, perhaps.
Indeed, one the more serious criticisms in the joint Estyn/CSSIW report is that elected members don't challenge enough.
In any case, my six 'A' levels and seven years of university education allow me to claim some expertise in this field, and any gaps in my knowledge can usually be filled by consulting one, or more, of the three qualified teachers (experts?) in the family.

am Monday 22 October

My motion of no confidence in Cllr Huw George, cabinet member for children and the Welsh language, has caused something of a stir among the county's education establishment with 22 head teachers writing to all members of the council supporting Cllr George (see below).
Whether these letters are consistent with the requirement that council employees should remain politically neutral is a question we can leave for another day.
In the meantime, I can report that , rather than have the matter dealt with straight away, the chairman, Cllr Arwyn Williams, used his discretion to refer my motion to Cabinet which will make a recommendation to December's meeting of full council.
That leaves me in something of a dilemma because, having fought long and hard to win the right for members to address Cabinet when their notices of motion came before that august body, I now have to decide whether to participate in this charade.
The notion that the Cabinet, all appointed by the Leader Cllr Jamie Adams, can deal objectively with this issue is strictly for the fairies, so why should I waste my time banging my head against a brick wall?
If anyone is interested in a bet, I am offering ten bottles of merlot to one that the cabinet recommends that my NoM be rejected.
There is a theory going around that, because of the absence of several IPPG members, the leader, fearing he might not have enough votes at his command to defeat my notice of motion, instructed/persuaded the chairman to remit it to Cabinet.
He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.
I find that improbable because, according to my arithmetic, with Plaid planning to abstain, my motion was doomed to fail.
In any case, the idea that the chairman, who has a duty of impartiality, would be swayed by pressure from the leader is surely fanciful.
So I can only assume that, in the spirit of fair play, the chairman took this step in order to allow me more time to prepare my case and counter some of the spurious, self-serving arguments advanced by the head teachers' cabal.
By the way, it is interesting to note that two-thirds of the county's heads didn't take part in this letter-writing exercise, though, with the matter due to resurface in December, there is still time.

am October 17 2012

You may have read in the Western Telegraph that there is a meeting of full council tomorrow (Thursday).
The WT has gone through the agenda and highlighted what it considers the most interesting items.
These include a question by Cllr Peter Stock on our struggling town centres; and one by Cllr Jacob Williams on the Pembrokeshire flag.

Tucked away at the bottom of a puff piece plus photograph, featuring Cabinet members Huw George and Sue Perkins, on the the decision to combine the roles of director of education and director of social services, there is the announcement that I have put down a motion of no confidence in Cllr Huw George.
Cllr George was the Cabinet member responsible for education when the events occurred that led to last year's damning CSSIW report on the lack of child safeguarding in the county..
Last week, I reported that elected members had been informed of the decision to combine the two departments (education and social services) in an email from the chief executive.
There was no consultation that I was aware of, though the WT quotes Cllr Perkins as saying that the question as to whether one person could carry out both roles "had been fully explored before the decision was taken".
Unfortunately, the WT's reporter didn't think to ask who had done the exploring.
Interestingly, I raised this issue of lack of consultation at a recent meeting and I was told that the decision was for the chief executive, alone, to make.
Cllrs Perkins and George were both present and neither uttered a peep to the contrary.
So this week's piece of propaganda has two purposes: to head off criticism over the chief executive's unilateral decision to combine the two departments and to show what an important chap is Cllr George ahead of tomorrow's vote of confidence.
And the propaganda doesn't stop there because yesterday (Tuesday) all members of the council received emails from five head teachers singing Cllr George's praises.
And, as I write, they keep coming in - three so far this morning, already. We are used to the IPPG's synchronised voting habits, but synchronised letter writing is a new departure.
While it is encouraging to think that these heads are taking an interest in what goes on in county hall, it is difficult to understand how one of these letters came to be written on 10 October before the minutes had been published.
Whether it is wise for these heads to get themselves involved in politics is a moot point especially as four of these letters are written on official school notepaper.
Are they speaking for themselves, or for the school, and, if the latter, were the governors consulted?
In this context, it is interesting to read what the council's Code of Conduct for employees has to say.
Under the heading "Political neutrality" it reads: "Employees serve the authority as a whole. It follows they must serve all councillors and not just those of the ruling group and must ensure that the individual rights of all councillors are respected."
Including, presumably, my right to put down motions of no confidence in Cabinet members.
And, if as I suspect, this "campaign" has been orchestrated from inside the Cabinet room, how does that stand alongside the requirement in the members' code of conduct that they "must not do anything that compromises, or which is likely to compromise, the impartiality of those who work for, or on behalf of, your authority."
These letters themselves would be worrying enough, but the tone of some of them borders on the hysterical.
Such as this from the head of Tavernspite: " I am writing to express complete and utter shock and dismay that there is an item (no. 37) on next week's meeting agenda (Oct 18th) requesting a vote of no confidence in Cllr Huw George. I believe the vote of no confidence has been put forward by Cllr Stoddard (sic)."
Or this from Narberth CP school: "It is with great shame and disgust that I read of Cllr M Stoddarts (sic) motion for the next Council meeting of `The Council has no confidence in the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Education and the Welsh Language - Councillor Huw George."
The head of Milford Junior school opined: "Councillor Stoddart may well believe that he is doing the people of Pembrokeshire a service by tabling his motion, but first he should have communicated with the schools and young people of Pembrokeshire. and concluded: "I urge you to reject this motion."
Most of the letters received so far have highlighted Cllr George's efforts in leading assemblies and handing out prizes.
Typical is this from Tavernspite: "Huw always makes a massive effort to do all he can for our school and never turns down an opportunity to visit. We feel he puts the need of the children before anything and the children think the world of him. He is funny, charismatic and completely engaging to both children and adults alike."
Well, all that might be true, but as Cabinet member for education Cllr George's role is not as part-time chaplain/children's entertainer.
His job is to formulate the council's education policies and then make sure the officers carry them out and, as anyone who has read last year's Estyn and CSSIW reports will have to conclude, this he singularly failed to do.
The, then, Leader of the county council was so unimpressed with Cllr George's performance that he stripped him of half his Cabinet responsibilities.
Since this crisis blew up we have had the "retirement" of both the director of social services (Jon Skone) and the director of education (Graham Longster)
My understanding is that, in a democracy, it is the politicians, not the the civil servants, who are ultimately responsible to the electorate.
Hence my motion of no confidence in Cllr George on whose watch all this occurred.
I realise that some of these letters were written in haste and we all make mistakes, but could I suggest that the head teacher who wrote that that Cllr George's efforts on behalf of the county's children "can not be faltered" might benefit from participation in the school's literacy hour.
Finally, if the events of the past few weeks (Hillsborough, Jimmy Savile) have taught us anything it is that the circling of the establishment wagons, when one of their own is under threat, is an inherently dangerous way to go.

