Jacob Williams
Thursday 13th September, 2018

It’s all going on…

It’s all going on…

And so the long wait is over for the residents of Pembroke’s St. Mary North ward, who today go to the polls in their long-anticipated by-election.

Essentially without County Hall representation for over a year, voters will be electing their new county councillor to replace paedophile jailbird Dai Boswell.

They’ll be choosing from the following menu:

Bob Boucher (Independent)

Maureen Bowen (Welsh Labour/Llafur Cymru)

Daphne Margaret Jane Bush

Natalie Sarah Carey (Welsh Conservative Party Candidate)

Lyn Edwards

Jon Harvey (Independent)

Jonathan Anthony Robert Nutting (Independent)

Al Williams (Independent)

JW also understands the necessary signatures were acquired by residents petitioning for Boswell’s vacant Pembroke Town Council seat to be filled by an election.

Nominations for that position close at 4pm tomorrow, 14th September.

If more than one candidate puts their name forward a second election will be held on Thursday, October 11th.

Caption contest

Like so many others returning from the summer recess, a regular mole has sprung into municipal action – and sends in a photo recently snapped outside County Hall:

I couldn’t possibly think why he thought it would be of interest!

That was until I heard some of his mischievous suggestions for captions, including:

“Daphne Bush confident of by-election return!”


“Come back Bryn, all is forgiven!”

This was thought to be reminiscent of the clandestine caper where Cllr. Brian Hall helped his old pal, disgraced chief exec Bryn Parry-Jones, clear his office after hours – despite the latter’s ‘ban’ from the premises on ‘voluntary’ gardening leave.

But as another was quick to point out, the wagon in this photo is emblazoned SHIFT IT, not SHIFTY

Cabinet call-in

With five other councillors I’ve called-in PCC cabinet’s controversial decision to purchase Haverfordwest’s former Ocky White department store building for £460k.

As part of the plans the site is to be given an unspecified £3m+ makeover projected to add a fraction of the value.

Supported by councillors Mike Stoddart, Vivien Stoddart, Mike Evans, Pearl Llewellyn and Phil Kidney, the grounds for calling-in the decision for further scrutiny are:

– That the decision represents particularly poor value for taxpayers’ money

– That the report to cabinet does not present the full financial picture

A meeting of the authority’s services overview and scrutiny committee will be convened to consider the call-in on a date to be confirmed, with 28th September at 10am looking likely.

False start

Embarrassment at County Hall last week as a meeting of the partnerships overview and scrutiny committee had to be abandoned before it even began.

Not enough councillors had turned up.

Chief among the quorum-quashing quitters was the committee’s Tory chairman Cllr. David Bryan.

Talk in the tearoom since has invariably brought up the fact that regular holiday-goer Bryan was similarly absent from the chair of his committee’s September 2017 meeting, too.

As a rule you can count on one hand the number of meetings scrutiny chairs can expect to preside over a year – all rewarded with an £8k+ bonus.

A search party was dispatched in vain to cobble together enough eligible councillors to reach a quorum.

Those relishing the chance to see the car crash for themselves are in for a disappointment as there’s no trace of it on the webcast archive.

A reader has got in touch with a direct link to the webcast recording – but it’s still a no show on the council’s webcast site archive.

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  • Patrick

    On ‘False start’ you might be interested in this: https://pembrokeshire.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/369381

  • Well found, Patrick – the recording still doesn’t appear on the archive page but at least it’s there for posterity, if not discoverable!

  • Malcolm Calver

    I am sure Pembrokeshire ratepayers would be amazed and outraged to be informed that on top of his councillor salary the chairman of the committee is paid an extra £8,000 per annum.

    This works out at approx £1,600 per meeting. We are as ratepayers being conned by these so called “public servants”. The time councillors are expected to work for their allowance is only 22 hours per week.

  • John Hudson

    While committee attendance records are available post-meetings and annually, as members are paid by us, would it be unreasonable for them to be required to tender reasons for their non attendance as well as apologies for absence?

  • Jon Lowndes

    Thank you Jacob for getting the Ocky White fiasco called in.

    I have said on several groups on Facebook that the price agreed by PCC is way too high.

    This building has been for sale since 2013 and has attracted exactly no interest. It is, in my opinion, worth a maximum of £100k.

    I sold my building, which was a profit-making business, on the High Street for not much more than this in 2012 and the market has got worse since, also the old Job Centre on High Street was sold at auction twelve months ago after zero interest for £80k, and that is a substantial building.

    I have no problem with PCC trying to renovate Bridge Street, BUT, not at any cost.

