December 6 2012

 

Peter principle

It seems that I owe an apology to Cllr Peter Stock.
In last week's column I said that all seven members of the IPPG on the corporate governance committee voted against my proposal to increase the membership of various committees in order to better reflect the political balance in the council (Outnumbered).
Cllr Stock, who is chairman of the corporate governance committee, assures me that he abstained.
Furthermore, he informs me that, because he feels that the present arrangements, whereby unaffiliated members are excluded from being fully embraced in the committee system, are unfair, he actually supports my proposal and had it been necessary he would have voted in favour.
The reason it wasn't necessary was that one of the Labour members on the committee (Cllr Sue Perkins) failed to show up, so, instead of being 7-5, the IPPG's majority was 7-4.
As a result, even if Cllr Stock had voted with the opposition, the IPPG would still have carried the day.
Had there been full attendance, and assuming Cllr Perkins voted in favour, it would have been a tie and Cllr Stock's casting vote would have been decisive.
This is all very encouraging because my NoM is due to come back to full council next Thursday where I will be calling for a recorded vote.
When the matter was last debated at this year's AGM, two IPPG members (not including Cllr Stock) voted in favour of the change, and one abstained.
As three defections is enough to overturn the IPPG's 32 -28 majority, we could be looking at the ruling party's first defeat since they seized power back in 1995.

Pot and kettle

It is mildly entertaining to hear the MPs on the Parliamentary public accounts committee getting into a lather over the dodges used by the likes of Google, Amazon, Apple and Starbucks to minimise the amount of corporation tax paid to the UK government.
Committee chairman Margaret Hodge MP has described these complex schemes as "completely and utterly and totally immoral".
And so they are, but they are not illegal.
Part of the problem is that the UK tax code has become so labyrinthian that there are loopholes aplenty for these clever lawyers to exploit.
The answer, surely, is to simplify the code, rather than trying to bully these companies into submission.
And whether MPs are the best people to be conducting this moral crusade is a moot point.
It is only a little over three years since the Daily Telegraph published details of MP's expense claims which showed they were exploiting every loophole they could find to maximise their take.
Some of these scams were illegal and not a few MPs have gone to jail, but most were within the letter, if not the spirit, of the law.
For instance, there was the widespread practice of switching their principal place of residence (flipping) so that they could claim for repairs and mortgage payments on their second homes. (Flipping hell) (Flipocrites)
Working on the old cricketing principle that a run saved is as good as a run scored, there doesn't seem to be any distinction morally between bending the rules to minimise your tax bill, and bending the rules to maximise your expense claims.
It's a loss to the Exchequer, either way.

Unhappy ending

You don't hear much about sustainable development these days.
That could be because, in the present economic climate, development of any kind is hard to achieve.
Yesterday's autumn statement was a gloomy as it gets, but, when you consider that Chancellors always base their predictions on what turn out to be over-optimistic growth forecasts things, are almost certain to get much worse.
In normal times when a country hits the economic rocks it just devalues its currency and exports its way back to health.
Two things stand in the way of that solution.
The first is the Eurozone where the option of devaluation simply doesn't exist for the worst performing members and the second is that all of the developed world is suffering from the same malaise of too much debt and too little growth.
The world's net balance of payments must be precisely zero because every exporter requires a corresponding importer so, whatever the politicians try to tell us, it is arithmetically impossible for everyone to export their way back to prosperity simultaneously.
There has been much discussion on the financial pages of the Daily Telegraph about the difference between debt and deficit.
These terms are used interchangeably by politicians, but they are completely different animals.
The debt is like your overdraft at the bank.
The deficit is what you spend each week over and above your income i.e. the amount by which your overdraft increases provided you have an accommodating bank manager.
So if you tighten your belt and cut you deficit from, say, £20 to £10 a week all you do is reduce the rate at which your overdraft increases.
That is the unhappy situation the UK and most European governments find themselves in and it is difficult to conclude that it won't end badly.

Hard lesson

As I wrote previously, when playing village cricket it is not good policy for a batsman to allow himself to be hit on the pad when the opposition's umpire is standing at the bowler's end.
That was the situation when this batsman took his guard.
The ball pitched two-feet outside the leg stump, broke back sharply and hit him on the pad.
Without the slightest hesitation, up went the umpire's finger.
As he trudged off the batsman turned to the umpire and said: "I didn't know you could be LBW when the ball pitches outside leg stump".
"Well lad, " the umpire replied, "tha knows now".

