January 10 2013

Lying Low

Old Grumpy notices a subtle change in the county council's treatment of prosecutions for breaches of the various regulations which it has power to enforce.
Up to a few months ago, newspaper reports on successful prosecutions were always accompanied by a statement by Cllr Ken Rowlands, Cabinet member for regulatory services, along the lines that the council had taken the matter to court in order to show this sort of behaviour wouldn't be tolerated.
However, since I drew attention to the fact that Cllr Rowlands' election address contained the sort of misrepresentation that would have a dodgy used-car salesman up in front the beak before you could say "clocking" (Shaky foundations), the authority's response is now attributed to an anonymous "council spokesman".
Nice to know someone in county hall reads my weekly ramblings.

Abandon ship

As we enter 2013, there is much speculation in the members' tea room, and in cyberspace, about possible defections from the IPPG.
This has a particular resonance at the moment because, with a slender majority of 32-28, two defectors would remove the IPPG's majority and three would leave it at the mercy of the opposition.
This is not a happy prospect for the ruling group.
Even when political parties are united behind a shared ideology, they are often uneasy coalitions, as David Cameron is discovering with regard to some of his members' rebellious attitudes to Europe and gay marriage.
When they are held together by pure patronage, as is the case with the IPPG, they are even more fragile.
For instance, if it lost three members IPPG would lose the power to dictate who held the chairmanships of council, and the planning and licensing committees (SRAs £8500+)
On top of that, if it ceased to be the majority group it would lose the right under the political balance rules, to have a majority on all committees.
That could mean it having to play second fiddle on such important committees as corporate governance where it routinely uses its block vote to torpedo opposition attempts to liberalise the council's constitution.
It would also have to surrender one of its seats on the National Park Authority (£3,000) and, in addition, its Leader, even if he managed to hang on to his job, would have to take account of the opposition's views on Cabinet membership.
This leads to the delicious prospect of the opposition uniting to lure away some IPPG members by promising its backing for their candidacy for some of these Special Responsibility Allowance-bearing positions.
If you live by the SRA, you must be prepared to die by the SRA.
The truth, of course, is that the IPPG is in power because it is in power and, as with all pyramid schemes, once it loses control it will rapidly begin to unravel.
Not that I would stoop to such underhand tactics myself, nor would I encourage anyone else to do so, but I wouldn't be surprised if some less scrupulous members of the opposition, having done the maths, are already plotting along these lines.

Keep taking the tablets!

It has been known for a long time that the substance Lycopene; found in the skins of tomatoes and other red fruits, has the ability to prevent the furring-up of our arteries.
That is one of the reasons for the health benefits of the so-called Mediterranean diet, which includes tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and plenty of fish.
And, unlike many beneficial compounds, such as most vitamins, Lycopene is not destroyed by cooking.
Indeed, heating modifies the compound in a way that makes it more easily absorbed by the body without reducing its beneficial effects.
So, if you must have sausage, bacon, egg and fried bread for breakfast, some of the adverse consequences can be masked by smothering it with tomato sauce.
Now scientists in America (where else?) have developed a super-absorbable form of Lycopene, which can be taken as a pill.
Early results from trials indicate that it is effective in warding off strokes and heart attacks, and may have the ability to prevent prostate cancer.
That's the good news!
The bad news is that old age will ketchup with you in the end.

Poster boy

I am told that last Tuesday's planning committee meeting was a lively affair.
First up was an application to site some yurts in the ward of the author of that other website, Cllr Jacob Willaims.
This was overwhelming approved by the committee, despite a recommendation of refusal by the planning officer.
This in itself was a rarity because experienced observers can't remember the last time the committee failed to go along with professional advice.
Even more remarkable was the fact that this application was originally down for determination under officers' delegated powers and Cllr Williams had to navigate the constitutional minefield known as the planning delegation panel before it could be considered by the committee.
Next on the menu was a retrospective application by a Pembroke Dock property developer for consent for 14 bedsits at 10 Meyrick Street.
The original consent was for four flats, but the developer had converted the building to bedsits instead.
Though there were strong objections to the scheme from local residents, the officers were recommending retrospective approval.
My sources tell me that the local member, Cllr Alison Lee (Lab), did a very effective demolition job on the case for granting approval and the application went down with all hands.
There was an interesting spat during the debate when another Pembroke Dock member, Cllr Tony Wilcox (Lab) enquired whether Cllr Brian Hall (IPPG), who was supporting the application, should declare an interest.
Cllr Wilcox was particularly concerned that one of the pictures of the building shown to members during the officer's presentation, revealed a large VOTE HALL poster in in one of the property's windows.
I understand that Cllr Hall admitted that he knew the applicant, but was not on such close terms as to require a declaration of interest.
Depending on who you listen to, this was met with murmurs of astonishment/hoots of derision/mocking contempt from the large contingent of local objectors who had come along to witness the debate.
In fairness to Cllr Hall, the presence of an election poster in the applicant's building hardly seems sufficient to create a declarable interest; especially as I'm told there we literally dozens of such posters plastered across the town during last year's election campaign.
It will be interesting to see what happens next.
No doubt the applicant will appeal and, if that fails, the council will be faced with expensive and protracted enforcement action to have the four flats reinstated.
This one could run and run.

Light relief

During the Spanish civil war, the left wing poet Stephen Spender is supposed to have gone to see Harry Pollitt, leader of the Communist Party of Great Britain, to ask if he could be of service to the movement.
"Go to Spain and get yourself killed. The party needs a martyr". Pollitt advised.
Not, I suspect, the sort of help that Spender had in mind.

Then there was the woman who obtained a divorce because her husband refused to make love to her between the end of November and the beginning of March.
And the grounds?
Unseasonable behaviour.

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