21 October 2003

email: oldgrumpy@oldgrumpy.co.uk




Last week I reported, briefly, on the extraordinary letter sent by His Leadership, Cllr Maurice Hughes, to Plaid Cymru's Michael Williams.
Cllr Williams had written to H L asking why no steps had been taken to refute or investigate the serious allegations that have appeared on this website about the business relationship between Cllr Brian Hall and Dr Michael Ryan.
In his reply, headed in large letters, "PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL" , H L thunders:
"... you make the serious mistake of apparently accepting without question everything you read on the Old Grumpy website. I would remind you that this is the same website that has hounded Cllr Hall for many months over allegations that he had "fiddled his expenses".
These allegations of "expense fiddling" have now been investigated at every possible level and I hate to think how many tens of thousands of pounds of public money has been wasted on this ridiculous wild goose chase."

I have now received a letter from His Leadership, in similar vein.
"I would remind you", he rants, "that your obsession with Cllr Hall and your unfounded allegations against him of "expense fiddling" have already cost the taxpayers of this county tens of thousands of pounds."
When I read that it occurred to me how lucky I am not to have been locked up for wasting police time.
Readers can judge for themselves (The Time Lord) just how unfounded were these allegations
Where His Leadership got this figure of tens of thousands of pounds I don't know, but it would seem to represent yet another example of his tenuous relationship with the truth (See Pot and kettle).
And, another quibble: these allegations have not been investigated at every possible level.
There still remains the option, which I am seriously considering, of taking out a private prosecution so that the facts can be subject to independent scrutiny by a jury.
Indeed, had larger, juicier fish, in the form of the Hall/Ryan business, not come swimming into view I might already have done so.
Readers may also find it strange that Cllr Hall hasn't grabbed the opportunity to "sue the arse off me", as he once graphically put it to one of my colleagues, on the basis of these "ridiculous" and "unfounded" allegations, which I repeated on this website as recently as July 29 (The untouchables)
Last Friday I emailed Cllr Hughes in the following terms:

"Dear Leader,
You say I have cost the "taxpayers of this county tens of thousands of pounds" as a result of "unfounded allegations" of "expense fiddling" by Cllr Brian Hall.
Perhaps you can provide an explanation for Cllr Hall's movements on 1 February 2001, as detailed on his expense claim form and the supporting
[timed] receipts.
On that day Cllr Hall bought a meal at the First Motorway Service Station near Magor at 1.08 pm, having crossed the Severn Bridge 12 minutes earlier at 12.56 pm.
On the same day, his expense claim shows him leaving Pembroke Dock at 2.00 pm (altered from 1.00 pm) to attend a SWITCH meeting in Swansea; a return journey of 126 miles for which he claimed £63.00.
If you can offer a satisfactory explanation for how he managed to eat a meal and drive the 120 miles to Pembroke Dock in 52 minutes, I will be content to let the matter drop."

I am not expecting an early response.
PS March 2007 - Cllr Hughes never did get round to replying.



Stop press

Thank goodness! news is just in on the proceedings of the Independent Political (sic) Group's secret meeeting held at County Hall this afternoon.
These secret meetings, for those naive enough to think we live in a democracy, are where upcoming council meetings are choreographed to ensure that the Independents get their own way and the opposition don't get a look in.
This latest secret meeting was a particularly difficult affair, I am told, because Cllr Michael Williams (Plaid) has put down a notice of motion calling for the District Audit Service to conduct an inquiry into the relationship between Cllr Brian Hall and the council's economic development consultant, Dr Michael Ryan.
This is a real tough 'un because the council, in the shape of the Leader and whoever is pulling his strings, has already told ship-sinking quantities of lies in an attempt to conceal the truth about the matter.
Their latest tactic is for the Leader to run around the county trying to convince anyone who will listen that I am a liar and nothing I say should be believed (see above)
I must say, being in a credibility contest with the county council is not one of the most difficult assignments I have ever faced, though I have to admit there are a few who are gullible enough to swallow His Leadership's line (hook and sinker).
Now I hear that the Leader has found a brilliant way to head off Cllr Williams at the pass.
He has, himself, written to the Auditor demanding an investigation of my allegations.
As an optional extra, he has asked the Auditor for an estimate of the cost of answering my queries over the years.
This is so he can smear me as a waster of valuable public money.
I'm afraid he's going to be dissapointed because when I eventually reveal my evidence to the Auditor, it will blow his nasty little regime right out of the water.
In addition, I would point to the savings my activities have achieved.
For instance, His Leadership no longer claims large amounts of subsistence expenses when the council has already paid his hotel bill in advance ( see Pot and kettle); there has been a dramatic decrease in Alwyn "ex-Monster Muncher" Luke's consumption of taxpayer-funded food; and I could go on and on and on.
How many tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money has been saved, I wouldn't like to guess.
But, I digress.
The purpose of the Leader's reference of this issue to the Auditor is to render Cllr Williams' notice of motion redundant.
Up will jump the Leader to propose an amendment to the effect that, as he has already referred the matter to the Auditor, there is no need for the notice of motion.
Votes on amendments are taken before the main motion so the Independents will vote through His Leadership's proposition without the need for one of those horrible democratic debates.
I wonder how many tens of thousands of pounds-worth of pointy-heads' salaries have gone into thinking up that particular ruse.
P.S. Maurice Hughes is paid 3.6 tens of thousands a year.

