March 7 2013
The race is on
The date for the Burton by-election has now been set at April 11.
It promises to be very competitive with the IPPG's candidate, former policeman Rob Summons, already making an appearance in the Burton Newsletter (Ed. David Wildman).
Labour are almost certain to run a candidate and it will be interesting to see if there is a dictionary independent in the race.
But the key to the outcome could be whether the Tories field a credible candidate.
It will be remembered that David Wildman was originally elected as a Conservative before defecting to the SRA-rich land of IPGdom.
Old Grumpy hopes the Tories put up a serious candidate rather than one of the make-weights we saw at the last election.
Otherwise they will find it difficult to answer the charge that they are nothing more than IPPG-outreach .
Even more interesting is the question of who will take Cllr Wildman's place in the Cabinet.
The smart money is on Cllr Keith Lewis (don't ask me why) but no doubt there will be others eying up the prize.
And, if Cllr Lewis is promoted, that will leave chairmanship of the economy scrutiny committee up for grabs.
Ferrets in a sack, springs to mind.
Of course, Cllr Jamie Adams could always cut the Cabinet from ten to nine and save all the infighting.
After all, it is only two years since his predecessor reduced it to eight - to save money, we were told - and saving money is even more of a priority than it was then.
Though with his wafer-thin majority he needs all the patronage he can get.
Order of merit
As I said last week, supporters of Cllr Jamie Adams' IPPG need the White Queen's ability to "believe six impossible things before breakfast" (On the fence)
One of the six is Cllr Adams' claim that he makes appointments to outside bodies "on merit" despite the fact that he has never made any enquiries as to the qualifications, experience or interests of members of the opposition who might wish to take up these posts.
Indeed, none of the opposition members were aware that there were such positions despite a council resolution that, immediately following the election, a list of available positions should be circulated to all members prior to any appointments being made.
As I reported previously (Rules are optional) there are some 67 places which might be filled by any member of the council, regardless of political affiliation and of these the IPPG, which has 52% of the total membership, holds 62 (92%).
It seems that Cllr Adams is unable to distinguish between the role of Leader of the council, in which he has has obligations to all members, and Leader of the IPPG.
This issue came to the forefront when Cllr Tessa Hodgson discovered that the unaffiliated members had been counted as members of the IPPG when the political balance of the new Police and Crime Panel (PCP) was calculated.
This despite the fact that not a few of us would rather endure torture than be associated with this anti-democratic cabal.
At the Christmas meeting of council, Cllr Hodgson asked Cllr Adams what criteria had been used when appointing Cllrs Peter Stock and Lyn Jenkins to the PCP.
He replied that he had sought to strike a balance and had therefore appointed Cllr Stock who was experienced, male and represented an urban seat and Cllr Jenkins who was inexperience, female and member for Solva.
You will notice that of these six criteria only Cllr Stock's "experience" has any connection with merit.
But we'll let that pass.
Cllr Hodgson was also interested to know whether unaffiliated members had been considered.
After all, if they were good enough to be included in the calculations that led to the acquisition of the seats, they were surely good enough to be considered to fill them.
Cllr Adams confirmed that they had been considered but when asked how that could be so when he had made no effort to discover what their "merits" might be, he fell back on the oldest piece of sophistry in the book: we'll have to agree to differ.
However it wasn't long before the claim that members were appointed on merit was shown to be the sham that everyone knew it to be because Cllr Stock resigned from the IPPG and Cllr Adams promptly stripped him of his place on the PCP and replaced him with party loyalist Cllr SteveYelland (Rudbaxton) who was elected last May.
So we now have two inexperienced rural members, though the male/female balance remains.
It is interesting to examine the process whereby the Leader obtained these absolute powers to appoint members to outside bodies.
In the original constitution the council delegated this power to the Cabinet.
At its very first meeting, the Cabinet delegated it to the Leader.
I have never been convinced that this didn't contravene the administrative law principle that even has its own Latin tag delegatus non potest delegare, (one to whom power is delegated cannot himself further delegate that power).
What I am more sure about is that this change was never approved by full council though the constitution clearly states: "Only the council will exercise the following functions: (a) adopting and changing the constitution."
Misrule of law
I know some of my colleagues think that I spend too much time worrying about constitutional matters, but I keep reminding them that it is constitutional propriety that distinguishes true democracies like the UK and USA from their sham cousins such as are to be found in places like Russia and Zimbabwe.
Constitutions are designed to limit the actions of those with power in order to prevent what former Conservative Lord Hailsham referred to as elective dictatorship.
The men who framed the American constitution were at pains to ensure that power was distributed throughout the system and that no one person should have absolute power.
As one of them said: "There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.
That would be John Adams, which only goes to show that these ideals don't run in families.
There were several minor constitutional spats at last Thursday's council meeting.
I got into an argument with the Chief Executive regarding the the method for the allocation of committee places which seems to disadvantage those members who are not affiliated to any group.
And it seems doubly unfair that someone should be penalised for telling the electorate the truth.
Without going too deeply into the complexities of S 15 Local Government and Housing Act 1989 which aims for political balance in the distribution of these seats, I would point out that the "Uglies", as Cabinet member Rob Lewis refers to us, have been given four seats on the (undesirable) 13-member licensing committee and only two on the influential 13-member corporate governance committee.
I don't claim that my bare pass in 'A' level maths - 1958 vintage - qualifies me to call myself a mathematician, but it was achieved before grade inflation took hold and it does, I believe, outrank anything the Cabinet can muster.
The Chief Executive was unimpressed; informing the meeting that my logic was flawed.
I should point out that, remembering my Maths teacher's "0/10. show your working", scrawled on my home work, I had sent the council a full account of how I had arrived at the conclusion that the unaffiliated members were entitled to three seats on each of these committees and invited it to point out where I had got it wrong.
I have heard nothing that convinces me that I am in error.
Earlier this week, I did email asking if it would provide its calculations so that I could see where we differ.
Nothing as yet, but I'll update when the information is to hand.
Jacob Williams also had a bit of a run in with the authorities over his notice of motion regarding the number of council meetings.
Presently, the council meets just five times a year and Cllr Williams is of the opinion that this is not enough to do justice to the public's business.
Leader, Cllr Jamie Adams, put forward an "amendment" that the status quo should remain.
Cllr Williams protested that this was not an amendment because it had the effect of negativing his NoM; something that is expressly forbidden by the constitution.
After a bit of tooing and froing between the Chairman and the Chief Executive, Cllr Peter Morgan announced that he was ruling that Cllr Adams' amendment was in order.
Cllr Williams enquired whether this was the chairman's decision or that of the chief executive and was informed by Cllr Morgan that it was all his own work.
And as the chairman's ruling is final that was the end of the matter.
A fuller account can be found at that other website
This weekend is crunch time in the Six Nations with Wales facing a tricky away game in Murrayfield.
I think Scotland probably used up two or seasons' worth of luck against Ireland so the law of probabilities should mean a comfortable win for Wales.
And if England don't beat Italy, I'm retiring to that isolated cottage in the Outer Hebrides.
If both win, as expected, it will set up a humdinger of a match in Cardiff on the final day of the season with England chasing a Grand Slam - it's time I had a new sweater - and Wales with the twin incentives of depriving England of the big prize and possibly stealing the championship from under their noses.
Not a game for the faint-hearted, I would venture to suggest.
If anyone has reason to complain about any of the above please get in touch with Grumpette. She forced me to do it.
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