There is some very interesting activity over at that "other website" run by Cllr Jacob Williams, who has the distinction of being the only member of the council to have his ward - East Williamston - named after him.
The only difference is that his mastery of the technology allows him to reproduce these documents on his website while I can only talk about them.
I console myself with the fact that, while these youngsters might be wizards at using these new-fangled computers, it was my generation that invented them.
But, enough sour grapes.
Cllr Williams seems to have settled on "Partygate" as shorthand for his revelations. My own thoughts included Indygate, or Eyepeegeegate, or Massiveconfidencetrickgate, but, on reflection, Partygate is probably best.

 

am Saturday 29 September

The Ombudsman has issued revised guidance on the operation of the Code of Conduct to take account of Cllr Malcolm Calver's successful High Court action against the decision of Pembrokeshire County Council's standards committee - which was upheld after an appeal to the Adjudication Panel for Wales (APW) - that he breached the Code of Conduct by publishing criticisms of Manorbier Community Council on his website Manorbier.com,
In the guidance the Ombudsman says: "Political groupings in authorities are expected to campaign for their ideas, and they may also seek to discredit the policies and action of their opponents. Criticism of ideas and opinion is part of democratic debate, and it is unlikely that such comments would ever be considered to be a breach of the Code of Conduct for failing to treat someone with respect and consideration.
Furthermore, members’ freedom of expression attracts enhanced protection when their comments are political in nature. “Political” comments are not confined to those made within council meetings and, for example, include comments members may generally make on their council’s policies or about their political opponents.
It is therefore highly unlikely that I will investigate complaints made in this context and councillors need a “thicker skin” in dealing with, and responding to, politically motivated comments."
This, I am pleased to say, echoes my successful defence to the latest complaint against me by Cllr Johnny Allen-Mirehouse (Unchained).
Old Grumpy has also received a copy of a letter from the Ombudsman to the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) in which the new rules are even more clearly expressed.
The Ombudsman informs the WLGA: "The impact of this ruling [Calver v APW] is that my staff will have to apply a higher threshold when deciding whether to investigate any conduct complained about which may be regarded as "political expression". I will not therefore investigate such cases where "political" criticisms are made, regardless of the tone of the exchange."
I am sure Cllr Calver will confirm that, throughout his long battle with the PCC standards committee and the APW, my consistent advice was that their decisions wouldn't stand up to scrutiny by the High Court.
Of course, it was easy for me to take that view, because I wasn't paying the lawyers' bills.
In addition, I had a vested interest in the matter because, if these decisions had been allowed to stand, the contents of this website would have put me in jeopardy.
So, although Cllr Calver lost his seat at the election, he can take some consolation from the fact that he did more to uphold the democratic right to freedom of speech than all the rest of us put together.
And he can also take comfort from the fact that, long after we are all dead and buried, keen young law students will be analysing the Calver judgment as they research their essays on the Human Rights Act.
During the High Court hearing Cllr Calver's counsel, Robert McCracken QC argued that, if the APW's decision was allowed to stand, it would have "a chilling effect" on free speech.
It feels a good deal warmer this morning.

am Wednesday 25 July

On reading this week's WT, I was a bit disappointed, but not surprised, to find nothing about my question on the 21st Century Schools' programme which, if implemented, will see expenditure of £150 million on school building in Pembrokeshire between 2014 and 2021.
Of this colossal sum, £75 million will be provided by the Welsh Government and the the other half by Pembrokeshire County Council.
The county council has committed itself to the programme, but, apart from some vigorous hand-waving, no indication has been given as to how this huge amount of cash - over £10 million a year for seven years - is to be raised.
I have a dog in this fight because one of the new schools on the list of potential projects is that in Hakin to accommodate the recently amalgamated Hakin Junior and Hakin Infants.
Another school on the list is that in Johnston.
I have been keen to see movement on this issue and last February I sought a progress report by way of a written question to the Leader.
I was told that everything was at the preliminary stage and "At this stage, therefore, it was impossible to provide Members with certainty about the confirmed inclusion of specific projects, their timescales or their prioritisation across the entire programme."
So it came as something of a surprise to read the election address put out by Cllr Ken Rowlands - Cabinet member for the environment and regulatory services (including trading standards) - in which he claimed that the Welsh Government and PCC had jointly committed £7million to the new school in Johnston (Shaky foundations).
In order to satisfy myself that there had been no sudden, unannounced change in the situation between February and May's election I put down another question to last week's meeting.
From the Leader's answer, it seems that, while there have been discussions with the Welsh Government about various issues, there has been no material change since February.
So I took the opportunity with a supplementary question to ask if the Leader agreed with me that Cllr Rowlands' election address contained "a serious misrepresentation".
The Leader launched into a wafflathon that would have done his predecessor credit, but answer came there none.
So I asked again - just yes or no?
This time he was a bit more forthcoming: saying that members sometimes make promises in their election material that they can't deliver.
That may well be true, but it is not something that should be encouraged.
However, by its very nature, a promise involves some action to be taken in the future, while Cllr Rowlands' election address contained a statement of fact about something - committed investment - that he falsely claimed had already happened.
On reflection, "serious misrepresentation" may have been a bit too kind.
Must learn to call a spade a spade.

