Jacob Williams
Monday 18th February, 2019

Ken’s big book of words

Ken’s big book of words

Thursday’s meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council features a question tabled by Johnston councillor Ken Rowlands.

The brown-nosing sermoniser’s levels of blind loyalty to unelected officers, and what he perceives to be their absolute infallibility, is in a league of its own.

Ahead of the 2017 election I wrote about Ken and his innuendo-laden letter he’d distributed among councillors defending the establishment and its record over the previous council term, see: The Ken is mightier than the lord.

Two years on, and now sitting less comfortably in the opposition, Ken’s submitted the following question to the leader, Cllr. David Simpson:

A dictionary definition confirms that, “a Cosy Relationship in Business or Politics involves people who seem to be using their relationship in a dishonest way to get benefits for each other.”

In a recent meeting of the Corporate Governance [sic.] Overview & Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Jacob Williams alleged that the Chief Executive had such a relationship with Dyfed Powys Police.

Does the Leader agree with Councillor Jacob Williams?

It’s nice to know that Ken hangs on my every word to the extent that: 1) I send him to his dictionary and 2) he seeks to discover who agrees with me.

But it got me wondering: which other words over the years lay-preacher Ken might have, or perhaps ought to have thumbed to, in his big book of words.

And you’ll never guess what – I’ve only managed to get my hands on his copy!

I found the pages containing the words honesty, integrity and truth were as pristine as the day they left the printing press.

The book really is an education. Here are some other words and terms it fills us in on:

Deputy headteacherThe second-most senior teacher at a learning establishment, unless the term is being used within a council press release, then the word ‘deputy’ can be dropped – nobody’ll notice.

This was when the council’s then leader, Cllr. Jamie Adams, put out a press release in January 2013 heralding his new cabinet changes.

The urgent reshuffle was made in response to damning education criticisms. Jamie’s simple answer was to swap the roles of Cllr. Huw George, who was in charge of education responsibilities, for Ken – who headed the environment portfolio.

Adams said: “Councillor Rowlands is well qualified to undertake his new duties as he has spent a distinguished career in education, spending many years as a head teacher.”

But this was never officially corrected when it emerged through public comments in social media and my own website from one of his own constituents, that Ken had actually only served as deputy head. (For more see here and here.)

To this day, articles including the BBC’s still include the erroneous claim.

Labour party candidateA political candidate who professes allegiance to this centre-left party, who seeks their official adoption, but whose loyalty is tested to breaking point by a prime seat on the gravy train.

Ken, who was elected as a Labour candidate in 2004, not only ditched the Labour party at the 2008 election but really stitched them up, good and proper.

Despite being adopted as their candidate, two-timing Rowlands kept them thinking he was standing under their banner until it was too late for them to do anything about it.

The party said they would definitely have fielded a Labour candidate against the Johnston Judas – who sneakily filed his nomination papers as an ‘independent’ candidate – had they been able.

Leading them up the garden path, crafty Ken put paid to that – romping to victory against his sole Tory challenger!

Thirty pieces of silverA term an aggrieved council group leader might use to describe the personal gain a fellow councillor achieves if she perceives he has the morals of an alley cat.

Ken was accused of taking his “30 pieces of silver” by Labour party group leader Sue Perkins, when he left the party high and dry and threw in his lot with the ruling independent party in exchange for a lucrative cabinet post.

“I believed that as a man of the cloth’ – a lay preacher who from the pulpit talks of faith, loyalty and trust – that you would practise what you preach,” said Sue.

“At the moment I would be happy never to speak to you again,” she told Ken, in a stiff letter accusing him of personal motives: “You made the judgement that you are more important than the voters and that is pure arrogance,” before sniffing: “I hope you are happy with your 30 pieces of silver.”

Lucky for you lot, as these things tend to do, a scanned copy of Sue’s fiery missive made its way to JW. Read it in full here:

Sue’s letter to ‘Red’ Ken

Ken went to the press in response to Sue’s letter, which she’d sent to him and other Labour party members, saying it was “vitrolic, offensive and smacking of political paranoia.”

