Jacob Williams
Tuesday 31st December, 2019

Hits of the decade

Hits of the decade

As we come to the close of yet another year and indeed this century’s second decade, I thought it was opportune to look back over some of this blog’s most popular hits.

Started in June 2012 – the month after I was first elected to Pembrokeshire County Council – this is the site’s 275th post.

I’ve trawled the jacobwilliams.com archives and collated a bumper list of the blogposts you loyal readers have read the most every year – plus a selection of others making up each year’s top ten.

I hope you’ve had a good Christmas and may I wish you all a happy new year.

Jump to:

20122013201420152016201720182019

2012

This year’s top ten is dominated entirely by my six-part Partygate series and associated spin-offs, with the fourth instalment hitting the top spot.

I had serialised the publication of some very interesting files that landed in my hands.

They proved what we all knew, but which had always been denied – that County Hall’s ‘independent’ party, which ran County Hall with a rod of iron, operated as effectively as any political party come election time.

The files showed how, against all the rules, public resources were being used to run their slick campaigns at the 2008 and 2012 elections.

I got all the original computer files of leaflets and posters created for supposedly ‘independent’ councillors and candidates, plus secret campaigning strategy documents that were never intended for public consumption.

Two cabinet members were chiefly embroiled in the saga – David Wildman and Rob Lewis.

Wildman resigned from his council seat as soon as the heat turned up, even moving out of the country!

The affair was reported to the ombudsman – the local government ethics watchdog – whose lengthy investigation report was referred to what Private Eye magazine’s Rotten Boroughs column memorably described as Pembrokeshire council’s “amusingly-titled “standards committee.””

Left to carry the can alone, Lewis was ultimately handed a puny sentence by this puisne court!

2013

2013’s number one, titled ‘You’ve been framed!’ was only published on 16th December. Its speed in achieving the year’s top spot status is surely because it coincided with the first ever webcasting of a PCC meeting.

As well as being the first televised, the 2013 Christmas full council meeting was the infamous event where councillors made a final determination on a key proposal tabled by Cllr. Mike Stoddart.

He wanted councillors to be given access to documentation relating to the Pembroke Dock building restoration grant schemes, in which he alleged impropriety.

But it was the personal way in which cabinet member David Pugh went after Cllr. Stoddart – accusing him of lying and paranoia – that lives long in the memory of any committed council-watcher.

It wasn’t long before Cllr. Pugh was released from his cabinet duties – after Mike handily disproved most of what he had said.

Close second was ‘Smear tactics,’ JW’s rundown of the pre-council cabinet meeting at which Cllr. Stoddart’s proposal was considered by this august body.

This unedifying spectacle saw the council’s then leader, Jamie Adams, smear Cllr. Stoddart’s past successful business career in the construction industry as part of a dirty effort to undermine his credibility.

The aim was to derail Mike in his campaign to expose impropriety in the historic property restoration grant schemes administered by the council.

This blogpost would go on to gain a greater significance, as it formed the basis of a misguided complaint which the authority’s monitoring officer grabbed with both hands in an unsuccessful effort to nail me – which is coming up, in 2014!

At #3 is a petty tale of rivalry – between yours truly and Old Grumpy, aka the author of ‘that other website,’ aka the ‘old duffer’ – the aforementioned Cllr. Mike Stoddart!

We continued to trade insults in the comments section – where it’s clear from other correspondents’ input that interpretations were mixed.

Some thought we were just joshing. Others thought the barbs being hurled in each direction came from a more serious place.

All these years later, in the absence of an armistice, this Cold War of the blogosphere still rumbles on…

‘Internally grateful’ at #4 saw me reveal how, as part of his application to become local authority member of the health board, PCC cabinet member David Wildman had offered up Bernardine Rees OBE as a referee.

You might wonder what was odd with that.

Well, JW was handed a copy of Wildman’s application form for the role – where he lists Mrs. Rees as ‘Director of Primary, Community & Mental Health Services’ at ‘Hywel Dda Health Board.’

The cushy gig Wildman was applying for – appointed by the Welsh Government – was a £13k+ paid role, part of which was to scrutinise, among others, Mrs. Rees in her senior job.