am Tuesday 24 July

Considering all that is going on, last Thursday's meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council council was a somewhat tame affair.
One highlight was the Independent Plus Political Group's efforts to rubbish Cllr David Bryan's question about the cost of the "goodie bags" provided to all councillors after the election.
Earlier a motion had been passed restoring the rights of members to ask supplementary questions which had been removed by the previous Leader
in what Cllr Bob Kilmister called, with every justification, "an affront to democracy".
During the debate on that issue our new Leader, Cllr Jamie Adams, delivered a little homily in which he said that members should restrict themselves to asking "meaningful" questions.
He didn't elaborate on who should be the judge of meaningfulness.
And when Cllr Bryan's question came to be answered the IPPG's senior enforcer, Cllr Brian Hall, rose to say the question was "stupid".
Then, in what looked suspiciously like an organised IPPG attempt to ridicule Cllr Bryan, Cllr Pearl Llewellyn Chairman of Licensing jumped up to ask if he had accepted the "goodie bag".
At that point I felt compelled to intervene on a point of order and draw the chairman's attention to the fact that the constitution allowed members to question Cabinet members and committee chairman, and not the other way around.
Not that it mattered because Cllr Bryan was happy to tell members that he had declined to accept his "goodie bag".
He also pointed out that, in these times of austerity, spending over two thousand pounds on perks for members didn't send out the right message.
The "goodies" included 50 ties at £11 each and it is arguable that the £500+ might have been better spent on school books or home helps.
Of course, the odd grand or two in a budget of over £300 million, is mere bagatelle, but it is important that elected members don't give the impression that they have their snouts in the trough.
For the past three weeks the county council's books have been open for public inspection.
Old Grumpy is rather surprised that, to date, only three members of the council have made the trip to Thornton to find out how their constituents' money is being spent.
Also in attendance has been the estimable John Hudson who takes a keen interest in these matters.
Last autumn Mr Hudson sent me the details of the 2010 annual civic dignitaries bash at the ultra-posh Stone Hall restaurant.

Twenty guests attended at a cost of £1,216.90 (£60.84 each)
Lord Lieutenant and Lady
The Chairman and Consort
Chief Exec and spouse
Lord Mayor of Swansea and Lady mayoress
Chairman of Ceredigion
Chief exec of Ceredigion and spouse
The Cathaoirleach of Wexford CC
The County manager of Wexford CC and spouse
Chairman of Carmarthen and spouse
Mayor of Neath Port Talbot and mayoress
Chairman of Powys and consort.

Now, if twelve hundred quid was the end of the matter that might just about be acceptable.
But, during my recent trawl through the council's books I came across some invoices for the return match with Wexford.
These included £163 for a car and four adults for a return trip on the Stena ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare and a bill from White's Hotel for £320 in respect of "2 x superior double rooms".
Add to that the cost of trips in the chauffeur-driven limo to Carmarthen, Aberaeron, Swansea, Port Talbot and wherever Powys has its HQ and you're soon looking at a tidy sum.
And this civic expenditure doesn't end there.
I notice an invitation from Stena for the Chief Executive, Chairman and Leader to attend a "Four Course Mouth Watering Seafood Dinner, including Wine and Entertainment to celebrate Pembrokeshire Fish Week at the Marquee, Fishguard Harbour on Friday 1 July 2011 @ 7.30 pm".
It is not clear from the accounts exactly who attended but the four tickets cost the taxpayer £180, which is almost double what a single person on a basic pension has to manage on for a week.
And I'd be most surprised if the limo + uniformed chauffeur wasn't used to convey these bigwigs to and fro the event.
I am in no doubt that the chauffeur was on parade when the Chairman Cllr David Pugh and Cllr Ken Rowlands + spouses, went to London for the Royal garden party on 19 July 2011 because the bill for his hotel accommodation (£144) is in the accounts.
So too are the invoices for the rooms occupied by the two couples (2 X £156).
Add in the chauffeur's wages, congestion charge and the petrol and you're getting close to four figures.
Now, I might have missed something, but I can't for the life of me see how any of the expenditure outlined above is to the benefit of my constituents whose taxes, after all, paid the bills.
If, as anticipated, the crisis in the Eurozone drags the British economy even deeper into the mire, and local authorities are forced to make deep spending cuts, these extravagant displays of civic grandiosity should be first in line for the chop.
Treasury minister David Gauke has said that paying cash in hand to people in exchange for a discount is immoral because others have to make up the tax shortfall caused by the black economy.
I daresay Mr Gawk is right, but is it not also immoral to squander taxpayers' money on self-serving boondoggles of the sort detailed above.
Politicians must realise that their contract with taxpayers cuts both ways.

a.m Tuesday 17 July 2012

I notice there is a bit of chirping going on at that other website (jacobwilliams.com) as a result of young Cllr Williams' minor triumphs on the subject of John Davies failed bid to become Tory candidate for the Police Commissioner's job (see below).
This twin scoop was the result of the East Williamston wordsmith's highly placed contacts in the Tory party.
He reminds me of those golfers who fluke back-to-back birdies and start to behave as if they were the next Jack Nicklaus.
In any case, having contacts in the Tory party is something that most people would want to keep quiet about.
However, I would stress that I am not the least bit fazed by his sudden emergence as a rival on the blogosphere.
If the past is any guide to the future, there will be plenty of material to keep us both in business for many years to come.
Cllr Williams describes his arrival on the scene as ending my "eight-year period of unchallenged dominance".
Actually, I started writing under the name of Old Grumpy in October 1992 in the Mercury.
Put a note in your diary against July 2032 so you can check if he has the same staying power.
I suppose what really hurts is that this piece of treachery was posted on the web soon after a few of us, including Cllr Williams, had what I thought was a friendly drink in the Bristol Trader following a long training session on child safeguarding.
He was all smiles and bonhomie, though at the time he must have already been planning this stab in the back.
Typical politician!!
What makes matters even harder to bear is that I bought the drinks.
I wouldn't normally divulge sensitive personal information, but, now that the gloves are off, I feel justified in telling you that young Jacob had a diet coke.
If he thinks he can sustain a high-powered blog on that sort of low octane fuel, he is seriously mistaken.
He would do well to remember that the original Jacob is best known for dreaming of a ladder stretching up to Heaven, and that sort of vision is not to be found in a bottle of dark brown fizzy water.
Unless he turns to Chilean Merlot, or some other source of inspiration, I'm afraid it won't be long before he comes back to earth with bump and resorts to delighting his readers, or should that be reader, with page-turners on "drainage issues on Ford Lane".