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Foregone conclusion

 

According to this week's Western Telegraph there was "No support for no confidence motion" at Monday's meeting of cabinet.
This is a reference to my no confidence motion in Cllr Huw George, the cabinet member for education.
It should come as no surprise that my motion didn't receive a single vote because the people doing the voting were Cllr George's cabinet colleagues, including Cllr George himself, all of whom hold their positions at the pleasure of the Leader Jamie Adams who appointed Cllr George to his post and, despite a string of adverse reports over the last 15 months about the council's education/child safeguarding performance, recently promoted him to Deputy Leader.
So, hardly what you might call an impartial tribunal.
Before the cabinet was my submission as to why I thought Cllr George should go (Submission) though there was no attempt during the Cabinet "debate" to counter any of my arguments.
Instead, The Leader said a few words about how he had "considerable confidence" in Cllr George, followed swiftly by the vote.
Readers will remember that, at the meeting of full council on October 18, I put down a notice of no confidence in Cllr Huw George.
The vice-chairman Cllr Arwyn Williams, who chaired that meeting in the absence of Cllr Peter Morgan, decided to remit my notice of motion for consideration by the Cabinet.
This came as something of a surprise to those who understand how democracy is supposed to work because there is no way the Cabinet can be expected to look objectively on the performance of one of its own members.
In any case, the chairman's word is final, so, as required by the rules, I put in a written submission in support of my case for Cllr George's removal (Submission).
Thanks to a recent change in the constitution I also had the right to put my case to Monday's meeting of Cabinet.
Having concluded that my chances of influencing the Cabinet on this issue were somewhere between zero and vanishing point, I instead made the following statement.
"As one of those who fought hard over many years for the right of members to address Cabinet, it gives me no pleasure to be here today.
This Notice of Motion should have been debated at full council on October 18, but, for whatever reason, the vice-chairman used his discretion to remit it to Cabinet.
I am frankly amazed that the vice-Chairman of this council should think that this Cabinet was an appropriate forum for a debate on a motion of no confidence in one of its own members.
That seems to offend against the principle of Natural Justice that says a man shouldn't be a judge in his own cause.
No doubt members will have read my submission in support of my Notice of Motion.
I am content to let that submission speak for itself, and will not dignify these proceedings by taking any further part in this undemocratic charade."
Chief Executive, Bryn Parry Jones, countered that the council's constitution provided that, having been moved and seconded, notices of motion that come before the council "stand referred without discussion to the Executive [Cabinet] or any such committee(s) as the council may determine. for consideration and report back to the council for determination".
So, on the face of it, my complaint about the vice chairman remitting my NoM to Cabinet was groundless.
However what the Chief Executive neglected to mention was that the constitution also states that: "Provided that the chairman may, if he/she considers it essential and conducive to the dispatch of business, allow the motion to be dealt with at the meeting at which it was brought forward."
Indeed, that was the process followed at the same October 18 meeting with regard to a NoM on NHS reorganisation submitted by Cllr David Lloyd.
The reason for remitting NoMs to Cabinet or Committee is to allow for detailed discussion in a less formal setting than full council.
Or, as our former Leader used to be fond of saying, "to add value" to the process.
As the decision was the most foregone of foregone conclusions it is difficult to see what purpose was achieved by sending it to Cabinet.
The only surprise was that Cllr Sue Perkins (Lab?) abstained
Even some of my opposition colleagues were doubtful about my use of "charade" but after considering "pantomime" (seasonal) and "farce" I came to the conclusion that charade most aptly described the situation.

 

Party piece

 

It is not difficult to guess what might be the main item on the agenda at the following "gathering", though, as we are told that IPPG members "are never told how to vote", you have to wonder what its purpose is.
What would I give to be a fly on the wall of Committee Room 2 next Monday afternoon?

To all members of the IPPG

"Sent: Tuesday, 30 October 2012, 17:14
Subject:

Hi All
At our last Group meeting, some time was spent discussing the timing of Group gatherings. Following on from these discussions, I have booked Committee Room 2 for 3 pm on Monday 10th of December.
I had hoped to arrange the meeting for the Tuesday, but, as there are no rooms available, on this occasion we will have to meet on the Monday - hence the early notice. I will send out a reminder nearer the date.
Regards
Rob
R M Lewis
County Councillor for the Martletwy Ward
&
Deputy Leader
Responsible for Highways, Transportation,
Planning and Major Events.
Tel 01437 77 66 17
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Yet another example of the IPPG's inability to distinguish between the business of government and party politics.
This email was sent by R M Lewis chairman of the IPPG and not by R M Lewis Deputy Leader Responsible for Highways, Transportation, Planning and Major Events.
Indeed, according to that other website, the last major event he organised was the IPPG's recent election campaign.
I have solid information is that some members of the IPPG back my NoM, so it will be interesting to see how many of these "truly independent" councillors have the courage of their convictions when it comes to the vote at full council on December 13.
I'm afraid it is more likely to be yet another case of cometh the hour, cometh the sham.
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