August 6 2009


Above criticism

An member of the public who attended last Monday's meeting of Manorbier Community Council (MCC) tells me it was a typically lively affair.
The highlight, I understand, came when the meeting came to a premature end after a local resident; ordered out for what the chairman considered to be disorderly behaviour, refused to leave.
There was even talk of calling the police before the decision was taken to abandon ship (Hello, hello).
Before that, the chairman, Cllr Raymond Hughes, read out some interesting letters.
My correspondent tells me that one of these was from the Ombudsman informing the community council that he was launching an investigation into the conduct of one of its members, Cllr Malcolm Calver, for bringing the authority into disrepute by posting "critical and derogatory" comments about MCC and its members on his website
This, according to the Ombudsman's letter, is a potential breach of paragraph 6(1)(a) of the code of conduct.
Naturally, Old Grumpy, who has been known to publish the odd "critical and derogatory" comment about Pembrokeshire County Council and its members, was rather disturbed to hear about this.
Fearing that I might be next, I reached down my copy of the Code and read "You must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute."
Now I can see why a member should avoid promoting a friend's planning application; or making threats of violence; or getting into a brawl down the pub but drawing attention to what he considers to be disreputable behaviour by the local authority of which he is a member - come off it!
If Pembrokeshire County Council was controlled by the BNP, or another official fascist party, would a member of the opposition be liable for censure if he published
"critical and derogatory" remarks about the racist and authoritarian nature of the ruling group.
Strangely, the code doesn't apply to anything, however scurrilous, I might say about the National Park Authority of which I am not a member, it is only in respect of PCC that I have to watch my Ps and Qs.
However, should the worst come to the worst, and I have to make an unscheduled appearance before the standards committee, I will be swift to claim my right to freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act (Article 9).
After all, it was this same committee that decided that to punish Cllr Brian Hall for making threats of violence towards a BBC journalist would infringe this very right (Freedom to threaten).
I will also ask the committee to consider whether my right to a fair trial (Article 6) might be compromised by the presence among its number of two members of the Independent party/group/clique against which many of my critical/derogatory remarks have been directed.
I am also told that there have been several Ombudsman's investigations into members of MCC but that this is the first time any can recall the Ombudsman's letter of notification being read out at a community council meeting.
Could it be that Cllr Hughes was using, or, more correctly, abusing, the power of the chair to get at Cllr Calver.
Perhaps, the Ombudsman might investigate that.

Abuse of power


The Ombudsman might also like to consider the chairman's motive in reading out another letter concerning Cllr Calver.
This was written by Mr Charles Cochrane who you may remember was acquitted of assaulting Cllr Calver last year after magistrates accepted that he had acted in self defence.
I have obtained a copy of this letter which is reproduced below.

29th July 09

Re: - Request for funding, Manorbier Community Council

Dear Chairman and Members of the Council

I note from copies of the Pembrokeshire County Council records, Community and County Councillor Malcolm Calver's personal allowances and expenses have accrued to, in excess of £59,000 over the last 5 years.
As the Councillor does not appear to have made any identifiable or positive contribution to our community whatsoever, either as a Community or County member and as this figure equates to almost the whole amount our community has suffered in legal fees, while the Councillor has been in office, additionally bearing in mind, some of the councillor's own actions or lack of action "may" have contributed to these costs, then I request the following:-
The Community Council seeks the agreement of Councillor Calver, that as a gesture of goodwill, he will withdraw this unearned income from his bank and donate it to where it belongs, that is, in the bank of the charge payers via Manorbier Community Council, to be used for the benefit of residents of this Community who put it in the Councillor's bank account in the first place.
This will also benefit Councillor Calver, as it will mean, the Community Council can then accede to his past proposals, for a zero precept, for the foreseeable future, and will be seen as the Councillors first recognisable, positive contribution to our community, which is in itself, is a long awaited milestone!
I look forward to your reply

Yours sincerely

Now, the proper response to this letter would have been to return it to Mr Cochrane with a polite note explaining that MCC only has the power to consider matters that fall within its remit and that the question of how Cllr Calver chooses to dispose of his county councillors allowance is not one of them.
For the chairman to read it out in an attempt to embarrass Cllr Calver is nothing short of disgraceful.
It would be going too far to describe these people as fascists, but their tactics, if not their shirts, have a distinctly brown tinge.

Read all about it


The National Park Authority has moved with commendable speed to publish on its website all the documents concerning Cllr John Allen-Mirehouse's attempt to get the taxpayer to fork out £40,000 for his legal costs.
I am told that some members of the IPG were in favour of paying the lot but nobody actually plucked up enough courage to propose such a move.
Ah! the restraining influence of the recorded vote
In the event members agreed that you should pay some £8,000, including £1,600 charged by two solicitors (eight hours at £200) for travelling from Cardiff to Angle to meet Cllr Allen-Mirehouse and his chum Viscount St Davids (Money for jam).
Only the hoi polloi go to see their solicitors.
The documents are a good read, particularly the Monitoring Officer's reports which set out the issues with a degree of clarity not usually associated with local authority bureaucrats.
However, if you are not one of those sad people who enjoy ploughing through that sort of thing, I recommend Cllr Allen-Mirehouse's letter of 8 July 2008. (Schedule of correspondence page 14).
As someone once nearly said: you are what you write.

Top gear

It seems that the £1.8 million plan to reintroduce the beaver to Scotland after a 400 year absence has not gone entirely to plan.
According to the Today programme one of the beavers has died and a pair have gone missing.
Can it be long before Davy Crockett hats become a must-have fashion item in Edinburgh's Princes Street?

One rule for her . . .

The other day I noticed that the bed hadn't been made.
When I mentioned this to Grumpette, she explained that she had left the sheets back to allow the bed to air.
Why can't I get away with that when I leave the pans to soak?

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