He further claimed: “My solicitor has since advised that it is actionable.”

As you’re about to learn, Ken can’t have been fully up-front with his solicitor, either!

After, afterwardsSubsequent to an event, but if you’re covering your tracks, especially when denying financial motivation, it can really mean beforehand – a point in time preceding the event in question.

Cunning Ken might have got away with this porky had JW not been fortunate enough to land the huge haul of secret ‘Partygate’ files in 2012.

In response to Sue Perkins’ ire, Ken claimed that Sue had it all wrong and that he had only decided to join the council’s ruling independent party and accept a cabinet post after the election in which he sneakily switched from Labour to stand as an ‘independent’ candidate.

The Partygate documents were a goldmine, comprehensively demolishing Ken’s denials.

The term ‘liar, liar, pants on fire’ was surely invented with occasions like this in mind.

The preponderance of documentary evidence left no doubt that Ken’s knickers were positively smouldering.

The files went much further than disproving Ken’s claims about the timing – they additionally showed that he’d recruited two of his fellow Labour colleagues Lyndon Frayling and Umelda Harvard to go over with him, his part of the bargain.

Yet when Sue made that very claim of Ken, he said Sue was full of “political paranoia!”

Partygate also revealed how cabinet room printing boss Rob Lewis was also busy using taxpayer-funded resources for political purposes – strictly against all manner of rules – doing the trio’s election literature for them!

Strategy documents also drawn up well ahead of the election by Lewis, the independent party’s election ‘brains,’ showed Ken, Umelda and Lyndon were penned in as dead certs to sign up the group.

Oh, and the haul of files also showed how Ken’s wife was acting as the three defectors’ election agent!

The evidence couldn’t be stronger and unfortunately for Ken and his cronies – many of whom lost their seats at the last election – they found their way into my hands when this blog was in its infancy, and the rest is history.

Funding commitmentsA term someone cavalier with the facts might knowingly use to falsely describe an ‘application for funding,’ especially as part of a shameless attempt to win votes.

Dedicated followers of Ken – the self-styled ‘Voice of Johnston’ – and his many shenanigans over the years will remember his 2012 election leaflet boasted of the £7m of public cash “committed” to a new Johnston primary school.

Elementary fact-checking revealed that this huge sum of “committed” cash was – and for some time after – merely a “bid” for funding.

When the school was eventually built some wondered if Ken would apply for the headteacher’s post. Or deputy head. I forget which!

CosyThe mutual feeling of two individuals, who hate each other’s guts, when sitting at the same desk owing to their respective decisions to take ‘thirty pieces of silver’ (see above.)

A classic, this – retreading old ground like some gamekeeper-turned-poacher thriller.

Despite their differences in 2008, Ken and Sue had one big thing in common by 2012: having once pledged loyalty to the Labour party, they both found the attraction to lucrative cabinet posts under an ‘independent’ council administration too good to resist.

Having savaged Ken for ditching Labour in exchange for a juicy cabinet seat, Sue did exactly that herself – ending up alongside her old foe on the cabinet benches.

This is a screen grab from the notorious ‘Don Quixote’ speech delivered by cabinet member David Pugh, as Ken and Sue listen intently:

Cllr. Ken Rowlands sitting quietly as his cabinet colleague Cllr. David Pugh savaged fellow councillor Mike Stoddart with a pack of lies

In the speech, Cllr. Pugh tore into Cllr. Mike Stoddart, saying that his claims of impropriety in council-administered publicly-funded property restoration grant schemes were paranoid lies, and that he didn’t have the “truth” on his “agenda.”

Interestingly, Ken who now seems to be so interested in what other councillors have to say, kept silent through all of this and beyond – because Cllr. Stoddart was able to evidence all his claims and, the only lies were being spouted by Pugh, eventually costing him his cabinet seat.

Ken’s next probe?

As he’s so keen to monitor his fellow councillors, I’m sure after reading the following, Ken Rowlands will be laying into his group leader, Cllr. Jamie Adams, over a recent outburst made by his colleague, the independent party’s long-serving member, Cllr. Brian Hall.

