November 1 2012



As anticipated, there has been no rush of emails from the "professional experts" in the county's education establishment offering justification for Cllr Huw George's decision to use a photograph of schoolchildren obtained in his capacity as Cabinet member for education in his election video (Complete picture).
That, perhaps, is because there isn't any, though it seems strange that none of the 23 who wrote earlier in his support can find anything to say in his defence.
However, some of their earlier letters referred to his enthusiasm, passion even, for education.
Now I would hope all county councillors are enthusiastic about education - after all we spend some £100 million of taxpayers' money on it each year.
It just happens that I have a copy of Cllr George's election address which seems to be rather strongly tilted towards the amount of tarmac he has arranged to have spread over his ward.
There is no mention of his membership of the IPG, or his Cabinet role, but most surprising, considering he is the man responsible for education in Pembrokeshire, neither does the E-word feature once in his election address.
And, in his now-famous election video, all signs of schools and education are buried under vast areas of the black stuff.
When I raised the issue of the £300,000 spent in Cllr George's ward during 2011-2012, on road and street works of one kind and another, I was told they were all part of the council's routine maintenance programme.
That being the case, it is rather naughty of him to be running around at election time claiming the credit for it with the slogan "What we can do together - positive politics brings positive results."


My attention has been drawn to the BBC Wales website where there is a feature on the upcoming elections for Police Commissioner.
After introducing the two candidates the presenter read out a statement from former Dyfed Powys Chief Constable Ian Arundel
who opined that the concept of elected Police Commissioners is fundamentally flawed,” and is “simply a way for the government to get more political control of the police”.
As roughly half of these new commissioners will be Labour nominees it is difficult to see how this can possibly be true.
It may well be that the aim is to ensure more political control of the police but it will control by the electorate and not the government.
But what came next had me almost falling out of my chair, part with shock and part with laughter.
There was the former county council leader and police authority member, Cllr John Davies, pontificating that “I think the reservations that I hold regarding the whole concept of police commissioners whether it's about accountability and accountability to who, is a real question mark: to people, to policing, or to party politics? That the question that remains unanswered, and can only be answered post-election.”
I saw this with my own eyes so I can confirm that this was the same John Davies who was only recently pitching for the position of Tory party candidate for the election to this position about which he has these "reservations about the whole concept".
As has been recorded here and elsewhere the reason the Tories rejected him was that it emerged during the selection meeting held in Narberth that he'd only signed the application forms to join the party earlier that afternoon.
And, to their credit, the members present let it be known that they didn't have much time for carpetbaggers. (Master-class)
Seeing which way the wind was blowing, Cllr Davies withdrew from the race before the second selection meeting in Brecon the following day.
He also withdrew his application to join the Conservative party before it could be processed, so he doesn't have to declare membership on the council's register of interests.

It's all relative

Professor Ian Robertson of Trinity College Dublin has been studying the effects of power on the human brain.
What he found was that power increases the production of dopamine which has much the same effect as snorting cocaine,
This increase in dopamine, he discovered, makes people smarter.
This is worrying because it suggests that the next time I cross swords with one of those all-powerful Cabinet members at a council meeting they might destroy with the sheer brilliance of their arguments.
Then I noticed he used the term "smarter" and consoled myself with the thought that, if I lost a couple of inches from my waistline, I would be slimmer, but I still wouldn't be able to squeeze in a pair of 38-inch trousers.

Lateral thinking

Another county council meeting and another question about the need to revitalise our town centres.
Concern about your town centre hits the spot with the voters and is therefore a popular subject with councillors.
No doubt this goes on in every council in the land because we all love our town centres, though we rarely use them.
The harsh truth, alas, is that traditional town centres are, like typewriters, a thing of the past.
If you go back 20 years, Milford Haven had a shopping centre in Charles Street.
Then along came Tesco and the the associated sheds and car parking spaces, followed soon after by Lidl.
Then somebody had the bright idea to build along the dockside - flats above and shops below.
The result is that Milford Haven now has roughly three-times the retail space that it had 20 years ago.
The difficulty is that the population has remained more or less the same and though personal spending power has increased during the period it has not gone up by nearly enough to employ triple the area of retail space.
The result is an over supply of retail space and the inevitable consequence is a fall in rental values until eventually businesses can't make it pay even at zero rents.
And that isn't the end of the matter because, as retail space expands, the increase in internet shopping diminishes the need for it.
In a similar vein, I read in the Mercury that Milford Haven Golf Club has hit some heavy financial weather with debts of £600,000 and falling membership to boot.
Having spent many happy hours hacking around Milford golf course, and even more enjoying the craic in the bar, I am sorry to hear this, but not surprised.
When I started playing golf in 1971 there were, I calculate, 54 holes in Pembrokeshire (Tenby 18, Milford 9, Hwest 9, Newport 9, and St Davids 9) and they were joined soon after by South Pembs (9).
There are now more than 150 holes, but the number of golfers has not kept pace.
The result, as with retail space, is a situation of over-supply which is very difficult to correct without a good deal of imagination.
I must admit to coming down the 18th hole at Milford (the long par five next to the Dale Road) facing double figures having sliced a couple over the road into the Esso Club and thinking how that particular piece of greenery might be more socially useful if it was covered in bungalows.

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