Jacob Williams
Friday 31st May, 2019

Get Carter

Get Carter

Readers will recall how Solva councillor Mark Carter was one of four Pembrokeshire county councillors who accused JW of breaching the members’ code of conduct over comments I had made at a January committee meeting.

I had dared to use a four-letter word beginning with C.

Yeah, cosy!

In fact Carter and Co. did more than accuse, they each reported me to the ombudsman – who binned every one of their written complaints at the first opportunity in reassuring fashion.

That Mark had lodged a formal complaint against my conduct with the local government ethics watchdog might suggest that he, as a fellow elected member, had a good grasp of the rules those in public office have a duty to abide by.

But Old Grumpy, aka Cllr. Mike Stoddart, seems to have unearthed something in his latest blogpost to raise doubts about that.

The parliamentary expenses scandal was a potent reminder of the importance of the public service virtue of acting in the public interest, rather than self interest.

Breaches are commonly known as ‘feathering one’s own nest,’ but the standards expected of politicians cover far less obvious and blatant activity than lining one’s own pocket.

We councillors – as with any public servants – must not use our positions to secure advantages or disadvantages for ourselves or others.

Our actions must serve the public interest – and a politician involving himself in a matter in which he is personally financially vested is a big no-no.

As Mike’s blogpost shows, Cllr. Carter has been heavily involving himself in discussions over streetlighting in his ward.

PCC wants to discontinue two lamps in Trefgarn Owen, and Cllr. Carter wants the community council to take them over.

In fact he’s been in the driving seat of the discussions.

Nothing unusual in that, you might think.

But the rays shining from the said devices also happen to light up the entrance and road to a caravan site Cllr. Carter owns.

Conflict, anyone?

Online, Cllr. Carter has responded to Old Grumpy’s revelation saying it only tells “half the streetlight story.”

He says that he funded one of the current solar-powered streetlights, not taxpayers, and that before the county council pulls the plug completely, he’s trying to convince the local authority to allow his caravan site and the village hall to fund a new mains-powered one.

Unconfirmed rumours in the County Hall tea room say Carter’s lantern-lobbying has seen him donning a wig miming “…darling leave a light on for me…” to Belinda Carlisle’s 80s hit.

Half a story or not, Cllr. Carter can’t deny he believes he has a vested interest in the topic – because in March he applied to the council’s standards committee for a special exemption to be able to involve himself – by speaking and voting – in the negotiations.

True to form, the body Private Eye magazine called Pembrokeshire council’s “amusingly-titled “standards committee”” granted Cllr. Carter his wishes.

But it wasn’t a unanimous decision.

Before the vote, one of this august body’s more confidence-inspiring members, Nick Watt, said he was happy to grant Cllr. Carter – with his “eminent expertise” – dispensation to speak in his position as councillor on the topic, but that he was “dubious” about granting Carter’s request for an exemption to take part in any decision-making.

Not because he doubted Carter’s “motives,” but because “the appearance could be said by the ill-intentioned that he, as the landlord of his fifteen tenants, could be seen to potentially substantially benefit as a result of having what is a private road being lit.”

It came down to the casting vote of the chairwoman – independent lay-member Corinna Kershaw (yes, the very same) – who granted Carter his dispensation in full.

He’s now free to use his position as an elected councillor to speak, vote and act on this matter in which he has a direct interest with impunity.

Perhaps the best ‘half’ of the story came after Old Grumpy trawled through past minutes of the local community council.

He discovered that, without even declaring any interests, Cllr. Carter had actually been involving himself in the streetlighting discussions at least two months before he had even applied to the standards committee for dispensation.

Bolting horses and stable doors spring to mind.

Cllr. Carter may now have his dispensation safely in the bag, but it does nothing to get him off the hook for his documented involvement with the matter beforehand, or any other prior involvement he may have engaged in that’s yet to emerge.

It may be worth keeping a spotlight trained on this story.

Remaking a classic…

Get Carter – MGM’s 1971 gritty crime caper – sees Michael Caine as the eponymous lead man, snooping around the north east of England in a bid to get to the bottom of his brother’s untimely death.

Carter doubts the official story, rightly suspecting his sibling’s terminal car crash was no accident but the handiwork of unknown savage gangsters – and he wants to get even.

In Mike Hodges’ directorial debut, Caine’s Carter pieces things together in an eye-opening exploration of the darkest corners of Newcastle’s organised crime scene.

Its grizzly culmination is an iconic coastal scene, set on the industrial shoreline between Hartlepool and Sunderland, heavily polluted by seaside colliery activity and waste dumping.

JW’s thinking of Pembrokeshire’s lower-budget remake of the thriller.

Title character Carter – local Tory councillor and lawnmower shop supremo Mark – is on the prowl for his pen-pushing adversary.

Sneakily sleuthing around County Hall, looking for his man.

He’s hell-bent on avenging savage cutbacks decreed from on high in the municipal streetlighting department.

But Carter’s got a problem.

He doesn’t know who his man is.

Ruthless bean-counters: look out!

With all things eco being in vogue these days, I’m thinking that the coal-blackened beach from the original’s bloody end scene ought to be replaced in this modern remake.

The litter-free golden sands of one of our county’s sleepy seaside communities should suffice.

Newgale, perhaps. Or maybe on the banks of the Solva?

Some may doubt if this figment of my imagination is cut out to become a cult classic.

They’d do well to remember that the influential 1971 original – despite now being widely hailed in the industry as one of the best crime films and best British films of all time – had a lukewarm reception on its release.

And as any film buff should know, a stellar cast can sometimes make all the difference to a wafer-thin plot.

The original featured a dramatic array of supporting rogues, shysters and bruisers, many little known but all convincingly cast.

