November 21 2013

 

Thrice denied

I'm afraid things got rather hectic yesterday afternoon - hence the late posting this week.
At about 2.00 pm, I received an email from someone at Private Eye, who was taking an interest in my investigations into the grant situation in Pembroke Dock.
Apparently, this person had been in touch with the council who had told him that everything was above board and my claims were unfounded.
That rather killed the story, though I haven't given up yet.
It can't be long before the writs start to fly.
Indeed, seeing as I've been writing about this since April it's rather surprising that m'learned friends haven't already seen action.
Though it may be that the actors in this plot have doubts about their ability to convince a court that the chimneys/turrets have been rebuilt (How green is my chimney?) or that roof has been reslated on new felt and battens (Night on the tiles), as the final account suggests.
One thing I did learn was that an internal auditor's report on my concerns is to be produced in time for the Cabinet meeting on December 2 when Cllr Paul Miller and myself are due to appear to make the case for some light to be shone on this matter.
Based on the council's response to Private Eye, it is not easy to be optimistic about our prospects.
Not that I was very confident before my encounter with the magazine because, on past form, the Cabinet, which is not exactly replete with original thinkers, will do exactly as it is told.
Below is a run down on some of the cast that you have elected (that's the theory, anyway) to conduct your affairs.
As you will see, the disinterested pursuit of the truth is not always their top priority.

Truth tellers?

