October 18 2012

Skimming off the cream

That other website seems to be generating something of a panic in the ranks of the Independent Plus Political Group.
According to the latest posting, a cabinet member has been detailed off to trace the person responsible for leaking these fascinating computer files.
It is not clear what methods this mysterious member intends to employ, but I would warn that I have a high tolerance of pain so torture would be futile.
A case of vintage Chilean merlot might be a different matter, though the problem is that I don't actually know who made this information available, or why
Nor, as far as I'm aware does the author of that other website.
What I can say is that this treasure trove of computer files finally nails the lie that the IPPG is not a political party.
Though it pains me to say this, anyone interested in knowing the truth about the IPPG election strategy would do well to keep an eye on that other site.
One revealing document published recently is a draft advert for the 2008 election featuring the, then, Leader Cllr John Davies.
Obviously, one of the brighter members realised that this advert might undermine the "party's" claim to be non-political and it was never published.
In it Cllr Davies boasts that: "Pembrokeshire has seen the greatest number of political opposition councillors defecting to the independent group in Wales".
It is interesting to chart the progress of these defectors after they joined the ruling group.
In the early days, three Tories (Cllrs David Wildman, Mark Edwards and Phil Llewellyn) jumped ship.
Not long after Cllr Llewellyn resigned from the council, while Cllrs Wildman and Edwards went on to become cabinet members (current SRA £15,000+).
Next to go was Cllr Pearl Llewellyn (Lab) now chairman of licensing (SRA £8,700) and, following the 2008 election, Labour's Ken Rowlands, Umelda Havard, Lyndon Frayling and Danny Fellows went over.
Ken and Danny were immediately elevated to Cabinet and chair of scrutiny (£SRA 8,700) respectively.
Umelda and Lyndon's talents have been rewarded with vice-chair licensing and vice-chair environment scrutiny.
And, most recently, Cllr Simon Hancock changed sides and was promoted to the Cabinet.
So, not only has the IPG an impressive record in terms of numbers recruited, but it would also appear to have concentrated on encouraging only those of the highest quality into its ranks.
Mind you, it is always possible that I have the chicken and the egg in the wrong order.

Reign of terror

The number of head teachers' emails in support of Huw George has now reached 20 and counting.
Of course, this could be a spontaneous outburst, though when you come across three emails sent in the space of two minutes you are entitled to wonder.
As I have already pointed out (October 17) this looks very much like the sort of political action that is outlawed by the employees' code of conduct.
Fortunately, it is more than 50 years since I ceased being frightened by head teachers and I doubt if any of this lot have the power to strike terror into the heart as my last head, Leonard I Stowe MA Oxon.
His middle name was Ivan and it doesn't require too much imagination to work out that we boys added "the Terrible"
The son of a local Methodist minister, L I was one of the very few boys from our school to have made it to Oxford in the days before universal secondary education.
That would be in the 1930s and in about 1954 he returned, determined to stamp his authority on the old place.
I had numerous battles with him - all lost - and it was not until I reached the sixth-form that we established friendly relations.
One evening after school we were playing football on the tennis courts - a forbidden activity.
Ivan lived in a large house in the school grounds and must have spotted us from an upstairs window.
The result was that, when he emerged together with his wife for their regular knock-up, tucked under his arm, in addition to his tennis racquet, was the plaited leather strap with which he used to keep us boys in order.
Waving it menacingly, he asked me - why did I have to be first? - "backhand or forehand?".
Not knowing much about tennis (girl's game) I opted for backhand.
"That's a shame" he said, "it's my forehand that needs the practice."
That was the first time that it had ever occurred to me that he might have a sense of humour, though what followed was not the least bit amusing.
Then there was our very last Friday at school when we got up to some high-spirited mischief including pushing Mr Lucock's Rover off the school car park and down King Street to the market square.
You can imagine our amusement as we stood by the library window watching a baffled Mr Lucock searching for his car .
Our joy was short lived, however, because within a few minutes the deputy head was telling us to report to Ivan's study.
The consensus was that, as we were all leaving school that day, he couldn't do anything to us, and we agreed on a policy of defiance.
In the study, lined up in alphabetical order, we received a lecture from Ivan before he turned to Clive Bouch who was first in line and asked : "Will you accept the punishment I have in mind, or take the consequences?"
"I'll take the consequences, Sir" Bouch replied, firmly.
"You'll - take - the - consequences?" Ivan said slowly, his voice bristling with menace.
For a few microseconds, while the vision of the letter to Edinburgh University, explaining why this boy was not suitable material for medical school, flashed across Bouch's mind, there was silence, before Clive blurted out: "I'll take the punishment, sir".
Once the first domino was toppled, our previous bravado evaporated and the following morning we were all in Ivan's large walled garden, cutting grass, digging up weeds and raking leaves in a pioneering version of community service.
So, as you can imagine, I am not in the least bit fazed (not phased, as one of my detractors had it) by a few critical words from Ivan's modern successors.

am October 17 2012

You may have read in the Western Telegraph that there is a meeting of full council tomorrow (Thursday).
The WT has gone through the agenda and highlighted what it considers the most interesting items.
These include a question by Cllr Peter Stock on our struggling town centres; and one by Cllr Jacob Williams on the Pembrokeshire flag.

