October 8

2002


Self-correcting

Following last week's piece on the County Council's duff £36,000 inward investment website (www.choosepembrokeshire.org uk), the powers that be in the Kremlin on Cleddau moved swiftly - for them - to rectify the situation.
By the following evening (Wednesday) when I logged on, the link to the Welsh Development Agency had been changed from wda.com to wda.co.uk, which must have been something of a blow to Wesley Day Advertising who had, hitherto, been enjoying a free ride on the site.
Some, though not all, of the other non-functioning links had been removed altogether, and "Pembrokeshire News", which hadn't been updated since February 2001, carried the message: "A selection of news items are currently being compiled and will be available on this web site shortly".
Though, as it is now Tuesday evening and no fresh news has yet appeared, it seems safe to assume that, where the County Council is concerned, "shortly" is a period somewhat in excess of five working days.
All this sudden activity makes me wonder if someone near the top of the council hierarchy has been breaking the authority's rules by reading my website during working hours.
If they have, could I advise them to keep logging on, because the County Council's books are open for public inspection this week and that usually provides the ingredients for a steady supply of tasty morsels.
And I'm not just talking about Cllr Alwyn "Monster Muncher" Luke's taxpayer funded lunches.


Self-serving

Just for starters, let me introduce you to two receipts submitted by "Monster Muncher" to support his claim for a trip to Caernarfon in April 2001 as the County Council's representative at a meeting of the Nuclear Free Local Authorities.
A friend suggest he should be renamed "Luke the Nuke" but, as the crossword puzzlers amongst you will have spotted, his name is a perfect anagram for Wally Nuke.
Before anybody emails to ask what Luke might know about matters nuclear, I would point out that the acquisition of such perks - the right to drive long distances at 50p a mile and stay in hotels at taxpayers' expense - owes more to your position in the Independent Political (sic) Group pecking order than your suitability.
If proof of this proposition is required, I would refer you to the fact that, just two weeks before the jaunt to Caernarfon, Cllr Luke had been our representative at a conference in Merthyr Tydfil on, um, er, standards and ethics in public life.
Whatever he might have learned in Merthyr seems to have slipped his mind once he was breathing the cool spring air of north Wales.
On the evening of April 26, no doubt feeling a bit peckish after the long drive north, he dined at the Black Boy Inn, Caernarfon, where he tucked into gammon and chips costing a very reasonable £6.25.
The meal seem to have been to his liking because he was back the following day for another slice off the hog.
Or, at least, that his what his expense claim says.
But closer inspection of the receipts reveals that, as so often when Cllr Luke and taxpayer funded nosh find themselves in the same room the truth goes out of the window because, the receipt, dated 27 April, has been crudely altered (forged?) from the original April 26.
There are several explanations as to why Cllr Luke might have two receipts for April 26 in his possession and why he might want to alter the date, the most obvious of which is that he didn't dine alone, and his companion was someone who couldn't claim expenses.
Another possibility is that the effort of all that driving had stimulated his digestive juices to such a degree that he decided to have a second helping, for which he couldn't claim because of the daily limits set out in the regulations.
And, of course, we cannot discount the possibility that Bethan, who is named as the "server" on both receipts, made a mistake with the dates.
Sadly, there is other information, in the form of the serial numbers on the documents, that militates against this last, innocent, explanation.
The serial numbers in question are 8251 and 8252, so, you can imagine Bethan greeting the "Monster Muncher" with the words: "Am I pleased to see you, I haven't had a single customer since you were in yesterday".
Unfortunately, even that possible, though unlikely, scenario, will not stand up to the evidence, because the receipt bearing the earlier serial number (8251) carries the later date.
Which means, of course, that Luke altered the wrong receipt.
"Ah! you're the nice gentleman who was in here tomorrow" Bethan might have said.
Tune in next week for the story of Wally's £14.65 plate of fish and chips.

 

Self-destruction

On Thursday I had my first glimpse of the County Council's recently formed Standards Committee when it met to consider the Monitoring Officer's report into a complaint by Cllr Roy "six-foot-under" Folland (Ind) that Labour member Cllr Terry Mills had leaked confidential information about a review of the authority' Social Service Department to the Mercury.
Unfortunately, for Cllr Folland, no indication was given, either in the letter inviting Cllr Mills to the meeting to discuss the review, or during the meeting itself, that the information was confidential and it didn't take long for the Committee to come to the unanimous view that there was no case to answer.
In any case, someone other than Cllr Mills appears to have given the Mercury the actual document and his part in the affair was to merely respond, in fairly general terms, to questions from a reporter.
In the middle of the Standards Committee proceedings, in walked Cllrs Alwyn Luke and Brian Hall but, once it became clear which way the wind was blowing, they made a short sharp exit.
Summing up, the Chairman, Mrs Sarah Smith, tried to be as diplomatic as possible about this worthless complaint.
"I would say to members that complaints about one another arising from the cut and thrust of local politics are not something the Standards Committee wants to be wasting its time on.
We're here to deal with serious complaints - not mere technicalities".
Or, put another way, Folland had dug his own grave.
If I were Cllr Mills I would be taking a close look at Section 6(e) of the Code of Conduct, which provides that members "must not … make vexatious or malicious complaints against other persons".

 

Self-interest

Following last week's article on the dodgy arithmetic used to get Pembrokeshire's "population" up above 150,000, and the Chief Executive into a higher salary band, I have had an email from The Professor.
"Imagine", he/she writes, "that the calculation in 1995 had produced a result a couple of hundred short of 150,000 but, in the intervening years, net migration into the County had lifted the population above the magic figure, how many ten-millionths of a nanosecond do you think it would have taken for a report to be produced recommending that the Chief Executive's pay should be adjusted to take account of the new circumstances?"
Not many, professor, not many.

Self-critical

My apologies for failing to upload the full "Preseli tarmac fraud" file to the web, as promised two weeks ago.
Unfortunately, the files are so big that the amount of memory required by my voice recognition software (VRC) caused the computer to have a nervous breakdown.
Happily, the machine is now restored to full health and barring accidents the full story should be available by next week.
Meanwhile the VRC is still having problems with my Cumbrian accent, especially after I've had a glass or three of the Chilean Merlot.
Recent gems include My seek nookie (Maes-y-Cwnce) and Have the worst Town Council, which I will leave you to work out for yourselves.

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