June 13 2013

Cutting remarks

This week's Western Telegraph carries part two of the Jamie Adams' interview.
The second instalment is relegated to page 22, possibly in the hope that, given the withering comments on the WT's website following last week's effort, nobody will read it (Popular mythology).
Cllr Adams tells that paper that "the Independent Plus [Political] Group is growing in confidence, boosted by the Welsh Audit Office improvement report . . .".
In view of the two recent Estyn reports on Tasker Milward and Tenby Junior schools - both of which were judged merely "adequate" - some voters might find this confidence misplaced.
He goes on to hint that the £8.6 million budget cuts planned for the next three years might not be enough and that further savings might have to be sought.
However, he sees problems ahead.
"What frustrates me," he tells the paper, "is the, if you like, the yah-boo brigade of councillors who vote the budget through and then effectively bemoan every decision that has to be taken to undertake that budget."
Unfortunately, he doesn't identify the members of this "yah-boo brigade", or the nature of their objections, so they are unable to defend themselves against this slur.
The sad fact is that, rather like the Chinese Communist party, Cllr Adams and his clique regard anyone who doesn't agree with them as either mad or bad.
Mercifully, they don't have the power to send their critics off on re-education programmes.
In any case what he says does not fully accord with the facts.
It is true that the council agreed to adopt a budget which containing a provision to make savings this year of £1.6 million of which £460,000 was to come from unspecified "service changes".
One of the "service changes" subsequently identified by the Cabinet is the switch to fortnightly black bag collections.
This was not on the table when the budget was adopted.
So Cllr Adams seems to be suggesting that, having agreed to "service changes", opposition members should tamely accept whatever cuts he and his Cabinet decree.
In any case, this yah-boo brigade is largely a figment of Cllr Adams' imagination.
It is true that questions have been raised about the fortnightly bag collection, but I have not detected any element of yah-boo in the discussions.
Some members, myself included, are concerned about the operation of such a system in areas where there are a lot of flats with limited storage space.
There is talk of wheely-bins being issued, but that doesn't address the storage problem.
More recycling and a consequent reduction in black bag waste is said to be the solution, but that won't help families with two small children both still in nappies.
These are questions that concern our constituents and to brand members who seek answers as "the yah-boo brigade" smacks of dictatorial tendencies.
Not satisfied with that smear the Leader goes on: "We've got to make the difficult decisions, and make them with the full evidence and the right reasons. I'm getting increasingly concerned that that we have members who are just interested in promoting their own agendas and not reflecting (a) their responsibility as members and (b) the views of the general public, the electorate who put them in the position."
The "we" in this statement is Cllr Adams and his Cabinet and what he is suggesting is that if those above conclude that the decisions on future cuts are backed by the evidence and the Cabinet rubber stamp the decision, the rest of us have to go along with it.
And, if we fail to toe the line, we are a bunch of bad eggs who are ignoring the views of our constituents.
I am not sure on what basis Cllr Adams claims to know the views of opposition members' constituents better than they themselves, but for myself I can say is that, in my election address, I promised to do my best to ensure that front line services were shielded from any future cuts.
That is a promise I intend to keep and no amount of bluster from Cllr Adams will deflect me.

Paper tigers

The Western Telegraph also gently questioned Cllr Adams on the issue of the democratic legitimacy of the Independent Plus Political Group which, in the papers own words, "operates as a political party at the council" but doesn't produce a manifesto.
The newspaper might have added that the political party's members make no mention of their connection with the party in their election addresses.
Indeed, some of them go out of their way to hoodwink the voters by stating clearly that, if elected, they will not join any political group.
However, as Cllr Adams tells the newspaper, the success of Cllr Rob Summons in the recent Burton by-election on an openly IPPG ticket has "shot the fox of the argument that people wouldn't vote for an IPG member".
But, as the saying goes: one Summons doesn't make a swallow.
Cllr Adams seems to realise this because, before the reporter could ask the obvious question, he added that, come the next election, individual members would have to make the decision whether to reveal their membership of the party.
Of course, the IPPG might decide to be perfectly honest and register itself as a political party with the Electoral Commission.
According to the commission's website that will cost a mere £150 - less than £5 per member - and will allow the party to have its name and logo on the ballot paper.
That will surely pull the voters in.
Back in 2008, the WT published an editorial in which it described the IPG (as it was then known) as "... a farcical 'independent' cabal, or a cabinet of puppets, presiding over the last supper of democracy", adding for good measure: "What a sad state local government has slumped into: polarised by party politics and overshadowed by the 'independent' umbrella of the ruling oxymoron party".
Unfortunately this was six weeks after the election so it had no effect on the result.
Just before last year's election, I submitted a letter to the WT drawing attention to this editorial and its relevance to the forthcoming election.
True to form, "The newspaper that fights for Pembrokeshire" filleted my letter to the extent that its meaning was entirely lost. (See Censored).

Paper chase

I understand that the Pembrokeshire Herald is just three weeks away from its first edition.
Old Grumpy will be interested to see how the Western Telegraph reacts.
When we launched the Mercury back in 1992, they pulled out all the stops in an effort to drive us to the wall.
First off, they brought out a free weekly newspaper - the Milford Messenger - which was delivered to every house in the town.
This dire rag targeted businesses which advertised in the Mercury with give-away (literally) rates.
The people of Milford soon cottoned on and after a few weeks the Messy as it came to be known was withdrawn from the fray.
They also had a battle bus which used to come to Milford on the Mercury's publication day when free crisps and biscuits were dished out to those who bought a Telegraph - or was it the other way round?
An office was opened in Charles Street and when all that failed to bring us to our knees they paid way over the odds for the bare title of the, by then, defunct West Wales Guardian and relaunched that paper in direct competition.
This paper had a comment column written supposedly by a dog, but, judging from the content, it wasn't one of the more intelligent breeds.
That soon followed the Messy into the dustbin of history and we were left to prosper largely unmolested.
Goodness knows how much this desperate attempt to preserve their monopoly cost them, but it must have been a bob or two.
I remember writing a little sketch which had the WT staff congregating at the start of every day to sing the company song.
The bit I can remember went:

Oh Telegraph, we vow to thee,
To keep thee competition free.

Oh Telegraph, rely on me,
To preserve thy monopoly.
(Sung to the tune of the Red Flag)

Fortunately for us, it never seems to have occurred to anyone in Merlins Bridge that the best way to counter the threat was to put some news in the paper.

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