20 April 2004

email: oldgrumpy@oldgrumpy.co.uk


Back to basics

An e-mailer called in to say that last week's column resembled a discussion about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
Well, as it happens, the argument about angels and pinheads is most interesting, though, you will be relieved to hear, not one I intend to pursue further at this time.
However, I would remind my e-mailer of the words of my old chemistry master, 'Solomon' Beaumont, who, whenever we complained that we couldn't get our heads round some difficult concept or other, would retort: "Remember boys! Everything worth knowing is difficult to understand."
That said, I must admit that last week's effort was of labyrinthian complexity which probably only succeeded in muddying the waters while concealing the wood behind the trees.
I promise to mend my ways.
The problem is that, having accumulated so much stuff about Cllr Hall and Dr Ryan, I am suffering from information overload.
So, to clarify matters, I will repeat the salient points:

(1) 1 August 2000, letter from David Thomas county council Head of Marketing and Communications to ORA International Ltd (man. director Dr Michael Ryan) informing the company that it had been awarded a contract with the authority for the supply of 38 days economic development consultancy services per year at a fee of £18,000, plus expenses.

(2) Five weeks later, on 3 September 2000, letter from ORA, signed by Dr Ryan, informing Mr Thomas that the company intended to set up a UK registered company with Dr Ryan as its representative on the board.
Dr Ryan told Mr Thomas that, in order to avoid any conflict of interest, the company would not trade in "the territory of Pembrokeshire County and any other area within Wales which you might request, within reason."

(3) Six weeks after that, on 16 October 2000, letter and six page business plan sent by Dr Ryan to Cllr Brian Hall.
In that letter (see Hall-Ryan) Dr Ryan outlines their ambition to take over the Pembrokeshire Business Initiative; "get their hands on the project management and masterplanning" of a major development in Pembroke Dock involving the owners of the Cleddau Bridge Hotel (Purcell Bros); and to use Cllr Hall's position to identify small Pembrokeshire businesses as takeover targets. There is even a suggestion that Dr Ryan would base himself "for most of the time in Pembroke Dock if we can get in on this project".
So much for contractually enforceable agreements not to trade in Pembrokeshire.
What is also interesting about this letter are the indications that these plans had been under discussion for some time prior to 16 October 2000.
For instance the letter begins: "I have at last (my emphasis) completed my first draft of the business plan..." which would suggest that some considerable time has elapsed since these plans were first conceived.
"Any news on the Purcell Bros?" clearly implies that this is work in progress.
And on page 3 of the business plan, under the heading "Marketing" it is stated that "To date Dr Ryan and Brian Hall have been requested to participate in a number of projects such as: International Investment Project aligned to Pembroke Dock redevelopment."
All evidence, I would suggest, that Hall and Ryan were involved in a conspiracy to deceive the county council.

(4) 30 December 2000, Euro-Ryall Ltd incorporated - Hall and Ryan sole shareholders and directors.

The council argue that Euro-Ryall Ltd, never traded.

I think that is a dubious proposition because the company produced a profit and loss account for the year 2000-01.
In any case, it hardly matters because, as my Smith and Hogan puts it in the section on conspiracy: "Conspiracy consists in the agreement between two or more persons to effect some "unlawful" purpose. ...it is quite immaterial that they never put their agreement into effect."

In denial


Last week, I promised to give an account of the smear tactics employed by His Leadership Cllr Maurice Hughes in his attempt to mount a cover-up of the shabby, dishonest Hall/Ryan business.
Unfortunately, pressure of space rules out a full and comprehensive report on Cllr Hughes' activities, so I will restrict myself to the contents of a letter he wrote to Cllr Michael Williams on 29 September last year.
I doubt that Cllr Hughes actually penned this poisonous missive himself but, as his name appears at the bottom, he will have to take responsibility.
Having read about Hall and Ryan's murky relationship on my website, Cllr Williams had started to ask questions.
This was all rather inconvenient because, while the council could easily ignore my enquiries, it could hardly refuse to answer questions from an elected representative.
So, a strategy was devised to try to silence him.
Cllr Williams was already in receipt of a letter threatening a libel action from solicitors representing Dr Ryan and, when that failed to frighten him off, the Leader - or whoever pulls his strings - hit upon the idea of trying to discredit me by suggesting that I had made unfounded allegations to the police that Cllr Hall had "fiddled his expenses".
Strange that these same allegations have appeared several times on this website and Hall's solicitors have yet to be sent over the top.
Perhaps the more than £3,000 it cost him the last time we crossed swords in the High Court has made him nervous.
I have already dealt with the matter of Cllr Hughes' barefaced lies about my complaint to the police in some detail (see Smear-leader) so I will concentrate on another aspect of the Leader's letter to Cllr Williams.
Cllr Williams had demanded that the allegations on my website; that Cllr Hall and Dr Ryan were conspiring to use their positions to feather their own nests (see letter of 16 October 2000 above), should be refuted.
In reply, Cllr Hughes wrote: "I do not see why Councillor Hall (not "Hall as you so impolitely call him) should waste his time refuting spurious allegations - allegations that I find it hard to believe can be taken seriously by anyone."
Now that I have published the evidence (see Hall-Ryan) the Leader may have to reconsider his calculations about how many people take my allegations seriously.
The Leader went on: "It is also my experience that even if Cllr Hall did issue a refutation of these allegations, it is unlikely that this refutation would appear unedited or without unfavourable commentary on that website. It would of course be stupid to try to get that statement printed anywhere else as none of the other media has published the allegations."
Well, that excuse has gone out of the window because these allegations appeared in the Mercury more than a month ago.
So, why are we still waiting for Hall's refutation?

