My apologies for missing my deadline this week but I'm afraid there was a test match to be won.

That didn't finish until nearly lunchtime whereupon I was so mentally exhausted by having to face up to Waqar Younis in the near-dark that I had to take to my bed for a couple of hours to recover

I'm sure you'll all understand.


A mole deep inside the Kremlin on Cleddau tells me my conclusions, in respect of the striking differences in work-rate between last year's chairman Cllr Bryan Phillips and his predecessor Alwyn Luke, may be seriously flawed (see Dec 3)

My informant suggests another, more plausible, explanation: that Cllr Phillips didn't need to claim travelling expenses because he was being conveyed back and fore to County Hall in the authority's chauffeur-driven people carrier.

I am investigating this possibility and will report further when more information comes to hand.


Big eater

Another mole; this one from Old Grumpy's elite Fishguard directorate, informs me that recent revelations about Cllr Alwyn Luke's publicly-funded eating habits have earned the veteran councillor the nickname "monster lunch muncher" in one of the town's more popular watering holes.

"Monster" being used to describe the lunches and not Cllr Luke, I should add.

Recently, during a painstaking inspection of Cllr L's expense claims, I noticed an abrupt change in behaviour in October 1999.

Prior to October, the great man always claimed £6.37 "reimbursement" (which happens to be the maximum allowed) for lunch.

After submitting 57 such claims he then suddenly switched to claiming only £4.00, which he did on 40 occasions between October 1999 and March 2000.

It may be sheer coincidence but it was in October 1999 that I first drew attention to the dubious, though lucrative, practice of eating a £2.00 lunch in the subsidised canteen and then claiming £6.37 from the ratepayers.

I suppose a cut in the profit margin from £4.37 to £2.00 was at least a start.

To determine whether I could claim any credit for this saving required that other members' expense claims be scrutinised to see if they conformed to the same pattern.

Encouragingly, quite a few of them did.

For instance Cllr John Davies claimed six £6.37s up to October 28 and seven at £4.00 thereafter.

And Cllr Steve Watkins switched from £6.37 to £4.00 on the same date.

After tucking in to 18 £6.37 lunches the leader, Cllr Maurice Hughes, went on short commons, costing only £2.14 a throw, from November 2.

Elsewhere the evidence was rather more equivocal.

Cllr Bryn Colnett seems to have been ahead of the game.

After trousering 6x£6.37 up to 30 June 1999 he began to claim a more modest £2.10.

However, he reverted to claiming the max in August/September before finally opting for the path of righteousness, probably as a result of what I had written, in October.

Probably the most curious case of all was that of Cllr Mickey Folland of Tenby.

He pocketed £6.37 on 21 occasions up to October 1999 then submitted two claims for £4.00 before slipping back into his bad old ways for the rest of the financial year.

Cllr Folland has often been heard complaining that he can't get by on a councillor's meagre stipend, so presumably he was feeling the pinch.

Among those who carried on claiming £6.37 throughout the year was the present chairman Bill Hitchings - not easy to break the habit of a lifetime, I suppose.

So, the jury is still out on the question of whether or not my scribblings have had any effect and a more sophisticated statistical analysis will be required to resolve the issue one way or the other.

One hard fact, which did emerge from my researches, is that it costs the ratepayers more to feed Alwyn Luke than the 13 councillors representing Haverfordwest, Neyland and Milford Haven put together.

If the people of Scleddau insist on electing the monster lunch muncher, then they should have their council tax increased to help pay for his upkeep.

No Balls

During the course of the Enfield planning saga the officers have been accused of "deliberately misrepresenting" planning policy (Labour Leader Joyce Watson July 1999) and of leading the members "up the garden path" (Tory leader Phil Llewellyn. November 2000).

These are serious allegations, which, if true, undermine the very basis of the relationship between officers and members on which democratic local government depends.

That relationship is very similar to that between a solicitor and his client, where the solicitor has an absolute duty to provide advice, which is, to the best of his knowledge, correct.

Nobody would have any doubt about what action to take against a solicitor who allowed his advice to be coloured by any considerations other than the client's best interests - he would be sacked and, in all probability, reported to the Law Society for professional misconduct.

So, if the Labour and Tory leaders genuinely believe that they have been deliberately misled, what do they intend to do about it?

Apart from putting down a notice of motion calling for an inquiry into the affair, a call that was bound to fail given the majority Independent Political (sic) Group's preference for the cover up over the truth, not very much it seems.

When the matter comes before full council on Thursday I anticipate a bit of huffing and puffing and not much else.

Old Grumpy is reminded of Alexander Pope' eighteenth century condemnation of the mealy-mouthed:

Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,

Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.

In modern parlance: lack of bottle.

Who to sue?

After 35 years struggling to make a living in Pembrokeshire's less than buoyant economy I have just thought of another reason why being an entrepreneur is not such a brilliant idea.

When the contract you are working on is held up by the weather, one of your main customers has just gone bust owing you a lot of money and the bank are threatening to repossess your house because you have failed to keep to the terms of the loan, who is there to sue for the stress of it all?


Poets Corner

There was a faith healer of Deal
Who said, 'Although pain isn't real,
When I sit on a pin
And it punctures my skin,
I dislike what I fancy I feel.'

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