    As your blog says, we must have value for money and no property in Bridge Street (not even tenanted ones) is worth anywhere near that figure. Don’t let them waste our money Jacob. Thanks.

  • Dai Trump

    Well done Jacob, you calling in the Cabinet decision to buy the former Ocky White store is the best thing I have read all week.

    I just hope that you and your fellow councillors who are supporting this action can put a stop to this crazy acquisition and total waste of our money.

    Retail in the town has been helped into decline by closing and redeveloping the market as a vastly over budget library.

    Despite the report saying there was limited potential demand for either retail or office space stupid arguments were put forward by some of your fellow councillors to justify squandering millions of pounds of public money.

    No one wants this space for retail and no private developer would touch this property, the figures just don’t stack up and they would have about as much chance of finding a unicorn as they would a tenant.

    If this goes ahead there should be a judicial review.

  • Mark

    You may have heard the recent announcement by Christoper Lawton that he is quitting his ‘Pembrokeshire Council Watch’ Facebook group.

    He says he is going to pursue other passions like lobbying more senior politicians such as AMs and MPs on social issues close to his heart.

    That’s all very well but it bears noting that his sudden departure came after he (for the umpteenth time in recent weeks) riled up many followers with his forceful views and domineering style of administering the group.

    The removal truck caption could be “Taxi for Lawton, large van for his ego”.

  • Malcolm Calver

    I would hope/expect all cabinet members including the leader Cllr David Simpson consider their positions if full council hopefully rejects their proposal to purchase the building.

    The unanimous decision of the cabinet to purchase the building shows how out of touch they all are with reality and just cannot continue wasting taxpayers’ hard earned money on projects such as this.

    I do believe it was Cllr Peter Stock when he was a county councillor who originally proposed purchasing the building.

  • Keanjo

    Congratulations on the call in Jacob, all the people I’ve spoken to support the view that the deal is dodgy.

    We should not be surprised that Haverfordwest centre is deteriorating. I’m afraid that is the inevitable result of out of town shopping centres and Haverfordwest is no different than hundreds of town centres which have deteriorated.

    Perhaps the answer is to encourage non-retailers and housing in such conditions with perhaps some council tax relief.

    On the other point, non-attendance without good reason and proper notice should result in a fine deducted from the member’s allowance.

  • Flashbang

    Who are the protagonists who want to buy the Ocky White store for four times its actual value?

    Is the buy being driven by back room staff at the Kremlin or certain councillors? Who currently owns the building? Where would the £3 million estimated renovation costs be going and who would benefit the most from that?

    Why not let the commercial world decide what it’s worth and let them buy it if it is such a bargain?

    Let the councillors who want the purchase to go ahead using taxpayers’ money form their own syndicate and buy it for themselves. I’m sure the taxpaying public would have no complaints about them taking the initiative to become property barons.

    I’m certain they could get it for a lot cheaper than 460 thousand quid. Then again these financial geniuses don’t have that good a track record of being penny wise in their current position as councillors.

  • Loobeloo

    There is no reason why buying Ocky White should not be as good an investment as Cherry Grove, Bluestone or Blackbridge mine depot. Lots of empty shops in Milford and Pembroke Dock to buy as well.

    (Sorry, it’s my sense of humour, if I don’t laugh I’ll cry!)

  • Pembsboy99

    I would have hoped and expected this new cabinet who claim to be totally in control of what happens in County Hall, to have put a stop to this crazy proposal well before it made a cabinet meeting.

    They claim we have no money to run our services hence an astronomical tax rise of 12.5% then want to blow £3.5m on a giant white elephant.

    Where is the so called Leader in all this and why hasn’t he stepped in?

    I don’t think this lot are shaping up to be any different from the last bunch if you ask me!

  • John Hudson

    The cabinet may not have been fully or properly informed when it determined to “consult” on the proposed increased charges at the council’s Parc Gwyn crematorium.

    The Head of Legal reported that “There are no legal issues arising from the report”. However, the cabinet member, in his introduction, additionally claimed that there was no limit on what could be charged for crematorium use and that the service could be used to generate income.

    Charges for burials have been approved on a break even cost recovery basis (cabinet 25.04. 2016).

    Cabinet were content to accept the crematorium report as a basis for consultation without requiring any substantiation of the caninet member’s claim or further legal advice or officer comment.

    It may also be significant that there are no details of the council’s costs incurred in the provision of this service, niether were any sought by cabinet.

    So is this a grubby way of ensuring that the authority “profits” from the cost of cremations to help bridge its funding gap?

    The WAO in a report in November 2016 concluded that while there was no limit on the amounts that can be charged for cremation and burial fees, charges must be reasonable and be set for the purposes authorised by the statute granting the power to charge.

