31 January 2013

No change

It seems that the various rebellions in county hall; widely trailed here and on that other website, have run out of steam.
First was the much touted defection to Labour by IPPG stalwart Wynne Evans.
Several moles report that, last week, Cllr Evans was proudly telling anyone who would listen that he had his resignation letter in his pocket and was seeking a meeting and, everyone assumed, a showdown with Leader Cllr Jamie Adams.
I understand that the meeting took place last Friday afternoon and afterwards Cllr Evans announced himself content with the status quo.
How Cllr Adams managed to persuade him to stay put will no doubt become clear in due course.
The other source of potential defections: Cllr Peter Stock's Pembrokeshire Alliance Party, also seems to have drawn a blank.
The theory was that if Cllr Stock could attract two others his new political group would be eligible for a scrutiny chair (SRA £8,500+) and a National Park seat ((basic allowance circa £3.000) but, from what I can gather, he has not found any takers.
I'm afraid I fell for this this theory, so nobody should be too concerned to hear that I am tipping England for the Grand Slam.

Heads you win . .

A couple of weeks ago the County Council put out a press release regarding the replacement of Cllr Huw George as cabinet member for education by Cllr Ken Rowlands (Comeback kid).
In it the Leader, Cllr Jamie Adams, was quoted as saying that Cllr Rowlands was "well qualified to undertake his new duties as he has spent a distinguished career in education, spending many years as a head teacher".
Old Grumpy noticed that commenters on the websites of both the Western Telegraph and that other councillor contended that Cllr Rowlands had been a mere deputy head.
However, I notice that no correction has appeared in either the Western Telegraph, or that other website, so must must assume that the original statement was accurate.
It is rather surprising that those who questioned Cllr Rowlands' qualifications haven't apologised.
Even more surprising is that Cllr Rowlands hasn't called upon m'learned friends, as he threatened to do on another occasion when his integrity was brought into question (Love, Labour's lost).

Command performance

And, it would appear, things are not always as they seem in Milford Haven where doubts have been cast on the right of former Mayor John Roberts to endow himself with the rank of Commander, chiefly because he never served in the Royal Navy.
Nor, it seems is he entitled to have the letters R D after his name signifying that he had been decorated for his service in the Royal Naval Reserve of which he was never a member.
Ex-councillor Roberts' explanation is that he acquired the title Commander during his time heading up the Pembrokeshire Red Cross and it just sort of stuck.
So far as I can see, he has offered no explanation as to why he made no attempt to correct the minutes of Milford Haven Town Council where for many years he has appeared as Cllr J W J Roberts RD.
My advice to anyone trying to massage their CV is to make sure that what you say is true if not completely so.
What is not said is more important than what is.
For instance, Grumpette's cousin was a Commonwealth Games long distance runner.
This sounds impressive until you learn that he represented the Isle of Man.
And did you know that Grumpette was related to a US astronaut?.
That would be the daughter in law of her cousin.
Then there is Old Grumpy's career as a professional Rugby League player with Workington Town; then one of the top teams in the country.
That would be my run out with the club's A team in 1962, when I was home from university for Easter.
I can't provide documentary proof of this because those were the days when you could lose your amateur status for playing any form of league and I appeared in the programme as A N Other. I played in the centre and my winger was down as S O Else.
What about the professional bit, I hear you say.
That would be the five pound note with the scribbled message "From you know who" which arrived through the post.
Now, you might scoff at a whole professional career based on a fiver, but, as beer was only half-a-crown a pint at the time, this was a considerable fortune in the hands of an impoverished student (40 pints for those unfamiliar with proper money).