a.m. Tuesday 10 July 2012

It has been Old Grumpy's good fortune over the years to be blessed with some highly productive moles.
But the latest recruit to my underground workforce is a class apart.
They now tell me that, during April, the Cabinet room in county hall was a hive of activity.
Now, you might say, so it should be because we pay these Cabinet members a Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) of £15,000 a year to toil on our behalf.
But here's the rub: the efforts of two of them (Cllrs David Wildman and Rob Lewis) were not directed to your interests because they were conducting the election campaign of that motley collection of county council members - better known as the Independendent Political Group - who do not believe that politics has any part to play in local government
My information is that election addresses and other publicity material for several candidates was being produced in the Cabinet room.
What is perhaps most surprising is that one of the many beneficiaries of Cllr Wildman and Lewis' computing skills was one Byron Frayling who was not even a member of the IPG.
For those of you who are not up to speed on these matters, Mr Frayling, whose brother Lyndon was already an ultra-loyal member of the IPG, was standing as a candidate in Haverfordwest Priory.
His opponent was Cllr David Bryan, a longstanding member of the IPG, who has represented the ward since 2004.
Why Cllr Wildman should be helping the opponent of one of the IPG's own members is, to say the least, puzzling, especially as the last time I looked at the councillor's register of interests both he and David Bryan were down as card-carrying Tory party members.
No wonder Cllr Bryan decided to ditch the IPG soon after the election and become a dictionary independent.
Makes you wonder what else was going on.

P S. Cllr Jacob Williams has an interesting update on Cllr John Davies' bid to become Tory party candidate for the police commissioner's job (see jacobwilliams.com).
The possibility that Cllr Davies' will fail to land the Tory party nomination has led to much gossip in the members' tea room as to who among the present Cabinet members will be sacrificed to smooth the prodigal's return to the top table.
There seems to be general agreement regarding the identity of the fatted calf, but, as I prefer facts to idle speculation, I will say no more.
Should that situation arise, however, the member selected for the chop will probably go quietly; citing the need to spend more time with their family/business pressures as the reason for their resignation.

a.m. Wednesday 13 June

The latest bombshell from the Pembrokeshire Ministerial Board (PMB) has arrived in my inbox.
It is interesting to wonder why the Leader, Cllr Jamie Adams, chose to wait until quarter-to-six on Tuesday evening - long after the story had appeared on the BBC's website - before copying elected members into this letter.
My own interest in this letter is what it has to say about the culture within PCC.
PCC is a massive organisation with over 4,000 employees and a budget in excess of £300 million.
Having been in business all my adult life, I realise that such an organisation will make mistakes.
However, the key cultural issue is how organisations react when their deficiencies are brought to light.
Readers will remember that, when the original reports were published last summer, the Cabinet member responsible, Cllr Huw George, initially claimed that the council's failings merely resulted in potential harm to children but that none had suffered actual harm.
When that story failed to stand up to the facts, the then, leader, Cllr John Davies, came up with the theory that this was all a Welsh government conspiracy to damage Independent controlled councils with the long term aim of returning to something akin to the former Dyfed CC.
Unfortunately for Cllr Davies the PMB; headed by a retired High Court Judge, proved rather less susceptible to this sort of arm-waving, rhetoric than the obedient members of the ruling Independent Political Group (IPG.).
Cllr Davies then changed tack and promises of reform flowed thick and fast.
But, as many of us suspected, this was more a change of tactics than a change of heart.
It seems that the PMB was similarly unimpressed because in this most recent letter from the Welsh Government there are plenty of references to the resistance of senior officers to change.
And, whatever the appearances, it is the senior officers and not the Cabinet that call the shots.
As one of my former colleagues at the Mercury put it: the Independent Political Group is the political wing of the Chief Officers Management Board (COMB).
Or as somebody once said of John Major, the IPG and its Cabinet are in office, but not in power.
The following extracts from the Ministerial letter paint an alarming picture.

We write to inform you, however, that despite that support, the PMB inform us that progress in improving safeguarding arrangements for children in Pembrokeshire is still worryingly slow. The indications are that senior officers in the authority, do not accept the need to change the authority’s approach to safeguarding. On occasions, chief officers appear either not to know what is happening in the authority’s schools or do know but then fail to disclose information appropriately (to the PMB or other officers or Council members) or
take appropriate action.
On 27 May 2012 the PMB advised the Welsh Ministers that in its view senior officers in the authority do not see the need for change in the culture and modes of operation which it has always followed. On the contrary, it wishes to see them preserved. The PMB concluded that: “The logical consequence of this situation is that the PMB is placed in the position of being unable to perform, in relation to the officers, the role for which it was appointed. It is not possible to be a productive "critical friend" to a person who essentially does not wish to be befriended. Indeed, there is the further consideration that persistence by the "friend" in such a relationship in effect colludes in the maintenance of the status quo”.
It is with great disappointment and growing concern that we continue to receive reports of failings in the education service’s safeguarding arrangements, senior officers’ role in that failing and the authority’s failure as a whole to address the issue.
The PMB reports that any overt co-operation by senior officers is generally little more than window dressing. Actions tend to be reactive, and are only taken under prompts from the PMB, the inspectorates or Welsh Government.