    Further, that an authority’s desire to generate a surplus is not a relevant consideration which may only be taken into account if a purpose of the statute granting the power to charge is to grant taxation powers.

    There would appear to be a need for greater clarification on both legal and financial information to ensure that the council is acting within its powers, but this is still Pembrokeshire, what changes?

  • Dai Trump

    Before Pembrokeshire County Council are able to proceed with the purchase of the Ocky White store an independent valuation should be undertaken by a leading national firm of chartered surveyors, NOT instructed by the officers or cabinet of PCC who will ensure a spin is put on it to justify their aspirations and decisions but to answer a few simple questions.

    What is this building worth to a potential owner occupier retail operator?

    What is its potential for mixed retail office use?

    What is its value to a landlord/investor seeking to let as is or let refurbished?

    What is its value to a private sector developer seeking to redevelop the property for retail office or mixed use or even town centre residential?

    Total demolition and redevelopment should not be ruled out in any of these cases in which case the costs will make the residual site value of paramount importance.

    The resultant figures I am sure will even make budget Bob cough, splutter and backtrack and prove that despite his much touted retail experience he knows bugger all about retail/office/commercial development, much sadly like your great Dr Dolittle and some of his senior management team, or should I say what’s left of it!

    If the figures from this exercise prove the asking price for the property is way over the top and at the end of a huge amount of public expenditure there is not a reasonable return on investment say 6 or 7% min in terms of rental value with no or minimal voids (i.e. periods when the property is empty while the landlord is seeking a tenant) then this crazy project should be knocked on the head once and for all.

    Grant aid is one thing, the shortfall PCC would have to make up is totally different. This is 100% bad PR when budget Bob is prattling on about £3m+ deficits and Chris Tomos has to ask to raise the price for PCC to burn us when we are gone.

    Invest our money in direct services to either improve them or reduce costs not in clapped out town centre retail units, the market has moved on, time PCC did as well.

  • Flashbang

    Re the cabinet call-in, I’ve been scanning Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs column looking for a mention of this but so far it’s been a no show.

    It certainly deserves a mention in there. Britain has been more and more exposed as corrupt as any third world regime so even more light needs to be shone on the shady goings on at all levels of politics and policing.

  • Malcolm Calver

    May I suggest a simpler solution would be “walk away”.

    At this stage whilst accepting “common sense” is not prevalent among the majority of councillors on Pembrokeshire County Council, we can only hope that Jacob and Mike Stoddart can convince the cabinet of the error of their decision to waste ratepayers’ money on this misguided project.

    Budget Bob needs to realise quickly that those who pay community charge in Pembrokeshire want their money spent wisely.

  • Geraint

    £1,600 a meeting would be outrageous if that was all a chair was to do. Now I have to admit I don’t know the chair of PCC and have not seen his diary, but having come across people who have undertaken this sort of role in the past they engage with the wider community extensively and are important in our civic society.

    These people are regularly in our schools presenting awards, inviting young people to County Hall to celebrate their achievements and promoting our democratic process.

    Chairs link with all elements of our society and are the formal face of our community in countless settings. I think you can only make a correct judgement about their value if you look at the whole picture and not at one tiny element.

  • Geraint, the sort of municipal dignitary you’re describing would be the chair of an authority, whereas the discussion here is of scrutiny committee chairs, who play no such civic figurehead role.

  • John Hudson

    Re the Ocky White call in, it is worth looking at the online official true and fair record of the cabinet meeting where the minutes ignore any reference to the presentation of the many supporting appendices on which the cabinet based its decision.

    In the good old paper days, sets of council and committee agendas and minutes were distributed and deposited in many places as required by law. Thus there was a lasting record and access to the true and fair record, as there had been for centuries.

    It would appear that in these improved electronic days, the official true and fair record of meetings may not be complete. Looking at the electronic cabinet minutes there is no evidence or mention of even the existence of the presented appendices. Miraculously, these reappear and are to be reported and presented to the Services O&S Services committee on Friday.

    How is the Services O&S to proceed? Does it go back and look at the full cabinet report and appendices pr-decision, or is it to rely on the draft cabinet minutes that do not mention the appendices?

    How can anybody have confidence in the electronic true and fair record of the council’s business. How many copies of the electronic record are there and can they be tampered with, unlike distributed paper records?

  • Geraint

    Thanks for pointing out the comment was about the chair of a committee and not the chair of the council.

    I hope you did not follow my suggestion of betting on fewer than ten voters backing any one candidate in the recent by-election or your Merlot stocks would have gone down even more!

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