Strength in numbers

Having persuaded four unaffiliated members to join their ranks (Cllrs Anji Tinley, Alan Dennison, Vanessa Thomas and Mel Phillips) PCC’s Independent Political Group (17 members) together with their Tory allies (10 – 11 if you include Cllr Andrew Edwards) are within striking distance of the majority required to seize power in County Hall.

Emboldened by this increase in their numbers, the IPG/Tory clique has called an extraordinary council meeting to consider a vote of no confidence in the authority’s Leader, Cllr David Simpson.

With three more needed to get the IPG/Tory faction to the 31 members needed for a return to the days when Cllr Jamie Adams was monarch of all he surveyed, the County Hall gossip machine is alive with rumours about who will be the next unaffiliated member to succumb to the relentless telephone bombardment by Cllr Huw Murphy, who seems to have taken over the role of the Independent Political Group’s (IPG) recruiting sergeant.

I’m not sure a return to IPG rule is what people voted for in May 2022, but when was that a consideration in Pembrokeshire politics?

Back in the day when we used to meet regularly in person you could usually tell who was likely to jump ship because they would look down at their shoes rather than meet your eye, but now that many of our meetings are conducted online, it is not easy to work out who might be the next to defect.

However, the consensus seems to be that Cllr Murphy has plucked all the low hanging fruit and the only thing his more recent efforts have achieved is an enormous telephone bill.

The big disappointment for me is that Cllr Alan Dennison whose election address promised that he would be “truly independent” has decided to move over to the dark side, putting a dent in my long-held ambition to establish Milford Haven as an IPG-free zone.

All I can say is that the streets of Milford are littered with the ruins of IPG members’ political ambitions (Eric Harries, Eddie Setterfield, Anne Hughes and Stephen Joseph spring to mind). Indeed, you have to go back to 2008 for the last time a sitting IPG member held their seat in Milford Haven and I will do everything in my power to make sure there is an equally long gap before another prevails.

It is not easy to find out the reasons why these four have thrown in their lot with Jamie Adams – though it surely can’t be his popularity with the Pembrokeshire voters.

In fact, it seems that Cllr Adams’ electoral toxicity has been acknowledged by the IPG, because, if their no-confidence vote succeeds, they have decided to nominate relative new boy Huw Murphy as their leadership candidate.

I can’t be sure whether the four new recruits are unaware of the IPG’s appalling record when in power, or whether they simply don’t care, but for the sake of democracy in Pembrokeshire we must hope it is the former.

It would appear that Cllr Dennison isn’t up to speed with local political history because in an attempt to embarrass the present administration he tabled a question to last week’s full council meeting about PCC’s disastrous investment in Bluestone, not realising that the whole fiasco was engineered by his new-found chums in the Independent Political Group back in 2009/10.

I’m sure the IPG leadership are delighted to have their own incompetence highlighted just a week before they attempt to unseat David Simpson and his Cabinet.

I also notice that Cllr Dennison’s election address contains a promise to donate his councillor’s allowances to charity, so you would have to wonder what he makes of his new leader’s expense claiming activities, not to mention those of his recently acquired political ally Cllr Brian Hall (The Time Lord).

You will recall that just before the 2012 election Cllr Adams claimed over £4,600 in travel expenses backdated over four years when the rules clearly placed a three month limit on such claims.

Not only were these claims years out of date, but, as I explained in my earlier post, they were cunningly timed to avoid becoming an issue in the 2012 election.

Interestingly, this latest IPG/Tory recruiting campaign is a re-run of events in 2019 when then Tory leader Rob Summons was tasked with ringing round the unaffiliated members in search of recruits.

It must be pure coincidence that Cllrs Summons and Murphy are both retired policemen.

Tomorrow, I will deal with the dubious agricultural planning consents obtained by former IPG council leaders John Davies and Jamie Adams.