Unfortunately, there is a culture in PCC that regards asking questions of officers as a form of bad manners.
Fortunately, the recent elections results have increased the number of loutish oafs who see it as their duty to hold the Executive to account.
Happily, the Welsh Government seems to support this development because the letter also says: There also remains within the authority a culture where elected members seem unable to submit officers to proper scrutiny and challenge, and officers and front line staff are afraid to disclose concerns.
In light of all of this, we wonder what confidence you, or for that matter, we, can have in your senior officers.
Indeed!

a.m. Wednesday 30 May

Tony Benn's objections to the European Union are partly based on the democratic deficit which results from the Commission which runs the organisation being an unelected quango.
As Mr Benn is fond of saying: the essence of democracy is that if the voters are dissatisfied with the performance of the Government "they can kick the blighters out".
That seems as succinct a description of democratic accountability as you are likely to come across.
So, how does it work in practice?
Well, on the evidence of the case of Cllr Huw George, Cabinet member for children and young persons, not very well.
Cllr George, you may recall, was the Cabinet member with responsibility for those areas of activity criticised in last summer's reports by the Estyn and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW).
The CSSIW report found serious flaws in the council's child protection procedures, while the Estyn report drew attention to the poor performance of the county's schools; both of which were matters contained in Cllr George's brief.
As a result Cllr Danny Fellows, the chairman of the scrutiny committee which was supposed to be keeping an eye on Cllr George's area of responsibility, was forced to resign and Cllr George was stripped of a large part of his portfolio which were handed over to Cllr Anne Hughes.
That prompted Cllr Michael Williams to put down a written question to full council asking if Cllr George's allowance had been trimmed to reflect his reduced workload.
The Leader replied that Cabinet members had collective responsibility across all functions and um, er, the answer was no.
Old Grumpy notices that Cllr George's failings in the child protection department seem not to have affected his long-term career prospects because our new Leader, Cllr Jamie Adams, has promoted him to deputy leader which allows him to trouser an extra two-and-a-half grand a year.
Rewards for failure?
Meanwhile, Cllr Adams, who, as a member of the Cabinet and deputy Leader, also had "collective responsibility" for the child protection fiasco, has slipped into the top job which pays £47,500 - £16,400 more than he previously received as deputy leader.
No wonder he was so keen to sign up enough members to ensure his IGP (formerly IPG) had a majority.

 

 

a.m. Thursday 24 May

The latest news is that Labour's Cllr Simon Hancock has now crossed the floor and joined the majority group.
Rumour is that he is to be rewarded for this piece of opportunism with a £14,700 a year Cabinet billet.
There have been whispers since well before the election that Cllr Hancock might be heading in that direction but various obstacles apeared in the way and move was delayed to the last minute.
First it was said that the condition that he must leave the Labour Party was a bridge too far. Then the word was that the Haverfordwest Museum Trustees were not pleased at the prospect of their curator belonging to a party whose policy was to sell the town's castle and relocate the museum to Tower Hill.
The latest I heard was that he was baulking at the idea of joining the Independent Political Group.
You can't blame him for that because the last IPG member to represent Neyland on the county council was Maureen Molyneux and she came a distant last in the recent elections.
Somebody came up with a splendid wheeze to get round this objection: they rebranded the party so Cllr Hancock didn't join the IPG, he joined the Independent Group Plus (IGP).
Clever stuff, Eh?
Don't suppose anybody will notice.
My spell-checker hasn't, it is still offering the same alternative for the acronym.
That leaves the delightful prospect of Labour Leader Cllr Sue Perkins sitting alongside Cllr Ken Rowlands who deserted the Labour party just before the 2008 election and Cllr Hancock.
Three died-in-the-wool Socialists in the cabinet - no wonder some of the closet-Tories are looking a bit green around the gills.
It is difficult to extract reliable information from within the IPG - oops, sorry IGP - about the identities of the scrutiny committee chairs.
I have now adopted a rule of never believing anything until someone in the IGP has denied it, and on that basis I can say with some confidence that Cllr Brian Hall will be chairman of the environment O & S committee. Another due to be annointed is new boy Cllr Keith Lewis a protege of former leader John Davies, who will be charged with overseeing and scrutinising the county's economy. Who will occupy the other two, or is it three, scutiny chairs is a bit of a mystery but Plaid's Rhys Sinnett must be as near a certainty as it is possible to get.
And I'm pretty certain that the licencing committee will be chaired by Cllr Pearl Llewellyn with Cllr Umelda Havard as vice chair (both ex-labour).
In a break from tradition, this year's AGM will see the first election for Vice-chairman of council since PCC came back into being in 1996.
These things are usually decided behind closed doors at the IGP's group meeting, but this time Labour's Tom Tudor is chancing his arm against the IGP's poster-boy Cllr Arwyn Williams.
Cllr Williams has sent us all a letter extolling his virtues, especially the fact that he is retired and can devote himself full-time to the task.
This is thought to be a none too suble reference to the fact that Cllr Tudor works at the hospital and therefore can't devote himself full-time to the job. I am not sure whether suggesting that going out to work is a disadvantage is smart tactics. We will know by lunchtime.
But, must be off to the AGM where yesterday's gossip will become tomorrow's facts

