December 13 2012

Win some - lose some

Cllr Huw George easily survived the vote of no confidence at today's meeting of PCC with a majority of 33-15 with nine abstentions.
The most surprising turn of events, given their Leader Cllr Michael Williams' letter in the Western Telegraph attacking Cllr George, was Plaid's decision to abstain.
The timing of this debate was rather unfortunate because next Monday Estyn is due to publish its latest inspection report on Pembrokeshire's education system.
A select few have already seen the draft report and one of them, head of education Martin Lloyd, has already announced his "retirement" due to the report's "challenging" nature.
The only elected member to have seen the report is the Leader Cllr Jamie Adams, but when I challenged him to say whether it contained any unpleasant surprises that might affect the way members voted he came over all coy; citing the confidentiality of the report as reason for his reticence.
As Cllr Adams was urging members to support Cllr George we must assume Estyn have given the education service the green light.
If it turns out otherwise, I will return to the subject next week.
During the debate, Cllr Adams made no attempt to challenge or refute anything I had written in my submission in support of my Notice of Motion (Submission).
Instead we were treated to a gale of windy rhetoric that is his speciality.
"It is time to draw a line under this. This is a new council" he said, much like the Tories might blame the last government for the present economic problems.
But that just won't wash; give or take a couple of minor changes in personnel, this is exactly the same clique who were in charge when the original critical reports were published.
He claimed there had been "a huge shift in ethos" since he became Leader, which was not much of an endorsement of his predessor Cllr John Davies who was sitting just a few seats away from him.
Nor, I might add of the deputy leader in the previous council who was um, err, Cllr Jamie Adams.
After that he got properly into his stride; describing the debate on the notice of motion as "a kangaroo court" before waffling on about "green shoots" and finishing with an allegation that I saw "danger in improvement for the children of Pembrokeshire" because it didn't fit my agenda.
Fortunately, we live in a liberal democracy otherwise I might be packed off on a re-education programme.
This tendency: to brand all critics as enemies of the people bent on some personal vendetta is standard practice for the IPPG and, I might add, lots of other nasty regimes in the past.
I don't need any lectures in the value of education from the likes of Cllr Adams.
I know how important it is, and even went to all the trouble of acquiring one for myself.
And I also know that those who suffer the most from under performing schools are children from deprived homes, who, unlike the middle classes who have other sources of knowledge (parents, private tutors etc), rely almost entirely on the state school system to lift them out of poverty.

For the NoM of no confidence in Cllr Hugh George: Phil Baker, Tony Brinsden, David Bryan, Tessa Hodgson, Owen James, David Lloyd, Jon Nutting, Mike Stoddart, Viv Stoddart, Jacob Williams (All unaffiliated) Pat Davies, Paul Miller, Gwilym Price, Tony Wilcox, Guy Woodham (All Lab). Total 15

Against:
Jamie Adams, John Allen-Mirehouse, Daphne Bush, John Davies, Mark Edwards,Wynne Evans, Lyndon Frayling, Brian Hall, Simon Hancock, Paul Harries Umelda Harvard, Mike James, Lyn Jenkins, Mike John, Keith Lewis, Rob Lewis, Pearl Llewellyn, Peter Morgan, Elwyn Morse, David Neale, David Pugh, David Rees, Tom Richards, Ken Rowlands, David Simpson, Peter Stock, David Wildman, Arwyn Williams, Steve Yelland (All IPPG) Stan Hudson, David Howlett (Tory), Mike Evans, Phil Kidney (Unaffiliated). Total 33.

Abstained:
Sue Perkins (Lab) Rod Bowen, Stephen Joseph, Jon Preston, Rhys Sinnett, Mike Williams (All Plaid) Bob Kilmister (unaffiliated) Reg Owens, Myles Pepper (IPPG). Total 9