Coded message

Rumours that cuts in the defence budget could mean the Royal Signals leaving Brawdy have caused some alarm in the county.
A large defence establishment such as the Royal Signals brings a lot of spending power into Pembrokeshire and its loss would have severe day-to-day economic consequences, not to mention the effect on school numbers and the housing market.
Old Grumpy recalls the arrival of the regiment and the delight at the prospect of the boost to local businesses.
I first heard about it from a tip off from a senior source inside the former Preseli District Council.
The phone call came at about 3 pm on the Mercury's press day, so there was no possibility of us being scooped by the Western Telegraph which was already in the shops.
The problem was to verify the story with the Ministry of Defence, but, as it proved difficult to contact them, we decided to write it anyway and as the afternoon wore on towards our 6 pm deadline we decided to put it on the front page and hope to get confirmation before we left for the printers in Swansea.
I did eventually get through to the MoD's press office at about 5.30 pm, but before I could pose the question we got cut off.
It was about ten-to six before I was able to re-establish contact and all the press officer would say was that the Minister would be making a statement to the House of Commons at 8 pm that evening.
I explained that the Mercury wouldn't be on sale until the following morning - long after the Minister had made his statement.
"Look!", I said, "Let me tell you what I have written"
He agreed. So I read out all the stuff about "the Mercury understands" and the boost this would give to the local economy.
When I had finished, the press officer said: "Well, as I said earlier, I can neither confirm or deny the story until the Minister has informed the House".
Then, just as my heart was beginning to sink in the direction of my boots, he added: "But if you do publish what you have just read out to me, I can promise that you won't look foolish in the morning".

Pay cuts

I am told there is a good deal of unhappiness in county hall over the recently completed pay regrading exercise which has resulted in some 15% of staff being told they are in line for a pay cut.
There is an appeal system in operation, so nothing is yet set in stone.
One concerned staff member who rang me said they were being asked to take a reduction of £2,500 per annum on an already modest salary.
This is an operational issue, so elected members have little or no say in the matter though we may have some interest in ensuring that the system has been operated fairly.
From what I hear, the cuts have fallen most heavily on the lower paid members of staff.
I will report further when I find out more.

Fair's fair

There has been a good old row in Parliament this week over the redrawing of constituency boundaries.
It is calculated that the imbalances in the present arrangements (small Labour strongholds and large Tory ones) costs the Conservatives roughly 20 seats and without reform Cameron's chances of winning the next election outright are somewhere between slim and slimmer.
I have tabulated the 2010 election results (below) to show how much the seats:votes ratio is skewed.
And while it is true that the number of votes per seat is higher for the Tories than Labour by about 1,600 that is dwarfed by some of the other imbalances e.g the Lib Dems need almost four times as many votes to win a seat than either of the two main parties.
The figures for a strictly proportional system are in brackets.
It is easy to see, therefore, why the Lib Dems would prefer a system of proportional representation.
And UKIP, the Greens, and BNP.
Unfortunately for those who hanker after numerical fairness we had a poll on this subject not that long ago and the voters rejected PR by a large majority.
Fans of proportional representation argue that it provides a better reflection of the electorate's wishes than first past the post, but I'm not sure that claim stands up to scrutiny.
The first problem is that, except in two party systems, proportional representation leads to permanent coalition.
And coalitions inevitably require post-election horse trading between the coalition partners.
For instance, suppose you voted Lib Dem at the last election because of the party's promise to abolish tuition fees.
How are your wishes being followed when the Lib Dems ditch their commitment during the negotiations leading up to the coalition agreement?
More likely, you feel that your vote has been obtained by false pretences.
And anyone still clinging to proportional representation as the route to democratic utopia might consider whether they would be happy with ten or a dozen BNP members sitting on the green benches.

 Party  Total votes  Number of seats  Votes per seat
 Democratic Unionists  168,000  6 (4)  21,000
 Labour  8,600,000  258 (188)  33,300
 Sinn Fein  171,000  5 (4)  34,200
 Conservatives  10,700,000  307 (235)  34,900
 Soc Dem and Lab  110,900  3 (2)  36,000
 Alliance  42,700  1 (1)  42,700
 AVERAGE      45,600
 Plaid Cymru  165,400  3 (4)  55,000
 Scottish Nationalist  491,400  6 (11)  81,800
 Lib Dems  6,800,00  57 (149)  119,900
 Greens  285,616  1 (6)  285,600
 UKIP  919,500  0 (20)  
 BNP  564,300  0 (12)  
 Others  605,000  1 (13)  605,000


Sing along

There has been a tremendous response to my request for readers' suggestions for IPPG related songs.
One budding lyricist has composed this little ditty which he suggests might be sung at the beginning of all secret IPPG gatherings.

Que S-RA, S-RA,
A Cabinet post for me,
Or Chairman of Scrutiny,
Que S-RA, S-RA.
( Doris Day; orchestrated by Jamie Adams)

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