October 14 2008


Headings to follow



As expected, last week's Western Telegraph was silent on the subject of Cllr Wyn Evans' (IPG) appearance before the county council's standards committee which upheld the Ombudsman's finding that he had breached the code of conduct by failing to declare his interest during a planning committee meeting where a friend's planning application was determined (Media blackout).
Indeed, Cllr Evans spoke out in favour of the development, which was contrary to the council's planning policy, and moved the proposal that it should be given consent.
As the development was against policy it had to go to full council for final approval and, despite a challenge from Cllr Michael Williams (Plaid), who suggested that he should declare his interest, Cllr Evans again spoke in favour of the application, adding for good measure that: "I am pleased to call the applicants friends of mine".
Furthermore, during the course of the investigation into Cllr Williams' subsequent complaint, Cllr Evans told the Ombudsman that he had received no training in the Code of Conduct.
This was simply untrue because the report to the standards committee contained details of three training events involving the Code which he had attended.
Unfortunately, not a word of any of this appeared in the local papers.
Of course, we don't have state controlled media in Pembrokeshire, but I sometimes wonder if it it would make much difference if we did.
It also struck Old Grumpy as rather odd that, even after Michael Williams had pointed up the possibility that Cllr Evans might be in breach of the Code, nobody from the top table suggested that he should declare an interest in his friend's planning application.
Contrast that with my experience when the Chief Executive threatened to report me to the Ombudsman for speaking on a matter in which he believed, mistakenly, that I had an interest (Under fire).
What's sauce for the goose . . . .



As several readers have pointed out, despite failing to report Cllr Evans' serious abuse of power, both the WT and the Mercury found space for the ongoing row in the Punch and Judy show that passes for Haverfordwest Town Council.
This features Cllr Donald Twigg, who, it is alleged, swore at the deputy mayor and got a bit 'tired and emotional' at some cheese and wine function.
Complaints were made to the Ombudsman who decided the matter was not worthy of investigation.
Now, according to the WT, the mayor has told the paper that "an appeal against this decision is being strongly considered".
At least the townspeople are getting their moneys worth in entertainment.
This is not the first time that "Twiggo" has been in the firing line.
Old Grumpy remembers the occasion when Sheriff Don stole the mayor's thunder by jumping up on the dais during an army march past.
The council responded to this display of bad form by setting up a "Procedures and Protocol" committee which used to meet in private to iron out these vital questions of precedence.
This of particular importance in Haverfordwest because, in addition to the Mayor, deputy Mayor and Sheriff, there are two Mace Bearers and a Sword Bearer to accommodate.
Nobody can accuse them of failing to take themselves seriously.
But perhaps the most glaring example of civic conceit I ever witnessed in my time as a newspaper reporter was a Pembroke Dock town council meeting in the Pater Hall.
Perhaps I should explain that I didn't attend out of choice.
As editor of the Mercury, Grumpette had the last word on the deployment of staff.
At one time I suspected that I was being sent out at night to cover town council meetings as some form of punishment for leaving my clothes on the bedroom floor or failing to clean the bath after me.
But I now realise that it was simply that she didn't have to pay me overtime.
But to return to Pembroke Dock town council where one evening the mayor, Cllr David Jones, complained that he didn't have a robe.
Apparently, when he attended official functions, the MC would first call for the robed mayors to step forward.
This included the leading citizens of such ancient places as Tenby, Pembroke and Haverfordwest and, in Cllr Jones' own words: "this leaves me standing at the back with the riff raff [or was it hoi polloi]".
When I reported these remarks in the Mercury it caused some consternation in Milford Haven council because the town's Mayor went about unrobed and, by necessary implication, must be a member of Cllr Jones' riff raff/hoi polloi.
There was quite a bit of huffing and puffing, but when I suggested sending a gun boat across the Haven to level Front Street all went quiet.
That's the trouble with these people: all talk and no action.
PS. The Mayor of Pembroke Dock now has a robe and a proper hat, though, I'm ashamed to admit, I'm not sure about Milford Haven.
Must try to get out more.

Gordon Brown's single-handed rescue of the world's financial system has left me gasping with admiration.
And almost as dramatic is the rescue of his own political reputation.
From zero to hero in the space of a couple of weeks.
No doubt Gordon's plan to refloat the banks and avoid financial meltdown is well thought out and has a good chance of success, but it is the way it is being sold to the public that really impresses.
Mr Brown's mantra "global solutions for global problems" and the frequent use of the word "global" whenever a government spokesperson is interviewed can be roughly translated as 'not me guv'.
But Northern Rock was a purely domestic problem caused by a flawed business model - borrowing short to lend long - which the FSA, as the regulatory authority, should have called time on long ago.
Ditto Bradford and Bingley, which had all its eggs in the basket marked 'buy to let'
And, of course, it was Chancellor Brown who stripped the Bank England of its supervisory role over the banks and gave it to the FSA.
Furthermore, Labour has won the last two elections because of the feelgood factor that resulted from the banking industry's ability to devise ever more ingenious schemes that allowed us to painlessly spend next year's salary (why worry about all that debt when the value of your house was going up by 15% a year).
Though Mr Brown may have pulled the banking system out of the fire it is too late to prevent a severe economic downturn.
In 18 months time, when the next election is due, it will be difficult to sell the message that while you might have lost your job and your house, it would have been a whole lot worse if we hadn't bailed out the banks.
I suspect Mr Brown knows this which is why I wouldn't be surprised if he tries to take advantage of this temporary spike in his popularity by calling a snap election.
Seeking a fresh mandate from the British people for our proposals for far-reaching reform of the world financial system, or somesuch.

The soaring rate of inflation is already causing belt-tightening here at Grumpy Towers.
Noticing that Tesco had hiked the price of my favourite sausages from £2 to £2.25 (Cumberland of course - though not a patch on the ones my grandmother used to make) Grumpette cut me down from three-a-day to two.
According to classical economic theory, this reduction in demand should have led to a fall in price.
But it seems that big companies like Tesco are above the laws of supply and demand.
Grumpette tells me the sausages have now gone up to £2.49, which, as the mathematicians among you will already have worked out, comes to 42.5p each
She is now threatening to cut my rations down to one and when I protested that a man shouldn't be sent out to face the world on a half-empty stomach, she suggested I fill up with shredded wheat.
That would be the final straw - at least that's what they taste like.
Gordon Brown can't expect my vote if he can't arrange things so that a man can start the day with a full English.
Mind you, by the glum look on his face, I expect he's a bowl of porridge man himself.

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