At a recent meeting of the County Council's Policy and Resources
committee the deputy leader of the ruling Independent Political
(sic) Group, John Allen-Mirehouse, took exception to the number
of questions being asked by Plaid Cymru's Cllr Mike Williams.
According to the Laird of Angle, had Cllr Williams gone to the
Director of Finance before the meeting his queries could have
been sorted out "in five minutes".
Cllr Williams insisted that it was his duty as an elected member
to scrutinise the way public money was being spent.
"As Cllr Williams says, it is the duty of members to raise
these matters", Squirehouse retorted, "it's just a pity
they have to do it so publicly".
Discussing the public's business in public, whatever will these
opposition members get up to next?
Another leading member of the not-in-front-of-the-children
tendency is Chairman Bill Hitchings.
When Cllr Barrie Woolmer (Lab) questioned one of the officers
at the recent meeting of full Council ,Chairman Hithchings admonished
him with the words: "I say again, members should ask these
questions before the meeting".
But Cllr Woolmer pointed out that it wouldn't be fair for him
to have information denied to other members and Cllr Bill Philpin
(Lib Dem) said that, anyway, as a matter of principle these matters
should be in the public domain.
Later in the meeting Cllr Terry Mills tried to put through
an amendment to the effect that, when setting Council Tax rates
in future, members should have a range of options to chose from
together with an assessment of the effects on services of each
Up spoke the Chairman. "What really concerns me is this
business of choice - people will want no increase in rates",
So, it's a case of we're in charge and sod what the people
Not that you'd expect a deep understanding of the meaning of
democracy from those who stand as independents and when elected
form themselves into a political party for no better reason than
to share out the lucrative committee chairmanships among themselves.
About two years ago a rather curious story appeared in the
It recorded that Mr Edward Setterfield, former Mayor of Milford
Haven, ex-Chairman of the County Council Planning and Highways
committees, ex-Chairman of the Dyfed Road Safety Council, and
of the Post Office Users Committee, and his sister Barbara, the
former Mayoress, had attended a polo match at Cardiff Castle as
guests of Viscount St Davids and his son, the Hon Rhodri Philipps.
As far as I know the Telegraph doesn't have a polo correspondent
so I can only assume that this piece of "news" was planted
by an inveterate name-dropper intent on puffing up his own sense
Not that you can really blame the Viscount and the Hon Rhodri
for wanting it to be known that they kept such exalted company.
But the dog barks and the caravan moves on.
Old Grumpy notices that the Hon Eddie and Mr Philipps have
made another joint appearance in a local newspaper , albeit in
connection with the rather unhappy circumstances surrounding the
demise of Mr Philipps company Crownridge Steel Ltd.
Looking through the list of creditors I came across the name
of one E G Setterfield who, it appears, has lost £800 as
result of Crownridge's sudden, but not unexpected, collapse.
Quite by coincidence, I am sure, the list of creditors reveals
that the St Davids Polo and Racing Club of Cathedral Road Cardiff
have also caught a cold to the tune of £4865.
Must have been the cost of all those cucumber sandwiches, washed
down with the best Krug, consumed by Eddie and Babs as they observed
the chukka on the immaculately manicured lawns of Cardiff Castle.
But Old Grumpy also remembers that, in the days before the
electorate consigned him to the dustbin of history, Eddie was
an enthusiastic cheerleader for Crownridge whenever their affairs
were discussed by the Council.
Though I don't recall him declaring that he had a pecuniary
interest in the firm's survival.
I thought it was all very pukka,
Going to Cardiff to witness a chukka,
With Viscount St D,
and the Hon Rhodri,
But at 800 quid - what a sucker!
And shame on all of you who thought of an alternative ending.
Our computer has recently been afflicted by a particularly
insidious virus which arrived via an e-mail.
The ant-virus programme installed in the machine was unequal
to the task of removing this infection and we had to obtain special
software to vaccinate the system.
I am not so paranoid as to jump to the obvious conclusion that
this was a deliberate act of sabotage by the forces of darkness
inside the County Council, but I would take some convincing that
they were not behind the the two pigeons that last week tore up
my newly sprouted broad beans.
I have come to the conclusion that most of my fellow citizens
are reluctant to accept the full consequences of living in a free
Sure, they quite enjoy the benefits in terms of choice and
price that competition brings, but they would rather we didn't
have to suffer the inevitable burdens.
Nowhere is this culture more evident than the BBC which routinely
uses the term "profiteering" to describe situations
where shortages, most recently of meat, lead to the price rises
that economic theory tells us inevitably follow.
This is generally couched in the Marxist language of exploitation.
Old Grumpy can remember the 1976 potato shortage, brought about
by the extreme drought of that year.
Potatoes were £5 a bag (£20 in modern money) and
farmers were accused of profiteering at the expense of consumers.
But that analysis ignores the fact that, in order to clear
the market in times of glut, farmers frequently have to sell their
spuds for less than the cost of production.
Strangely, we never hear about consumers using their market
powers to exploit farmers, because we do so at one remove through
the agency of the supermarkets.
And, of course, if the supermarkets did ensure that farmers
got a fair price by agreeing to pay them more than the going rate,
and passing the extra cost on to us, they would be criticised
for running an illegal cartel.
To determine whether or not you believe in free markets i.e.
goods being traded at whatever price people are willing to pay
for them, I will set you a little test.
You buy a picture at a car boot sale for a tenner and it turns
out to be a long lost Degas.
An American private collector offers you £5 million but
the National Gallery can only raise £3 million.
There are altruistic individuals who would accept the lower
bid on the grounds that humanity in general would benefit from
the picture being on public display.
But are you one of them?
On serving Tomato ketchup.
Remember first to shake the bottle,
Or none will come and then a lot'll.
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