January 3 2013

When I worked at the Mercury I regularly published my own version of the New Year's Honours List.
These much coveted awards went under the name of the Old Grumpy Rewards for Excellence (OGREs) and judging from the feedback they were highly popular with readers.
Since being elected to the county council, I have had to pull in my horns because of the "respect" requirements in the code of conduct.
Indeed, I have twice been investigated by the Ombudsman following complaints that things I had written were disrespectful, though thankfully on each occasion the Ombudsman decided that the complaints were without merit (Out of the wood) (Guilty without trial) though by some process of reasoning which I have never quite understood he did find I had breached the code by disclosing confidential National Park documents, though I am not and never have been a member of the National Park committee.
However, following the Calver judgement and the subsequent guidance from the Ombudsman to the effect he will in future be slow to investigate member on member complaints of disrespect I feel emboldened to have another go.

OGREs for 2012.

Cross of Saint Paul - for those who have seen the light.

Several candidates stand out in this category.
Among them Cllr Owen James, who was elected as a Conservative and then declined to join the party's group on the council, and Cllrs David Bryan and Michael Evans; both former members of the Independent Political Group (IPG), as it was then known, who decided to remain as true independents following the election.
There is little to separate these three but, as Cllr Bryan made the decision BEFORE he became aware that the IPG had been running the election campaign of his opponent Byron Frayling, he just edges ahead.
But it's only the silver medal for him, I'm afraid, because the member who was truly 'blinded by the light' was Cllr Simon Hancock, who, having been elected unopposed as Labour candidate, dumped the party he had represented on the council since 1995 and threw in his lot with the Independent Plus Political Group (IPPG) (as it is now known). The 'Plus' being added to the title so that Cllr Hancock wouldn't have to join the IPG.
To abandon the party which he had supported all his adult life must have been a traumatic experience for Cllr Hancock, though, no doubt, the blow was somewhat softened when Cllr Jamie Adams immediately promoted him to the Cabinet (SRA £15,000+ per annum)

Fence-sitter of the year (FSY)

The judges had a huge choice in this class, but I decided to narrow down the field by taking into account only more recent performances.
Last week's Western Telegraph carried an interesting story about the recent vote of no confidence in Cabinet member for education Cllr Huw George in which they asked those who supported Cllr George if they might have voted differently had they seen the critical reports on the county's education service before the vote took place.
Five members said they wouldn't have acted differently, another five wouldn't say, 20 didn't respond and two; Cllrs Peter Stock and Mark Edwards, took up position astride the fence
Peter Stock told the WT that he would have thought harder about the situation but not necessarily have changed his vote.
And Cllr Edwards, told the paper that, while the reports were "extremely disappointing", he wasn't sure if he would have voted differently.
Deciding between these two has proved to be an impossible task.
Taking all things into consideration and weighing up the pros and cons, at the end of the day, I have been unable to make my mind up.
On the one hand Cllr Stock seems to be in front and on the other hand Cllr Edwards shades it.
I did consider making them joint holders but, as they'd only squabble over who should have the trophy first, I rejected that idea.
So, to avoid upsetting anyone, I've decided to declare myself the winner.

Order of the Brass Neck (OBN)

There was only one serious contender for this honour: former council leader John Davies, who, you will recall, made a determined bid to become the Tory party's candidate for the election of Police Commissioner for Dyfed Powys.
There were hustings in Narberth where the two candidates appeared before the local party faithful to put their respective cases.
Unfortunately Cllr Davies' campaign came apart at the seams when someone asked him about his membership of the party and he had to admit that he had only submitted his application form that afternoon.
As you might imagine, this went down like the proverbial lead balloon and a chastened Cllr Davies didn't even bother to turn up for the second leg of the contest which was held in Brecon the following night.

Alastair Campbell medal (ACM) for shameless publicity-seeker

This award is reserved for the member making the most appearances in the local media.
On the basis of sheer numbers of newspaper appearances, Cllr Huw George would walk it, but, as a cabinet member, he has the backing of the council's vast taxpayer-funded publicity machine, so I have decided to unilaterally change the rules to restrict eligibility to amateurs.
Yes, I admit it: I'm no more to be trusted with absolute power than anyone else.
However, under the new rules two clear contenders have emerged: Cllrs Jacob Williams and Tessa Hodgson.
And it is not only the fear of a charge of nepotism that has persuaded me to plump for Cllr Williams.
His appearances in the Tenby Observer and Western Telegraph (complete with pics), recording his sterling efforts on flood relief in Ford Lane and his campaign against dog fouling on Saundersfoot beach, were first class
Had there been any doubt in the judge's mind, the wrap-around shades he was wearing in the Saundersfoot photo would have clinched it.
Cool, or what?
In addition he publishes an excellent blog (jacobwilliams.com) which is easily the second best website in Pembrokeshire for those wishing to know the full story about what goes on in county hall.
His ground-breaking "Partygate" scoop with its revelations about the IPG's sophisticated election apparatus and the brains behind it, Cllr Rob Lewis, have brought relief to all who feared that the county council's affairs were not under the direction of a well-organised, highly-disciplined political machine.
Arise Jacob Williams ACM; truly a legend in his own lunchtime.
P S I notice that Cllr Paul Miller's photo has appeared in the WT for two weeks in succession, so Cllr Williams has some ground to make up if he wants to retain his crown in 2013.

Icarus perpetual trophy (IPT ) for upward mobility.

Again, this is a one-horse race with the only serious contender being Cllr Keith Lewis who overcame the rule of Buggins' turn to reach the dizzying heights of chair of the economy scrutiny committee within days of being first elected.
I understand that Cllr Lewis used to run the bakery in Crymych, so there may be some solid basis for his appointment.
After all, there is a lot of economic wisdom in the bread and confectionery business.
You can't have your cake and eat it, or the penny and the bun, are about as succinct accounts of economic theory that you could wish for, and if you strip away all the fancy graphs and complex statistics, economics boils down to making dough.
And, as every successful entrepreneur knows you won't get far unless you use your loaf.
And who could argue with the advice on the advantages of diversification: you shouldn't keep all your loaves in one basket.
Or a bap in the hand is worth two in the oven, and too many cooks spoil the bara brith
The people of Pembrokeshire can rest assured that, when it comes to attracting inward investment, he will leave no scone unturned.
And, if the economy does pick up, he can say, with justification, that it's on a roll.
Should things get really bad, he might pacify the starving masses with bread and circuses, or, if bread is in short supply he could fall back on Marie Antoinette's advice to the hungry French peasantry: let them eat cake.
And its not just in the field of economics that bakery wisdom comes into play. The whole complex business of genetics is based on the principle that "like baguettes like".
(That's enough terrible buns. Ed) (Surely, she means puns. O G)

The John McAdam Memorial Medal (J3M) for services to road surfacing.

This new award. which entitles the winner to hold the Barber Greene Perpetual Trophy for one year, was something of a walkover as Cllr Huw George steamrollered the opposition in what can only be described as a virtuoso performance.
No words of mine can do justice to Cllr George's efforts in this field which resulted in £300,000 being spent on tarmac in his Maenchlogog ward in the financial year 2011-2012.
I will leave it to him to blow his own trumpet Black stuff

And a happy New Year to one and all.

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