March 6 2007

 

 

Hall's resignation - what really happened

If you believe one half of his resignation statement, Cllr Brian Hall has been hounded out of office by the likes of former BBC journalist Simon Morris and Old Grumpy.
During his protracted bleat to last Thursday's council he said: " I have been falsely accused of all sorts of criminal offences by certain individuals and I've been investigated by the District Auditor, the Ombudsman, the local police and the Fraud Squad and uncle Tom Cobley and all, and I've been cleared of any offences. I've had enough of it and I'm not going to take it any more."
Now, falsely accusing someone of a criminal offence lays you open to a libel action, so people may wonder why Cllr Hall, who has never in the past been slow to send his lawyers into action, hasn't sued his persecutors.
Of course, he was resigning for the purest of motives: I have thought long and hard and have decided that my family comes paramount.
Knowing this tirade of abuse would continue even though I have been proved innocent on a number of occasions, I now offer the leader my resignation from the cabinet . . ."
However, the truth lies elsewhere in his statement where he says: I shall decide later whether I shall remain a member of the Independent Group. Bearing in mind initially this week nearly all the Independent members told me that they supported me, regrettably some of them say one thing and do another.
Indeed, it was less than an hour before Thursday's meeting of council that he decided he wasn't going to take it any more and put the interests of his family first.
On Tuesday, Cllr Hall spent most of the day ringing his IPG colleagues from an office in the Kremlin's attic.
My understanding is that, a few principled souls apart, the vast majority promised to back him.
So, it was with some confidence that he approached the IPG's secret meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
By then some of the members had read my website (see Strife of Brian) and, given that the next election is little over a year away, were facing the prospect of a recorded vote on the opposition's motion of no confidence with some trepidation.
I understand there was some encouragement for Cllr Hall at this meeting with party loyalists such as Cllrs Anne Hughes, Clive Collins and David Neale pledging their support
There was, however, also a fair sprinkling of antis.
It seems that the rot set in when Cllr Bill Hitchings suggested Cllr Hall should fall on his sword and resign forthwith.
Once there was blood in the water, other sharks began to circle and Cllr Bill Roberts said that Cllr Hall's antics made him sometimes ashamed to be called a county councillor.
Cllr Arwyn Williams said he blamed the Leader and deputy-Leader (Cllr John Allen-Mirehouse ) for not reining in Cllr Hall earlier, and Cllrs Don Evans and Lyn Davies also made it clear that they were unwilling to back him.
But perhaps the most telling contribution came from the hitherto ultra-loyalist, Cllr Rosalie Lilwall.
Cllr Lilwall told the assembled throng that she had been telephoned by Cllr Hall the previous evening and told that, unless she backed him, she would get nothing done in her ward.
It seems she didn't take kindly to these bully-boy tactics.
I am told that Cllr Hall left the meeting threatening to resign and take them all down with him.
The Leader and Cllr Hall then proceeded to go to a place that is only referred to as "upstairs" and, when they emerged an hour or so later, Cllr Hall' demeanor was much improved.
What had been cobbled together was some sort of deal that would have seen Cllr Hall remain in the Cabinet in a less prominent role.
In addition, he had given an assurance that he wouldn't claim travelling expenses and that he would retire from the fire authority once his term as chairman ends in May (see below).
However, when this was put to the members of the IPG during a series of phone calls on Wednesday evening, and informal meetings on Thursday morning, it went down like the proverbial lead balloon and, realising the game was up, the Leader demanded Cllr Hall's resignation from the Cabinet.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
A copy of Cllr Hall's resignation statement can be found at the bottom of the page

Self-destruction

Having forced Cllr Hall to resign, the Leader then told us what a wonderful chap he was and how he wished the rest of us could emulate him.
Then there was some of the Leader's trademark waffle: "Tomorrow will be another day, another journey, and another chapter" followed by the usual call to put this behind us and move on.
The Leader concluded: "I am really saddened by the way some people operate in this council".
And so am I, especially with the Leader who promised us the "highest ethical standards" when he took up the post, and has since spent his time defending the indefensible where Cllr Brian Hall is concerned (see Slippery customers).
Even now, he has only acted because he knew that, with some of the more politically astute among his party's members refusing to commit electoral suicide by openly backing Brian Hall in a recorded vote, there was no way he could rally enough support to defeat the opposition's motion of no confidence.
The county council has also put out a press release in which the Leader is quoted as saying: ‘‘I wish that the minority few within the Opposition could be focused on doing something constructive for their electorate rather than cultivate a public perception of negative thinking and destruction of individuals.’’
That really says it all!
Not only is this an overtly partisan political statement of a sort that has no place in a taxpayer-funded press release, but the Leader seems to be suggesting that anyone who criticises his administration is betraying their constituents.
But, as someone once said: paranoia and power are easy bedfellows.
As for the destruction of individuals: it wasn't me who destroyed Cllr Hall, he destroyed himself.
It wasn't me who put in a claim for journeys I couldn't possibly have made (see Time Lord)
It wasn't me who got involved in a dubious business relationship with a council-employed economic development consultant (see Hall-Ryan).
It wasn't me who claimed from two separate authorities for the same trip to Builth Wells (see On approval).
And it wasn't me who threatened violence against a BBC journalist: the event that ultimately led to his downfall.
All that I have done is investigate these matters and bring them to the attention of the public.
Meanwhile, instead of addressing the problem, the council and the Leader have mounted one cover up after another.
It seems to me that, rather than taking pot shots at the messenger, the Leader would be better employed putting his own house in order.


