9 September 2003


Not so fast

Acting on a hunch, Old Grumpy dropped in at County Hall last week for a quick look at the register of members' commercial interests.
Cllr Brian Hall's file contained an interesting entry dated 15 April 2003 which reads: "I no longer have an interest in respect of the company Euro-Ryall Ltd as the company has been dissolved under the provisions of S 652A of the Companies Act 1985."
This statement is at variance with Companies House website, which, when I last visited on 2 September 2003, showed Euro-Ryall Ltd listed as an active company, with Hall and Dr Michael Ryan, managing director of the the council's economic development consultants, ORA International Ltd, as the sole directors.
This is not the first attempt to bury the company before it is properly dead.
As I reported previously the council has, three times, given highly misleading information to Cllr Michael Williams (Plaid Cymru) about this same subject and, according to Cllr Ken Edwards (Lab) he was told by His Leadership, Cllr Maurice Hughes, way back in June that the company had been "wound up".(see Elusive truth).
One does not have far to look to see why Cllr Hall, His Leadership, and the council should try to consign Euro-Ryall Ltd to the dustbin of history.
Firstly, the very fact of a business relationship between a Cabinet member and the managing director of a council-employed consultancy company gives rise to a serious conflict of interest.
Then there is the press release put out by Cllr Hughes on November 11 2002 in which he claimed that "The Council is fully aware of the company Euroryall (sic). Before it 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."
Subsequently, I was provided with a copy of a letter - certified by the Monitoring Officer as the only correspondence on the subject of which he was "aware" - sent to the council by Dr Ryan in his capacity as managing director of ORA International Ltd in which he notified the council of ORA's intention to set up a UK subsidiary with himself representing the company on the board.. This letter also contained a promise that the new company would not trade in Pembrokeshire but, contrary to Cllr Hughes' press release, made no mention of either Hall or Euro-Ryall Ltd.
In any case, as Euro-Ryall Ltd is not a subsidiary of ORA International (its only shareholders are Hall and Ryan (in his personal capacity)), any undertaking given by ORA not to trade in Pembrokeshire cannot bind Euro-Ryall Ltd.
Given all the lies and half-truths that have been told about this business, it is not difficult to understand why all the parties would like to see Euro-Ryall Ltd struck off the company register so they can get on with pretending that it never existed in the first place
But Old Grumpy is having none of that.
I have reliable information that Hall and Ryan had every intention to use their power and influence within the council for their own ends. The only reason they didn't actually trade is that the deals they were plotting fell through, probably because their own high opinion of their core skills and expertise was not shared by their putative business partners.
Of course, the council will adopt its usual tactics of keeping its head down hoping to ride out the storm.
But that rather suits my purpose because the nearer it is to the next election when the balloon goes up the better I'll be pleased.


The Western Telegraph is building up a head of steam in its campaign to get the Bluestone project through the National Park Planning Committee.
Two weeks ago it featured a photograph of farmers for Bluestone and last week it was the turn of businessmen, though it is a moot point whether the Mayor of Haverfordwest, the town manager, manager of the Riverside shopping centre, and the person who runs Pembrokeshire College's shop, qualify for that honourable title.
Who will it be this week, I wonder.
Vicars for Bluestone, or the Women's Institutes, perhaps.
Or even a letter from one of the project's opponents!!!

Own goal

In fact last week's edition of the Telegraph had more than its ration of propaganda.
Particularly eye-catching was the front page story about next year's massive celebrations to mark Pembroke Dock's 190th anniversary.
You might think 190 is a strange number to celebrate (why not wait ten years for the bicentenary?) until you remember that the County Council elections are due next May.
According to the Telegraph, upcoming new developments in Pembroke Dock include a five star hotel, multiplex cinema, MacArthur Glen retail park.
Dream on!
At least there was no sign that taxpayers' money had been spent on this particular puff, though that cannot be said for the story on page 10 which included a picture of His Leadership, Cllr Maurice Hughes, and the new, Texaco-funded goal posts at the playing fields in his Merlins Bridge constituency.
This was a county council press release paid for by you and me and designed to boost His Leadership's electoral prospects; currently hovering between nought and zero.
I first reported on this taxpayer funded propaganda in July 1992 (see Publicity seekers) when I pointed out that the council's unwritten policy was that all official photographs had to include a member of the recently-formed Cabinet.
This was in order to convince a sceptical public that these must be terribly important people.
The high point was reached when Cllr Bill Hitchings - Cabinet member for the Aged and Infirm - appeared on a photo at some event at Neyland Junior School, which is not even in his ward.
After I drew attention to it, the policy was abruptly dropped - probably because some pointy head in County Hall realised that it might be illegal under S 27 of the Local Government Act 1988, which expressly prohibits the publication by a local authority of "any material which in whole, or in part, appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party." i.e. the Independent Political Group.

Midriffman Hornblower?

It seems that the Mercury's Bill-o-meter - for the uninitiated, a device for measuring the number of days between Cabinet member Bill Roberts' scheduled meeting with the residents of the Mount Estate and his actual appearance - could be a cheap and effective way of improving public services.
Old Grumpy hears that, with the pointer on the Bill-o-meter nearing the fifty mark, Cllr Roberts is due to visit the Mount shortly.
My own pirated copy - the Spell-o-meter - seems to have persuaded the county council to rectify at least some of the many spelling and grammatical howlers on its website www.visitpembrokeshire.co.uk. and the flower mill has been transformed into a flour mill.
While this is progress, the site is not yet the finished article.
For instance, I notice that, at Front Street, Pembroke Dock, visitors to the county can see "a martello tower built to protect the navel dockyard."
That was, presumably, in the days when sailors wore belly button trousers and coats of navy blue.

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