Needless to say, Wildman was successful!

In at #5, ‘Papa’s got a brand new PAG’ talked about the formation of the all-new Pembrokeshire Alliance: the county’s next big political force…

2014

It’ll come as no surprise that ‘Golden goodbye for Bryn Parry-Jones’ – my post detailing the biblical pay-off for PCC’s disgraced chief executive – was this year’s top hit.

Parry-Jones – who was missing out on cash because his saturated pension pot was bursting – presided over the introduction of a dodgy scheme, allowing him to trouser unauthorised pay rises in lieu.

Bryn’s cup runneth over – so he convened a small committee to meet in his office to approve the canny policy change, which he soon took advantage of.

In fact an identical scheme was also clumsily brought in at the neighbouring authority to benefit Carmarthenshire County Council’s supremo – Bryn’s counterpart Mark James CBE.

Who says coincidences don’t happen!

But the brown stuff hit the fan when the Wales Audit Office took the exceptional intervention proclaiming both authorities’ novel policy changes were ‘unlawful!’

West Wales gained a reputation as the ‘Wild West,’ and the affair marked the beginning of the end for both Parry-Jones and James – who were already controversial figures, though James weathered the storm much longer.

Parry-Jones’ downfall was hastened as this blog recounted how he harangued the council’s audit committee lay-chair (see ‘MOLEHUNT: Chief executive threatened to engage private investigator over council leak’ – the year’s fifth-most read post.)

And even his most loyal stooges were unable to stand by him as it emerged he swore in a fit of rage at councillors who’d voted to support my proposal inviting him to voluntarily repay his ill-gotten gains (a letter to which he didn’t even bother responding.)

When it all came public, with the help of this blog and the Pembrokeshire Herald, Bryn was (in mysterious circumstances, never fully understood) put on gardening leave – from which he never returned.

(See 2014’s #4 post: ‘CHIEF EXECUTIVE TO TAKE ‘PERIOD OF ABSENCE”)

The whole saga panned out over several months, culminating in the instigation of disciplinary proceedings investigating alleged gross misconduct.

However the ruling administration cooked up a pay-off which allowed the disciplinary process to abruptly discontinue, and Bryn to hastily escape through the back door with his wheelbarrow full of lolly.

The recorded voting list – detailing which councillors supported the deal – was the year’s #8, whilst #9 was the news of an ultimately unsuccessful legal challenge to the pay-off, which was revised without recourse to councillors in order to remove sums which, in their second such intervention, the Wales Audit Office deemed unlawful.

As Private Eye magazine memorably recalled, this £300k+ ‘severance package’ was rushed through the council chamber allowing Bryn to “…eff off into the night without having to account for his greed.”

Narrowly beaten into second in 2014 was ‘Minder.’

A spoof of the Arthur Daley TV classic, in Minder I talk about BPJ’s loyal sidekick, Pembroke Dock councillor Brian Hall, barricading himself against County Hall’s committee room doors during Bryn’s brief disciplinary inquiry appearance.

An honourable mention (#3, from August of that year) goes to ‘Following the leader.’

With the help of ultra-reliable moles, I was able to bring readers the full scoop on the goings-on at the then ruling IPG party’s secret gathering at which Bryn’s conduct – and the way this increasingly big liability was being handled politically – was discussed by angry backbenchers.

This post, and particularly the detail I was able to go into over who said what, caused significant paranoia high up in the administration.

I’m told on good authority that they thought what I’d pieced together was so accurate that I’d had the place bugged, or someone in there with covert recording equipment.

Alas, that was not the case – but what I did have was moles who were so concerned about their party’s political administration of the council, that they spilled their guts.

Not only had I been painted such a clear picture, but so promptly that I was able to put it all up on my blog the very same night as the clandestine conclave!

Titled ‘Death by a thousand cuttings,’ #7 covered another of PCC’s legendary you-had-to-see-it-to-believe-it moments.

This was PCC’s then monitoring officer, Laurence Harding, and his extraordinary efforts at the infamous Valentine’s Day Massacre meeting to stymie opposition councillors who’d spoken critically of Bryn and his conduct to the press.

