9 March 2004
The County Council has a three-stage strategy for dealing with trouble.
First of all come the lies, then the bullying and smear-tactics and, when all else fails, they retreat into the bunker and hope the storm will pass
So, in November 2003, when I first raised the subject of Dr Ryan's relationship with Cllr Brian Hall through their company Euro-Ryall Ltd, the Leader, Cllr Maurice Hughes, rushed out a press release (at least it had his name on it) in which he claimed: "The County Council is fully aware of the company Euroryall [ but not apparently how to spell its name]. Before the company was registered the principals approached officers of the council. They gave firm undertakings that the company would not trade in Pembrokeshire nor provide any conflict of interest."
My subsequent correspondence with the Monitoring Officer showed that this statement was false in almost every particular.
The "firm undertakings" were given by Dr Ryan's Irish company, ORA International in a letter dated 3 September 2000, not by the "principals" (Hall and Ryan)
Cllr Hall and Euro-Ryall Ltd were nowhere mentioned which is hardly surprising seeing that Euro-Ryall was not incorporated until 31 December 2000, four months after the letter was written.
Of course, I already knew the truth because I had a transcript of a letter dated 16 October 2000 from Dr Ryan to Cllr Hall (see Ryan- Hall the full story).
Five emails to the Leader asking for the names of the officers approached by "the principals", and the date on which the approach was made, brought no response.
During the summer of 2003 Cllr Michael Williams began to take an interest in the case and in September of that year he received what can only be described as a thoroughly unpleasant letter from the Leader.
This letter was designed to drive a wedge between myself and Cllr Williams.
In it the Leader accused me of making false allegations to the police about Cllr Brian Hall's expense claiming practices which had led to "many tens of thosands of pounds of public money being wasted on this ridiculous wild goose chase."
As for my claims about the relationship between Hall and Ryan he wrote: "I do not see why Councillor Hall ... should waste his time refuting spurious allegations - allegations that I find it hard to believe can be taken seriously by anyone [not any more]".
"It is also my experience that even if Cllr Hall did issue a refutation of these allegations, it is unlikely that this refutation would appear unedited or without unfavourable commentary on that website. It would of course be stupid to try to get the statement printed anywhere else as none of the other media has published the allegations."
Well they have now, on the Mercury's front page, so Cllr Hall's refutation cannot be far behind (only joking).
A month later, in order to preempt Cllr Michael Williams' notice of motion calling for an auditor's inquiry in to the Hall/Ryan relationship, his Leadership was, himself, writing to the District Audit Service asking them to investigate.
Not that he could resist giving the auditor the benefit of his own opinion.
"...I do not believe that they have acted in relation to their company in conflict with their roles and responsibilities with the Council" he advised the auditor.
Well, last week, I published Dr Ryan's letter to Cllr Hall and now we know better.
But the amazing thing about the Leader's letter to the auditor was a request that I be investigated over my "campaigns over several years"
"It is evident that very significant sums of money have been devoted to dealing with him [Old Grumpy]. His Leadership wrote. "I think it is time we had that cost quantified as a matter of public interest so that others can properly judge the benefits or otherwise of his activities."
Stalin couldn't have put it better.
I wrote to the auditor pointing out that, as a private citizen, my activities were outside his remit and was heartened when he wrote back concurring with that view.
Now, with the auditor due to report shortly, they are hunkered down hoping for the best.
Meanwhile, I have sent a copy of Dr Ryan's letter to several prominent members of the Independent Political (sic) Group: Cllrs, David Wildman, John Davies, Brian Howells, Peter Stock, Tom Richards, Pat Griffiths, George Max, Bryan Phillips, Islwyn Howells, Rosemary Hayes JP, Bill Roberts and Don Evans, so that they might be fully apprised of the facts.
I await developments.
I have just heard the County Council's ridiculous and increasingly discredited Leader, Cllr Maurice "Door Banger" Hughes, on Radio Pembrokeshire defending the council's decision to close play areas.
At the meeting of County Council 10 days ago, Cllr Hughes got a laugh when he claimed that the council was not closing play areas; merely removing equipment when it required maintenance.
As nothing is forever, and all equipment eventually needs maintaining, this amounts to death by a thousand cuts.
His Leadership's even more ridiculous Cabinet colleague, Cllr Peter "all over you like a duvet" Stock, told the same meeting that not a single councillor wanted to see children's play areas closed down.
Can it be true that this pair cost the county's taxpayers in excess of £60,000 a year?
Clearly, people who stand as Independents and then form a political party in order to monopolise the lucrative "Special Responsibility Allowances" have a problem with logic, but you might expect even Cllr Stock to wonder why, if not a single councillor favours the policy, he and his nine Cabinet cronies voted for it.
His Leadership's other argument for the Cabinet's stance is that the provision of play areas is not a "statutory function".
He was, tonight, peddling a similar line on Radio Pembrokeshire when claiming that the Welsh Assembly doesn't give the council any money for play area provision.
If that is to be the test, Old Grumpy would point out that the Welsh Assembly doesn't provide finance for the Chairman's chauffeur-driven limo; free holidays for leading councillors and their wives at conferences in some of England's finest seaside watering holes; lavish civic dinners at the county's most expensive restaurants; or many other of the costly privileges that elected members enjoy, not the least of which is the vastly inflated allowances they are now paid.
I'm afraid the truth is that, in any contest between the Independents' self-aggrandisement and the provision of services to the people, the people always end up a distant second.
Voters arise, you have nothing to lose but their perks!
This week a letter arrived for Vivien Mary (aka Old Grumpette) offering her the personalised number plate V 60 VMS.
Somebody must have her particulars on a database because it's her birthday shortly.
I could see she was keen on the idea but my own view was that, at 500 quid, it was a bit steep.
Not wishing to be seen as a tight wad, I hit upon a brilliant idea.
"I'll buy it for your birthday present", I said, "but only if you're sure you want to drive around the county advertising your age".
The subject hasn't been mentioned since.
For the Recorde
Last Thurday, Old Grumpette dragged me down to Tenby Museum's National Book Week exhibition for a bit of culture.
After lunch at the Carew Inn - steak and kidney pie and chips and three pints of the Reverend James - I was more in the mood for a kip in a lay-bye than wrestling with the ancient print in Robert Recorde's 16th century treatise on mathematics.
Tenby-born Recorde, who studied at both Oxford and Cambridge, was a remarkable man who is most famous for inventing the = sign but, according to one book I read, he was also responsible for introducing algebra and the concept of the square root to England.
Those of you who struggled with quadratic equations in the fourth form will be pleased to hear that the English got their own back.
He died in a debtors' prison in Southwark in 1558, aged 48, having lost all his money in a libel action.
A lesson to us all.
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