Hard task

I am also told that the Independents have agreed to vote against the £20,000 golden goodbyes that the Welsh Assembly has generously put at their disposal.
His Leadership, my mole informs me, told Tuesday's secret Group meeting that every time he sets foot outside the door he is accosted by angry constituents who tell him: "If that goes through don't bother coming knocking on my door at election time."
As someone once remarked: "The sight of the gallows concentrates a man's mind, wonderfully" - the prospect of an empty ballot box has, it seems, had the same effect on Cllr Hughes.
I am told that the only dissenting voice was that of Cllr Alwyn Luke who briefly lifted his nose from the trough to protest about all the work he had done, for free, as a school governor.
School governors are not, and never have been, allowed to claim even travelling expenses, though, I notice, despite his forty years experience in the job, Cllr Luke twice tried, and failed, to slip such a claim past the auditors last year.
Now that he can't have his 20 grand, the old boy will have to stand again if he wants to keep his place on the gravy train.

Running out of whitewash

At least in his letter (see Smear-leader, above) the Leader makes an effort, however feeble, to answer the questions I put to him on 11 November last year.
You will remember that on 6 November the Leader put out a press release about the company Euro-Ryall Ltd (sole shareholders and directors Cllr B Hall and Dr M Ryan) after I had drawn attention to its existence in this column.
He said: "The Council is fully aware of the company Euroryall (sic). Before the company was registered, the principals approached officers of the council. They gave firm undertakings that the company would not trade in Pembrokeshire nor provide any conflict of interest."
On 11 Nov 2002, I emailed His Leadership with three simple questions:

(1) Which officers were "approached"?
(2) When were they approached?
(3) Were the "firm undertakings" given in writing?
For some reason - actually because the council is involved in that most dangerous of political activities: a cover-up - he refused to answer these straightforward queries.
Now, almost a year later, he tells me "I am satisfied that Councillor Hall and Dr Ryan gave undertakings that their company would not trade in Pembrokeshire".
It is Cllr Hughes' misfortune to live in a democracy where we all have a right to be "satisfied" about these things.
And Old Grumpy has evidence that all this guff about not trading in Pembrokeshire is the purest hogwash.
As I have said, ad nauseum, Hall and Ryan had every intention to trade in Pembrokeshire, and did.
The fact they never persuaded anybody to give them any business is another matter, though perfectly understandable given that Dr Ryan's philosophy is, apparantly, that potential clients are more interested in the ability and business experience of the promoters than the viability of the project.

The business people of Pembrokeshire are a bit too smart to fall for that
"Don't ring us we'll ring you" seems to have been the message.


Class act

There was an interesting story in the Daily Telegraph about a judge who prevented a burglar from escaping by threatening him with a cricket bat.
"I picked up the cricket bat and impressed upon him that he was not leaving the room" the judge told the court.
The protagonists in the case were a Martin Meeke and a Matthew Douglas-Fryer.
The double-barrelled Mr Douglas-Fryer was the burglar.
Who said we don't live in a classless society?

email: oldgrumpy@oldgrumpy.co.uk

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