Harding had stuffed select press clippings into an envelope which he carefully placed on the back seat of a council limo he’d dispatched to pick up a pre-eminent London QC from the railway station.

The top lawyer had been hired – at huge taxpayers’ expense – to dispute the auditor in his view that Bryn’s crafty financial scheme was illegal.

The plan was to force opposition councillors to retreat from the chamber against their will over the threat of ramifications for perceived ‘bias.’

It backfired absolutely – and the chamber voted to accept the auditor’s findings and recommendations.

Harding never recovered the little credibility he walked into the meeting with.

2015

Interestingly, 2015’s most read post was ‘Problem Solva,’ about something I bet most readers have forgotten.

Solva’s one-term county councillor Lyn Jenkins – who stood down at the 2017 election – courted controversy over comments she made during a very rare full council speech.

Cutting a sorrowful figure in the chamber, Lyn spoke critically about how she had only learned of plans to discontinue her local school when the meeting’s agenda was published the week before.

It transpired that Jenkins had in fact not been entirely up front about this – but the novel way it was explained by County Hall was most amusing.

As Milford councillor Viv Stoddart pointed out in an email to all councillors, Cllr. Jenkins had attended an earlier public meeting at which one of the proposals considered was to “discontinue Solva CP School and establish a new 3-16 Church in Wales School…”

Indeed, Cllr. Stoddart went on: “Cllr Jenkins asked for clarification about the site arrangements if there was to be this new all-encompassing school for the St Davids peninsula, and the status of Croesgoch School. Cllr Jenkins was aware of the “threat to Solva School” in July, and has at best been disingenuous when she made her claim of lack of transparency on Thursday.”

Following this, a statement was issued – not by Cllr. Jenkins but, most unusually for a backbencher, via the County Hall press department.

It tries to explain how Lyn had got confused, not really understanding what she had previously been told about the meaning of the words “proposals to close Solva School.”

“On reflection I realise that my statements may have been misleading,” is the closest this excuse came to an apology.

Perhaps the best thing, though – proving that at every level of politics language is always open to interpretation – was this press release’s contribution from the council’s acting education director, Kate Evan-Hughes:

“I was pleased to meet with Councillor Jenkins today (Friday, 11th September) and to clarify what was clearly a misunderstanding around the terminology of ‘closing Solva school’.”

You couldn’t make it up!

2014’s close second was What’s afoot at the Kremlin? – in which I posted photos of some mysterious work going on in the council chamber.

The chairman’s dais taken apart, carpet tiles ripped up, dust sheets and associated equipment and materials strewn everywhere: it was quite a sight.

Readers’ suggestions ranged from the more practical theory that they were “having the carpets cleaned to get rid of the stench of corruption,” to the more imaginative – “dismantling the mechanism used by Bryn to control the chairman’s lips” or creating “an escape chute that leads to an awaiting speed boat.”

In at third, dressed proper dapper and clutching not one but TWO briefcases, Chairman Tom was papped leaving County Hall in his waiting limo.

These photographs of Tom Richards, PCC’s civic dignitary, formed a delightful illustration for ‘Driving a hard bargain.’

This post talked about an opposition-led proposal to scrap the council limo and use alternative cars, on the grounds that the gleaming black chauffeured motor was a costly excess in these days of austerity.

One councillor’s contribution to the debate spoke of the indignity future council chairs could suffer if they had to roll up to civic bashes in a car emblazoned with “BOBBY’S TAXIS!”

Fourth was the self-explanatory ‘PCC in Private Eye, again.’

No rundown of the last decade at PCC would be complete without reference to Bryn’s Porsche.

The revelation that taxpayers were funding such an expensive and luxurious company car – also driven by his offspring – attracted much national press coverage.

Indeed, it’s one of the first things many people think of when they consider PCC and its reputation.

So at #9 in 2015’s most read blogposts is news of an appeal decision over a BBC journalist’s complaint against PCC’s refusal to give details of the vehicle and its financial arrangement.