Shifting sands


Old Grumpy hears that the ruling Pembrokeshire Independent Group's majority has been further eroded by the defection of Cllr Pearl Llewellyn to Labour.
It is said that those who control the Independent Group are concerned that its majority might disappear altogether at the forthcoming elections.
Which would, of course, mean they no longer had free rein (reign?) in County Hall.
These concerns are well founded because several older members of the group are set to retire and whoever replaces them, will not, by definition, have had the same opportunity to dispense political patronage as their predecessors.
In addition, there is the fear that some of the newly-elected Independents may consult their dictionaries and come to realise that being independent is not compatible with membership of a political party.
If that were to happen, and these new members refused to be choreographed into the existing system of synchronised voting for whatever the Chief Officers Management Board put in front of them, it could spell trouble.
Old Grumpy is told that leading figures in this non-political, political party have already been out and about recruiting candidates for June's elections.
Rumour has it that, in order to impress prospective members, some have even been invited along to County Hall for lunch with the party hierarchy.
Anyone who signed up after that experience must be impressionable in the extreme.
Cllr Llewellyn's defection, so close to the election, has, a mole tells me, led to a certain amount of panic in the Independent ranks, with a very high-powered council of war being called to discuss who they might persuade to stand against her.
The wheel, it seems, has come full circle because, just before the last election, Cllr Llewellyn, who was all set to contest Pembroke for Labour, was persuaded by the Independents to become their candidate for Monkton, where she ousted the then Labour leader Kenvyn Jones - earning herself a five year exile from the party for her pains.
This could be the most exciting election for years.


Exalted company


While few of us would boast of our ability to distinguish between the fulsome, hoppy flavour of "Old Speckled Hen" and the rich malty aftertaste that comes from a swig of "The Reverend James", most of us like to think of ourselves as wine buffs.
I have a friend, a practising socialist as it happens, who ends every telephone conversation by telling me what special vintage he is about to enjoy when I finally get off the phone.
For myself, I have long been a fan of Tesco's £2.99 Chilean Merlot; the delights of which have frequently - some would say tediously - been plugged in this column.
Although I wish it were otherwise, I am as big a wine snob as the next man, or woman.
So, when I read in a headline in the Sunday Telegraph "Style" section that the Chilean Merlot had come out on top in a blind tasting by some of the country's leading experts, I couldn't help but puff out my chest in pride.
"Told you so" were the words on my lips as I read that the C M had outgunned French and other European wines costing up to three-times as much.
Then I read on and found that the Merlot in question was not the stuff you can buy in Tesco for under £36 a dozen but wine costing £36 a bottle, while some of the European vintages it was up against cost more than £100 a go.
I was impressed by the fact that, without exception, when the assembled experts sat down to lunch after the tasting session, they chose to drink the more expensive (and inferior?) wines on offer.
Journalists are paid to be cynics, and this is cynicism at its best.
I was also taken by the blurb at the end of the article which informed readers that the Chilean Merlot was an excellent wine to accompany beef.
I suppose it is flattering to know that your taste in Sunday morning reading is shared by the sort of people who can pay £36 for a bottle of wine and still afford beef.

All heart


In a single day last week, I spotted on my vegetable patch: a pair of bullfinches, two robins, a wren, several blue tits, a garden warbler, two doves, a solitary goldfinch, and blackbirds, jackdaws, chaffinches and sparrows too numerous to count.
So, if you want to encourage birds, dig the garden and get rid of the cat.
Also last week, when I lifted the corrugated iron sheets off the top of my compost heap, I discovered a family of six slow-worms basking in the warmth of the sun.
I can assure anyone who has never seen a slow-worm close up that they are rather beautiful things, and anything but slow.
Within seconds of being exposed to the light they had disappeared down the holes they had burrowed in the top of the compost.
Now Old Grumpy is faced with a dilemma.
Do I use the compost to enrich the soil in my garden and destroy the slow-worm's home, or do I leave it undisturbed and buy some of that environmentally-unfriendly chemical fertiliser from the garden centre?
Sometimes it's hard being a bunny-hugger.

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