p.m. Wednesday 23 May

Just back from county hall where things are moving at a dizzying pace.
It would appear that a recently introduced piece of legislation: The Local Government Measure (LGM), has thrown a spanner into the carefully oiled political machinery.
You will have to be patient while I try to explain how this works.
Firstly the LGM provides that an "executive group" is "a political group, some or all of whose members comprise or are included in, the Executive [Cabinet] of the Authority".
So, the elevation of its leader Sue Perkins to the Cabinet alongside members of the majority IPG makes Labour (eight seats - was nine before Cllr Simon Hancock jumped ship) an "executive group".
And, according to rules laid down by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales, the leader of an opposition group that is also an executive group cannot collect the Special Responsibility Allowance usually awarded to the leader of the principal opposition group.
So, Cllr Michael Williams leader Plaid Cymru (5 seats) will pick up the £8,854 SRA and whoever succeeds Cllr Perkins as leader will have to do the job for nothing.
Furthermore the LGM lays down rules for the distribution of the chairs of the four scrutiny committees.
I won't bore you with the details but the upshot is that Labour, being the junior of the two executive groups, will not be entitled to any of these four chairs which will be shared equally between the IPG, or whatever it is now called, and the the principle non-executive opposition group Plaid Cymru (another two SRAs at £8,854 each)
Plaid Cymru must think Christmas has come early.
As you can imagine, this has not gone down well with Labour Group foot soldiers who calculate that two SRAs worth a total of £17,700 have gone down the pan in exchange for Cllr Perkins Cabinet SRA of £14,756; a deficit of almost £3,000.
But you should never underestimate the inventiveness of politicians when power and money are at stake.
Now I hear that a scheme is being hatched that will lead to the creation of a fifth scrutiny committee.
And, as you've probably already guessed, the party that will have the chairmanship of this newly-minted committee and, of course, the SRA that goes with it, is Labour.
That means that Labour will have both the penny (scrutiny committee SRA £8,854) and the bun (Cabinet SRA £14,756)
So, as the IPG and the biggest opposition group: Labour, will both benefit from this piece of constitutional jugglery, a quick show of hands will result in a deficit of £3,000 being transformed into a surplus of almost £6,000.
George Osborne would do well to have a word with this lot.
But, before you applaud this piece of political and financial wizardry, a word of caution: you are paying for it.
Of course the cost problem could easily be overcome if the four existing SRAs were reduced by an amount sufficient to pay the fifth.
Always eager to be of service, I have used the skills learned in Miss Tate's class to calculate that this would result in an SRA of £7,083.
Not too shabby for chairing five meetings a year, you might think.

a.m. Wednesday 23 May

Just a quick update as to what has been going on in your democracy over the past couple of weeks.
Let us start with the last time you had any say in the matter: election day 3 May 2012, when you voted overwhelmingly (42 out of 60) for non-party candidates.
Your votes were counted the next day and following the announcement of each result senior members of the Independent Political Group were seen handing out cards inviting prospective recruits to attend a meeting in county hall on 7 May.
As someone has observed, the similarity between these tactics and those of the timeshare salesmen encountered on the streets of Tenerife is uncanny.
At that meeting, the targets were given the hard sell.
They were told that, in the absence of a majority Independent Political Group, it would fall to Labour; the largest of the party groups, to form the administration.
Strangely, as Labour had only nine of the 60 seats, nobody seems to have thought to ask what system of arithmetic lay behind this claim.
They were then told that those who joined the IPG would be free to vote as they pleased.
Nobody thought to enquire about the mechanism by which the IPG would control the council if not by virtue of the votes of its members.
And then they were treated to a little homily by Cllr Peter Stock during which they were told that, outside the group, they could achieve nothing for their constituents.
Nobody seems to have wondered how this might be squared with various codes of conduct that require everyone's constituents to be treated equally regardless of the political affiliations of their elected representatives.
Cllr Stock also made the comparison with national politics where a majority is needed to form a government.
Nobody seems to have spotted the inconsistency between this argument and the claim that members of the IPG are free to vote as they please, because what this majority entails is the supporters of any government voting the party line.
As part of the sales pitch, joining the IPG was dressed up as being "for the good of the members' constituents" though nobody thought to ask why, if that was the case, the candidates hadn't made any mention of the benefits to be obtained from the Independent Political Group in their election addresses.
Or, indeed, of its existence.
Then again, as someone once said: "A man in pursuit of power has little time for logic"
The form was then passed around for signature and those who declined to sign were asked to leave.
The IPG then held its business meeting where Cllr Jamie Adams was elected Leader; Cllr Rob Lewis Chairman; and Cllr Arwyn Williams was selected as the group's candidate for vice-chairman of council.
Soon after, Cllr Adams told the Western Telegraph that the IPG had a majority on the council.
According to my calculations, this was a bare majority of 31.
With that obstacle overcome, the horse trading started to determine who would have which seat on the Special Responsibility Allowance gravy train.
At his disposal the Leader had eight Cabinet seats, four committee chairmanships, six seats on the National Park Authority and two on the fire authority.
This was significantly fewer than his predecessor had at his disposal following the decision by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales decision to scrap SRAs for committee vice chairmen.
Another difficulty arose because when it controlled 39 seats, as previously, the IPG had eight seats on the National Park Authority, whereas it was now only entitled to six.
With a host of ambitious members clamouring for positions of power, Cllr Adams had a problem on his hands.
Rumour had it that Cllr Brian Hall was insisting on a Cabinet post as a condition of his continuing support.
That difficulty was quickly overcome when he was persuaded to accept the lesser trophy of chairman of the Environment Scrutiny Committee.
But that manoeuvre wasn't without cost because others who had their eye on this prize were inevitably disappointed, not say disaffected.
There was also a problem in filling the Cabinet post for safeguarding children vacated by Cllr Anne Hughes who finally ran out of ways of pretending she was truly independent while being a member of the IPG and the Cabinet.
Clearly, this post required someone who was credible and, preferably, a woman.
A quick glance around his own benches apparently convinced Cllr Adams that the solution was not to be found there, so he sent out an email to all IPG members announcing his decision to appoint Labour Leader Sue Perkins.
Again, this was not without its downside because some of the Tories and closet Tories in his his own ranks, who, for the past four years, have had to stomach Labour defector Cllr Ken Rowlands lording it in the Cabinet, perceived this as more unwanted socialist entryism, not to mention the fact that that was one less Cabinet post available for them.
This was all too much for Cllr David Bryan who withdrew his support from the IPG and is now unaffiliated.
It was whispered in the corridors of power that Cllr Bryan was not alone, but it seems the other potential rebels have been quietly herded back into the fold.
It just goes to show that, when you enter the trenches, you should be careful of the company you keep.
There had been a persistent rumour since well before the election that Cllr Simon Hancock would play some part in any future IPG administration.
Depending on who you listen to, the barriers to this proposal were either that Cllr Hancock was reluctant to surrender his Labour Party membership as part of this deal, or the trustees of Haverfordwest museum, where he is curator, were not much taken by the idea that he should join a Cabinet whose policies included the relocation of the museum as as a consequence of the sale of Haverfordwest Castle.
I understand these hurdles have now been cleared, and Cllr Hancock's unwillingness to sign up for the IPG will be finessed by some nifty verbal footwork which will see him described as IPG + 1.
I should have warned you at the beginning, this is complex stuff.
Material enough here for a novel - The Borgias of Barchester Towers , perhaps.
I am now told that, in order to accomodate the aspirations of IPG members' and others, that consideration is now being given to the creation of an extra cabinet post and a fifth scrutiny committee and attendant chairmanship.
I am going into Haverfordwest this morning and, if there are any new developments, I will update on my return.

