July 22 2008

 

False accounting

As predicted, last Thursday's meeting of full council was brief, though interesting.
Old Grumpy noticed that the minutes of the AGM, which were up for approval, recorded that: "It having been moved that Cllr R M Stoddart be appointed to the planning and rights of way committee, Cllr Stoddart indicated that he declined such appointment.
Resolved that Cllrs P R Baker and L M Calver be appointed to sit on the planning and rights of way committee."

What actually happened is recorded at (Outmanoeuvred).
At no time was it ever moved that I should sit on the committee.
After I complained, the chief executive immediately whispered in the chairman's ear that the reference to myself should be deleted.
But, as the chief executive is responsible for the contents of the minutes, it is something of a mystery as to how he came to allow this wholly fictitious account of the proceedings to appear in the first place.

Post-democratic

In the the normal course of events, the chairman uses the discretion vested in him by the councils constitution to send notices of motion submitted by members to either the Cabinet or Corporate Governance Committee for further consideration.
Thursday's meeting saw a departure from this practice when the chairman ruled that, because of the urgent nature of the business, Cllr Sue Perkins' NoM regarding Post Office closures should be debated there and then.
What Cllr Perkins was proposing was that the council should consider adopting the "Essex model" with regard to those post offices under threat.
This was a reference to Essex
county council's decision to take over and run the post offices on the community's behalf.
The Leader was dead against this and proposed an 'amendment' which involved writing to the Welsh Assembly asking that they adopt various measures designed to enhance the financial viability of post offices.
When Cllr Perkins protested that this was not an amendment but an entirely different notice of motion, she was overruled by the chairman.
What the council's constitution has to say on the matter is interesting.
"Amendments to motions.
(a) an amendment to a motion must be relevant to the motion and will either be:

(i) to leave out words; or
(ii) to leave out words and insert or add others; or
(iii) to insert or add words.
As long as the effect of (i) to (iii) is not to negate the motion."

When the Leader's amendment was carried, Cllr Perkins' NoM fell by the wayside.
Which, to my simple mind, means it was negated.
This is not the first time the Leader has pulled this trick (All power).
What this means is that, so long as it has some relevance to the original, he has the power to consign to the dustbin any NoM he doesn't like by simply substituting his own words.
So much for constitutional democracy under the rule of law.

Never wrong

Grumpette submitted a written question on the council's use of anti-terrorism law to snoop on suspected wrongdoers.
The Leader said that the legislation had been used on 22 occasions including cases of suspected housing benefit and council tax fraud and trading standards offences.
Eleven of these cases had involved what he called 'covert human intelligence sources'
He added that there had been no cases since March 2006.
When I asked whether the cessation of this practice in 2006 was the result of a change of policy, or the absence of appropriate cases, I was told it was the latter.
While it would have been to the council's credit if it had decided that the use of this draconian legislation to detect what are relatively minor criminal offences was a bit over the top, that would also have required a tacit admission that the previous policy was wrong.
So, instead, we are asked to believe that the fraudsters have all gone away.

Quantity discount?

 

Not to be outdone I, too, submitted a question on the amounts spent on advertising during the financial year 2007-2008 with the local papers.
As the answer is hardly likely to be reported in the local press, I will publish it here.
Newsquest (Western Telegraph, Milford Mercury, Teifiside Advertiser) £219,953.
Tenby Observer £16,317
County Echo (Fishguard) £15,875.
The Leader was at great pains to stress that the Newquest figure included all three papers, though my previous researches on the subject reveal that in excess of 95% is spent with the Western Telegraph.
But the great mystery is why the council; one of the WT's biggest customers, pays £10 per column centimetre, though when I took out in a one-off election advert, I was only charged eight quid.
And Joe Public can put in birthday photo and message for a mere fiver.

Unpersons

The people of Pembrokeshire, it seems, believe there is no place for party politics in local government.
Now, there are two ways of avoiding party politics: truly independent members or a one-party state.
Pembrokeshire has it both ways.
Councillors who are truly independent for electoral purposes and a virtual one-party state thereafter.
I have long understood that, after going around telling people that, if elected, you will be your 'own man', joining something called the Independent Political Group requires a high degree of intellectual flexibility, not to say dishonesty (Party animals), but a recent conversation with a member of the IPG revealed to me just how elastic you have be.
Firstly, I was flattered by his statement that it it was a shame that members of the ability of OG and G were not any committees.
When I pointed out that this was largely the work of the Leader (Outmanoeuvred) and that, as the Leader held his position as a result of the support of people like him, he must bear some responsibility, he changed tack and suggested that because we didn't belong to a group we couldn't properly represent our constituents.
Now we have both made it abundantly clear where we stand on this independence issue and the people still elected us.
Unless I have seriously misread the situation, the people of Hakin and Hubberston would not be too enamoured to discover that we were only pretending to be independent.
I know that politicians have been known to lie during elections, but I hadn't realised that it had come to be regarded as a virtue.

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