Ken might also ask Cllr. Adams if he thinks Cllr. Hall is a fit person to hold a committee chairmanship and its £8k+ special responsibility allowance.

On Monday, 11th February, PCC’s cabinet, among other things, decided its policy for future car-parking payment systems in council-owned car parks.

It sees a move to cashless payments and the eventual phasing out of coin-operated ticket machines.

Cllr. Hall was a member of a panel which had previously looked into this topic and made recommendations.

To his great disappointment, cabinet didn’t implement what he wanted.

We can only imagine how much steam spewed from Bri’s ears as he sat through cabinet’s deliberations in the public gallery.

At the end of the meeting he stormed up to the cabinet, in particular transport member Cllr. Phil Baker, and bellowed:

“YOU’RE ALL A BUNCH OF A***HOLES!”

Before threatening:

“DO YOU WANT TO HAVE A ROW IN HERE, OR DO YOU WANT TO TAKE IT OUTSIDE?”

QE II had the pleasure of meeting and greeting a politer Cllr. Brian Hall on her 2015 Pembroke Dock visit [Click to enlarge]

All of this took place whilst cabinet members including the leader, and senior officers including chief executive Ian Westley, legal chief Claire Incledon and the senior committee clerk were still in the room.

Many heard it – it was impossible not to.

At tomorrow’s meeting of the council’s standards committee the authority’s monitoring officer Claire Jones has presented – merely for members’ information – a recent report into the conduct of councillors in England.

I happen to know that this English-based report was only recently brought to her attention by Martletwy councillor, Di Clements.

In her covering note Ms. Jones selectively quotes a portion of the report’s covering letter, ending with:

“It is clear that the vast majority of Councillors want to maintain the highest standards of conduct in their own authority. We have however, identified some areas of concern. A minority of councillors engage in bullying or harassment or other highly disruptive behaviour…”

I think she might be on to something!

But, as the statutory officer charged with maintaining good standards at the authority, Ms. Jones will know that a potty-mouthed rogue councillor throwing his weight around isn’t the sum of issues that should concern her at Pembrokeshire County Council.

Readers will recall how last year the council’s legal chief Claire Incledon sent out an email calling an innocent member of the public pursuing a legitimate complaint “a plonker!”

Readers with a really keen eye for detail will also recall that Ms. Jones, a close colleague of Mrs. Incledon, was one of the intended recipients of the email containing the slur.

If there’s a behaviour problem at PCC, it surely runs very deep – with positive change unlikely to come from within.

Careful consideration

I wrote to the lay-member chair of the council’s standards committee, Corinna Kershaw, asking if I could address the committee when it debates a proposed new policy covering whether it wishes to webcast its hearings or not.

There’s an unusual attempt – which I may cover on this blog in future – to set new rules, despite council having clearly resolved in the past that all public council meetings will be webcasted.

The monitoring officer’s report to tomorrow’s meeting says it’s open to the committee to decide if its hearings are webcasted because it has its own sweeping powers to decide everything about its own processes.

Whilst JW might be interested in the decision the committee makes on this topic, I’m rather more interested in whether it’s a decision the committee has such powers to make.

My belief is that the committee is not being given the full picture.

Effectively members are being told that, in the case of a hearing, the law allows them to decide not to webcast the meeting by excluding the public and press – or as the report says:

“…it will be for the Standards Committee itself to decide whether or not part of its hearings should be in private session, and therefore not webcast.”

The report to the committee follows a round of consultation with the county’s community councils and others, ending with something of a fudge of a recommendation:

“That the Committee retains discretion to decide in any given circumstances whether individual hearings should be webcast and that the Committee’s hearing procedures be updated accordingly.”

It’s not saying hearings should be webcasted, but that they may be. Or that they may not be. It depends on the whim of the committee as the circumstances dictate.

But more than that, it’s not saying that certain hearings may or may not be webcasted, it’s really saying certain hearings may or may not be held in secret by excluding the public and press.

