September 10 2009


Under threat

During my recent break. I received a letter from Cllr Ray Hughes chairman of Manorbier Community Council (MCC) who takes exception to what I wrote on 6 August (Above criticism) (Abuse of power).
Indeed, "takes exception" is a bit of an understatement because Cllr Hughes is "appalled, shocked and disgusted".
He says that, as I was not present at the meeting where these letters were read out, my judgment "must be based on unsupported hear say (sic)".
He is demanding a "written unreserved apology" and if such is "not forthcoming within seven days" he will have "no option but to report the matter to the Ombudsman".
Of course, because something is hearsay doesn't mean it isn't true.
Significantly, Cllr Hughes makes no attempt to challenge my account of events.
I have written back telling him that if I have misreported his role in reading out these letters I will happily apologise.
Otherwise, he must take whatever action he thinks fit.
In addition, another matter has come to my attention which seems to support my original judgment.
According to the Western Telegraph (19 August) the issue regarding Cllr Calver's website (Above criticism) came to the Ombudsman's attention during the investigation of a separate complaint to the Ombudsman by Cllr Calver, in which he alleged that Community Council chairman Cllr Ray Hughes had breached the code of conduct in relation to a staff appointment.
Back in May I reported that MCC had passed a vote of no confidence in Cllr Calver (Silly games) because of his failure to report back to MCC on his activities in as a county councillor.
It now appears that this item was placed on the agenda by Cllr Hughes who was, at the time, under investigation by the Ombudsman following a complaint by Cllr Calver.
You might think that, given all the circumstances, Cllr Hughes was in no position to pass impartial judgment on Cllr Calver's capabilities as a county councillor.
But not only did he instigate this debate, he also, according to the Western Telegraph, used his chairman's casting vote to push the motion through.
As county councillors have no obligation whatsoever to report back to their corresponding community councils, it can only be assumed that Cllr Hughes was using (abusing?) his position to put one over on Cllr Calver.
If the Ombudsman should coming knocking on my door at Cllr Hughes' behest, it will give me the opportunity to bring him up to speed with the full facts behind this shabby little episode.
In any case, my criticisms of MCC, of which I am not a member, cannot, to my mind, constitute the offence of bringing the office of councillor into disrepute.
For that charge to stick you would need to commit some serious misconduct like taking bribes or driving while drunk.

Playing to the gallery


I see that the eco-warriors have won their appeal against the county council's refusal of planning permission for their environmentally-friendly village at Lammas in north east Pembrokeshire.
While I am no fan of the sort of pseudo-science that inspires the self-sufficiency movement, I'm all for a bit of diversity and, who knows, they might even be right and our profligacy will eventually result in us all having to subsist with two acres and a cow.
In which case, we will all be running to them for advice.
And, as I understand it, they are financing the project with their own money.
Less easy to stomach is the response of the political establishment with AM Paul Davies telling the newspapers: "A number of local residents were vociferously opposed to this project yet the planning inspector has totally ignored local democracy."
I suspect Mr Davies knows that, as the county council's monitoring officer repeatedly tells members during training events, public opinion has no part to play in the determining of planning applications - the only consideration being whether the proposal meets the requirements of the development plan - and his protests are simply the sort of posturing that gets politicians a bad name.
In this case the relevant policy is policy 52 which allows "Low impact development making a positive contribution".
Presumably, the applicants managed to convince the inspector that their proposal met the necessary criteria.
Which is how things are done in a democracy under the rule of law.
But the palm must be handed to county council Leader John Davies who is quoted as saying: "This decision sets a dangerous precedent and will spark further similar applications all over this area."
Cllr Davies' company , you will recall, was granted planning permission for a 2,800 sq ft herdsman's cottage at its farm at Cwmbetws near Eglyswrw even though when the planning committee met to determine the application he had already sold the dairy cows on which the need for the extra dwelling was based (No udder conclusion) (No callers).
And the approved development was almost twice as big as originally thought necessary (Size matters).
And, more than four years later, it has still not been built despite WAG guidelines which state: "New permanent dwellings should only be allowed to support existing agricultural activities on well-established agricultural units, providing (a) there is a clearly established existing functional need."
It is hard to see how there can be an existing functional need for this dwelling if he has managed without it for the past four years.
I would have thought Cllr Davies would be well advised to keep his head down when controversial planning consents are on the menu.

Not me guv

This week's Western Telegraph contained an excellent letter from Tenby councillor Michael Evans on the proposed increases in car parking charges.
As he pointed out, these extra charges will only serve to drive trade away from our already struggling town centres and into the arms of the out-of-town supermarkets.
He concludes: "The council's current proposal re car parking is a strange one. What are they thinking?"
The council is run by the Independent Political Group (IPG) which has 39 of the 60 seats.
All ten members of the Cabinet, which is proposing to impose these extra charges, belong to the IPG.
As, of course, does Cllr Michael Evans. If he finds his own party's policy "strange" what are the rest of us to make of it.
By the way, as I am always eager to tell anyone in Milford Haven who tackles me about these charges, Cllrs Anne Hughes and Danny Fellows are both members of the IPG and must, therefore, be presumed to be in favour of the imposition of charges on he town's hitherto free car parks..

Cool cat

There has been quite a hoo-ha this week over some Beatles' anniversary or another.
Being a Lonnie Donnegan fan, I'm afraid the whole thing passed me by.
Not so Grumpette who tells me that, when she lived near Chester in the late 1950s, she and her friend Caroline regularly travelled on the train to Liverpool for nights out at the Cavern.
She can't remember ever seeing the Beatles, but she does recall bopping to a group called the Quarrymen.
How cool is that?

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