Jacob Williams
Monday 19th August, 2013

Pork-barrelling?

Pork-barrelling?

Following Cllr. Stephen Joseph’s abandonment of Plaid Cymru to join the ruling Independent party, all sorts of questions have been raised over Pembrokeshire politics, and whether pork-barrelling patronage plays any part in it.

Wikipedia defines ‘pork-barrelling’ as “The appropriation of government spending for localized projects secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative’s district.”

As the Americanised (or, as the yanks would spell it, Americanized) spelling of the word ‘localised’ suggests, it’s a term of American origin. Theories on the internet as to the derivation range from the notion that a well-stocked barrel of salt pork in one’s larder used to be a sound measure of good wealth, to the generous amount of fat on pork meat, both of which compare to the generous reserves of public cash that are administered for political purposes under pork-barrelling politics.

Whatever the origin, pork-barrelling is on the tip of many tongues right now, because Cllr. Joseph has spoken quite candidly on the reasons why he decided to join the group that has its hands on the levers of power. In the last issue but one of the Pembrokeshire Herald, Cllr. Joseph spilled all in an exclusive interview which led to some real revelations.

To paraphrase, Cllr. Joseph says he thinks he can get more done as a member of the ruling group, than as a member of Plaid Cymru. Phrases such as “get more done for the town” leave little room for journalistic twisting of Cllr. Joseph’s candid interview, in which he recounted what he feels are reasonable grounds to dump the party banner under which he got elected, and the expression of his regret for having stood as a Plaid Cymru councillor in the first place.

He also told the Milford Mercury: “I had to decide could I achieve more for Milford as an unaffiliated councillor or as a member of the ruling group, and to be honest it’s as a member of the ruling group,” before adding “It’s not a case of preferential treatment.”

As the author of that other website points out, if Cllr. Joseph believes he can get more for his Milford Central ward as a member of the ruling IPG than as a Plaid Cymru member, then it’s hard to understand how this could be achieved by anything other than ‘preferential treatment.’ This would mean that all non-ruling group councillors are at a severe disadvantage, and if such a culture existed, and could be proven, it would be unlawful.

But that’s only the half of the story. The other half concentrates on Cllr. Joseph’s vision for Milford, and the fact that, last month, Milford Haven was put forward by Pembrokeshire County Council on behalf of the outfit known as the ‘Pembrokeshire Business Panel,’ for a huge grant application under the Welsh Government’s ‘Vibrant and Viable Places’ grant scheme.

Only one town could be put forward by each of Wales’ 22 local authorities for a slice of regeneration funding. Competition is fierce, as every authority has applied. Pembrokeshire’s choice was Milford Haven, and the concepts underpinning its elaborate £20m regeneration include redeveloping the town centre into mixed-use accommodation (retail, leisure and residential,) a multi-storey car park, a piazza at the Torch Theatre, and a public transport interchange with a pedestrian route to the town centre.

It’s only an application for funding at this stage, with the decision expected to be made by Cardiff Bay before or during September, however even if Milford’s bid is unsuccessful, some councillors are miffed that this town was chosen ahead of others, and have been left wondering why this might have been the case.

Cllr. Joseph felt it necessary, perhaps in light of the Pembrokeshire Herald story, to tell his local rag, the Milford Mercury, that the choice of Milford as the sole town had nothing to do with his decision to join the IPG:

“But Cllr Joseph said that the £19,924,000 Vibrant and Viable Places grant had nothing to do with his decision.
He added: “That bid was made four weeks ago – long before I even considered joining the IPG group.”

The Western Telegraph has been noticeably mute on the topic – not a mention at all in last week’s copy, though a story has now been put up on their website, which uses re-hashed material from the Mercury, as well as some new information, and I would suggest it’s well worth a read to those interested:

http://www.westerntelegraph.co.uk/news/10621317.Milford_Haven_councillor_denies_political_motivation_behind_ruling_group_defection_/


Cllr. Jonathan Nutting (Pembroke St. Michael, unaffiliated) sent an email to all councillors on this topic, and posted the letter in full, as a comment on a previous article. It can be read by clicking this link.

