Yesterday afternoon, I received two emails from members of the council’s cabinet. The first, from Cllr David Pugh, was in response to my email asking him to clarify his statement that “most” of No. 29 Dimond Street (Paul Sartori) had been given over to “storage and cleaning of clothes and so on” made during the meeting of council on December 12.
Pugh’s case was that failure to take account of this storage area falsified my claim that little or no work appeared to have been done to the interior of the shop despite a grant of £21,000 having been paid out for “refurbishing retail space”.
The grant was paid at 40%, so the total for the work in the shop was £53,000
I sent him an email pointing out that “most” of this retail space made up less than 15% of the total and asked him for an explanation. Readers will recall that, also during this meeting, Cllr Pugh accused me of being in error over No 25 Dimond Street where he claimed I had overlooked “a third side elevation” that gave the lie to my assertion that the rendering on the property had been over-measured in the tender by two-and-a-half times.
This “omission” on my part inspired him to ask council: “Was this a deliberate untruth, or sheer incompetence on his behalf in not checking the facts? I’ll leave you to decide.” He has now admitted that any “deliberate untruth” or “sheer incompetence” was entirely in his court because, when I challenged him, he had to admit that this additional wall was purely a figment of his imagination and he was forced to issue an “unreserved apology”. He is now refusing to offer an explanation for his false claim that “most” of the retail space at Paul Sartori was given over to “storage” etc. His latest email reads: “As I have been away over Xmas and New Year it has not been possible to respond until now. As I said earlier I have no intention of entering into further correspondence with you over this matter. If you have evidence to submit to the Audit Committee then it is up to you to produce it.”
This is all of a piece with his earlier email where he told me he didn’t want to continue our “dialogue”.
Of course, Pugh had plenty to say for himself when he thought he had evidence enough to put me to the sword, but now the boot is on the other foot he has come over all coy and wants to hide behind the skirts of the audit committee.
Would I be justified in concluding that this wall of silence is an indication that he is just as wrong about No. 29 as he was about No. 25?
Perhaps, to borrow from Oscar Wilde, he has decided that, while one unreserved apology may be regarded as a misfortune, to have to issue a second would look like sheer carelessness.
The second email comes from our esteemed Leader. And he obviously thought he’d struck gold because he copied it to all county council members. It reads:
“Considering your recent correspondence following December’s Council meeting you may wish to reflect on your own erroneous statements referring on two occasions to 29 Meyrick Street being the location of the Paul Sartori charity shop. As far as I’m aware 29 Meyrick Street has not been the subject of any grant application or grant spend.”
I wasn’t aware that I had ever confused 29 Dimond Street (Paul Sartori) with 29 Meyrick Street, but, ever ready to admit that I might have made an error, I emailed Cllr Adams (copied to all county councillors) seeking clarification.
I was not aware that I had ever claimed 29 Meyrick Street rather than 29 Dimond Street as the property occupied by Paul Sartori.
My email of 27 December makes it quite clear that the property under discussion is 29 Dimond Street.
And during Cllr Pugh’s speech to council on 12 December there was no room for doubt that No. 29 Dimond Street and Paul Sartori were one and the same..
However, if I have in the past inadvertently misidentified the property, I apologise.
You claim that I have twice fallen into this error, and it would be helpful if you could specify the precise occasions so that I can make the necessary corrections.
Within half-an-hour, I had an email from a fellow councillor pointing out that, during the debate at full council, I had indeed referred to 29 Meyrick Street as the home of the Paul Sartori charity shop.
But it only goes to show how desperate the Leader is that he tries to find some moral equivalence between my slip of the tongue and the barrage of untruths, half-truths and personal insults thrown out by Cllr Pugh.
Clutching at non-existent straws (or third side elevations).
Anyway, with Pugh in self-imposed purdah it now seems that the matter will have to be determined by an extraordinary meeting of the “politically balanced” audit committee when it meets on January 20.
I should say that “politically balanced” is a term of art because the committee comprises four members of the IPPG, two opposition councillors and an independent (dictionary variety) Chairman.
The committee seems to have set itself up as a tribunal of inquiry, so I will be expecting the Rules of Natural Justice to govern its proceedings.
That immediately raises questions about the four IPPG members, most obviously Cllr Johnny Allen-Mirehouse JP who has already prejudged the issue by accusing me of lying during the debate at full council.
The other three are not a lot better.
First we have Cabinet member Cllr David Simpson JP who would seem to be locked into Cllr Pugh’s intemperate and mendacious rant by the doctrine of collective cabinet responsibility.
In any case, Cllr Simpson holds his cabinet position at the Leader’s pleasure and, as we all know the Leader’s views on my complaints, he can hardly be said to be entirely impartial.
Ditto, Cllr Mike James who owes his position on the National Park (where he is chairman) to the Leader’s patronage.
And, then, there’s Cllr Tom Richards.
There have been numerous recorded votes at full council and none of these four has ever failed to toe the party line.
Should we expect anything different at the audit committee?
And, if not, what’s the point?
Having manoeuvred the enemy out into the open, where their weaknesses are exposed for all to see, perhaps I will have better prospects of a fair hearing in the court of public opinion.