Don’t mention the lies

Last Friday’s extraordinary meeting of council was a dramatic affair with a large majority supporting a motion of no confidence in the chief executive and a disciplinary panel being established to investigate allegations that he might have breached the officers’ code of conduct.
The public webcast of proceedings can be viewed here.
As I have been appointed to sit on this panel, it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment on these matters.

However, I am under no such restrictions with regard to the other item on the agenda – the vote of no confidence in the Leader, Cllr Jamie Adams.

My own concerns about the Leader hinge on his truthfulness, particularly whether he lied to council during a debate on grants in Pembroke Dock at the council meeting on December 12 last year.
Of particular interest to me is the roof at Coronation School.

During the public audit inspection in July last year I obtained a large sheaf of documents on this project, including the original tender and the final account.
The tender called for the whole of the roof to be stripped off and reslated with new or recycled slates on new felt and battens.
The amount in the final account exactly matched that in the tender which meant that the builder had been paid for doing the whole roof.
However, when I toddled down to Pembroke Dock to have a look, it was obvious that only part of the roof had been renewed.

I published some photos on my website to illustrate the point (Night on the tiles).
That sent the council’s cover-up machine into overdrive and a report was provided to Cabinet on December 2 which asserted that “the whole of the roof” had been reslated.
The report was backed up by a presentation by PCC’s internal audit service – including photographs of part of the inside of the roof showing the new felt.

The matter was due before full council on December 12 and, sometime during the intervening ten days, Cllrs Jamie Adams and David Pugh, accompanied by the officer who had overseen the project, made a visit to Coronation School where they climbed up into the attic.
And when the matter was debated at full council on December 12 they were both able to report that they had been up in the roofspace and seen for themselves that the “whole” of the roof (Pugh) and the “entire” roof (Adams) had been renewed.

As I have reported elsewhere, I didn’t believe this story and on making enquiries I discovered that it was not possible to see the whole of the inside of the roof from the two available access points.
So, when these two said they had seen it for themselves, they were lying.
And these were no ordinary lies – they were malicious lies because they were designed to discredit me and, at the same time, maintain the cover-up.

Indeed, Cllr Pugh felt emboldened to end his speech with: “But, then, getting at the truth is not on his [Old Grumpy’s] agenda”.

Well, as with almost everything else he said that day, he was wrong about that.
As the pair of them each referred to the other in their speeches and used almost identical words to describe their trip to the attic, there must also be the suspicion that they conspired together to concoct this story.

Strangely, the two Cabinet members sent forth to defend the Leader at last week’s meeting made no attempt to refute my allegations of lying.
First up was Cllr Keith Lewis, a toady’s toady if ever I saw one, who told us he was from the North of the county “where we all work hard, speak Welsh and try to maintain the traditional way of life” and, then, in an attempt to demonstrate what a open-minded chap he was, admitted that he had once voted Lib Dem.

He went on to say that when he was elected in 2012 the council was in “a dire situation” but the leader had acted decisively to turn the ship around.
What he neglected to mention was that his north-county chum Cllr John Davies was at the helm when the ship was driven onto the rocks and standing by his side was deputy dawg Adams
After this unpromising start he droned on about nothing in particular before concluding “I will not be supporting this notice of motion”.

As we all knew that before he stood up to speak, he could have saved a lot of time if he’d just said that at the beginning and sat down.
However, he was just the warm-up act for Cllr Rev Huw George who is always good value if it’s entertainment you are after.
In past performances he has educated us on the tax situation with the chief executive’s pension arrangements (the taxman gains in each and every way) and Newtonian physics (every action has an equal and opposite reaction).
This time it was three dimensional geometry: “One of my church members had a saying: ‘there are two sides to every pancake no matter how thin it is’ “.

We were then invited “to flip the pancake for a minute” before he told us that he was supporting the Leader because “He’s a Keeston boy, went to school in Ysgol Dewi Sant, played football for Solva, Keeston Young Farmers, Pembrokeshire Young Farmers. He’s Pembrokeshire through and through”.