Last week the Pembrokeshire Herald's "Badger" had a go at The Voice Of Johnston over the statement in his 2012 election address that £7 million had been committed to a new school in the village.
Regular readers will recall that Cllr Rowland's bogus £7 million claim was first highlighted here (Shaky foundations).
But a far more interesting episode in Cllr Rowland's chequered career involves his switch from Labour to the IPG at the time of the 2008 election. Shortly after that election Cllr Rowlands was elevated to the Cabinet, but was always at pains to stress that there was no connection with his defection from Labour and his sudden promotion.
As the Western Telegraph reported: "Cllr Rowlands issued a strong denial that he had misled the electors and said the cabinet post offer came out of the blue after the election."
And in a letter to the Mercury he said: "When I stood as an independent in my own name I was entering uncharted territory not knowing what path I would follow if I was successful at the election".
Now thanks to that other website's brilliant "Partygate" scoop (you can imagine the sound of my teeth grinding together as I write that) we know that this talk of "uncharted territory" has even less credibility than the £7 million "committed" to the new school in Johnston.
What "Partygate" revealed was that not only had The Voice thrown in his lot with the IPG well before the election, but that, in the run up to polling day, his campaign material and that of several other present and would-be IPG members, was being prepared on the council's computers by Cabinet members David Wildman and Rob Lewis (more on this below).
To make matters even worse, the election addresses of his two co-defectors (Cllrs Umelda Havard and Lyndon Frayling) were authored by the same team.
And the icing on the cake is that at the foot of the material put out by these last two was the name of their agent who happened to be none other that The Voice's wife Nelda Rowlands, which seems to lend support to the theory that bringing these two with him was part of his dowry (The plot thickens).
And Cllr Rowlands is not the only one to come out of this badly. The leader of the county council's Labour Group at the time was Cllr Sue Perkins. Her reaction to the treacherous behaviour of the three defectors can be found in the Western Telegraph's report featuring an email she had sent to Cllr Rowlands. (Love Labours lost).
And nobody could accuse Cllr Perkins of mealy-mouthedness.
After telling Cllr Rowlands : "At the moment I would be happy never to speak to you again", she really got stuck in with: "I believed that as a man of the cloth' - a lay preacher who from the pulpit talks of faith, loyalty and trust - that you would practise what you preach", before concluding, "I hope you are happy with your 30 pieces of silver."
Who could have imagined that, a little over four years later, Cllr Perkins would also abandon Labour for the IPPG and a Cabinet seat.
In her favour it should be said that she gave up the leadership of the Labour group (SRA £9,000) before taking up the Cabinet post (SRA £15,000) which, using the exchange rate she applied to Cllr Rowlands, amounts to just 12 pieces of silver.
Mind you, she did at least wait until after the election before jumping ship.
So one of the criticisms she levelled at Cllr Rowlands: ""The real losers in this shabby affair are the voters who were denied the chance to vote Labour." doesn't apply to her.
The ultimate irony is that Cllrs Perkins and Rowlands now share the education portfolio formerly held by Cllr Rev Huw George (another man of the cloth who seems to have difficulty distinguishing fact from fiction (The love etc)) so we must assume they have kissed (metaphorically speaking, of course) and made up.
That might explain why Cllr Perkins is such a fan of the "restorative practice" regime which is soon to be introduced in our schools.
For those of you not familiar with this concept it involves talking things through rather than taking a punitive stance, or, as Churchill once put it: "Jaw-jaw is better than war-war".
And, as an aside, when Cllr Rowlands was handed the education portfolio, Leader Adams put out a press release which claimed: “Councillor Rowlands is well qualified to undertake his new duties as he has spent a distinguished career in education, spending many years as a head teacher."
That wasn't true either because, as commentaries on that other website were quick to point out, the pinnacle of his career was as deputy head of a small primary school in the Valleys.
.Another interesting thing Cllr Perkins told the Western Telegraph back in 2008 was: "By joining the Independent Group and taking a lucrative £26,000 Cabinet post, Cllr Rowlands and his two co-defectors have excluded themselves from the Labour Party."
That, I think, was a reference to the Labour Party's rule book which calls for the automatic expulsion of any member who joins another political group.
That's what happened to Cllr Pearl Llewellyn when she jumped ship way back in November 2006 and what Cllr Perkins seems to be suggesting was about to happen to Cllrs Rowlands, Havard and Frayling in 2008.
Strange, then, that I read in the papers recently that Cllr Simon Hancock; another who abandoned Labour soon after the 2012 election for the IPPG and a Cabinet seat, is still chairman of the Neyland branch of the Labour party.
And while were doing a round up of the Cabinet and their foibles, we mustn't forget Cllr David Wildman who resigned from the council in March this year because he was moving back to Wiltshire.
Regular readers will recall that ex-Cllr Wildman featured in this column after that other website revealed that he had authored the election address of one Byron Frayling who stood against Cllr Wildman's fellow IPG member David Bryan in May 2012. (Faulty memory)
Naturally Cllr Bryan was not amused, so he wrote to Cllr Wildman seeking an explanation.
He was told: "Can I say I did not write an election address for Byron Frayling and I can guarantee that his election material was not printed by me or anyone else in Cabinet."
When the Milford Mercury confronted him with the evidence he denied producing the election address but admitted helping to prepare a leaflet for Mr Frayling.
"I didn't think of the implications at the time", he told the newspaper, “and it went out of my mind.”
It seems that Cllr Wildman's memory had improved by the time he was interviewed during an Ombudsman's investigation into this murky business.
As Dr Johnson remarked: "The sight of the gallows concentrates a man's mind, wonderfully."
An anonymised Ombudsman's letter obtained by Old Grumpy records:
"During the investigation the Ombudsman considered the twenty three files containing election literature for former colleagues . . .. Councillor Wildman accepted at interview that he was recorded as being the author or the last person to have saved the files, and that he used Council computer systems to create the election material. He said that he had been given election material because some candidates had difficulty working computers and that he had prepared their manifestos."
However, as Cllr Wildman had already resigned from the council, the Ombudsman decided that no further action was necessary.
Only one mystery remains: why deputy leader Cllr Rob Lewis hasn't also been fingered by the Ombudsman.
As Partygate clearly shows, he was at least as deeply involved in this illicit use of council computers as Wildman.
Indeed, as the IPG's election co-ordinator, he was up to his neck in it.
One theory doing the rounds is that, in order to protect Lewis's back, Wildman, whose resignation took him out of reach of the disciplinary machinery, agreed to "take one for the team" as a final act of loyalty to the IPG which had kept him in Special Responsibility Allowances for all those years.
And, finally, we mustn't forget that presiding over the Cabinet meeting, which is likely to involve some complex arithmetic, is none other than our Supreme Leader, Cllr Jamie "Bookkeeper" Adams (See Perfect timing).

IPPG explained.

Janis (1972) eight symptoms [of groupthink]:

1. Illusion of invulnerability
2. Collective rationalisation
3. Belief in inherent morality
4. Stereotyped views of out-groups
5. Direct pressure on dissenters
6. Self-censorship
7. Illusion of unanimity
8. Self-appointed mind guards

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