Compound interest

Last Thursday's meeting of the county council endorsed the planning committee's decision to grant consent for the development of 12 timber chalets at Heron's Brook near Narberth.
When this application came before the planning committee, the officers recommended refusal on the grounds that, as it was 400 yards from the nearest boundary of Narberth it was not "well related to a settlement" as required by the policy.
However, following a plea from local member, Cllr Wynne Evans, who, according to the Western Telegraph, told the committee: "I can't tell you how I feel about this application. I know this family so well. It is essential that you pass this today" the development was approved by 17 votes to 2.
When the matter came before last Thursday's full council Plaid Cymru leader Cllr Michael Williams pointed out that if the applicants were Cllr Evans' friends, he had a duty under the Code of Conduct to declare an interest and leave the meeting.
Cllr Evans, who neither declared an interest nor withdrew from the meeting, countered: "The applicants are friends of mine - that's what comes from living in a small community. I'm delighted to call them friends of mine."
Clearly, there is some disagreement between Cllrs Williams and Evans on the interpretation of the Code which says: "A member has a personal interest in a matter if that member anticipates that a decision upon it might reasonably be regarded to benefit or disadvantage (a) the member, one of the member's family or a friend, or any person with whom the member has a close personal relationship."
And later: "If that personal interest is such that member of the public might reasonably conclude that it would significantly affect the member's ability to act purely on the merits of the case and in the public interest if that member were to take part in the discussion of that matter, the member must also withdraw from consideration of the matter at that meeting."
My money's on Cllr Williams.
It will be interesting to see what the Ombudsman makes of it all.


Court jesters

 

It seems that things are hotting up again in the sleepy little village of Manorbier.
Just over a month ago I reported that Manorbier Community Council (MCC) had lost a court case (and £18,000 of local taxpayers' money) after they were sued by ICT Marketing for an unpaid bill in respect of analysis of the community appraisal (Manorbier madness).
Now I read on the website Manorbier.com that ICT has written to MCC seeking damages of £250,000 from the community council and individual members, for loss of reputation, libel , slander and anything else you care to mention.
Things don't look too clever for the hard pressed residents because, according to Manorbier.com Chairman, Cllr Tony Wales, told a recent meeting of the community council that he would not be replying to ICT marketing as in his opinion it would be a waste of money as he felt they had no case.
As I recall, Cllr Wales said something similar first time round.
However, the website also records that the council is crying foul over the original case and, apparently, a complaint has been made to the police involving allegations of perjury.
I suppose that if the residents of Manorbier do get a whacking great council tax bill they will be able to set some of it off against the free entertainment provided by the Manorbier Comedy Club.

All bets off

As Saturday's England v France match looms on the horizon, I have noticed that several of my Welsh friends, no doubt scenting some easy money, making a great efforts to speak to me in Tesco.
One chap tracked me all the way to the wine shelves, though I know he had only gone there to buy a paper.
The conversation usually starts: "With home advantage, the World |Champions will surely beat France on Saturday."
"Easily!" I reply, "And, by the way, I've given up gambling for Lent."

 


Cllr Hall's resignation statement.


I am a simple man and try to do my very best and also, sometimes lost my cool probably no different to most and I say things that I regret. Today I want to apologise publicly for anything that I may have said or done that has caused any distress.
Over the last 5 years or so I have suffered a relentless campaign against me. My family have been brought into this vendetta and I am not prepared for this to go on any longer. I made what I accept were some very stupid comments to a BBC TV reporter and I deeply regret them comments. Despite the continued provocation I received I apologised to him and his employers in writing over 18 months although I have never heard a word in reply or heard it reported in the media.

You will all know the Standards Committee decided that I had not brought the Council into disrepute. You would not think so if you had read the local press and various websites recently five weeks on.

However I do apologise to my colleagues for any problems that I have caused. I have been a councillor for many more years than I care to mention. Pembroke Dock Town Council, South Pembs District Council, and now County Council and I think I have made a contribution, but one thing I know is that I've worked very hard. Self-praise is no praise but I assure you that I do my best for Pembroke Dock and Pembrokeshire and I have worked all the hours God gave. My commitment is to the people of the county and this Council, and I have driven thousands of miles on this behalf.

I have been falsely accused of all sorts of criminal offences by certain individuals and I've been investigated by the District Auditor, the Ombudsman, the local police and the Fraud Squad and uncle Tom Cobley and all, and I've been cleared of any offences.

I've had enough of it and I'm not going to take it any more. So that there is no doubt in anyone's mind, I have made a decision.

I gave the Chief Exec a letter revoking my right to claim travelling expenses and will not be claiming such expenses for the rest of the term of this council. I've also given a conversation to the Leader and I've told him that I intend to resign from the Mid and West Wales, resign is not the right word, I would say, retire from the Mid and West Wales Fire Authority immediately my term of office as chairman finishes shortly. I have asked the leader to decide on my replacement on the Fire Authority.

That was my position until the last 12 hours.

I have thought long and hard and have decided that my family comes paramount.
Knowing this tirade of abuse would continue even though I have been proved innocent on a number of occasions, I now offer the leader my resignation from the cabinet and I shall decide later whether I shall remain a member of the Independent Group. Bearing in mind initially this week nearly all the Independent members told me that they supported me, regrettably some of them say one thing and do another. I shall continue to serve this county and the people of Pembroke Dock, which I have always tried to do to the best of my ability. I shall now leave and thank you very much Mr Chairman.

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