I was reminded of Cllr John Davies’ description of Cllr Adams as “A true son of the Pembrokeshire soil” when he nominated him as his successor at the 2102 annual council meeting.
There was quite a bit more of this stuff including multiple claims that Cllr Adams’ only interest was to “promote and protect” this county/Pembrokeshire including, it seems, being instrumental in persuading someone to take over Murco and save 400 jobs.

Strangely for a minister of religion, Cllr George made no mention of the allegations that Cllr Adams had lied to council on December 12.
Perhaps he keeps that sort of thing for the pulpit on Sunday mornings.
Anyway, the proceedings were coming more and more to resemble that classic episode when a party of Germans came to stay at Fawlty Towers and Basil was running around telling everyone “Don’t mention the war”.
Only in this case it was “don’t mention the lies”.
As in Fawlty Towers, this conspiracy of silence ended in failure.

Step forward Cllr Johnny Allen-Mirehouse in the role of Major Gowen:

“A very minor point of detail – Cllr Stoddart was talking about the roof at Coronation School at Pembroke Dock.
And this is quite obviously a very serious allegation.
I understand that the roof had been inspected at the two ends and that photographs had been taken of it newly felted and newly battened. In fact I’ve seen these photographs. From that I presume, and I think the rest of the economic development committee, that the roof had been redone since it is quite difficult to replace the felt and batten without replacing the slates [That is actually my line (see report to cabinet on December 2). But mustn’t complain. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery]. Could I have clarification on that?”

Of course I was more than happy to oblige and despite the protests of the Chairman who could clearly see that things were taking a turn for the worse, I explained to Cllr Allen-Mirehouse that photographs of a small segment of the roof didn’t prove that the whole of it had been done, as claimed by Cllr Adams and Pugh.

Had I thought he would have understood, I could have pointed out that this is known in logic as the distribution fallacy or, as it is usually expressed, you can’t argue from the particular to the general.
But Johnny is not easily deterred – once he starts talking rubbish, he finds it almost impossible to stop – and he continued: “I find it difficult to believe the roof was only partly done because when you take a roof off…”
But the chairman could see this wasn’t going to end well and declared that ” the roof issue is finished.”
However, I was able to explain that it is perfectly possible to take off the front of a roof without disturbing the back and with a roof such as that at Coronation School which has at least 12 different planes there is even more flexibility.

I’m afraid that Cllr Allen-Mirehouse, who accused me at the December meeting of never letting the facts get in the way of a good story, is unable to accept anything that challenges his own narrow prejudices.
Indeed he is walking proof that there is no necessary connection between money spent on education (Eton and up-market cow college) and outcomes.

Another who hadn’t read the script was Cllr Brian Hall.
After admitting that I was right (this was a reference to my claim that, as he had explained to an IPPG meeting that in order to inspect the whole of the inside of the roof you would have to cut holes in the ceilings of the flats, so not only were Adams and Pugh lying, but all those members present at that meeting knew they were lying and decided to keep quiet about it) he went on to refer to the three or four affidavits from the contractor and subcontractor “who did say that the roof had been completely…”

But, before he could say “reslated”, he was cut off in his prime by the chairman: “Cllr Hall I have just ruled that the issue of the roof is closed”.

Unfortunately that meant I was unable to explain that, as the contractor and subcontractor must have been involved in this fraud, their affidavits were worth even less than the paper they were written on.
As far as I’m concerned, the principles involved are the same as those in the Profumo affair.
Profumo didn’t resign because he was caught sleeping with Christine Keeler. Nor because of the security risk that arose from Ms Keeler sharing her bed with the Soviet naval attached Ivanhov.
He had to resign because he lied to Parliament.
Nobody sought to defend him by saying that he had been a brilliant Minister of War. There was no mention of where he went to school, or which football team he played for.
He had crossed a red line and he had to go.

Unfortunately, in the corrupt political culture we have in Pembrokeshire none of these rules apply.
Instead we have two of Cllr Adams’ Cabinet nominees standing up and talking the most awful tosh in his defence.
But, as Upton Sinclair observed: “It is difficult to make a man understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.”