1 June 2004

 

 

Thoughts of Chairman Mo

 

I was once given a copy of Mao Tse-tung's "Little Red Book" by a Marxist college friend.
George Salemohamed, Mauritian by birth, Indian by descent, calculated that reading the thoughts of Chairman Mao might help me to see the light; something his own efforts at persuasion had failed to achieve.
I haven't seen George for almost 40 years but I was not surprised, on looking up his name on the Internet, to find he's still at it.
His name crops up as the author of a paper on Derrida and Marx in the left wing magazine "Economy and Society".
I had heard of Derrida as a way-out French philosopher and, thanks to the wonders of the Web, I can tell you that he is a "deconstructionalist" (don't ask!).
Unfortunately, George's paper isn't published on the Web but I read that another author, the appropriately named Peter Krapp, has written a piece entitled "Jacques Derrida: Some Statements and Truisms about Neologisms, Newisms, Postisms and other small Seismisms."
Now you know why George never managed to entice me into the communist fold!
I lost my "Little Red Book" in a house move some years ago, so, if you hear a removal man spouting Marxist slogans in the pub, you will know from whence they came.
The "Little Red Book" was a source of constant amusement and I miss it.
However, I am busy compiling a substitute which is to be called "The Thoughts of Chairman Mo" as a tribute to His Leadership, Cllr Maurice Hughes.
Last week's local papers provided three cracking entries ranging from the untrue, through the illogical, to the downright bizarre.
The false statement concerned the role of the Cabinet, "any decisions of which," His Leadership told the Telegraph, "have to be ratified by full council."
This is simply untrue.
The only time decisions of Cabinet need the endorsement of full council are on those exceedingly rare occasions when the Cabinet goes outside the council's budgetary or policy framework.
Then there was the illogical.
Defending the decision to form the Independent Political Group, His Leadership told the Telegraph that they were forced into it to prevent the "60-member council being controlled by 14 Labour party members."
Cllr Hughes didn't expound on the arithmetical principles underpinning this assertion and, it seems, the Telegraph's intrepid reporter didn't think to ask.
After that, Thursday's Mercury was almost bound to be an anticlimax.
But, no! Maurice rose magnificently to the occasion with this effort: "Everybody in recent weeks has been criticising the Independents but they should be criticising the county council if there's a problem. It's the county council that makes the decisions, not whom the council is controlled by."
If that's an indication of the intellectual calibre of the Leadership, what does it say about the led?
In fact, it is the Cabinet, comprised entirely of members of the Independent Political Group, that makes the vast majority of decisions, and you can hardly blame Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems for those few resolutions that are forced through full council by the 38 (out of 60) synchronised voters in Cllr Hughes' group.
From my conversations on the doorstep during the election campaign I can say that, in Hakin, at least, the Independent Political Group is a real, live issue.
There is genuine anger at the way the IPG has abused its majority and undermined what people see, quite rightly, as their democracy.
It is little wonder that 13 fully signed-up members of the group, including one of my opponents, Cllr George Max, have declined to put the word independent after their names on the ballot paper (see Running on empty) .

Printed and published by Robert Michael Stoddart Court Farm Liddeston Milford Haven

Time Lords

More than two weeks have elapsed since I wrote to the county council seeking permission to publish the contents of the District Audit Service report into the Hall/Ryan business and, as yet, they haven't replied.
This seems rather strange considering that, according to the letter sent out by His Leadership, Cllr Maurice Hughes, the DAS had cleared the two budding tycoons of any hint of wrongdoing.
With an election looming, Old Grumpy would have thought the ruling Independent Political Group would be shouting this success from the rooftops.
However, it might just be that they fear that publication of the full report might allow me to analyse what the DAS refers to as "an apparent inconsistency", and things that are "not entirely consistent", in the evidence presented by the various parties.
Old Grumpy has been dealing with the bureaucratic mind long enough to be always on the lookout for the superfluous adjective.
Where I come from, things are either consistent or inconsistent, so I am somewhat bewildered when confronted by an "apparent inconsistency".
I can only assume that it is intended to draw a distinction between a real inconsistency and something that has the appearance of being inconsistent but which, on closer examination, turns out to be entirely watertight.
Section 49 of the Audit Commission Act prevents me from telling you the actual facts behind this "apparent inconsistency" but what I can reveal is its nature.
The "apparent inconsistency" involves a letter written on a certain date.
Other evidence given to the DAS indicates that the event that is the subject matter of the letter did not take place until three weeks after the letter was written.
Must have had the Tardis out of the garage, again!

