October 11 2012

Dressing down

There has been a recent flurry of activity on that other website run by Cllr Jacob Williams the member for East Williamston.
It seems that Cllr Williams has an inside line to events concerning the former Leader, Cllr John Davies.
Last week, he revealed that Cllr Davies had abandoned his ambitions to run the police force and had settled for the lesser prize of chairman of the Royal Welsh Show.
As I had already predicted that his talk of standing for police commissioner as an independent would turn out to be nothing more than a bit of face-saving bluster (Master-class), I am not too concerned by Cllr Williams' 'exclusive', though I am disappointed that nobody took me up on my offer of odds of 2:1 (in bottles of merlot) that Cwmbetws, as he styles himself, would let discretion be the better part of valour.
Now Jacob has discovered from reading the Farmers Guardian website that John Cwmbetws is being lined up to become High Sheriff of Dyfed.
I suppose that anyone who has the patience to trawl obscure websites like the Farmers Guardian is entitled to the odd scoop.
The other website has also discovered an interesting story in this week's Western Telegraph (more evidence of his unflagging patience?) about the row in Pembroke Dock Town council over inappropriate use of the mayor's robes and chain.
It appears that the mayor, Cllr Peter Kraus, has committed the ultimate municipal sin by wearing the regalia at a wedding and a 100th birthday party, neither of which involved a "civic duty".
Keen observers of the civic scene will recall that there was a similar outcry in Haverfordwest a couple of years ago, and, more recently, in Milford Haven where the mayor, Cllr Guy Woodham, was called to account for visiting one of the town's less salubrious pubs attired in the symbols of office.
In Milford's case, I put this uproar down to an attempt by reactionary old Tories on the town council to put one over on Cllr Woodham who is the Labour member for Milford East on Pembrokeshire County Council.
However, this latest row over the mayor's lack of dress sense would appear to knock that theory on the head because the complainant was none other than the former Labour leader on PCC, Cllr Sue Perkins, though it may not be without significance that Cllr Kraus was her opponent at last May's county council elections.
Then again, Cllr Perkins is now a member of the county council Cabinet and it may be that some of the attitudes of those whose company she now keeps have rubbed off on her.
Old Grumpy has a more than passing interest in the Pembroke Dock mayoral robes because about 15 years ago Grumpette, as editor of the Mercury, sent me over the bridge to cover a PD council meeting where the robes were discussed
At this distance in time I can't remember what I had done to so upset her, but I do remember the meeting well.
Cllr David Jones was the mayor at the time and he complained that, when it came time for the group photo at the functions he attended, the "robed mayors" were asked to step forward to stand in the front row.
The result, Cllr Jones grumbled, was that he was relegated to the back row with what he referred to as the "hoi polloi", while the civic heads of the ancient boroughs of Haverfordwest, Pembroke and Tenby enjoyed the limelight.
The "hoi polloi" included the mayor of Milford Haven and I recall writing a half-joking piece in my Old Grumpy column calling for Milford Haven Town Council to dispatch a gunboat across the Haven to avenge this insult to the town's honour.
Unfortunately, the bunch of lily-livered appeasers who then held sway on the town council did nothing to uphold Milford's great naval tradition which, as every schoolboy knows, reached its zenith when, on being ennobled, Britain's greatest ever admiral adopted as his title the name of a well known pub on the town's Front Street.


Serious competition


While it is easy to shrug off these "scoops" about the activities of various civic dignitaries, there has been an altogether more alarming development on that other website where the evidence suggests that my super-mole has been turned, because, it seems, Cllr Williams has somehow got his hands on the vast catalogue of computer files which reveal in great detail the non-political, political party's strategy in both the 2008 and 2012 elections.
One of the most interesting questions regarding this treasure trove is the identity of the person who decided to make them available to the world at large.
I can honestly say that I have no idea, but my best guess is that it is someone on the inside who became concerned by what was was going on in county hall.
One theory, which I am told is gaining ground in the Cabinet room, is that it is Cllr Peter Stock who is perceived to be upset by the Fat Controller's failure to provide him with a seat on the Responsibility Allowance Special.
It would appear that someone in the Cabinet has been watching too many Pink Panther films, though even Inspector Clouseux would be hard-pressed to come up with a theory as outlandish as this.

Top-down government

You may have read in the local papers that director of education Graham Longster has decided to take early retirement.
Judging by the tone of Mr Longster's departing email to colleagues and the cabinet, resignation might be a more accurate description but we won't get bogged down in semantics.
Following Mr Longster's "retirement" in December, the recently appointed Mr Jake Morgan, who has taken over from the recently "retired" director of social services Mr Jon Skone, will assume the additional role of director of education.
From what I can gather, these new arrangements are designed to address the divide between the two departments which has resulted in what is known in modern management speak as "working in silos".
This failure of the two departments to work together is perceived to be the principal reason for the serious failings in child protection identified in last year's CWSSI report which has caused the council untold grief.
Clearly, if both responsibilities are in the same hands the potential for silo-working will be eliminated.
Members were informed of these decisions by email from the Chief Executive which reads:

"I am writing to inform you that Graham Longster, Director of Education and Children’s Services, has informed me of his intention to retire at the end of December.

Arrangements are being put in place for Jake Morgan to take on Graham’s main responsibilities as Director of Education and Children’s Services. Martin Lloyd will continue as Head of School Effectiveness but will be formally designated as the statutory Chief Education Officer.

Bearing in mind Jake’s additional duties, I have asked Mark Lewis to assume managerial responsibility for Adult Social Care. Jake will remain the statutory Director of Social Services."

Yours sincerely,

Although there was some initial confusion among members as to whether this was just a temporary arrangement, I now understand that, though the email doesn't make it clear, it is intended to be permanent.
You will notice that elected members were not consulted about these radical changes.
We are simply told about these things on a take it or leave it basis.
Old Grumpy recalls a similar situation some years ago when the director of education was given additional responsibilities for certain highway maintenance works, including street lighting.
The, then, chairman of the education committee - this was pre-cabinet - Cllr Emyr Jones got up at a council meeting to complain that he had not been consulted about this and was told quite firmly by the chief executive that it was none of his business, because, as head of paid service, the chief executive was responsible for staff deployment and that was the end of the matter.
The problem arises because of the divide between those things that are considered to be operational and those relating to policy.
In reality there is no clear divide because at some point the two things slide into each other.
It could be argued that combining the posts of the directors of education and social services is an operational matter and equally it could be argued that it is a policy decision.
While I would be the first to agree that elected politicians should be kept well away from operational decisions, I would have thought it desirable that we are offered some detailed explanation as to why such major reforms are considered beneficial.
I have already received an email from a constituent who wonders if it is possible for one person to carry the heavy burden imposed by these two roles.
It is rather embarrassing to have to write back and tell him that I really don't know.
And, if elected members are marginalised in this way, can you blame people for wondering if there is any point in turning out to vote.
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