The Information Commissioner found that the council was in the wrong, and said they had to reveal how much Bryn’s monthly car allowance was – because BPJ was an “individual occupying such a prominent position [who] could reasonably expect a degree of public scrutiny into those aspects of their personal life that cross over into their public serving role.”

Among the revelations was that, after Bryn’s departure, taxpayers had to cough up nearly nine grand in fees to return said Porsche to the leasing company.

#10 from 2015 is where I collated a list of all of the various expenses (on ‘experts,’ lawyers, audit fees, Porsche return fees, etc.) associated with the whole Bryn Parry-Jones pension arrangements saga – £150k, all told.

For those wishing to reacquaint themselves with the car which Jeremy Clarkson said was “hideous compared to a genital wart,” see my detailed write-up from December 2014: ‘When Porsche comes to shove!’

Published so late in the year, and with so many other shenanigans being covered on this blog in 2014, it made that year’s #14 position.

2016

Delivering a crushing blow to the ruling administration, councillors overwhelmingly voted to adopt my proposal to webcast meetings of PCC’s cabinet at the December 2015 full council meeting.

Before then, only full council meetings were given the televisual treatment.

The weakest arguments imaginable were put up by the then leader, Jamie Adams, against my bid to extend the webcasting facility’s coverage.

He said that it would tie his hands, preventing him from taking his cabinet out on the road.

Oh, and that it would be an inconvenience to hold cabinet meetings in the council chamber because councillors and officers would have to walk further along the corridor to get there.

No joke!

As the Western Telegraph reported: JW’s plan was “given the go-ahead despite a last-minute “back of the fag packet” proposal by Council Leader Jamie Adams.”

Cabinet meetings – where the vast majority of key decisions are made – have been held in front of the cameras ever since, and ‘Reality bites’ – my preview to the first-ever cabinet webcast – was your most read blogpost of 2016.

‘Palace perk for precarious Perkins’ was your second-most read of 2016, featuring Sue Perkins – she who “did it for the quids kids” – attending a Buckingham Palace garden party.

On the lush green lawns at SW1A 1AA, the Queen was fortunate enough to dine over tea and cucumber sandwiches with Pembrokeshire County Council’s education cabinet member.

Back home, embattled Sue was already in a perilous position over recent education developments and policy proposal setbacks.

But the topic was more prominently underlined when it emerged that this taxpayer-funded jolly was to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh’s awards – a service which, locally, PCC funding cuts were placing in jeopardy!

A double-header blogpost was your third-most read of 2016.

‘Out with the old…’ was about the replacement of the chairman’s limo with a brand new BMW, and how taxpayers were spun the line that this vehicle was a downgrade from the four-year-old Seat people carrier it replaced as the civic official’s chauffeured motor.

The second story in this joint effort is a blast from the past – ‘The devil’s own job,’ in which I refer to PCC’s director of education vacancy, which was finally at the interview stage of the recruitment process – after having been filled in an acting capacity for well over a year by Kate Evan-Hughes.

Ms. Evan-Hughes joined the council in August 2013 as head of education – from Newport City Council where she’d served as assistant head of education.

Just over a year later, PCC’s education director Jake Morgan left – for Carmarthenshire council, whence he came – and KE-H was elevated to fill the gap.

She succeeded in the aforementioned interviews to be appointed to the post permanently.

Earlier this month it was announced that Ms. Evan-Hughes is leaving PCC – for a council in England.

#4 was my post calling-in the cabinet’s controversial decision over Narberth’s old school. They hadn’t only resolved to hugely slash a previously-agreed sale price for the redundant site, but offered the developer a massive loan!

My call-in, supported by fellow councillors, saw the matter referred for scrutiny by a council committee.

The year’s #5: Click to hear Nigel Farage call Huw George a ‘ghastly puritan!’

Regular readers will be delighted that Maenclochog councillor Huw George gets a direct mention, here. And let’s face it – it’s what he would have wanted.

The rocking reverend was the subject of the year’s fifth-best read post, ‘Holy smoke!’ after some stiff remarks were made about him by Nigel Farage.

It turns out our Nige is no fan of Huw – who he says is an ‘appalling human being’ and ‘ghastly puritan!’

