10 May 2005


Room with a view

Success at last!
Yesterday the Corporate Governance Committee accepted my constitutional amendment to give the proposers of notices of motion the right to address the committee rather than having to seek permission from the chairman.
If you think this is a bit of a no-brainer in a democracy, you might ask why the Corporate Governance committee, which is charged with the duty to "monitor and review the constitution" didn't bring in this simple revision itself.
After all, the issue was first raised by Cllr Bill Philpin almost three years ago.
I had less luck with my proposal that the wall at the front of the public gallery should be taken down and replaced with a glass screen so that people attending meetings can see what is going on.
This proposal was scuppered by the colossal £25,000 price tag put on it by the officers.
With that sort of money flying about for what can't be more than a week's work for two carpenters, I am beginning to wonder if my retirement from the building industry was a little premature.
Two of the members, Cllrs John Allen-Mirehouse and Don Evans told the committee that they had never visited the public gallery but when I suggested that it might have been a good idea to have had a look before expressing an opinion they both backtracked and said they hadn't visited the public gallery when a meeting was in progress.
Unfortunately, Chairman Luke wouldn't allow me a second bite at the cherry otherwise I would have pointed out that it would not have required to much of a leap of the imagination to work out that as you can only see half of the chairs from the public gallery, it is likely that you will only be able to see half the people sitting in them.
However, one of the difficulties raised against my proposal did at least raise a smile.
It reads: "While providing an uninterrupted view for every one in the public gallery, views back up to the public sitting down may prove problematic."
What that rather tangled piece of prose means, I think, is that members may be tempted to raise their eyes from their agendas to peer up ladies' skirts.
As it is the Independent Political Group who face in that direction, I'm surprised my proposition wasn't better supported.




The European Parliament is trying to end the UK's opt-out from the Social Chapter that allows our wage slaves to work for more than 48 hours a week.
On Today this morning, a Labour MEP was giving his reasons for backing this move which the Government in London is fighting hard to resist.
The first leg of his case was that it gave Britain "an unfair competitive advantage" over our continental partners.
That could be why economic growth in this county is more than double that in France and Germany while our unemployment rate is less than half.
So, while dragging the UK down to EU levels of uncompetetiveness may equalise the situation inside Europe, it is hardly likely to stop the hemorrhage of jobs to India and China which is where the real problem lies.
Another argument was that all this overtime working was having an adverse effect on the work-life balance.
He pointed out that the UK has the highest levels of teenage pregnancy and marital breakdown of any country in Europe and sought to make a connection between that and extended working hours.
It would seem to follow that the way to keep your marriage and your teenage daughter on the rails is to give up work and go on the dole.
All that quality time together should do the trick.
However, that seems to run counter to an article I read recently that seems to suggest that the seeds of most divorces are sown either on holiday, or at Christmas.
The theory is that, at these particular times, married couples spend enough time together to come realise that they can't stand the sight of each other.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
But his final argument really took the biscuit.
These long working hours, he said, were damaging to the European Social Model, which, as those who have been following the French referendum debate will know, is to be contrasted with the despised Anglo-Saxon free market system.
Personally, I prefer the Old Grumpy Social Model where I decide how much time I devote to play and how much to work.
It is known as personal freedom.

Party piece


Last year, in response to a question about his party's manifesto from Cllr Bill Philpin (Lib Dem) , the Leader, Cllr John Davies said the Independent Political (sic) Group were a group of members who had come together "to do what was best for Pembrokeshire."
I need hardly say that, as meaningless platitudes go, that is about as meaningless as it gets.
In the same meeting the Leader put forward a proposal that, in the interests of "inclusivity" (one of his favourite words), the membership of the four Overview and Scrutiny Committees should be increased from 10 to 12.
There are 60 members of the council, 10 of whom serve in the Cabinet and are excluded from the O and S committees by law.
As the mathematicians among you will already have worked out 60-10 = 50 and 4x12 = 48 leaving two members unemployed.
These two are myself and Cllr Malcolm Calver, the only two truly independent members.
I should say that lack of committee membership is not something that keeps me awake at night, but, being one of the few members with any formal qualification in economics, and with business experience and a job creating record in Pembrokeshire that will bear comparison with any of them, it occurred to me that I might be able to make a contribution to the deliberations of the economic development O and S committee.
So I put forward an amendment to increase the membership of two of the committees - including economic development - to 13; bringing the total membership to a nice round 50.
When this was put to the vote every member of the Independent Political (sic) Group, with the honourable exception of Cllr Henry Jones (Fishguard), voted against.
I have been trying to fathom just how this decision served the interests of the people of Pembrokeshire, but so far without success.
The truth, I fear, is that this was an act of pure political spite.
The IPG keep saying that there is no room for politics in local government, while at the same time forming themselves into a um, er political group so that they can combine doing what is best for Pembrokeshire with control over the allocation the gravy rations (aka special responsibility allowances).
No room for principles would be nearer the mark.


