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