a.m. Monday 21 May

The plot thickens

The phone lines have been buzzing over the weekend as the IPG continues its efforts to obtain the 31 signatures required to secure a majority in the county council's corridors of power.
I have been busy in the garden trying to get on top of all those weeds that, encouraged by April's rain and my neglect during to the election campaign, have staged a takeover.
So, the telephone companies' profits haven't received a boost from me.
However, my inbox seems to indicate that even the Sabbath seems not to have diminished the level of feverish political activity.
As I said yesterday, there seem to be 12 members who haven't signed up to political groups/parties, which, together with the 16 signed up for the democratic parties, leaves 32 - enough to give IPG Leader Cllr Jamie Adams a working, if not comfortable, majority on the 60-member authority.
However, Old Grumpy hears that some IPG stalwarts, dismayed by the party's hard-sell tactics - which have been likened to those of a Timeshare salesman - are, how shall I put it, considering their positions.
This has caused some alarm among the IPG hierarchy and I understand the shortage of posts attracting SRAs and other allowances has driven them to lard potential defectors with promises of future promotion and committee vice-chairmanships (unpaid).
One imponderable is the stance of the newly-elected member for Solva, Cllr Lyn Jenkins, who has been in communicado while out of the country.
When she returns her phone will be red hot.
As the mathematicians among you will have already worked out, on the optimistic assumption that Cllr Jenkins is a dictionary independent, it would only require one current IPG member to jump ship and it would be 30 - 30.
If that was to be the eventual outcome, Cllr Adams' decision to invite Labour Leader Cllr Sue Perkins into the Cabinet tent will be seen as a masterstroke because, bound by collective Cabinet responsibility, she will have little option but to vote with the IPG.
I also hear that, if things get really desperate (two or more defectors from the IPG camp), the non-political political party may fall back on the idea of luring another member from one of the three political parties into its orbit.
Indeed, it is difficult to see why the IPG and Labour don't form a coalition.
That would entitle Labour to two cabinet seats, and though they may have problems working in tandem with what Welsh Secretary Peter Hain recently referred to as "closet-Tories", I am sure that, with a bit of effort, they could come to love Big Brother.

 

a.m. Sunday 20 May

Members have now received the agenda for next Thursday's county council AGM and anyone seeking clues about the final political makeup of the authority will be disappointed because, under the item dealing withe allocation of committee places, we read: "Given that not all of anticipated notices of Constitution of Political Groups have yet been served on the Proper Officer, it will be necessary for circulation of the consequent calculated allocations in respect of the agenda item to follow in due course."
Old Grumpy knows that Labour, Plaid and the Tories have handed in their notices, so this must be an oblique reference to the turmoil in the ranks of the Independent Political Group which, from what I hear, is struggling to secure a majority (see below).
Considering that, before the election, this non-political, political party had 39 of the 60 seats, this is a good indication of the severity of the drubbing it received at the polls.
As things stand at the moment there are nine Labour, five Plaid and two Conservatives (one of the three elected having refused to sign up).
That leaves 44 to be shared between the IPG and those truly independent councillors known as the "unaffiliated".
Nothing is absolutely certain about any of this, but I have reason to believe that at least 12 members intend to stay free of any party/group ties.
That would leave the IPG with a possible 32 signed-up members, which, together with Labour's Sue Perkins' inclusion in the Cabinet and, therefore, bound by collective Cabinet responsibility, would give them a fairly comfortable working majority.
However, if that was the case, it is difficult to see why IPG Leader Jamie Adams doesn't just hand in the IPG's list of members so that everybody knows where they stand.
After all, it was almost two weeks ago that he announced to the Western Telegraph that he had a majority.
I suspect the reason he hasn't done this is that there are some off-stage manoeuvres underway that may dramatically change the situation.
Thursday's AGM could be a not-to-be-missed occasion.
Regular readers will recall that a similar situation arose after the 2008 election when Cllr Brian Hall was listed among the "unaffiliated" reducing the IPG to 37 members.
Now, 37 out of 60 is a handsome majority, but on that occasion the issue was the allocation of seats on scrutiny committees and outside bodies.
This was of particular significance on the National Park Authority to which the council can appoint 12 of its members.
In addition to giving members a say over matters that impinge on their constituents living in the National Park, these places bring in a handy allowance, so they are much sought after.
The seats are allocated on the basis of the relative strengths of the parties/groups; the arithmetic being that each party is entitled to 12/60 ths (0.2) of a seat for each member on its books.
As the mathematicians among you will have spotted already, 37 x 0.2 = 7.4 which rounds down to 7, while 38 x 0.2 = 7.6 which rounds up 8.
The same principles apply to the 12-member scrutiny committees.
So, publication of the figures for the relative strengths of the parties/groups was delayed to the last minute to allow the IPG time to persuade Cllr Hall to climb on board (Brian's revenge).

 

 

Thursday a.m.