Printed and published by Robert Michael Stoddart Court Farm Liddeston Milford Haven



As a matter of interest

 

There are, however, parts of the DAS report which I can discuss because they are already in the public domain.
In its conclusions the DAS states: "Furthermore it must be emphasised that there is nothing to restrict members of the Council establishing a business with anyone they choose or from trading within the Council's boundary. The only requirement is that they should disclose such matters in the register of members' interests and declare an interest in any items of Council business that could result in a conflict between their duties as a Councillor and their business activities."
Firstly, it is not true to say that elected members can go into business "with anyone they chose".
The Code of Conduct in force in 2000, when these events took place, makes it abundantly clear that councillors and officers should keep at arms length.
"Close personal familiarity between individual councillors and officers can damage this relationship and prove embarrassing to other councillors and officers".
That applies, I would suggest, to business relationships with council consultants as well as directly employed staff.
Secondly, Cllr Hall failed to fulfil the "requirement" to disclose his business relationship with Dr Ryan in the register of members' interests.
Their company, Euro-Ryall Ltd, was incorporated on 29 December 2000 but it was not until 14 months later, in March 2002, that he entered his interest in the register.
This despite the fact that the Local Authorities (Members' Interests) Regulations 1992 requires such interests to be registered within one month of their arising.
And, thirdly, Cllr Hall failed to declare an interest in an item concerning his business partner Dr Ryan, which was discussed at the meeting of Cabinet held on 28 June 2002.
This meeting featured in a press release put out by Cllr Maurice Hughes after I first revealed the links between Hall and Ryan in October 2002.
Part of it read: "I am disappointed that some members of the opposition on Pembrokeshire County Council claim not to have known about this consultant's existence. I would refer them to Agenda Item 6 of the Cabinet meeting of 28 June this year. Dr Ryan's role in the development of plans for the Pembrokeshire Science Technology Park at Cleddau Bridge is clearly explained there."
This was somewhat disingenuous of the leader because, on checking the agenda item referred to, I find that Dr Ryan's name is nowhere mentioned.
However, one member who certainly did know of Dr Ryan, and his role in the Science Park development, was his business partner of almost two years: Cllr Brian Hall.
The question for decision at that Cabinet meeting was whether or not to seek Local Regeneration Fund and Objective 1 monies for the Science Park.
Presumably, the decision could have gone either way!
Had the Cabinet decided not to back these funding bids, the Science Park, and a large part of the reason for paying Dr Ryan £450-a-day, would have gone out of the window.
Given those circumstances, I would have thought Cllr Hall had an interest to declare under Ss 10,11 and 16(3) of the Code of Conduct which state:
10. Members must in all matters consider whether they have a personal interest, and whether this Code of Conduct requires them to disclose that interest.

11. A member has a personal interest in a matter if that member anticipates that a decision upon it might reasonably be regarded as likely 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 association

16(3) A member who has a personal interest in a matter ... and who attends a meeting of the authority at which the matter is discussed must disclose the existence of the interest at the commencement of that discussion or when the interest becomes apparent. If that personal interest is such that a 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 the meeting ..."

According to the minutes, Hall neither declared an interest nor withdrew from the meeting.
I did draw the DAS's attention to this issue but, for some strange reason, its report is silent on the matter.

 

Printed and published by Robert Michael Stoddart Court Farm Liddeston Milford Haven.


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