December 9 2008



A concerned reader has enquired after my wellbeing after noticing that three weeks have passed since I had a go at the Western Telegraph.
Patience, my man, patience!
By happy coincidence, an opportunity has arisen after the WT sent me a copy of a press release issued by Cllr Ian Roberts, chair of police authorities Wales, in which attacks the government's proposals for directly elected "crime policing representatives" to replace the present county council appointees.
Knowing of my previous interest in the subject (Special pleading) the WT asked me for a comment which I duly e-mailed to them last Monday morning.
Within a short time, the story appeared on the paper's website, though not in the paper itself - crowded out by all those important PCC press releases, I suppose - with my contribution reproduced in full, for once.
Among the more fatuous statement in Cllr Roberts' press release was that "The current proposals will undoubtedly lead to less accountability than at present."
As I told the WT, it beggars belief that someone in Cllr Roberts' position could believe that direct elections reduce accountability especially as my constituents had no idea who their current representatives are (Special pleading).
Of course, the real reason these senior councillors are against the proposals is that they fear that whoever is elected it won't be them.
That is why they prefer the present backstairs method of appointment.
The Telegraph's website has a "Have your say" section where readers can post their comments and before long John Doe of Pennar was on the case suggesting, among other things, that Cllr John Davies, who has used the powers vested in him as Leader to appoint himself to one of the £7,200-a-year police authority posts, might welcome the opportunity to demonstrate to a county-wide electorate just how popular he is.
After all, he holds his present dictatorial powers by virtue of a few hundred votes in Cilgerran and the support of the 38 do-called independents, none of whom have a mandate from the electorate as far as I am aware.
Indeed some even promised that they wouldn't join the IPG, but soon changed their minds when the Special Responsibility Allowances that are in the Leader's gift were weighed in the balance (Party animals).
Unfortunately, Mr Doe's comments didn't survive long nor did the readers' right to comment because the "have your say" button was deleted.
Undeterred, Mr Doe posted a comment on another article in which he asked why the Western Telegraph removed comments critical of the county council.
That was posted overnight and was quickly censored when the offices opened at 9 O'clock.
Meanwhile my socialist friend had been doing some research and wanted to share the results with a wider audience but when he asked about having his say he was told that the facility had been withdrawn.
What he had discovered was that Cllr John Davies is now receiving more than £1,000 a week for his efforts - £13,000 basic councillor's allowance, £28,000 leader's SRA, £7,000 police authority and £5,000 leader WLGA.
And that doesn't include the farm subsidies he gets from the government.
If those farmers I hear on the radio complaining about the price of milk are to be believed, it sure beats dairy farming (No udder conclusion).

Fait accompli


Last week, I reported that the Cabinet had decided, without consultation, to move Milford Haven Library and the Tourism Information Centre from their present location to Cedar Court at Havens Head.(Closed book).
The Cabinet Member for culture and sport, Cllr Rob Lewis, told the Western Telegraph ". . . the new facility, which could be occupied in the next three or four months, had received a positive reaction in the town."
Last Wednesday, I e-mailed Cllr Lewis and asked for the names of these positive reactors, but as yet I have not been favoured with a reply.
I wonder if he made it up.
There is also an interesting point with regard to the calling in of this decision by the relevant scrutiny committee: children and families (All the Leader's men).
Cabinet decisions can be called in by either the Chairman acting alone, or four members acting in concert.
Call in by the chairman is out of the question in this instance because that post is held by Cllr Danny Fellows who clearly has an interest in this matter as vice-chairman of Milford Haven Port Authority, the owners of Cedar Court,
And because of the strange make-up of this committee, and the political balance rules which require the majority group on the council (IPG) to have a majority of seats on all committees it is not possible for the opposition to muster the four signatures necessary.
The children and families committee is made up of 16 members, four of whom are co-opted from what we might loosely call the educational establishment.
The other 12 are made up of nine IPG (to give them a majority on the committee) and three from the opposition.
So, unless the opposition can persuade one of the ruling party/group to join them, hardly likely given the solidarity of this non-political party/group, call-in becomes impossible.
It is interesting that, with an even number of members, the smallest majority possible is two, so a party (I notice party has been changed to group on PCC's website (Party games)) could have a single seat majority on a council and a two seat majority on all committees.
PS According to Cllr Rob Lewis it was the Western Telegraph that made it up.
He has just sent me an e-mail in which he says: "I would like to point out that I consider this statement inaccurate, as I do not recall saying the words "had received a positive reaction in the town"".
Mind you, it might not entirely be the WT's fault because not recalling saying something falls well short of denying that you said it.

