Jacob Williams
Sunday, 23rd April, 2023

Murphy’s law

The late queen’s legacy played its part Pembrokeshire County Council’s latest source of amusement, this week.

The story begins just after 7pm on Tuesday, the 18th April.

It was an email sent to all councillors by the chief executive, Will Bramble CBE, titled “Notice of Motion of No Confidence.”

The CEO was informing us that earlier in the day he had received formal notice of a “Motion of no confidence in the Leader.”

Cllr. David Simpson (unaffiliated) has served as leader continuously since his uncontested 2017 election, having also been been re-elected to the post unopposed in 2019, 2021 and 2022.

The bid to depose him was tabled by leader of the opposition Cllr. Jamie Adams (Independent Political Group/IPG) and countersigned by all sixteen of his fellow IPG members.

Mr. Bramble told us that this ouster motion “…will be considered at the Annual Meeting of Council on 12 May 2023.”

He also reminded us that, should the vote to remove Cllr. Simpson succeed at that meeting, the next item of business requires the election of his successor – nominations for which must be delivered to him “at least seven clear working days before the meeting.”

This constitutional requirement is to prevent downtime between an outgoing and incoming leader.

Pointing out the prospective leadership candidates’ nomination deadline, councillors were told: “This is by 5pm on 28th April given the bank holidays that fall before the 12th May.”

Although no formal announcement has yet been made, rumours are rife that the IPG-backed candidate to replace Cllr. Simpson is their 2022 inductee, Newport and Dinas ward councillor Huw Murphy.

Elected at his first attempt last year, Cllr. Murphy is as keen as mustard. He’s widely credited with the IPG’s recent recruitment drive successes, convincing four unaffiliated independent councillors to join the party-that’s-not-a-party since the start of the year.

Telecanvassing is his forte – and I can suggest from experience that, if telephones had the equivalent of a car’s odometer, Murphy’s handset would have gone around the clock at least six times.

Press release

Adams’ motion to topple Simpson was the subject of a hurried news article posted on the Pembrokeshire Herald’s website, titled: “Independent Group calls for Council Leader David Simpson to go.”

Within it, Cllr. Adams cited “the downward trajectory which Cllr Simpson has overseen for many years” which he says has run the council’s “finances into disarray.”

It was clear to this author that the Herald’s story was based on an IPG press release – nothing wrong or unusual with that, of course – and I say so not just because of its early timing.

What stands out is its emphasis not on which councillor the IPG were seeking to replace Cllr. Simpson with, but on who they didn’t want to replace him with.

Under the sub-heading “FORMER LEADERS RULE THEMSELVES OUT,” the Herald reported that both Cllr. Adams (who led the authority from 2012-2017) and his predecessor Cllr. John Davies (leader from 2004-2012) were not in the running.

Adams because he recognises the public “want a change,” and Davies giving no specific reason, but citing how “much of Pembrokeshire has been left out in favour of large, unaffordable projects” and that “the Council requires a strong, effective, and visible Leader at the helm.”

Cllr. Adams also says countyfolk “…should not be burdened financially by this current Leadership’s failures,” specifically citing, among other things: “overspends into the millions on the Haverfordwest Transport Interchange, Haverfordwest Quayside, Haverfordwest Castle, and Pembroke’s South Quay [projects.]”

Covering much of the same ground, a response from Cllr. Simpson speaks conversely of his pride in his administration’s efforts on the county’s economy. How they have “worked hard to sort out the finances left in a mess by the IPG” which were “neglected for twenty years and which they would jeopardise in the future.”

Cllr. Simpson also addressed his administration’s support for “more and better scrutiny” which, he credits, has “brought democracy back into the Chamber and away from shabby deals done behind closed doors or from senior officers leading members by the nose, backed by the old and unaccountable IPG bloc vote.”

All this public fighting talk suggests things are shaping up nicely, then, for the leadership showdown at the council’s 12th May AGM.

Don’t bank on it…

Laughing all the way to the bank (holiday)

Can you count on your county councillor to count correctly?Before 9am on Thursday 20th April, chief executive Mr. Bramble circulated a new email on the matter to all sixty councillors.

We were now informed that: “on closer inspection the constitution is clear that ‘No motion moved by notice will be debated at the Annual Meeting of the Council.”

This of course meant that the bid to unseat Simpson could not be considered at the AGM, as previously announced.

But worse – it couldn’t be brought forward a day to the 11th May regular full council meeting either.

We were reminded of the constitutional “criteria requiring 15 clear working days” of notice, which by now had already passed because of “the extra bank holiday” on May 8th specially created for King Charles’ coronation!

Miscounting the number of “clear working days” is both a schoolboy error and an easy mistake to make – but it’s bound to sting, and has arguably stalled momentum.

Sources say Cllr. Huw Murphy put in most of the legwork in this scheme, so the chronological cock-up probably escaped the former copper’s notice, too.

Speculation over the prospective no-confidence motion has featured prominently among the County Hall tearoom gossip for weeks if not months.

So we can assume they deliberately made sure they didn’t get it in too early, to add some shock factor. Had it been sent sooner, the counting error may have been spotted with time left to correct it.

A well-placed mole says head-scratching Adams and Murphy are now using the weekend to mull their three options:

1) Do nothing and allow the no-confidence motion to stand validly referred to the next full council meeting on July 13th.

2) Demand an extraordinary meeting so that it can be dealt with sooner.

3) Quietly withdraw the motion and buy a new calculator and/or large print calendar.

The royal we(ekend)

Charles Philip Arthur George had been the longest-served heir apparent in British history when he finally ascended the throne on 8th September last year.

When his birthright is ceremoniously formalised at Westminster Abbey on Saturday, May 6th, JW knows one viewer who’ll be watching with a smile on his face – David Simpson, the longest-served cabinet member in PCC history.

Simpson who, like me, isn’t a drinker, might even raise a glass or two to newly-crowned Charles.

And on the 8th May Bank Holiday Monday he may well down a bottle or two toasting Abacus Adams and Miscalculating Murphy.


  • Mark

    A line from The Prince by Machiavelli was famously interpreted by Ralph Waldo Emerson as “when you strike a King, you must kill him”.

    When you strike at a Leader, you must be able to count.

  • Martin Lewis

    Adams is power hungry, even if it is by proxy. What business does a newly elected councillor have aspiring to be council leader.

  • Malcolm Calver

    It seems it is just a game to county councillors, no matter what breed, whilst being an expensive farce to councill taxpayers.

  • Flashbang

    Seems Jamie Adams still wants to pull the strings despite his complete mismanagement of his own shady stewardship.

    I’m guessing Huw Murphy either has no idea he’ll be Adams’ puppet and will be left carrying the can or he’s totally on board.

    Make sure the electorate remembers how we were screwed over the last time Adams had his “team” running things.

  • Flashbang. Don’t worry I have several posts ready to go dealing with dodgy planning consents for “herdsman’s cottages”; the attempted cover-up over the grants business in Pembroke Dock; Jamie’s dubious expense claims; and other timely reminders of the IPG’s previous period in office.

  • John Hudson

    Do not forget about the IPG’s “fleecing” of Cleddau Bridge toll payers, where officers’ claims of a £64m deficit, due to be paid to the council, had been accepted “at face value” by a scrutiny committee.

    The external auditor found that “the bridge” had passed into an £11m profit some years before.

  • John Hudson

    It does not matter who “leads” this outfit. It still will not have any democratically mandated corporate policies. In this vacuum, officers still have the lead.

  • Have your say...