Call me old fashioned but I have good reason to be sceptical of any changes which could allow an arbitrary ‘secret court’ to conduct its business – even if its low-level purpose is – for example – to bring a councillor to book for a foul-mouthed outburst.

The committee is being led to adopt an arbitrary process, which is not the way a public body should be setting policy – if it has such powers, that is.

Quite simply, the standards committee is a committee of Pembrokeshire County Council, which has resolved that its public meetings must be webcasted.

That includes public meetings of the standards committee.

And that’s why cutting the webcams off arbitrarily requires the public and press to be excluded to achieve the monitoring officer’s desire of allowing the committee to decide if it wishes to turn the webcams off.

But this will also mean the public and press, who turn up in person, will be turfed out of the room and won’t get to hear the evidence which, like all courts as a rule, certainly in proper democracies, is given in the open.

Previously only the standards committee’s deliberations have been held in private – but under this new policy everything could be done behind closed doors. That’s a concern which I hope committee members realise.

The reason this is on the agenda at all is because I made a fuss following a strange incident at a hearing last year.

I may write about this in more detail in future, but this particular hearing was due to be held in front of the webcams.

Members of the press and interested parties were awaiting the start of the meeting on the council’s website, greeted with a warning that the webcast was about to start at 10am.

However with no announcement, committee members were moved to a different room in County Hall which has no webcasting facility.

Indeed, the message on the webcast site telling prospective viewers that the webcast was about to start was still being displayed 24 hours later.

However the meeting did go ahead and the disciplinary case against the former councillor concluded.

As a result I know of at least one press reporter who intended to cover it – via the webcast facility – but unwittingly missed the lot.

Back to my correspondence with Ms. Corinna Kershaw, the lay member who serves as the committee’s chair.

I had no way of contacting her until given her email address by committee services, but before then I took to Google, whose searches brought back a result from the late 1990s of a politically active couple Alan and Corinna Kershaw in Surrey – the former standing as a Lib Dem town council by-election candidate (result unknown) with the latter serving on said town council eventually rising to ‘Mayor of Godalming.’

Assuming this is also the same Corinna Kershaw BA (Hons) who’s formerly served as “Hearings Panel Chairman/member, General Optical Council. President, Westonbirt Association. School Governor. Conduct Committee member, The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors,” one could be forgiven for thinking that she’d be amenable to hearing from this elected member, especially as only two county councillors sit on the eight-strong standards committee she now presides over at Pembrokeshire County Council.

Not so!

Within a few days Ms. Kershaw got back to me with an outright refusal – the following and nothing more:

“Thank you for your email. I have given your request careful consideration. I do not give you permission to address the committee.”

If she isn’t our one-time local politician from leafy Surrey, Ms. Kershaw’s certainly acquired quite the politician’s knack for dodging simple questions.

When I posed the follow-up: “Could you please let me know your reasons, and if you consulted your fellow committee members and/or the monitoring officer in coming to your decision?” her further reply didn’t commit to anything resembling answers.

JW also has reason to doubt how “careful” Ms. Kershaw’s “consideration” of his request to address her committee was, as she headed both of her emails: “Dear Mr Jacobs…”

What standards!

Nothing to declare

The other week’s corporate governance committee considered a proposal which would effectively dock scrutiny committee chairs their generous cash bonuses if they miss a meeting.

It was tabled by Cllr. Mike Stoddart following September’s infamous partnerships overview and scrutiny committee quorum debacle.

This spectacle saw the meeting abandoned before it could begin, simply because not enough councillors had bothered to turn up.

Chief absentee was the committee’s chairman, Tory David Bryan, who trousers over £8k per year for his troubles – on top of his £13k+ basic councillor salary.

Where was Dave? Overseas on holiday, of course – guzzling margaritas poolside, abandoning his committee’s autumn duties for the second year on the trot!

Before opening the debate on this pay-docking proposal, chair Michael Williams, Plaid Cymru, announced he had no pecuniary interest in this topic as his chairmanship of the authority’s corporate governance committee attracts no such monetary reward.