Farage’s comments came during a BBC Radio 4 interview, off the back of a report of a ‘voluntary’ beach smoking ban Huw was fronting as PCC cabinet member.

During this nugget of radio gold – which I was tipped off to by a reader – Farage says of George: “I hope I never have to meet him!”

#7 is all about how PCC’s chief executive made a horlicks of things when he prevented inter-budgetary amendments proposed by opposition Labour group leader, Cllr. Paul Miller.

At the annual budget-setting meeting, Cllr. Miller had proposed a reduction in the senior staffing budget by a sum which would have likely resulted in the redundancy of a highly-paid officer.

Mr. Westley’s flawed advice to the chairman – to reject the amendments – was based on his wacky notion that he as chief executive alone had the say over employment and operational matters, which would be invoked should Cllr. Miller’s proposals be approved.

After a lengthy investigation, the Wales Audit Office said Mr. Westley’s interpretation of local government laws was incorrect and thus, was his advice – but the damage had been done, the amendments were never allowed. An apology was given.

There was a strong suggestion I’d struck gold when the first reader comment was a glowing commendation from the main competition – the author of that other website.

“Even I have to admit (reluctantly) that this is brilliant,” wrote Mike, of the precious metal-rich seam I’d exposed.

But absolute confirmation that JW had hit the mother lode soon came in the second comment – with the uncharacteristically complementary Tenby councillor, Michael Williams, opening his feedback with: “Well done Jacob.”

So what inspired the generosity of these two old buggers? Perhaps it was that it was the season of goodwill.

They were reacting to my post: ‘Rotten Boroughs’, published on 23rd December 2015, but which was your eighth-best read post of 2016.

In this epic, I travel from West Wales to London’s most rotten borough: Tower Hamlets, whose corrupt mayor had finally been brought to book after years of shameless antics including bribery, undue pressure and racial stirring.

His rigged 2014 election victory was successfully challenged on several grounds – and the legal ruling was a true masterpiece.

I pored through it and noticed some stark similarities in themes to the municipal shenanigans that go on in these ‘ere parts.

Some of the comparisons between the Wild West and the East End were uncanny!

2017

In May 2017 all sixty seats on Pembrokeshire County Council came up for election. This, and associated matters, featured strongly in the top ten.

At #2 was ‘Election observations,’ where, after the close of nominations for the May 4th poll, I discussed the nominees, uncontested wards, and some races to watch.

At #9 was my main election-related post ‘Winners and losers,’ where I assessed some individual results – which featured a notable number of very slim victories – and discussed a wager I had taken part in, predicting the outcomes.

The 2017 election delivered a clear rejection of the independent IPG/IPPG party, which had gone in to the election controlling the council.

Many of its members failed in their re-election bids or stood down and were not replaced, such that the party’s leader – Camrose dairy farmer Jamie Adams – was struggling to keep his grip on the leader’s post.

Adams was also struggling to compete with the record number of newly-elected unaffiliated independents he couldn’t count on to support his leadership bid.

#7 from 2017 outlines the political numbers game that was playing out behind the scenes – and which factions were supporting Adams for leader, or his only competitor, David Simpson.

Within that blogpost I revealed how Adams’ scrabble to retain power had reached such desperation that he was inviting the Conservatives to form a coalition (in a deal they rejected) and that he had invited newly-elected councillors – including those from parties! – to a private leadership pitch meeting (which was poorly attended.)

This was the event that gave rise to 2017’s smash hit.

By a long way, your most read post of 2017 was ‘How dairy!’ – the report my mole gave me of the almost unbelievable last-ditch effort Adams made, by tugging at the heart strings.

He told those newly-elected councillors that, if he failed to retain his £50k council leader position at County Hall, then back home he could be forced to lay off a farm hand!

The pressure tactics didn’t work – and there was never a contest, as Adams backed out of the leadership race, giving Simpson – who had amassed sufficient pledged support – a free run.

At three, ‘Why so shy, Dai?’ outlines how, despite being elected over a month earlier at the May 2017 PCC election, Pembroke’s Dai Boswell had failed to formally accept his seat on the council.

