11th March 2001

Not in front of the serfs!

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 option.

Up spoke the Chairman. "What really concerns me is this business of choice - people will want no increase in rates", he bleated.

So, it's a case of we're in charge and sod what the people want.

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.

Polo neck

About two years ago a rather curious story appeared in the Western Telegraph.

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 of self-importance.

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.


Eddie's Lament.

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.

Market rate

I have come to the conclusion that most of my fellow citizens are reluctant to accept the full consequences of living in a free market economy.

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?

Handy Hints

On serving Tomato ketchup.

Remember first to shake the bottle,

Or none will come and then a lot'll.

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