The Tenby councillor’s comment was taken by the committee in the good humour it was intended – provoking one mischief-maker’s retort: “Is that ‘cos you’re on performance-related pay?!”

Turning the air blue

Conservative councillor Di Clements said “s**t happens!” during a recent democratic services committee debate on a proposal that could see council meetings halted or rescheduled if the webcasting facility stops working.

The member for Martletwy was talking about unforeseen circumstances (the report before members mulled the possibility of the building burning down!) rendering the facility inoperable – or as she put it: “s**t happens” – and how she feels such vulnerabilities are incompatible with a rigid ‘no webcast, no meeting’ policy.

As one of this blog’s regular sources joked afterwards: “…it’s not the first and is unlikely to be the last time a Tory utters s**t at County Hall!”

On reflection this blogpost could have been titled: ‘How to win friends and influence people!’


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7 Comments...

  • Weasel Magoo

    As any fule kno: Ken is the Voice of Ken. A sensitive and misunderstood stooge, if ever there was one.

  • Flashbang

    It would be great if a Hell existed where these sanctimonious religious hypocrites could spend eternity.

    Interesting that Council are going back to the bad old secrecy days of old. No doubt cosy relationships will protect the guilty from any scrutiny or prosecution should they get found out.

    I see the no shows are still going to be paid for not doing the job they are paid to turn up for, again a waste of taxpayer money.

    If Corinna Kershaw is the chair of the Council’s Standards Commitee then Councillors have nothing to worry about no matter how low the levels of venality they sink to.

    Finally with Budget Bob wanting another massive rate rise why is Council hanging on to the incompetents, costing the taxpayer more money than if someone who could actually do the jobs properly?

  • John Hudson

    Whilst approved written minutes of Council/Committee meetings were not required to be a verbatim record, they were supposed to give the flavour of the meeting and provide the legal record to substantiate evidence that all relevant considerations had been taken into account in reaching the decision on a matter.

    This also extended to ensure that irrelevant matters had not been taken into account. The officer’s presented report is also to be used in evidence.

    Driven by the wish to dispense with the expensive need to properly minute meetings, webcasts were introduced to support truncated written approved Minutes which are still legally required as evidence of decisions.

    I do not know the admissibility of webcasts in legal proceedings. In the event of a legal challenge to a decision of the Council or any of its committees, are webcasts allowed as admissible evidence?

    If so does this mean that all meetings, where truncated written Minutes result, must be webcast, if only to protect the council in the event of potential legal challenge?

    Of course this could be a double edged sword!

  • John Hudson

    PS. does recording by webcast extend to the secret members’ seminars where evidence is presented to fully inform councillors?

    What about working groups, set up as an extension of a formal committee, where evidence is also presented to the group to inform a report back to the parent committee as a basis for decision?

  • Dai Trump

    What a lovely series of stories, it could only happen in Pembrokeshire and County Hall.

    But a thought started to form in my head, on the one hand you have the Buffoon, Brian Hall and on the other hand the Sycophant, Ken Rowlands.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful to name a pub after them,’The Buffoon and Sycophant’, true it does not quite have the ring as say ‘The Moon and Sixpence’ but what a field day the sign writer could have drawing caricatures of this pair as a background to the name.

  • Malcolm Calver

    It is fine to criticise county councillors for their decisions, if they were elected, but it was voters that put them there.

    The sad fact is that many were returned unelected to the council.

  • Pembs. Exile

    I have just spent time watching the latest webcast of the meeting of the Pembrokeshire County Council.

    I never cease to be amazed at the tolerance portrayed by Councillors in relation to the information fed to them.

    I heard the Leader of the Council state that “A copy of the letter from the Police Complaints Authority was given to the Chairman on the day that it was received and was placed in his briefcase.” There it lay for some four months before being discovered.

    I seem to remember the Chief Executive stating in his submission to a Council Committee, that due to an oversight, the original email or was it another copy lay in the tray of its recipient.

    Could we perhaps be informed under the Freedom of Information Act in whose tray and when it was re-discovered?

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