Tucked away at the bottom of a puff piece plus photograph, featuring Cabinet members Huw George and Sue Perkins, on the the decision to combine the roles of director of education and director of social services, there is the announcement that I have put down a motion of no confidence in Cllr Huw George.
Cllr George was the Cabinet member responsible for education when the events occurred that led to last year's damning CSSIW report on the lack of child safeguarding in the county..
Last week, I reported that elected members had been informed of the decision to combine the two departments (education and social services) in an email from the chief executive.
There was no consultation that I was aware of, though the WT quotes Cllr Perkins as saying that the question as to whether one person could carry out both roles "had been fully explored before the decision was taken".
Unfortunately, the WT's reporter didn't think to ask who had done the exploring.
Interestingly, I raised this issue of lack of consultation at a recent meeting and I was told that the decision was for the chief executive, alone, to make.
Cllrs Perkins and George were both present and neither uttered a peep to the contrary.
So this week's piece of propaganda has two purposes: to head off criticism over the chief executive's unilateral decision to combine the two departments and to show what an important chap is Cllr George ahead of tomorrow's vote of confidence.
And the propaganda doesn't stop there because yesterday (Tuesday) all members of the council received emails from five head teachers singing Cllr George's praises.
And, as I write, they keep coming in - three so far this morning, already. We are used to the IPPG's synchronised voting habits, but synchronised letter writing is a new departure.
While it is encouraging to think that these heads are taking an interest in what goes on in county hall, it is difficult to understand how one of these letters came to be written on 10 October before the minutes had been published.
Whether it is wise for these heads to get themselves involved in politics is a moot point especially as four of these letters are written on official school notepaper.
Are they speaking for themselves, or for the school, and, if the latter, were the governors consulted?
In this context, it is interesting to read what the council's Code of Conduct for employees has to say.
Under the heading "Political neutrality" it reads: "Employees serve the authority as a whole. It follows they must serve all councillors and not just those of the ruling group and must ensure that the individual rights of all councillors are respected."
Including, presumably, my right to put down motions of no confidence in Cabinet members.
And, if as I suspect, this "campaign" has been orchestrated from inside the Cabinet room, how does that stand alongside the requirement in the members' code of conduct that they "must not do anything that compromises, or which is likely to compromise, the impartiality of those who work for, or on behalf of, your authority."
These letters themselves would be worrying enough, but the tone of some of them borders on the hysterical.
Such as this from the head of Tavernspite: " I am writing to express complete and utter shock and dismay that there is an item (no. 37) on next week's meeting agenda (Oct 18th) requesting a vote of no confidence in Cllr Huw George. I believe the vote of no confidence has been put forward by Cllr Stoddard (sic)."
Or this from Narberth CP school: "It is with great shame and disgust that I read of Cllr M Stoddarts (sic) motion for the next Council meeting of `The Council has no confidence in the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Education and the Welsh Language - Councillor Huw George."
The head of Milford Junior school opined: "Councillor Stoddart may well believe that he is doing the people of Pembrokeshire a service by tabling his motion, but first he should have communicated with the schools and young people of Pembrokeshire. and concluded: "I urge you to reject this motion."
Most of the letters received so far have highlighted Cllr George's efforts in leading assemblies and handing out prizes.
Typical is this from Tavernspite: "Huw always makes a massive effort to do all he can for our school and never turns down an opportunity to visit. We feel he puts the need of the children before anything and the children think the world of him. He is funny, charismatic and completely engaging to both children and adults alike."
Well, all that might be true, but as Cabinet member for education Cllr George's role is not as part-time chaplain/children's entertainer.
His job is to formulate the council's education policies and then make sure the officers carry them out and, as anyone who has read last year's Estyn and CSSIW reports will have to conclude, this he singularly failed to do.
The, then, Leader of the county council was so unimpressed with Cllr George's performance that he stripped him of half his Cabinet responsibilities.
Since this crisis blew up we have had the "retirement" of both the director of social services (Jon Skone) and the director of education (Graham Longster)
My understanding is that, in a democracy, it is the politicians, not the the civil servants, who are ultimately responsible to the electorate.
Hence my motion of no confidence in Cllr George on whose watch all this occurred.
I realise that some of these letters were written in haste and we all make mistakes, but could I suggest that the head teacher who wrote that that Cllr George's efforts on behalf of the county's children "can not be faltered" might benefit from participation in the school's literacy hour.
Finally, if the events of the past few weeks (Hillsborough, Jimmy Savile) have taught us anything it is that the circling of the establishment wagons, when one of their own is under threat, is an inherently dangerous way to go.
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