June 3 2008



Stop press

SF has e-mailed to draw my attention to something he came across on the internet regarding the East Blockhouse site near Angle.
Regular readers will recall that the site was purchased by the Meopham family for £200,000 + Vat - one of the family, Gary Meopham, having been part of a National Park committee that decided against purchasing on the authority's behalf. (Inside track) (Garygate) (Whitewash).
It seems the National Park may have missed a bargain because the Meopham's are now offering it for sale through posh estate agents Savills for a princely 450 grand. (http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property/21581342)



Ken's revenge

Last week's Western Telegraph had an interesting story about the defection to the Independent Political Group (IPG) of three adopted Labour candidates: Ken Rowlands, Umelda Havard and Lyndon Frayling.
Ken Rowlands has since been elevated to the Cabinet, giving rise to speculation that the £14,000 Special Responsibility Allowance that goes with the job was used as bait.
Cllr Rowlands denies this; claiming that the offer of of a Cabinet post came 'out of the blue' after the election, and, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we will have to believe him.
I am told that his swift promotion to the top table has not gone down well with those senior members of the IPG who consider themselves to have superior claims.
This is understandable because, as well as being a serious violation of the sacred principle of 'Buggin's turn', it is, assuming the decision was taken purely on merit, a telling reflection of the Leader's opinion of the abilities of some of his colleagues
It appears that Cllr Rowlands decided to dump the Labour Party because of the Assembly government's failure to implement one of his pet schemes: the Bulford Road improvements.
That is one thing, but what puzzles Old Grumpy is why a lifelong socialist like Cllr Rowlands should join what Plaid Cymru's Michael Williams describes as the party of "farmers, Freemasons and the far right", when he had the option of sitting as an unaligned independent.
It is also interesting that, while Cllr Rowlands insists on the purity of his own actions, he has no hesitation in imputing base motives to Cllr Sue Perkins, whose 'vitriolic' e-mail was the basis for the Telegraph's report in which he is quoted as saying: "It is perfectly understandable that Cllr Sue Perkins should feel bitter since she no longer has the kudos of being the leader of the official opposition and in view of the loss of the allowance that goes with the post."

Ken's reward


Unfortunately, the Western Telegraph failed to mention that the reason for Cllr Perkins' bitterness was that these defections took place at the last minute, leaving Labour no time to find alternative candidates in three winnable seats.
Whether or not the timing was deliberate is debatable, but what is certain is that it inflicted maximum damage on the Labour Group and brought great benefits to Cllr Rowlands' new masters in the IPG.
Perhaps the Leader's decision to elevate Cllr Rowlands was an expression of gratitude for services rendered.
It would not be the first time that Cllr Rowlands has given the Leader a helping hand.
When Old Grumpy tried to have the agricultural planning consent granted to the Leader's company, Cwmbetws Ltd, rescinded, not only did Cllr Rowlands vote against my proposal but he made a long statement to the Western Telegraph defending the Leader (Misconceived).
I also notice that Cllr Rowlands says that his solicitor has advised him that Cllr Perkins' e-mail is actionable.
How often have I heard that?
"Unless you publish an apology and retraction within seven days, my client will have no alternative but to commence proceedings without further notice" is the usual formula.
But, when no apology or retraction is forthcoming, they fold their tents and sneak off into the night.



Under the headline "Cabinet attacks Assembly's "criminal" behaviour" the Western Telegraph's website reports the strong words uttered by Ken Rowlands and others about the failure of WAG to support the Bulford Road improvement scheme.
This has all the hallmarks of one of those stage-managed Cabinet "debates" designed to attract favourable publicity.
And, in Ken Rowlands case, it is much needed because I hear that last week's report on his defection from Labour has led some voters in Johnston to conclude that they were duped.
The opportunity to discuss Bulford Road, which was not on the agenda, arose from a routine report on contracts let in the past six months.
These included £300,743 paid to WS Atkins for consultancy services re Bulford Road which allowed Cllr Jamie Adams to observe: "This is a dreadful example of the Welsh Assembly Government funding consultancy work for a very important and extremely needful project in the county and not following through with the capital requirement" thus opening the way for Cllr Rowlands and the Leader to get their names in the papers.
The leader commented: The problem we have as a local authority is having to meet people's expectations, which are often no followed up by grants from our political masters in Cardiff".
This is the problem all governments, local and national, face: the distribution of limited resources to meet unlimited demands.
It is rather strange to hear the Leader of a party whose chief selling point is "the lowest council tax in Wales" suggesting that national government should provide grants to meet every expectation.
Especially as the Conservative party keeps telling us that we are already overtaxed.
Acting on a tip off, I typed Bulford Road into the county council's website where I learned that the scheme is estimated to cost £6.8 million, but that "Pembrokeshire County Council is not currently able to fund this scheme".
No money and the lowest council tax in Wales - could there be a connection?

Black mark

Another who has risen without trace to Cabinet rank is Cllr Mark Edwards.
Cllr Edwards has an interesting history having been originally elected as a Tory before defecting to the IPG.
Soon after 'going over', he was pictured in the local papers campaigning for an elected Mayor.
This was against official IPG policy and he was called in by the then Leader, Maurice Hughes and told mind his Ps and Qs.
What happened at that meeting, especially with regard to who attended became a matter of some controversy.
According to Cllr Edwards, the council's head of marketing and communications, David Thomas, was present.
Of course, such a role for an officer, in what was purely an internal political party matter, would be a clear breach of the Code of Conduct.
Both Maurice Hughes and David Thomas contested Cllr Edwards' version of events, which effectively meant his Leader was calling him a liar (Upstairs downstairs).
There are people who would have found this situation intolerable and resigned from the party on a matter of principle .
But Cllr Edwards took it on the chin and has now been rewarded for his forbearance


Cllr Edwards has been quick to make his mark with an attack on government policy on post office closures; broadcast on Pembrokeshire Radio.
We all love our local post offices - we just don't use them very much - which makes them the ideal political football.
Old Grumpy remembers being called out during the 1997 general election to take a photo of Jackie Lawrence and the late Donald Dewar waving "Save our Post Offices" banners.
The closures, against which they were campaigning, had been proposed by the wicked Tories, of which Cllr Edwards is a card-carrying member.
Unfortunately, because of changes in the way people access money, the existing post office network is not viable.
Indeed, there are similarities with small village schools which are also uneconomic.
That is why the policy of the Cabinet is to close them down.
Arguments by local people that the village school is at the heart of the community have cut little ice with his Cabinet colleagues in the past.
Do I detect a hint of double standards?
In Essex the county council has taken over the running of unviable post offices.
Perhaps Cllr Edwards can persuade his Cabinet colleagues to follow suit.

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