October 8 2009



On Monday I drove all the way to Manorbier to hear what the community council had to say about my little spat with its chairman Cllr Ray Hughes (Grumpy - it's official) (Above criticism) (Abuse of power)
What a let down - they threw in the towel without even a token fight.
My own fault, I suppose, for giving them too much free legal advice.
Come the moment for them "To review and consider the appropriate course of action to be taken in relation to comments made about Manorbier Community Council and its members on the Old Grumpy website." and up popped Cllr Robert Hall to propose that they treat the "spurious rubbish" on my website "with the contempt it deserves".
This is the same spurious rubbish about which the chairman had only recently been sending me threatening letters demanding "an unreserved apology" within seven days, failing which he would have "no option but to report me to the Ombudsman".
Funny how these tinpot Torquemadas always discover the non-existent option/alternative if you stand firm in the face of their preposterous, self-important blustering.
The chairman tried to put a brave face on this climbdown by saying "why give him the satisfaction etc" though he didn't explain how I would benefit from being reported to the Ombudsman.
Could it be that in responding to any such complaint I would have had the satisfaction of drawing attention to Cllr Hughes' role in passing a motion of no confidence in Cllr Malcolm Calver at a time when Cllr Hughes, himself, was under investigation by the Ombudsman following a complaint by Cllr Calver that he had breached the Code.
As I said last week, an interest can arise as much from enmity as friendship.
The test is whether the member might reasonably be perceived as as being biased (Vale of tears).
Earlier in the debate, Cllr Hughes claimed that he had written to me "on behalf of Manorbier Community Council".
When I interrupted to point out that this couldn't be true, because, when he wrote to me in early September MCC hadn't discussed the matter, he threatened to have me ejected from the meeting.
Among Cllr Hughes' complaints in his letters to me was that, as I had not attended the meeting in question, what I had written was based on 'unsupported hearsay'.
So, my presence at Monday night's meeting was a wonderful opportunity to get a taste of the real thing.
I must say that, after what I witnessed, I have come to the conclusion that my previous remarks were on the generous side..
Trouble broke out during the second item on the agenda - consideration of the minutes of the previous meeting.
Cllr Malcolm Calver raised several queries one of which concerned the absence of any mention of the decision taken by the September meeting to appoint Cllr Hughes as the council's representative to the consultative process on the National Park's new development plan.
Cllr Calver made what seemed to be a perfectly reasonable proposal that this resolution of the council should be recorded in the minutes.
Cllr Chris Haynes didn't see it that way.
He told Cllr Calver: "You are getting on my nerves - don't get on my nerves". The last bit delivered in tones that suggested he might be a fan of the Sopranos.
I half expected him to continue: "This town aint big enough for the two of us"
I was rather surprised that the chairman made no effort to curb this intimidating behaviour.
In my time as a newspaper reporter I attended dozens of town and community council meetings and I've witnessed some spectacular rows and shouting matches, but I've never been to a meeting where the atmosphere was as unremittingly hostile as this.
My old chemistry teacher Geoffrey 'Solomon' Beaumont used to tell us that everything worth knowing was difficult to understand.
He didn't say that everything that was difficult to understand was worth knowing. So I make no claims for what follows.
One item that summed it all up for me was Cllr Calver's observations regarding the tape recording of meetings.
The minutes of the August meeting of MCC record that Cllr Calver insisted that the offending letters be read out.
This version of events also appeared in a report in the Western Telegraph.
When those minutes came before the September meeting for approval, Cllr Calver claims he said he didn't recall insisting on the reading of the letters and asked for it to be minuted that he had requested that the tape recording of the August meeting be produced in order that the issue be resolved on way or the other.
There was no mention of this in the minutes of the September meeting which were presented to last Monday's meeting for approval.
Cllr John Williams supported Cllr Calver's version of events, but the majority decided otherwise.
Unfortunately, as the September meeting doesn't appear to have been taped, there is no way of knowing who is right.
Significantly, the tape of the August meeting hasn't been produced, so we still don't know for certain whether or not Cllr Calver "insisted" that the letters be read out.
George Orwell would have understood!

Over the past few months, one of the easiest ways to get a clap on 'Any Questions ' has been to point to the ineffectiveness of the Chancellor's reduction in VAT as a means of boosting consumer spending.
"Nobody is going to go out and buy a new washing machine just to save £5 in VAT" the pundits say.
But that misses the point, because the way this tax reduction works is that anyone who does buy a new washing machine has five pounds left in their pocket to spend on something else.
When all these small VAT savings are added together, the fiscal boost comes to a not-to-be-sneezed-at £12 billion.
Don't be surprised to hear the retailers campaigning for the continuation of this "useless" measure when its time is up at the end of the year.


Unfortunately we had a power cut this afternoon and I lost everything I had written.
Serves me right for not saving as I go along.

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