Three of this year’s top ten (#4, #8 and #10) were from my Trumped-up charges series.

This was where I exposed the dirty efforts PCC’s monitoring officer Laurence Harding, along with Bryn Parry-Jones, had gone to to nail me on trumped-up charges over a groundless complaint by PCC’s European manager, Gwyn Evans.

They tried hard, but I batted them off.

At five, in ‘Millions down the drain,’ I talked about Bryn Parry-Jones’ vanity project, the Cherry Grove office complex, and how the associated waste was likely to surpass the £4m mark by the time everything was done.

Only this month came the revelation that the site is to be auctioned – possibly bringing an end to the matter.

Given how haunted this property is, I wouldn’t bet against it…

2018

Much like 2012 and 2014, 2018 was dominated (#1, #2, #3, #5 and #9) by a single topic: Pembroke councillor Dai Boswell.

The scandal for the council was somewhat more complex – and not easy to summarise, but I later did so in this post.

He was validly elected to the council – by six votes – but took well over a month to formally accept his seat, and many people were wondering why – not least those he was supposed to be representing.

It transpired that he wished to but was being prevented – without any legal basis whatsoever – by senior council officers, who had been tipped off that serious child sex offence charges were in the pipeline.

After Boswell’s Conservative party waded into the standoff, he was allowed to sign the dotted line – and went on to attend two council meetings.

Then, in August 2017, Boswell was charged with the child sex offences – following which he never attended another council meeting.

Or did he?

In dubious circumstances, Boswell was asked if he would keep away from County Hall meetings, as part of a quid pro quo in which he was advised that, as long as he attended informal council seminars, he wouldn’t fall foul of the attendance rules – requiring British councillors to attend at least one meeting every six months.

On the expiry of six months after Boswell had attended a ‘proper’ council meeting – at which point he should have relinquished his seat – he remained a councillor.

Council officials said he had done enough to comply with the attendance rules, and in the face of a threat of legal action, they sought legal advice from the brains of Britain to get them out of the smelly stuff.

But what he came back with was not reassuring to them at all – and this blog recounted all of the antics that went on behind the scenes to shore up the council’s precarious position.

After much searching of the filing cabinets – to find out exactly which informal seminars Boswell had been to during the six-month period – a second set of legal instructions were sent off to the QC.

With a bizarre redefinition of the word “meeting,” they relieved some of the pressure on them – but they were far from out of the woods.

In the meantime, Boswell was eventually convicted of the historic child sex offences at trial and, now in prison, remained a paid councillor despite not attending a “meeting” for a year.

It opened up the council to accusations that it was protecting – at great expense – a paedophile.

As not even PCC lawyers could argue a councillor can “attend” a “meeting” from a jail cell, Boswell would have eventually fallen foul of the six month rule.

He could have gone on collecting his £1k+ allowance for months longer, but things didn’t go that far.

Boswell eventually resigned office from his jail cell – triggering a by-election featuring some blasts from the past, which I previewed in the year’s #8, ‘Old dogs, new tricks,’ and #10.

That year’s #4, ‘Inviting suspicion,’ was about the efforts that were made to get education director Kate Evan-Hughes out of an appearance before the audit committee.

Its councillors were wanting answers to questions over the scandal which saw County Hall downplay a very credible tip-off – later proven – against a headteacher of, among other things, fiddling pupils’ results.

Committee members weren’t happy and, following her failure to attend – or, what technically transpired to be her failure to be invited at all – they resolved to legally require her attendance at the next meeting.

At #6, in ‘A civil question deserves a civil answer,’ Tenby councillor Mike Evans’ bid to scrutinise council housing development updates by tabling a full council question was rejected on flawed grounds.

Worse than that – it was a schoolboy-error by County Hall lawyers: the refusal was based on the misinterpretation of simple English!

#7, ‘Council legal chief’s plonker slur,’ was on a very similar theme.

A probing member of the public, David Edwards, who regularly tables public questions to full council meetings, had seen one of his questions rejected on spurious grounds.

When Edwards doggedly pursued the duff reasoning behind his question’s refusal, he was referred to as a ‘plonker’ by the council’s legal chief – in correspondence not meant for his eyes!