Cllr. Jonathan Preston (Penally, Plaid Cymru) also wishes to state that he has sent an open email to all councillors expressing his grave concerns at recent reports. In the email, Cllr. Preston asks Cllr. Joseph to explain why he switched allegiance, and for Cllr. Jamie Adams to clarify what led to Cllr. Joseph joining his ruling group.


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38 Comments...

  • Concerned

    Can I assume that councillors have been kept in the dark by council officials on this major grant application?

  • That’s a tough one for me to answer, not representing a town, but as I understand, there has not been much councillor involvement, though I’d be quite happy to state if this was definitely not the case.

    Put it this way – councillors I have spoken to have criticised the lack of involvement of elected members.

    The Pembrokeshire Business Panel is, and I quote:

    “…a partnership of private, public and third sector organisations who work together to improve the economy of the County. It is chaired by Mr Ted Sangster.”

    I am told that the Welsh Government rules stipulate that this and other grant schemes have to be put forward by councils on behalf of ‘economic development partnerships.’ The PBP is a sub-group of the infamous Local Service Board, and it is the “economic development partnership.”

    I have tried to ascertain who is on this PBP, and none of those who attended the last meeting on behalf of PCC was a county councillor. For that matter, I didn’t notice the attendance or membership of any publicly-elected figures on the PBP.

  • Concerned

    Thank you for the reply. I guessed as much. Something needs to be done about the council officials making decisions without reference to councillors. Is it legal?

  • Quill

    If Steve Joseph’s defection was down to patronage and it leads to any repercussions they’ll have to recoin it “porker barrelling”.

  • Malcolm Calver

    The Pembrokeshire Business Panel is reported as being “a partnership of private, public and third sector organisations who work together to improve the economy of the County”. Can someone quantify how successful they have been to date and provide a list of the projects.

  • John Hudson

    Isn’t democracy wonderful?

  • Jonathan Nutting

    Mr. Sangster appears to be one of the most powerful individuals in Pembrokeshire. Read which boards etc. he is on. I would personally like to know his aims for the County. Maybe he would like to come out of the shadows and actually tell us what is going on?

  • Malcolm Calver

    I believe Mr Sangster was on the Milford Haven Port Authority, perhaps someone can confirm if he was or is still there and then perhaps we can compile a list of organizations/committees he is connected with.

  • I believe he was until a few years ago, the chief executive of the Port Authority. He is a member of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, and at this summer’s AGM became the vice chairman – a post which usually paves the way for the holder to become the authority’s chairman in due course.

  • Anon. has contacted me to say:

    Ted Sangster is everywhere. Now Vice Chair of Pembrokeshire National Park, also Saundersfoot Harbour Commissioners, with Philip Evans as Chair!!! Elected by nobody. Where else is he?

  • Quill

    The Welsh Government web site here (http://wales.gov.uk/topics/transport/public/ptuc/biogs/tsangster/?skip=1&lang=en) says:-

    “Ted has been a Council member, and Chairman of the British Ports Association, a member of the CBI Wales Council, and a number of Pembrokeshire bodies including the Regeneration Partnership.

    He is currently Chairman of Pembrokeshire Business Initiative, the Darwin Centre, and the Pembrokeshire Haven Business Group, a member of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, the Wales Valuation Tribunal, the British Waterways Advisory Group for Wales, the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Committee for Wales and a public member of Network Rail”.

    What appears to be his own Linked In profile also states:-

    Board Member at Haven Waterway Enterprise Zone Board
    Chairman at NRPSI (National Register of Public Service Interpreters)

    The heritage lottery fund web site also states that he was “Chairman of the Wales Spatial Plan”.

    https://www.hlf.org.uk/about-us/who-we-are/ted-sangster

  • Ianto

    I wonder what time commitment Mr Sangster is required to make to these various bodies, and what his total remuneration amounts to.

