27 May 2002
What a farce!
Old Grumpy has just arrived back from the inaugural meeting of the County Council's newly formed 10-person cabinet (total annual salaries £230,000).
Unfortunately the whole thing was a charade with the members striving to give the impression they were having a debate on the issues when in fact everyone present knew that it had all been stitched up beforehand.
Each of the 11 items on the agenda was dealt with under the same format.
Cllr Brian Hall would move the recommendation, and one or other member would respond with a stream of platitudinous waffle about sustainable communities, wide-ranging consultations, dialogue, delivery, vision and other buzz words and phrases too numerous to mention.
There was an air of unreality about the whole thing and some of the more sensitive souls even had the decency to look slightly embarrassed at being required to participate in this carefully stage managed pantomime.
Every issue "debated" was passed unanimously - not surprising really considering the Leader, Maurice Hughes, has the power to sack anyone who steps out of line, thereby separating them from the £12,500 extra allowance to which cabinet members are entitled.
How on earth did Cllr Hughes come to acquire all this power on the back of a few hundred votes in Merlins Bridge?
Far more interesting than the deliberations of the cabinet was the population of the public gallery.
I counted eight Labour councillors (out of 12) two Lib Dems (out of five) and only four of the 40 members of the Independent Political (sic) Group (Cllrs David Wildman, Rosemary Hayes, Pearl Llewellyn and George Grey).
Notable absentees were the chairman of the highways scrutiny committee, Alwyn "Monster Muncher" Luke, and the chairman of the economic development scrutiny committee Tom Richards.
These two are being paid £17,500 each to chair the committees that are supposed to hold the cabinet in check.
It's a poor look out for accountability if they can't even be bothered to turn up and see what the cabinet is up to.
Unfortunately, you will not hear much about the shortcomings of the cabinet system here in Pembrokeshire.
The Independent Group think it is wonderful because it tightens their stranglehold on power (and the lucrative special responsibility allowances) while, even though they have been effectively neutered, Labour and the Lib Dems can hardly make a song and dance about it because this undemocratic monstrosity is the work of their coalition government in the Welsh Assembly.
An interesting letter appeared in last week's Western Telegraph under the headline "New cabinet: are we getting value for money?"
The writer, Mrs R M Davies of Spittal, was calling for much greater accountability from these £22,500-a-year Cabinet Ministers.
In addition, she suggested that the public should have access to the CVs of our new rulers in order that we might judge whether they had the experience and qualifications necessary to govern the county.
While I am all for freedom of information, I am not so sure that this is an altogether good idea because I can think of nothing better calculated to cause the people of Pembrokeshire to lie awake at nights than knowledge of the extent of this motley crew's total unsuitability to manage a £120 million budget (£12 million each).
What the eye doesn't see the heart doesn't grieve, and all that.
However, in the unlikely event that Mrs Davies's proposals are taken up, Old Grumpy would direct readers to some salient facts that are unlikely to appear prominently on certain members' CVs. (see Cabinet puddings and follow the links).
Crossed (Telegraph) wires
Old Grumpy doesn't get out much these days - too busy in the garden - so I have to rely on the local papers and my several highly placed moles to keep me up to date with what is going on.
Fortunately, I don't believe everything the papers say, otherwise my blood pressure would be off the top of the scale after reading in The Western Telegraph that County Council Chief Executive, Bryn Parry-Jones, is paid £134,073 a year.
According to the Telegraph, this was the salary level recommended by independent pay consultants and, "Although the exact pay rise was never publicly disclosed it is understood that the authority followed the advice of the consultants".
This, I'm afraid is complete balderdash.
Thanks to documents provided by one of my more useful moles, Old Grumpy was able to publish the a full and accurate account of the secret meeting, where the Chief Executive's pay rise was decided, on my website (9 July 2001).
This reveals that, last summer, Mr Parry Jones's salary was increased from £87,900 to £99,702, rising to £102,201 on 1 January 2002.
If the Telegraph doesn't pull its socks up, the County Council will be demanding the return of its plaque ( Togetherness following Cabinet puddings ).
PS. Old Grumpy must hold his hands up and admit to a slight inaccuracy in my own version of events.
Even Homer nodded!
On rereading my piece of 9 July 2001, I notice that Mr P-J was said to be entitled to an allowance of 10% of his salary towards leasing a car.
The actual figure is 12%, or £12,264 on his present pay, which is more than many people in the county have to live on.
Add to that the 9% of his salary that we, the taxpayers, pay into his pension fund (£9,198) and Mr Parry-Jones is costing us quite enough without the Telegraph giving him a £32,000 a year pay rise.
Cabinet pudding (2)
Old Grumpy is told that Cllr Alwyn "Monster Muncher" Luke is still sulking over the fact that his massive talents (appetite, shurely. Ed) have not been rewarded with a position in the cabinet.
I understand his exclusion came as a surprise to many, because of his closeness to Cllr Brian "Ton Up" Hall, who, it is rumoured, had a big say in who was in and who was out.
One Labour member, who produced a spoof list of runners and riders for the cabinet selling plate, had Monster Muncher in fifth place.
"Carrying too much weight", was his explanation for Luke's failure to last the distance.
I knew all those taxpayer-funded lunches would be his downfall.
However, our would-be bookie was proud of the fact that he had correctly predicted eight out of the ten including Roy Folland, who, I was told, he had down as "a dead cert".
Back to home page