Foregone conclusions

Attending the corporate governance committee is a depressing experience because you know that, whatever is said, the eight members of the IPG on the 12-member committee will always vote the party/group ticket.
This is hardly surprising given that the eight are The Leader and three of his cabinet colleagues, who all hold office at The Leader's pleasure, and the four scrutiny committee chairmen, ditto.
As joint deputy leader Cllr John Allen-Mirehouse said: while we opposition members are entitled to our opinions we have to come to terms with the fact that the Independents have been returned to power at the last three elections.
Similar arguments were advanced by the Leader and his other deputy Cllr Jamie Adams.
However, as I felt compelled to point out, it is political parties that are returned to power, and I offered a tenner to anyone who could produce an election address from one of these so-called independents that made any mention of either actual or potential membership of the IPG, or its Leader.
The fact is that the IPG is a gigantic electoral con-trick whereby candidates scoop up votes by pretending to be independent during the campaign before signing up once the votes are safely in the bag.
Cllr Allen-Mirehouse also told us that we should concentrate less on process and more on what was best for the people of Pembrokeshire i.e going along with what the IPG thinks is best.
Sadly, he doesn't seem to understand that it is process (constutionality) that distinguishes democracies from dictatorships.
And, as the IPG does not produce a manifesto, indeed I notice from one of Cllr Allen-Mirehouse's election leaflets that he boasts of not being bound by any manifesto, how can they claim to represent the collective views of the electorate?
I have complained before about the ease with which the Leader amends the constitution, usually to further his own political ends by extending the web of patronage that maintains him in power (Quick change artist) (One party state) .
Constitutions are the rules under which the people consent to be governed.
One of functions of a democratic constitution is to place limits on the powers of ruling majorities in order to avoid what former Tory Lord Chancellor Lord Hailsham described as elective dictatorship.
That being the case, it cannot be right that those in power can treat the constitution as their plaything.
As Professor Michael Burleigh wrote: "In democracies, constitutional amendments are particularly solemn moments; here they were easier than changing the traffic regulations."
The 'here' referred to is 1930s Germany.

Helicopter economics


As interest rates across the world head towards zero the question now being asked is: what if that doesn't work?
Clearly, the argument goes, interest rates can't fall below zero i.e when depositors pay the banks to hold their money and the banks pay borrowers to take out loans.
So, if zero interest rates don't pull us out of a deflationary spiral what other ammunition does the central banking fraternity have at its disposal.
The answer it seems is something called quantitative easing which, roughly translated, means printing money.
As Milton Friedman said inflation is a disease of money - too much of it - and deflation is a disease of money - too little of it.
It follows, therefore, that the cure for deflation is an increase in the money supply.
There are two difficulties with this: first how do you get the money into the hands of consumers and second how do you persuade them to spend it.
The first part of the problem is fairly easily solved by tax cuts, increased social security payments or, as Friedman half-jokingly suggested, dropping 50-dollar bills from helicopters.
But, once deflation has set in, the second leg of the problem becomes more difficult to tackle.
Take the present situation with house process which have fallen by 15% in the past twelve months.
No matter how much cheap and easy money was available it would be a brave, or foolish, person who ventured into the housing market without being certain that it had hit bottom.
Today David Cameron has come out strongly against the government's plans to borrow huge amounts of money to kick-start the economy.
I think Cameron is right and that the tax increases that will eventually be required to return the public finances to balance will be a drag on the economy for many years to come.
However, we must hope he is wrong because the Brown/Darling plan is the only game in town, and if it doesn't work we're all in the soup.

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