March 25 2008

Away with the fairies

Old Grumpy notices yet another photo of Cllr Islwyn Howells, Cabinet member for education, in the Western Telegraph.
The accompanying blurb; part of the prodigious output of the county council's press office, can be found in almost identical form on the authority's website.
The purpose of these press releases is to persuade the people of Pembrokeshire of the importance of Cabinet members, though anyone who believes that Cllr Howells plays anything other than a walk-on part in the council's education service probably has fairies at the bottom of their garden.
This latest press release tells us of a seminar where Cllr Howells and members of the planning department helped 30 sixth-formers to gain "an insight into the planning process and the policies that help to determine planning applications."
No doubt they were told that, unless material considerations indicate otherwise, the law requires applications to be decided on the basis of the development plan.
No doubt they were not told that members of the ruling Independent Political Group, of which Cllr Howells is a leading member, use the planning system to feather their own electoral nests.
And Old Grumpy wonders if Cllr Howells found time to tell the sixth-formers about his role as local member in the refusal of the Uzmaston Tetra mast, despite the clearest possible advice from planning officers that the application fell within policy.
Had he got round to it, he would also have explained that planning inspectors are likely to view as perverse any decisions based on political considerations rather than on planning grounds with the result that the council may be ordered to pay both its own and the other party's costs.
In the Uzmaston case this amounted to a whopping £180,000, though I don't recall the council putting out a press release about it.


On the make

The defrocking of Derek Conway MP, who paid his sons large amounts of public money for doing nothing in particular, has lifted the lid on a whole variety of Parliamentary expense scams, not the least of which is the "John Lewis list" which allows MPs to claim for a variety of household goods for their London (second) homes up to a value of £23,000 per annum.
While discussing this matter over dinner with Grumpette, she wondered what happened to these items when the MP either retired or was kicked out by the electorate.
Not unreasonably, she suggested that, as the goods had been paid for by the taxpayer, they should be returned to the taxpayer at the end of the MPs term of office.
And, she wondered, what was to stop an MP, who was about to retire, from fitting out their second home with a new kitchen (£10,000) in in order to inflate its sale price.
Of course, these second homes are a scam in their own right because MPs use the allowances provided by the taxpayer to pay the mortgage and then pocket the profits on the eventual sale.
Now I hear that the Parliamentary authorities are to appeal to the High Court against the Information Commissioner's decision that details of these "John Lewis list" expenses should be published.
No wonder politicians are despised by the public.

Tories galore

More bad news on the Merlot front, I'm afraid, with the Tory party now claiming they have 25 candidates lined up for the forthcoming county council elections.
And I have two bottles of the red stuff riding on the total being less than 19.
This, on top of the the adverse outcome of he Six Nations Championship, means I will have to give up either drinking or betting.
It is difficult enough funding my own consumption never mind that of half the county's population.
I am told the Conservatives are, in their own words, on a mission to "turn Pembrokeshire blue".
Old Grumpy wonders what their friends in the ruling Independent Political Group think about this.
And equally interesting, how many of these candidates will be up against the present clique of Tories and fellow travellers?
Not many, if any, I predict, though I'm not taking bets.
Indeed, there are some who believe that the Tories and IPG have reached a secret understanding about which seats the official Party will contest and those in which the unofficials will be allowed to go about their business unmolested.
This may be pure conspiracy theory, though it is difficult to understand why xxx Birt-Llewellyn is standing in Carew rather than his own seat of Wiston.
Perhaps the sitting member for Carew, David Neale, should be asking why he has been targetted by the Tories rather than whoever Peter Stock has recruited to stand for the IPG in Wiston.
As one of the IPG's most accomplished synchronised voters, he certainly can't be accused of disloyalty.
I expect the picture will become clearer once the full list is published.
For instance, it will be interesting to see if the party puts up a candidate against card-carrying Cllr David Wildman in the Conservative stronghold of Burton.
After all, Cllr Wildman was originally elected under the Conservative banner before taking a fancy to the greener grass provided by the IPG.
My money - metaphorically speaking - says they won't because rules would require Cllr Wildman's expulsion from the party for opposing an official candidate.
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