The IPPG didn't fare so well in respect of my notice of motion designed to increase the numbers on committees in order to better reflect the overall political balance on the council.
Under the existing system the unaffiliated independents, of which I am one, who make up 23% of the council are only entitled to 11% of the seats on these committees.
And these percentages don't tell the whole story because of the five seats they do hold one is on the urgency committee which last met in September 2002.
How the decision to award this non-seat to the unaffiliated members rather than, say, the Tories was arrived at is not altogether clear, but I am pretty sure it didn't result from names being drawn out of a hat or other objective method.
Cllr Adams told the meeting that it was "unfortunate" that there were so may unaligned independents on the council because the political balance rules in the 1989 Local Government and Housing Act were designed to allocate seats "on a group basis".
Getting involved in deep arguments about the political balance rules was not a smart idea on his part because I happen to have read them, and the Widdicombe committee report which led to their enactment.
The political balance rules were brought in to prevent the abuse of the system whereby majority groups used their power to pack committees with their own supporters.
Not unreasonably, the political balance rules stipulate the majority group should have a majority on all committees, but only insofar as it reflects their majority on the authority.
That brings us to the nub of the problem because on even numbered committees the smallest majority you can have is two.
So a party could have a one seat majority on the council and a two seat majority on all committees.
On six member committees that means 4-2, or 66% - 33%; hardly what you would call political balance on a council split roughly 50-50.
On seven-member committees, which I was advocating, it is 4-3 and a much better reflection of the situation overall.
Knowing my dislike of the IPPG, Cllr Adams told the meeting that most councils in Wales had independent political groups and, indeed, independent political groups were the second largest grouping on the Welsh Local Government Association.
I'm afraid this is a fact masquerading as an argument because all it tells us is that, in Wales, independent political groups are not uncommon.
It says nothing about whether they are a good or bad thing.
In my lifetime most of Europe has been ruled by Fascist and Communist dictatorships, but the fact that such governments were commonplace didn't make them desirable.
The other argument was that all other councils in Wales have even numbered committees.
Which only goes to show that I wasn't the first person to cotton on to the fact that even numbered committees benefit the majority group.
And as it is the majority group that controls what is in the constitution it is not surprising that things were slanted in their favour.
Given that the purpose of democratic constitutions is to limit the the powers of the majority, it is not desirable, as the people of Egypt are discovering, to allow those in power to write their own rules.
Cllr Adams' other reason for opposing my motion was entirely party political.
On my reckoning, all these extra seats will go to the unaffiliated members which rather puts the kibosh on his sales pitch at the IPG's recruitment meeting just after the election when he told potential recruits "and the other thing we can offer you is the opportunity to become fully embraced by the committee structure of the council, which, as an individual councillor, is something that is taken out of your hands."
If unaffiliated member can be "fully embraced" in the committee structure that is one less reason for joining up.
Fortunately logic prevailed and despite Cllr Jamie Adams' best efforts to persuade his troops to vote down the motion, the IPPG suffered its biggest ever rebellion when no fewer than seven of his party voted with the opposition.
Indeed the only opposition member not to support this amendment to the council's constitution was Cllr Sue Perkins (Lab?) who seems to have decided not to offend her new found Cabinet chums.
Though her relations with at least one of them were not always so cozy.

For the proposal to increase committee numbers: Phil Baker, Tony Brinsden, David Bryan, Mike Evans, Tessa Hodgson, Owen James, Phil Kidney, Bob Kilmister, David Lloyd, Jon Nutting, Mike Stoddart, Viv Stoddart, Jacob Williams (All unaffiliated) Pat Davies, Paul Miller, Gwilym Price, Tony Wilcox, Guy Woodham (Lab) Rod Bowen, Stephen Joseph, Jon Preston, Rhys Sinnett, Michael Williams (Plaid) David Howlett, Stan Hudson (Con) Simon Hancock, Paul Harries, Lyn Jenkins, Mike John, Reg Owens, Myles Pepper, Peter Stock (IPPG) Total 32

Against: J
amie Adams, John Allen-Mirehouse, Daphne Bush, John Davies, Mark Edwards, Wynne Evans, Lyndon Frayling, Huw George, Brian Hall, Umelda Havard, Mike James, Keith Lewis, Rob Lewis, Pearl Llewellyn, Peter Morgan, Elwyn Morse, David Neale, David Pugh, David Rees, Tom Richards, Ken Rowlands, David Simpson, David Wildman, Arwyn Williams, Steve Yelland (All IPPG) Sue Perkins (Lab). Total 26.

December 12 2012

Victimhood

Word reaches Old Grumpy that PCC Leader Jamie Adams has been ringing opposition councillors in an attempt to drum up support for Cabinet member for education Cllr Huw George ahead of tomorrow's vote on my motion of no confidence.
I would imagine he has been doing the same to members of his own Independent Plus Political Group - the ones, you may remember, who are never told how to vote.
Of course, Cllr Adams is entitled to ring anyone he likes.
However, what I do object to is that he is putting it about that my motion of no confidence is part of a personal vendetta against Cllr George.
This is the old trick that the IPPG always falls back on when, as is often the case, they have nothing sensible to say (Whitehall farce) (Simple explanation) (Hall's resignation statement).
And even more recently Cllr Adams, himself, stooped to telling the Western Telegraph that my NoM was a "personal attack on Cllr George" (24 October).
Of course, this tactic is designed to divert attention away from the substance of the debate, much like the naughty schoolboy who having been caught in the act responds: "why are you always picking on me, Sir?"
I would point out that, throughout this whole business, I have not canvassed the support of a single member of the council - not even my own family.
Several members have approached me offering their backing and I have been happy to discuss the issues with them.
One unaffiliated member did ring me prior to the October meeting, when my motion of no confidence was first presented, to inform me that he intended to vote in favour of Cllr George.
I can assure you that I made no attempt to persuade him to do otherwise.
Indeed, some members of the opposition have criticised me for my lack of activism in promoting my NoM.
Quite simply, I don't do arm-round-the-shoulder politics.
I much prefer to put my case forward and let people make up their own minds.
And while the views of councillors are important in the short term, at the end of the day it is what the voters think that really matters.
I take heart from the fact that I have always expressed my antipathy to the IPPG in the clearest possible terms in both my election addresses and on my website and the electors of Hakin have always given me solid support (Thoughts of Chairman Mo) despite (or because of) my being opposed by former IPG leader Eric Harries.
And it seems to be working on a wider scale because, following last May's election, the IPPG's majority is down from 39 - 21 to 32 - 28 (31 - 29 before they enticed Cllr Simon Hancock away from Labour).
You can fool some of the people some of the time, etc.
And, when things go against me, I always console myself with the thought that, eventually, the truth will have its day.

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