2 April 2001
Old Grumpy has received a slap on the wrist from a Fishguard
reader for giving too much prominence to what she calls "the
Enfield planning saga".
"Your constant reference to it is in danger of creating
the impression that you can't dig up any other questionable planning
decisions,etc." she writes.
Having exposed a score or more dubious planning decisions over
the past eight years, I must plead not guilty to the charge that
I am a one-club golfer.
My reason for concentrating on the Enfield saga is that, of
all the dodgy planning decisions taken by the County Council,
and its predecessor PPDC, this is the best documented and most
blatant abuse of the system I have come across.
As a development issue Enfield is pretty small beer but, as
an example of influence-peddling and contempt for the rule of
law, it is way out on its own.
My hope is that my persistence will eventually lead to the
facts of the case being examined by an independent tribunal.
That could be an inquiry set up by the council itself - highly
unlikely given that several prominent members of the ruling Independent
Political (sic) Group are also the leading influence-peddlers.
Or the Welsh Assembly might decide to launch an investigation
into this corruption of the democratic process.
Or Mr Roger Barrett-Evans might sue me for what his colleague
Mr Dai Thomas, the authority's head of Marketing and Communications,
describes as the "overtly defamatory and factually inaccurate"
comments I have published regarding his his activities in connection
with this unseemly business.
As I am not optimistic that any of the above will ever come
to pass, I keep pegging away in the hope that the electorate might
finally wake up to what is going on and consign these so-called
Independents to the dustbin of history.
Which brings me to another point in my correspondent's e-mail
where she complains of the lack of information on how these Independents
vote on issues affecting their constituents.
"People up here", she writes, believe that "
'political parties' have no place in local government and that
Independent Councillors really are independent".
If they believe that in Fishguard the town must be a fertile
recruiting ground for the flat-earth society.
Last week's Western Telegraph carried an interesting story
about four County Council bin men who had been suspended for engaging
in that time-honoured British pastime of calling in the pub for
a pint at the end of their shift.
It seems they made the mistake of not taking the ash cart back
to the depot before slaking their thirst.
Another error was to chose the Bristol Trader as their port
of call- immediately under the watchtowers of County Hall.
Anyway, it seems that two functionaries made use of the new
footbridge to nip across to the 'Trader' and catch the miscreants
Over the years Old Grumpy has collected a voluminous archive
on drinking on duty within the County Council.
For instance, during last October's trawl through the authority's
books I came across several examples of what, to me at least,
seems like the extravagant, not to say wasteful, use of taxpayers
money on expensive food and wine.
One particularly eye catching specimen was the £833 bill
from Stone Hall for the Chairman's Civic dinner held on 25 March
The order signed by Dai Thomas, Director of Marketing and Communications
and holder of the Chairman's purse-strings is worthy of quotation
"Please provide dinner @ £21.50 per person x 16
for Chairman's Civic Dinner on Thurs 25 March + wine etc. Accommodation
for Mr S Daley & Cllr and Mrs Carthy for Thursday 25 March.
Hot meals (bar meals) for 6 chauffeurs (not as above
menu choice for dignitaries)".
Dignitaties? give me a break.
And we've got to add six chauffeurs' wages to the cost of the
eats and drinks
Mr Daley and Mr and Mrs Carthy are I believe some of our friends
The fact that Pembrokeshire's taxpayers are paying to feed
and water them is all part of a neat little scam which involves
their council paying the bill when our lot visit Ireland and vice
This has the advantage of keeping the expenditure off the Councillors'
expense sheets where it can easily be discovered and burying the
evidence among the several hundred thousand invoices that the
authority recieves each year in the hope that someone like Old
Grumpy won't find it.
While it might just be argued that fostering links with Ireland
encourages cross-border trade- though I would point out that there
was a thriving trade between Wales and Ireland long before local
authorities were even though of - it is difficult to see what
discernible benefit the people of Pembrokeshire obtained from
the £535 it cost to entertain His Excellency, Dr Singha
Basnyat, the Royal Nepalese Ambassador at the St Nons Hotel on
Sunday 26 March 2000.
The order was for luncheon for 15 at £19.75 a head and,
in addition, the assembled "dignitaries" managed to
drink ten quids worth of wine each - not a lot really when the
order called for claret at £15.75 a bottle and Chateau something
unreadable at £18.
Watch this space for news of the reciprocal visit.
Another story which caught my attention was the appointment
of County Council deputy leader Mr John Allen-Mirehouse to the
Readers of my column in the Mercury will remember that, about
two years ago, I reported on Mr Allen-Mirehouse's brush with the
National Park Authority's Monitoring Officer over a letter he
[Allen-Mirehouse] had written to his fellow National Park members
regarding an application for planning permission on land he owned
This was clearly an abuse of his position on the authority
and therefore a breach of the Local Government members' Code of
Whether someone with such a poor grasp of the principles underpinning
the rule of law is fit to be a magistrate is a matter I will be
taking up with the Lord Chancellor's Department.
Not that his mastery of the law itself is anything to write
In the letter to his fellow members he claimed that he had
a "non-pecuniary interest" in the application.
Even the Monitoring Officer, who strove manfully to put the
best possible gloss on Squirehouse's nefarious activities, was
forced to point out that having a non-pecuniary interest in land
which you own is a logical absurdity.
Last week, Tony Blair, in his address to the Christian Socialist
Movement, complained about those in the media who damage our democracy
by encouraging cynicism about politics and politicians.
As someone who plays a part in this process, albeit vanishingly
small, I am totally unapologetic.
The people who bring politics into disrepute are the politicians
The recent fiasco over the timing of the election is a classic
case in point.
It appears that Mr Blair prefers to conduct the nation's business
through leaks to the Sun rather than through the traditional democratic
channels of the Cabinet and Parliament, so why should we turn
out to vote for the MPs which he himself treats with such arrogant
Another story I spotted in the local press concerned Chief
Executive, Bryn Parry-Jones, and other County Council officers
giving talks to sixth-formers on the workings of local government.
What was absent from these reports was any mention that our
elected representatives played any part in this exercise.
Ten out of ten for realism,then.
I eat my peas with honey,
I've done it all my life.
It makes them taste quite funny,
But it keeps them on the knife. (anon)
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