2019

This year’s most read blogpost, by far, was my publication and assessment of the important letter sent by Dyfed-Powys Police’s head of CID to PCC’s chief executive.

The top copper’s glad tidings of great joy were that there would be no criminal proceedings in relation to the long-running Pembroke Dock grant fraud allegations.

Irregularities identified in the administration of public cash meant for historic property renovation had been out in the open for well over five years – and were the subject of a failed cover-up by senior council officials.

The letter outlined that the CPS was taking no prosecution due to ‘insufficient evidence.’ Also cited was a missing hard drive and an unnamed blogging councillor’s postings.

Shockingly, plod revealed how conflicting, inconsistent, incredible and unreliable evidence had been provided by council officers as part of the criminal investigation.

In at number two was ‘Cosy complainers’ – where I revealed how councillors Ken Rowlands, David Bryan, Mark Carter and Rob Summons had all gone to the ombudsman, complaining about JW over ‘cosy’ comments I had made during a committee meeting.

The foursome really laid on their indignation with a trowel – but the ombudsman wasn’t having any of it, choosing to disregard their coordinated complaints at the first opportunity – not even to investigate them!

At number three was my preview of the candidates in the Hundleton by-election, triggered by the death of the sitting member, Margot Bateman OBE. Steve Alderman went on to a comfortable victory.

David Edwards makes a reappearance at #4. In ‘Questionable antics’ he’s back, newly probing the plonkergate saga.

With reference to documents he had obtained under FoI, he was able to piece together the interesting process by which one of the questions he had tabled to full council had been wrongly rejected.

The post also shows, with Edwards on the case, the efforts County Hall goes to to avoid admitting cock-ups.

His teeth firmly embedded in the subject, it was probably best to come clean and move on early, rather than ride into the losing battle…

Number five treads familiar ground – it was a mockery titled ‘Ken’s big book of words.’

This was my response to ‘bullying’ allegations made by Cllr. Ken Rowlands over my aforementioned ‘cosy’ comments.

I thought it was a good opportunity to highlight Ken’s own ethics, over the years.

As part of their ‘cosy’ complaints to the ombudsman, Ken and Mark Carter went a step further – they tacked onto the end of their complaint that JW was being nasty on his blog by pointing out Ken’s track record when it comes to honesty and morals.

As well as rejecting their formal complaints out of hand, Ken and Mark were given a sound humbling by the ombudsman – who took the time to read jacobwilliams.com’s fourth-most read blogpost of 2019.

He told the duo: “it is not uncommon for elected members to say things which others may consider to be rude, offensive or inappropriate, particularly to political opponents.”

In reassuring fashion for freedom of expression, the councillor ethics watchdog added: “I cannot say that you have provided evidence to suggest that, on this occasion, Councillor Williams’ comments go beyond a robust expression of political differences and amount to bullying behaviour or disrespect of a fellow member.”

Enough said!

In a follow-on to the Dai Boswell saga, councillors voted in support of my proposal to release secret legal advice sought by the council, as set out in this year’s #6 post: ‘Hazard an opinion.’

The documents – including instructions and two sets of legal opinions – were very revealing, and showed a concerning lack of understanding over key legal principles.

If you want to really understand the whole legal saga the council faced over the ‘Boswell problem,’ and how senior officers tied themselves up in knots – and what they did to get out of the pickle – this chronology is a good place to start.

One of JW’s personal favourites – Get Carter – concludes this retrospective of jacobwilliams.com’s back issues of the decade.

This regionalised spoof of the cult classic 1971 film – 2019’s #7 – features Solva councillor Mark Carter as Michael Caine’s titular lead.

Carter’s on the prowl in County Hall, looking to avenge savage cutbacks in the municipal streetlighting department…


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6 Comments...

  • John Hudson

    Thanks for reminding us of the questionable activities of our Council over the last ten years, and for your and Mike’s efforts at exposing the worst excesses.

    Details of the Capital Grant scandal has yet to be fully concluded.

