September 20 2012

In the pink

The author of that other website has been doing some research on Wikipedia where the entry for Pembrokeshire County Council shows that some mischievous person has edited the page to show that the authority is controlled by the Freemason-independents with 39 of the 60 seats.
That must predate the election, because the Independents now find themselves in much reduced circumstances with only 32 members and beset by rumours - categorically denied by the supposed ringleaders - of a plot to form a breakaway group (Pembrokeshire Alliance Party??), which would deprive them of their majority.
Shortly after the 1995 election the Mercury's front page story carried the banner headline: "New county council - one in three a Mason."
This was the the result of a coup by the then Leader of the Labour group, Jackie Lawrence, who managed to persuade the first meeting of the new council to make it mandatory for members to disclose their "social interests".
Naturally, I took a keen interest in the members' register of interests and the result was the headline above
Actually, the Mercury headline was bit of an exaggeration - poetic licence - because only 19 of the sixty members had Masonic connections.
Plaid Cymru's Leader on the county council, Michael Williams, who is rarely at a loss for a memorable sound bite, once referred to the IPG (now IPPG) as the party of Farmers, Freemasons and the Far right., something like that.
However things have changed since then and now the Freemasons in the ruling group can be counted on one hand with enough fingers left over to make a rude gesture.
And, while prior to May's election the IPG's head honchos (Leader John Davies, and deputy leaders Johnny Allen Mirehouse and Jamie Adams) were all members of the County Landowners Association, only Cllr Adams remains at the top table.
As for the third category, with former Labour members Ken Rowlands, Lyndon Frayling, Umelda Havard, Pearl Llewellyn and Simon Hancock all signed up, the non-political, political party seems to be developing a distinct pink tinge.

Buying power

Old Grumpy is involved in a minor skirmish with PCC over a request under the Freedom of Information Act for a copy of the form signed by those joining the IPPG.
In response to a similar request in the past, the council provided me with a copy of the original document which can be seen at Party animals.
Now it claims that this was a mistake and all I am entitled to is the information contained in the document.
So I was provided with an alphabetical list of those who had signed and, in the case of Cllr David Bryan, resigned.
After a bit of tooing and froing it was agreed that I could have the list in the order that the signatures were appended.
This was important because it would cast light on the rumours that were circulating after the election that, as part of the horse trading over cabinet places/committee chairmanships, and their accompanying Special Responsibility Allowances, certain members were using their signatures as bargaining chips as Cllr Jamie Adams struggled to get a majority following the IPG's trouncing at the polls.
Interestingly, the last ten to sign were: Cllrs Wynne Evans, Pearl Llewellyn, Peter Stock, Myles Pepper, Steve Yelland, Paul Harries, Brian Hall, Reg Owens, Lyn Jenkins and Simon Hancock.
Cllr Lyn Jenkins is a special case because she was out of the country when all this was going on, and I have not heard that Cllrs Yelland and Harries had any special ambitions.
But the other seven, have all featured in the gossip leaked by my IPPG moles.
Cllr Wynne Evans: miffed that his talents didn't win him a Cabinet seat - Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) £15,500). Appointed to the Fire Authority (basic allowance £1,300) and vice-chair planning (unpaid) with a promise of better things to come (see below) .
Cllr Pearl Llewellyn: had ambitions to be vice-chairman, given chairman of licensing committee (SRA £8,700)
Cllr Peter Stock: wanted a scrutiny chair but fobbed off with chairmanship of corporate governance committee (unpaid) - said not to be a happy bunny.
Cllr Myles Pepper: another who felt his talents warranted a Cabinet place. Chairman of planning (SRA £8,700)
Cllr Brian Hall. Held out to the last minute for a Cabinet post but all to no avail and had to make do with the lesser prize of chairman environment scrutiny committee (SRA£8,700)
Cllr Reg Owens:' ambitions to take over Cllr Anne Hughes' role in Cabinet. had to make do with seat on National park (basic allownce £2,600) and vice chairman childrens safeguarding scrutiny committee (unpaid).
Cllr Simon Hancock: abandoned Labour and joined ruling group and immediately elevated to Cabinet. Name of group changed from Independent Political Group (IPG) to Independent Plus Political Group (IPPG) in order that he wouldn't have to breach an undertaking not to join the IPG.
No, I haven't been reading too much George Orwell.
Now for my crystal ball.
I should say I have a pretty good record in this field with two bottles of superior red wine already in the bag courtesy of someone who should have known better who doubted my prediction - made shortly after the election - that Simon Hancock would be in the Cabinet.
Some of what follows is based on hard information, some is educated guesswork.
Cllr David Wildman will retire from the Cabinet in two years time and will replaced by Cllr Keith Lewis; a newly elected member already halfway up the greasy pole having landed the chairmanship of the economy scrutiny committee (SRA £8,700).
Cllr Ken Rowlands to be retired (sacked) from the Cabinet and awarded the consolation prize of chairman of council. My crystal ball is a bit cloudy as to his replacement, but Myles Pepper might be worth a punt, though his patchy voting record may count against him (see Voting Machines)
Myles Pepper's position as chairman of planning to be taken by Wynne Evans - a mole tells me this arrangement is already pencilled in as part of the post-election horse trading.
Peter Stock: news is just in that Leader Jamie Adams has appointed Cllr Stock to the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel (PCP) which will be responsible for scrutinising the activities of the soon-to-be-elected Police and Crime Commissioner. It is not clear whether this position will qualify for an allowance, though I'd be most surprised if it isn't. By the way, the current allowance for members of the police authority which the PCP will replace is £8,000 p.a
I will keep you posted.
Reg Owens: the other contender for Cabinet vacancy caused by Ken Rowlands' departure. Alternatively, the scrutiny chair vacated by Cllr Keith Lewis.
Brian Hall: Who knows?
All in all the Leader has at his disposal, directly and indirectly, over £230,000 of the taxpayer's money to disburse among his supporters.
Directly: cabinet SRAs £160,000, National park seats £17,000 and Fire authority £3,000, and indirectly: two scrutiny committee chairs and chairs of licensing and planning £34,000, chairman and vice-chairman of council £15,000.
In addition there are two seats on the board of Milford Haven Port Authority £15,000 which have invariably been filled by members of the ruling group.
Not surprising, really, because the Leader sits on the appointments panel.
So it can't be denied that being without a dictionary has its benefits.
Whether a ruling political party held together solely by patronage is in the best traditions of democracy is another question.


Kill or cure

There are times when the cure seems worse that the disease.
I recently went to the doctor seeking something to relieve the cramp in my lower legs that sometimes wakes me up in the middle of the night.
Having established that poor circulation was not the cause, my GP prescribed Quinine Sulphate tablets.
On reading the information sheet I noticed a long list of possible side-effects including: disturbed vision, ringing in the ears, loss of consciousness, fits, irregular heartbeat and death, followed by the instruction: "If any of these occur while taking Quinine Sulphate tablets, treatment should be stopped and a doctor consulted straight away."

Much ado about nothing

Grumpette's verdict on the topless photos' affair: A storm in a D-cup.

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