Indeed, the production was positively crammed with an ensemble of undesirables from start to finish.

Any casting suggestions from readers will be gratefully received.

CASTING CALL!

If my streetlamp-inspired Get Carter screenplay has aroused your interest, just wait ’til I show you my Fanny By Gaslight!

I submitted the following letter to the Tenby Observer’s editor, who published it in his newspaper’s 10th May edition.


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10 Comments...

  • Dai Trump

    Absolutely brilliant, haven’t laughed so much for ages.

    For your next script adaptation you might consider something more modern, one of the X-Men or Star Wars films perhaps, because let’s face it casting wise you have almost been handed an up and coming hopeful to play Jabba the Hutt on a plate.

  • Weasel Magoo

    Cliff Brumby could be Rob Summons.

    Cyril Kinnear a ringer for David Bryan.

    Eric Paice/Ken Rowlands.

  • Paul Dowson

    Oh dear, and I had been of the opinion that Cllr Carter was one of the good guys on that conservative bench.

    Unfortunately it appears he is now tarred with the same brush as the rest of the Tory/IPG party who he serves.

  • Flashbang

    Where do PCC councillors get the idea that rules, regulations and propriety don’t apply to them?

    Is it the fact they know DPP will do everything in its power to dodge its duty to investigate any wrongdoing?

    Is it the fact that their dirty deeds are facilitated by a compliant and incompetent in-house regulatory body?

    How does the local taxpayer stand a chance of getting a fair deal from PCC when their pockets are picked by these self-serving lowlives?

    As for the Ombudsman, where is he when he should be red carding wrongdoers? Is his workload that great that he can afford to ignore what’s going on at PCC?

  • Malcolm Calver

    The question that arises is: do we need or even want so many politicians to purport to represent us in the modern world?

    In Pembrokeshire we have 2 MPs, 60 County Councillors and 800 Town and Community Councillors.

    The time has come for the amalgamation of the three local county councils with a vastly reduced membership and the abolition of town and community councils.

    This would go a little way in solving the problem we have of councillors failing or ignoring their obvious vested interests when discussing or deciding issues close to home.

    The question of the need for so many senior council officers could be tackled at the same time i.e. 22 Directors of Education in this small country we call Wales.

  • John Hudson

    The Cabinet’s approved and published programme for administration includes the following aim:-

    • Work to develop a value based rather than rule based culture

    This echoes the previous administration’s mantra of focusing on “outcomes rather than process”.

    It is unfortunate perhaps that councils, including PCC, can only act within the legislative framework, or rules, defined by Parliament and WG. For it to Act outside these rules is unlawful and represents an abuse of power.

    Luckily PCC has senior officers with statutory responsibility for ensuring the council complies with the law. Councillors also share this responsibility and cannot make unlawful decisions, no matter what they decide. How can it go wrong?

  • Michael Hart

    It’s good to see a day when a PCC officer deserves some praise. I hope that the officer who refused a councillor a request for new lights is a sign of things to come.

    In the old days new lights would have suspiciously materialised on a nod and a wink basis in exchange for future favours like support for a CEO’s dodgy enhanced pension or a grant scheme cover up.

  • Chas.

    Councillor Dowson, you must look beyond the political affiliations to see what OTHER “cement” binds these people together, they seem to have little fear of repercussions from their “misdemeanours”.

    I have always thought it strange that the C.E.O. of what Private Eye named as a ‘Rotten Borough’, was actually organising the elections!

  • Tory county councillor Mark Carter has been busy on Facebook trying to rubbish my post about the two street lights outside the chapel and former schoolroom at Trefgarne Owen which also illuminate the road serving the caravan park that he owns.

    Following the principle that the best method of defence is attack, he wrote: “Shame he only reports half the street light story, but that’s journalism, you print what sells.”

    As I have never earned a penny from my blogging activities, my reaction to the reference to “what sells” is: “I wish!”.

    When someone invited him to furnish the missing half of the story, he posted a long comment including:

    “I am in negotiation with the chapel who own the schoolroom hall, entrance road and car park to split the cost between the chapel and caravan park and install a mains powered [light] at no cost to either council and also repair the pothole. The other streetlight in question is at the village end outside the chapel and was recently disconnected by PCC. I enquired as to why a light leading to the village hall and polling station should be disconnected but when I found out the only way for the light to be reinstated was for Brawdy CC to pay.”

    However this proposal to fund one of the street lights independent of Brawdy Community Council is of recent vintage and doesn’t sit easily with what Cllr Carter told the standards committee when he applied for the dispensation to speak and vote on the matter.

    Then, he said:

    “The owner of the land (the chapel) seem uninterested in replacing the street lights, PCC certainly don’t want to replace the street lights, so the only option is for the community council to take over the running of the street lights.”

    And at another point:

    “What I am asking for is the ability to speak and vote at community council level as to whether the community council takes over the running of the street lights and as a county councillor to aid the negotiations to replace these street lights by the community council”

    You will notice that these illuminations are consistently referred to in the plural, so it was clearly intended at that time for Brawdy Community Council to pay for both.

    Old Grumpy is claiming credit for the idea that one of the lights might be funded jointly by the chapel and the owners of the caravan site because my original piece on the subject concluded:

    “It would have been more in keeping with Tory philosophy on public spending if ‘agreeing the costs’ had involved seeking a contribution from the main beneficiary: Cllr Carter.”

  • Keanjo

    Malcolm, I agree entirely that it is high time these vast numbers of councillors and staff were cut to sustainable levels. Incidentally you left National Park representatives, MEPs and AMs off the list.

    John, whilst it is true that councils’ spending is statutorily controlled, there are some very handy catch all provisions for discretionary spending where such spending is for the benefit of the community.

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