February 27 2007
The Western Telegraph's website thisispembrokeshire.net has had another busy week with the question "Should Hall step down?"
A lively discussion has been maintained with insults flying freely from all sides.
As Mr Justice Collins said in the Livingstone case, the right to free speech includes the right to be abusive, and Dai from Pennar seems to be intent on taking full advantage with the following message:
Maud, just looked at old grumpys (sic) website at your request and it appears just to be the ramblings of a deranged old man who freely admits smoking drugs in his column.
If Dai is thinking of visiting the Liddeston area any time soon, he would be well advised to make sure his personal injury policy is fully paid up.
And, as writing this stuff is not an approved duty, I am not acting in my official capacity..
Strife of Brian
It would seem from comments made by county council Leader, John Davies, that the opposition's motion of no confidence in Cllr Brian Hall will be debated at Thursday's meeting of full council.
There were fears that the Independent Political Group would use its majority to try to kick the motion into the long grass (see Out of order), but Cllr Davies told the Western Telegraph: "Opposition leaders have made submissions to full council which requires the members to consider the matter. I shall be responding fully to those issues relating to Cllr Hall at full council on March 1st. To pre-empt the meeting and its deliberations would not be appropriate. I shall make my views known at the meeting".
Rumours abound in county hall that a number of IPG members are reluctant to back Cllr Hall and would vote with the opposition if there was a secret ballot.
But that particular cop-out will not be available if, as expected, the opposition insists on transparency and forces a recorded vote
No doubt there is some heavy-duty thinking going on around this issue in the Kremlin-on-Cleddau, and what cannot be ruled out is that the IPG concludes that a secret ballot would be preferable to washing its dirty linen in public.
Just imagine the difficulties that would arise if Cllr Hall were to survive on a recorded vote and returned triumphant to the Cabinet room to find himself working alongside colleagues who had openly voted against him.
It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.
The ruling junta will be holding its secret conclave tomorrow afternoon and, if it is accepted that a recorded vote is unavoidable, I wouldn't be surprised to find the IPG benches decimated by a sudden outbreak of diplomatic flu.
Meanwhile, I hear that muffled cries of "Anything but that" can been heard coming from the dungeons beneath the Kremlin as potential rebels are warned that that any disloyalty will result in the extraction, without the benefit of anaesthetic, of their Special Responsibility Allowances.
I am told that this may be helping to persuade some that discretion should be the better part of valour.
After all, you can't expect a man to lay down his self-importance for a mere principle.
The meeting, which starts at 10 am, is open to the public.
The First XV
Old Grumpy has at last managed to gather together all the information from the various public bodies and below is a list of the most highly paid members of Pembrokeshire County Council.
Name Authority Basic Allow Special Allow Trav Time Total Allow Expenses Grand total J T Davies PCC
B J Hall PCC
J Allen-Mirehouse PCC
D M Evans PCC
R D Wildman PCC 11,463 13,635 25,098 3,507 28,245 D I Howells PCC 11,463 13,656 25,098 3,145 28,423 P A Stock PCC 11,463 13,656 25,098 2,015 27,293 D Simpson PCC 11,463 10,991 22,454 3,655 26,289 S E James PCC 11,463 10,991 22,454 2,888 25,342 R M Lewis PCC 11,463 10,991 22,454 2,766 25,220 S Watkins PCC
A C Luke PCC
S L Hancock PCC
C J Collins PCC 11,463 10,678 22,141 * 22,141 J L Davies PCC 11,463 8,181 19,644 1,155 20,799
Subs: R R Hayes (20,635) W H Hitchings (20,007) E J Watson (19,646) T J Richards (19,645).
With the exception of Milford Haven Port Authority, all appointments of IPG members to outside bodies such as National Park, Police Authority and Fire Authority are in the gift of the Leader.
In the case of MHPA, the Leader sits on the three-person interview panel that selects local authority board members.
Cllr Simon Hancock is a Labour Group representative on the National Park Authority.
Some surprise has been expressed at the Leader's decision to appoint himself to the the Police Authority: the basic allowance for which, at £6,686, is far greater than any of the others.
And, as Leader is supposed to be a full time post, it is not easy to see how he finds the time.
Presumably, he must have considered himself the best man for the job, though I was not aware that, as an ex-dairy farmer, he had any special expertise in this field until SF reminded me that Cllr Davies had played the village bobby in an award winning Welsh language film entitled "Eldra".