Dr Who?

The Daily Telegraph has a policy of only bestowing the title Doctor [Dr] on qualified medical practitioners.
Hence former Health Minister, "Dr" John Reed, whose PhD thesis was on sheep-sheering techniques in the Cheviot Hills, or some such, always appears in the Telegraph's august pages as Mr Reed.
This may sound a little pedantic but there are sound reasons for the Telegraph's stance.
The title Dr (medical) conveys the information that the person named is both qualified and subject to the code of conduct and disciplinary proceedings of his/her professional body: the BMA.
This principle applies to all reputable professional bodies so when you see letters after someone's name it is usually an indication of a minimum standard of competence and a route to reparation if that standard is breached.
In terms of contract law the letters are a representation just as when a second hand car dealer sells you "a good little runner - one careful lady owner".
If you discover that the car in question has been owned by a series of boy-racers and has been extensively rebuilt due to a high-speed encounter with a tree, the car dealer has made a misrepresentation and you would be entitled to rescind the contract and have your money back.
My interest in this subject was triggered by the letters IMCI [Institute of Management Consultants Ireland] that appear behind the name of "Dr" Michael Ryan, Cllr Brian Hall's erstwhile business partner.
You will recall that Ryan and Hall were plotting to abuse their positions, as council employed consultant and a leading councillor respectively, to feather their own nests.(see Hall- Ryan)
It seems that the county council and the district audit service are happy to turn a blind eye to this pair's nefarious activities but most other people, I believe, take a rather more demanding view of the standards of conduct to be expected of public servants in a democracy.
So, it seems, does the IMCI.

Under Principle 2 of the Institute's code of conduct it states:

"Integrity, Independence, Objectivity

A member shall avoid any action or situation inconsistent with the member's professional obligations or which in any way might be seen to impair the member's integrity. In formulating advice and recommendations the member will be guided solely by the member's objective view of the client's best interests.


2.1 A member will disclose at the earliest opportunity any special relationships, circumstances or business interests which might influence or impair, or could be seen by the client or others to influence or impair, the member's judgment or objectivity on a particular assignment."

It is clear from reading the auditor's whitewash of the Hall-Ryan relationship that Ryan made no effort, at the earliest or any other opportunity, to disclose to the council that he and Hall had well-advanced plans to trade in Pembrokeshire contrary the Ryan's earlier promise not to do so..
Despite my instinctive mistrust of all self-policing arrangements, I have provided IMCI with a full account of the facts.
I will report in due course.
Indeed it has occurred to me that, in other cases where my investigations have hit a brick wall, these various professional codes of conduct might provide a swifter and more reliable route to the truth than my vain attempts to overcome the Independent Political Group's 38-22 blindly loyal majority on the county council.

Not out

Last week I went into a local sport's shop looking for a cricket bat as a birthday present for my grandson.
"Would you also want a set of stumps?" the lady asked, helpfully.
"No point" I replied, "even if I knock all three over he'll refuse to be out."

Nervous breakdown

So, Prince Harry was "a weak student" whose art teacher had to complete his 'A' level course work.
I'm afraid that this sort of thing has been going on since the beginning of time, or at least since 1958 when Old Grumpy sat the 'A' level biology exam.
Part of the test involved a practical, during which we were required to dissect a rat.
This usually required the dissection out of one of the mammal's systems: renal, blood circulation and digestive being the favourites.
The rats and the exam papers arrived well before the big day and our biology teacher Bob Golightly must have had a quick peek.
A couple of days before the exam Mr Golightly gave the three of us a pep talk on exam technique.
"Remember", he said, "you'll have plenty of time, so don't rush things and whatever you do don't let the nerves get the better of you."
The examiner must have been impressed by our encyclopedic knowledge of rodent neurology because we all got an A grade.
The other two both went on to be doctors; one, Clive Bouch, is a consultant in Northampton.
Old Grumpy became a builder and got to live in Pembrokeshire.
Sorry Clive, but life's not meant to be fair.