Hot gossip

A couple of weeks ago, I reported on rumours circulating in the members’ tearoom that, in order to protect their electoral backs, three IPPG members were about to defect to the Conservatives.

Following a study of previous election results (and, I must admit, a tip-off from a well informed source) I concluded that the three ruling group members most under threat from the Tories were Cllrs Tom Richards, Rob Summons and Steve Yelland.

Just to show that you should never discount tearoom gossip, Tom Richards has now appeared in a group photograph of Tory candidates who are limbering up for May’s contest.

When, or if, the other two will jump is of more than academic interest because when I put up my original post Labour leader Paul Miller poured scorn on my predictions with the result that a bottle of Merlot now hangs in the balance.

Sportingly, he has agreed to pay up if two out of three cross the divide.

Meanwhile IPPG election mastermind Rob Lewis – access to the council’s computer system having been ruled out by the “Partygate” revelations on the young whippersnapper’s website – has been doing his bit for the cause by touring the county trying to recruit candidates for the non-political political group.

I am reliably informed that his priority is to persuade someone to oppose his former cabinet colleague David Simpson (now unaffiliated) though my understanding is that he has so far drawn a blank.

Anyone concerned about the IPPG’s anti-democratic activities would be well advised to ask any independent candidate who comes knocking at their door about their post-election intentions.

With county council elections just over a month away, it is a good time to ask: what are local councillors for?

After all, the 60 members we have in Pembrokeshire cost the taxpayer just over £1 million a year, so voters must hope we serve some useful purpose.

Some years ago, the Audit Commission wrote a lengthy paper on this subject which I will analyse more closely at a later date.

However, I think it is beyond dispute that one of our duties is to use our best endeavours to reach sound decisions on our constituents’ behalf.

That means applying logical reasoning to the established facts.

This is no easy task because the facts are often difficult to nail down, and members of different political persuasions will give more weight to some factors than others.

That said, there is a difference between giving more or less weight to a particular fact and giving weight to something that isn’t a fact at all.

Unfortunately, in too may cases, rather than weighing up the facts before reaching a conclusion, the conclusion (often based on some half-baked but strongly held opinion) comes first followed by cherry-picked evidence in support.

And, if there are no pickable cherries, facts are simply invented to make the case.

Which brings me back to the subject I wrote about last week – Grumpette’s attempt to persuade PCC’s cabinet to reduce the amount the council charges for grassed frontages in order to encourage owner occupiers on council estates to provide their own off-street parking.

Cllr Sue Perkins was clearly of the opinion that this was a bad idea and presented the following arguments.

1. A lot of people in my ward would like a free frontage.

2. Constructing these parking bays would be “very, very expensive”.

3. Cars crossing the pavement would present a danger to people with pushchairs and prams.

4. The main road (Bush Street) on a large estate in her ward had a wide grass verge between the road and the footpath. When she had made enquiries about residents crossing this “communal grass verge” to access parking spaces in their front gardens she had been told “that cannot happen”.

Old Grumpy is used to IPPG members inventing facts to support their preconceived opinions, but this case is interesting because all four of the “facts” cited by Cllr Perkins are false.

1. There was no question of people being given free frontages. All that was being asked was a reduction in the present cost of £60 per sq m (£250,000 per acre approx).

2. As the cost of the engineering works falls entirely on the householder, the fact that it might be “very, very expensive” is irrelevant.

3. There are thousands of these pavement crossings across the county and I don’t recall any cases of mothers with pushchairs being run over by cars exiting driveways.

4. Having taken a drive along Bush Street I notice no fewer than 11 cases where residents have been allowed to violate the “communal grass verge” in order to gain access to the parking area in their front gardens.

So to say “that cannot happen” is simply untrue, as this photo, which shows three such Bush Street crossings in close proximity, clearly demonstrates: