Idle threats

Since being sacked by the Mercury, I have been approached by my fan club who tell me they are both missing my weekly ramblings.

Truth to tell, I, too, have been suffering from withdrawal symptoms, so, for the sake of the three of us, I have decided to venture into cyberspace.

My moles tell me a rumour is circulating in the Kremlin on Cleddau that the reason Newscom Ltd decided to dispense with my services was that Cllr Brian Hall was threatening to sue over something I had written about him and the deal was that he would drop his action on condition that I was cast into outer darkness.

Mr David Evans, the Mercury's publisher, assures me that there is no substance in this story.

So, who would have anything to gain from spreading these fairy tales?

Certainly not Cllr Hall, who, I would have thought, would want to keep the episode as quiet as possible, considering that he has failed to make good on the bloodcurdling threats issuing from his solicitors since the spring.

"If the apology and the approved terms of the retraction are not made immediately Cllr Hall will have no alternative but to commence a libel action for substantial damages"

30 March 2000.

"We therefore repeat our previous request that a retraction and apology [is published] otherwise he will have no alternative but to commence legal proceedings without further warning"

6 April 2000.

"We look forward to hearing from you in the next five days ............. failing which our client will be commencing proceedings against your client for the defamation of his character"

10 May 2000.

"......... if you are not instructed to proffer the necessary retraction and apology within the next seven days then clearly our client will have no alternative but to seek his recourse through the courts"

2 August 2000.

Since then, an uncharacteristic silence has descended upon the usually voluble Hall, even though neither apology or retraction has been forthcoming.

This is a pity because there are important points of law involved which I would have liked to see resolved, and, in the unlikely event that he had won, it would have been interesting to discover what value the judge would put on the reputation of a man who has been arraigned before his own council for threatening violence against two of his fellow members

Alas, it seems, Hall has decided to let discretion be the better part of valour.

All that blusters is not bold!

There's many a slip twixt threat and writ!


Taxing questions

It looks as if the next General Election, probably now only six months away, will be fought on the familiar ground of taxation policy.

The Tories say they will cut taxes if elected and Labour respond by challenging them to say which areas of public spending will suffer as a result.

While it is undoubtedly true that the amount any government can spend on public services depends on how much tax it collects it is not true to say that this depends entirely on tax rates.

Two factors influence the amount of revenue at the government's disposal: tax rates and the size of the economy on which they are levied.

It has been said that a successful tax policy extracts the maximum number of feathers from the goose with the minimum of hissing - hence successive Chancellors' passion for stealth taxes.

But, insofar as geese are concerned, it is not feathers that should concern us but golden eggs.

Most economists would agree that high taxes act as a disincentive to hard work and risk-taking i.e. they kill or severely handicap the goose.

So the trick is to pluck the goose without reducing egg production to the point where the loss of income outweighs the value of the feathers.

An example of how this works happened right here in Pembrokeshire only a couple of years ago when Dell computers, who had been widely tipped to set up shop in the county, opted instead to take advantage of the much lower rates of corporation tax on the other side of the Irish Sea.

The upshot is that the Irish government is now collecting not only Dell's corporation tax but PAYE from the workers and VAT on their spending.

A far more satisfactory situation than that of our own government, which, despite, or because of, its higher tax rates, is getting precisely zilch.

Oh, and I nearly forgot, the people of Ireland are also better off because they have a 1000 well paid jobs.

A cry for help ?

Ferreting through the vast amount of data I have accumulated on the infamous proposals to rebuild the "very derelict" former farmhouse at Enfield, Portfield Gate, I came across a rather interesting handwritten note.

It said "Dave, a couple of decisions on appeal which may help you with Enfield. I have the files if you need them. L "

Dave is Mr David Lawrence the County Council's Head of Development Control and L is, I believe, one of his colleagues, Mrs Linda Taylor.

The note is dated 24/2 just 10 days before the Enfield application was due to make its debut before the planning committee.

Interestingly, the two appeal decisions on the file, one at Slebech, the other near Brawdy, both upheld the Council's decision not to grant planning permission for the rebuilding of tumbledown properties like Enfield because the proposals fell outside policy.

The reason the two appeal decisions would "help" Mr Lawrence was because he was coming under pressure from the "bungalow farmers" in the ruling Independent Political (sic) Group to disregard the very planning policy that he is paid to uphold.

Having read these two files, it came as something of a surprise to hear the Director Roger Barrett-Evans tell a meeting of the County Council in July last year that he had decided to recommend approval of the Enfield application after reading the appeal decisions on similar cases.

Old Grumpy can only assume either that Mr Barrett-Evans hadn't read the two appeal decisions on file, or, if he had, he hadn't understood them.

I contacted the Welsh Assembly and they kindly sent me a copy of a more recent appeal decision regarding a similar application in the Brecon Beacons which the independent Inspector, Mr Ian Osbourne BA(Hons) DipTP MRTPI, recommended for refusal because of the "substantial amount of reconstruction that would be involved".

In addition, the Inspector held that for an application to fall within policy it had to comply with all the criteria, which exposes as a serious misrepresentation of policy the line peddled by Mr Barrett-Evans and his planning officers, that it is sufficient for the application to satisfy the majority of the conditions.

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