    As perhaps the spear carrier for public webcasting of council meetings, I wonder if you have any thoughts on the apparent censoring and editing of Cabinet webcasts as highlighted in my posts on Pembrokeshire watch Facebook page concerning cremation charges at Parc Gwyn.

    Are there examples of similar omissions at other webcast meetings that you are aware of?

    Have PCC issued any guidelines concerning editing of webcast for any particular reasons that you are aware of?

    It seems that the true recording of council public meetings may not always be complete and may not therefore be reliable “evidence” of proceedings.

  • Hi John, happy new year. Your comment is the first I’ve heard about this. Could you provide further details?

    I’m not aware of any such policy or any previous instances where doubts have been cast over archived recordings – and I’d be inclined to believe it’s unlikely, but as I say, I have no knowledge of this or details to go on.

    Which webcast are you referring to, and at which time point?

    Also, are you suggesting that the webcast’s archived audio and/or video may have been manipulated, and if so, in which way?

    As you will know, it wouldn’t be the first time an official meeting record had been tampered with at County Hall!

  • John Hudson

    It’s a pity to start the decade with a grump, let’s hope that things get better.

    The details are as set out as follows, in the extract of an email I sent to the Leader:

    I needed to refer to the post-consultation Crem Charges report that you introduced to Cabinet on 1 July 2019 and the subsequent report to the meeting on 7 October 2019, post Policy and pre-decision O&S review.

    I particularly recall your webcast introductory comment at one of these meetings that you had been assured that the WAO had no objection, comment or even agreed with the Council’s “interpretation” of the law in respect of charges. I can’t remember the exact phrase you used, hence my need to look it up.

    I was disturbed to discover that item 13 (pages 175 – 205) of the 1 July 2019 Agenda, the complete webcast concerning the increase of fees and charges, at Parc Gwyn is missing, although there is a printed minute 27.

    I was surprised that the preamble you introduced, and that I recall hearing and observing, is missing from both of these Cabinet webcasts. To me your stated assurance, and hence belief, as Leader of the Council, about WAO’s support, was not without significance and weight and was very relevant, as it also in passing, supported the need for investment in improvements to the waiting facilities at the Crem.

    The Cabinet decision for agenda item 12 of 7 October minute 72 is recorded, but of course does not detail your introductory comments that I recall being made. As the Council now only minutes decisions, and relies on webcasts to flesh out debates and the matters considered, should all formal records of council meetings come with a health warning that they may not be complete?

    The Leader has promised to look into this. In passing it occurs to me that currently both the Leader and the Chairman of the Council are JPs, so hopefully they will have some experience of assessing “evidence” and the need for completeness.

    As far as I can recall, the Leader’s introductory comment is the only reference to the WAO’s view on Crem Charges and the Council’s interpretation.

    I cannot believe that officers are at liberty to “adjust” webcasts, and if they can, on whose authority?

    This whole affair about charging the dead for services they have not and cannot use strikes me as unreasonable to say the least.

    Thanks to Huw George (at Policy and Pre-decision O&S 19 Sept. 2019 – minute 16) the charge increase is not as big as it would have been. If you need more information please ask.

  • John Hudson

    I have found the Leader’s comments on the webcast of the Cabinet meeting 7 October 2019, at the point after Chris Tomos but before Richard Brown’s comments.

    I had thought that the Leader made them in his general introduction of the Agenda Item. My misrecollection highlights the value of a complete record. However, it appears that while the Leader had received assurances from officers that the WAO were happy, it is odd that the head of service appears to be unaware of this.

    The complete webcast of item 13 of the Cabinet meeting 1 July 2019 is missing.

  • I have looked at the webcast and whilst there is no link in the timeline to agenda item 13, it is actually contained within the link to agenda item 12 – starting from 43:09.

    I would imagine that, during the meeting, the webcast operator neglected to record that item 12 had ended and item 13 had begun. This action is done manually, not automatically.

    I have identified a previous instance of something similar happening, and was told by committee services that if such a mistake is identified, it is not possible to go back and update the timeline – so I think it will have to stay like this.

  • John Hudson

    Thanks Jacob. Could not a note be included in the digital/printed minutes to that effect for those who might be seeking a “missing” webcast item?

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