Uniquely, in addition to the 50p mileage allowance, the Police Authority pays its members travelling time.
As can be seen from the above, travelling time allowance exceeds mileage allowance.
In Cllr Davies' case it works out to the equivalent of 62p per mile, or £18.60 per hour when travelling at 30 mph, and £37.20 at 60 mph.
So the faster you drive, the higher the rate of pay.
I'm not sure how that can be reconciled with the message: "Speed kills"
Another who appears to be having trouble fitting everything in is the deputy Leader, John "Head-and-shoulders" Allen-Mirehouse, who, in addition to being Cabinet member with responsibility for small businesses and Chairman of the Objective One committee, is a county council nominee on the National Park, Fire Authority and the board of Milford Haven Port Authority.
And on top of that, he has the 2000 acre Angle Estate to run.
No wonder, then, that figures provided by the National Park Authority show that Johnny only managed to attend 38% of its meetings last year.
Perhaps he should move over and give someone else a turn.
Living it up
I am grateful to Mr Adrian Gatton of the London Evening Standard for forwarding a copy an article he has written about The Hon Rhodri Philipps who, regular readers will remember, was the driving force behind Crownridge Steel Ltd, which was briefly in the business of processing stainless steel at the Mine Depot in Milford Haven.
The enterprise was not a success and Crownridge went bust in February 2001 with debts of £5 million, including, much to my delight, £800 owed to Eddie Setterfield and £4,865 to the St Davids Polo and Racing Club in Cardiff (see Polo neck)
Among the other creditors was Pembrokeshire County Council (£17,000 unpaid rent and an unspecified sum in the region of £100,000 in respect of failure to carry out repairs to the sea wall, as required under the terms of the lease) though the council had a fall-back position in the form of personal guarantees from Mr Philipps and his fellow directors.
In October 2002, the council's Cabinet resolved to take steps to recover the outstanding money, but little progress seems to have been made and when I raised the matter in late 2005 a council spokesman told the Mercury "attempts by the council to trace the whereabouts of Mr Philipps have proved unsuccessful."
This was rather strange because, when I typed Mr Philipps' name into Google, I came across numerous articles about his polo playing exploits in such exotic places as St Tropez and Klosters (see Polo mint).
According to the Evening Standard, the Hon Rhodri now seems to have got himself into a bit of bother as a result of his dealings with the German company Brochier.
Though it doesn't seem to have dulled his appetite for the high life because there are claims that the company's credit card was used to purchase a £5,000 Purdey shotgun; £12,000 worth of executive jet hire; and numerous expensive meals including one at the Connaught with Gordon Ramsey.
It appears that, despite his troubles, Rhodri maintains an impish sense of humour because the polo team he captains plays under the name Prodigals.
Unfortunately, due to my limited computing abilities, I am unable to reproduce the Evening Standard's pages on my website, but I can e-mail copies on request.
I can assure you, it is a cracking good read.
Anyone who still believes that elections are the be all and end all of democracy should consider what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan where corruption and factionalism are rife.
No matter how often, or how many, people go to the polls, there can be no democracy where the police force is in cahoots with one of the warring factions, or where the judiciary is not completely independent.
An independent judiciary and a non-politicised police force are the democratic institutions without which justice and freedom under the rule of law cannot possibly flourish.
And the rule of law is the great bulwark against corruption because a backhander can have no bearing on the outcome when issues are decided by strict adherence to clear and fixed rules.
But if officials and politicians are given discretion then they are open to be bribed to exercise their discretion for the benefit of certain individuals.
And once corruption takes hold it creates a vicious circle that is is difficult to break.
For instance, if a building contractor is obtaining all the work by bribing an official, his rivals are faced with stark choice of themselves becoming corrupt, or going out of business.
Corruption is, of course, a difficult crime to detect because both the briber and the bribed have an interest in concealment.
Our legislators were well aware of this when they enacted the Prevention of Corruption Act 1916 which is one of the very few UK Acts that place the burden of proof on the defendant.
Thus Section 2 of the 1916 Act requires a public official, who has received money, gift, or other consideration from a third party, to show (on the balance of probabilities) that it was not received corruptly.
A clear example of zero tolerance.
Lost in cyberspace
Had an interesting e-mail about an item of school uniform from someone claiming to be not so grumpy.
Come off it, you're either grumpy or you're not - no half measures.
Unfortunately, his/her email address was rejected when I tried to reply, so, if he/she wants to carry on the conversation, please get in touch.
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