County Hall this week has resembled a gypsy traveller horse fair as Jamie Adams and his IPG cronies have battled to secure enough signatures to maintain them in power.
New members who have displayed a reluctance to sign on the dotted line have come in for a good deal of arm twisting (metaphorically speaking, of course) and at least one Cabinet post has been in play.
You can almost hear: "Nice little filly. Good teeth. Sound in wind and limb. Just sign here and she's yours."
Currently, to the best of my knowledge, there are 12 members who are not signed up to any group
My information is that there were 14 up to Wednesday morning, but two fell by the wayside during the day.
I am also told this takes the IPG up to 32 out of the 60 members.
This has had me scratching my head because that means there were only 30 before yesterday, whereas over a week ago I read in the Western Telegraph that Jamie Adams was claiming he had a majority.
So either my information or my arithmetic is defective, and as I only scraped through 'A' level maths, and that was in 1958 long before New Maths became a core element in the curriculum, it is most probably the latter.
What was promised in exchange for these latest signatures is not altogether clear, but the talk is that at least one Cabinet post was involved in the horse trading.
All I will say is that it is not an edifying spectacle and I get the impression that even some IPG loyalists are beginning to feel a bit queasy.
One of the problems is that there are not quite enough Cabinet posts to go round.
How Jamie Adams must be cursing his predecessor's decision last year to reduce the number of Cabinet members, in a headline-seeking, cost-cutting measure.
Not that the odd 15 or 30 grand out of a budget of £300 million+ is going to make much difference, but in these austere times Cllr Adams can hardly increase the number of Cabinet posts without some malign conspiracy theorist making political mischief by accusing him of a cynical ploy to bolster the payroll vote.

Tuesday a.m.:

It is now official, or semi-official at least, that Labour leader Sue Perkins is to take up IPG leader Cllr Jamie Adams' offer of the post of cabinet member for safeguarding children.
Old Grumpy hears that the Labour group held a meeting on Monday and gave its blessing.
There is no point in trying to argue that Cllr Adams is involved in a cynical political manoeuvre designed to neuter the opposition (see below) because the spin from both sides is that this is a case of a newly enlightened Jamie Adams appointing Cabinet members on merit from the widest possible pool of talent.
Faced with this sort of wishful thinking the great American philosopher, scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin observed "So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do."
But no time to lose: must send Cllr Adams my CV before it's too late.

Cross-dressing?

As Jamie Adams struggles to cobble together the majority that will reserve first class seats on the gravy train for him and his chums, County Hall is positively buzzing with rumours.
Old Grumpy is told that, at the invitation-only recruitment meeting, the Leader-elect even fell back on that well worn untruth that, unless the Independents form a group, Labour, with nine seats, will dominate the council.
I can't believe Cllr Adams is so desperate that he has convinced himself that that is is true.
If he has, it doesn't say much for his grasp of arithmetic.
I thought I had laid that old myth to rest a couple of weeks ago (Off-balance) but it seems it still has its uses as a recruitment strategy.
I repeat, the political balance rules refer to a "majority" group and while, without the IPG, Labour would be the biggest group, nine seats on a council of 60 is not a majority.
When I had a conversation about this with one of Cllr Adams' colleagues in the tea room recently, he was forced to fall back on that old truism that "everybody is entitled to their opinion".
But facts and opinions are not the same thing .
No rational person can hold the opinion that nine is greater than half of sixty, or, as the mathematicians might put it, 9>30.
But to return to the rumours.
The first intelligence I received was that Reg Owen was to be offered a Cabinet seat.
I now have reason to believe that either this was the product of a fevered imagination, or there has been a late change of plan, because I now hear that a story that has been circulating in county hall for some weeks: that Labour's Simon Hancock is to be shoe horned into the Cabinet, may not be as improbable as it sounds.
But it is difficult to give credence to another scenario which would also see Labour Group Leader Sue Perkins catapulted into Cabinet to take up the position vacated by Anne Hughes.
No doubt, if these rumours turn out to be true, it will be dressed up as a shining example of inclusiveness - all working together for the good of Pembrokeshire, and all that.
A less generous view might be that it is an example of the Blairite tactic of neutralising the opposition by luring them into the Big Tent.
These stories are hard to believe on three grounds.
First, if the purpose of the IPG is to keep Labour out of power, it would seem strange if the first action of its new Leader was to put two of that Party's members in the Cabinet.
Though, when politicians are manoeuvring to get their hands on power, you would be foolish to give too much weight to logic .
Second, it wouldn't go down well with those more ambitious members of the IPG who have their eyes on a Cabinet post for themselves.
And, third, it would give rise to the absurd position that what remained of the Labour Group would find themselves in opposition to two of their own members.
Of course, these constitutional difficulties could be overcome if the IPG and Labour formed a grand coalition, though I would have thought that the IPG's more obvious partners would be the three Conservatives.
After all, there are already four card-carrying Tories in the IPG and an unknown, but substantial, number of Tories of the closet variety.
Also, I hear that Cllr Brian Hall has now signed up.
I wonder what price he managed to extract for his support.
The smart money says it isn't a cabinet post, but don't be surprised if he is resurrected as Chairman of economic development or some other scrutiny committee.
You might be happy to have your county council organised on the basis of this sort of cynical horse-trading, or, on the other hand, you might not.
I am also told that Mike John made a stirring speech at the IPG meeting along the lines that the non-political political party is the best thing since sliced bread.
Pencil him in for an SRA.
One of my fellow unaffiliated members tells me that he has had a hint from an IPG bigwig that the Sue Perkins story has legs.
P.S. An alert reader has emailed to ask whether any non-IPG Cabinet member will be invited to attend the secret IPG get-together that precedes all meetings of full council. "It would be strange if a member of Cabinet were to be excluded from the these important strategy meetings," they write, "and even stranger if a member of the Labour Party was to attend the private meeting of a rival political organisation."
They conclude: "Have you considered the possibility that this rather peculiar constitutional arrangement is being contemplated because, as things stand at the moment, the IPG isn't absolutely certain it can secure the 31 members required for a majority."
I suppose that detaching one or two from Labour would be a help in the majority stakes, especially as, in footballing terms, this would be a six pointer.
I will update as news comes in.

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