  • In response to Concerned above, I’m pretty sure that decisions such as this being taken by unaccountable boards/panels/formations is not illegal.

    Indeed, in this case, we’re told it was actually a Welsh Government requirement that the bid had to be made by the council on behalf of this PBP.

    Whilst the legality might not be in question, I do think a culture of back-patting and pissing in the same pot is unethical. Certain people gain impetus through memberships of such outfits, where one position nearly always seems to lead to another.

    From the public’s point of view they are making quite local decisions, for the public, with public money, and yet are completely unaccountable – directly or indirectly, without any reference to councillors, AMs, or MPs.

    Not only are they unaccountable, but we’re often talking about people who have never, and would never, put themselves before a ballot box.

  • Malcolm Calver

    So Mr Sangster has been connected to all these prestigious bodies without, I presume, standing for election anywhere.

    I presume he has been rewarded financially for his association with some of these organisations and I wonder how well rewarded. It would be interesting to know how he was selected for these positions and who put his name forward.

    I must admit I can only recollect seeing him once and that was at a Valuation Tribunal hearing, I do not believe he spoke on that occasion.

  • Jon Preston

    I’ve had no response as yet to my email that you mentioned at the end of the article. Interestingly, the Pembrokeshire Herald seem keen to cover this latest own goal by the IPPG.

    The people of this county deserve better. We must continue to expose this worrying undemocratic loophole in our local government.

  • Jonathan Nutting

    Have you noticed that the Western Telegraph article about Cllr. Joseph now has no comments? There were nine at one point. I had made a point which John Hudson had expanded upon. I then made some comments about the puppet masters at County Hall struggling to keep the troops in line. I finished my snipe with “Isn’t about time the WT started to undertake real journalism and stopped being an organ of the P.I.G group.”

    After that, all comments went and it looks like the WT is trying to bury the story. It’s off the front page headlines and there are no references to it on the “people also read” launcher at the bottom of each page, even though it is the second most read story. Curiouser and curiouser 🙂

    Maybe some of you would like to try and comment on the WT story to see what happens.

  • Jonathan Nutting

    Ah! Back up now, but censored. Well well, we are sensitive 🙂

  • Malcolm Calver

    I note with interest the concern Cllr Jonathan Preston shows for his former Plaid Cymru comrade Cllr Joseph, over his defection to the Independent Party. Perhaps Cllr Preston could inform us how long Cllr Joseph has been a Plaid Cymru member and what attempt has he made in trying to persuade him to come back into the fold?

    I would also ask is any financial aid given to Plaid Cymru members when they stand for election?

  • Jon Preston

    Hi Malcolm, I cannot speak for Cllr. Joseph on his election expenses or his membership with Plaid Cymru I can however tell you that I was aware of his vulnerability to persuasion by the IPPG which Jacob had picked up on earlier in the year. Unfortunately the temptation was all too much for him.

  • Quill

    Cllr Preston, thanks, that’s interesting.

    Something doesn’t seem to tally, Cllr Joseph told the Milford Mercury that the application for WG funding in his town pre dated not only his decision to join the IPG but his consideration of joining it too. This is what he said last week:-

    “That bid was made four weeks ago – long before I even considered joining the IPG group”.

    Yet what you suggest is your belief that Cllr Joseph had a vulnerability with regard to joining the IPG as far back as January this year when Jacob wrote the original article?

  • Dave Edwards

    To paraphrase Lord Coutney:- there are lies, damn lies and Pembrokeshire County Councillors (well some of them).

  • Jon Preston

    I had my doubts about his loyalty to Plaid Cymru mainly due to his lack of interest in party matters. I observed some cosy goings on with him and the IPPG leaders around the time of Jacob’s first ‘exclusive’. Cllr Joseph denied there was a possibility of him defecting so we gave him the benefit of the doubt.

    I think I knew it was all over when he supported an ex-Tory to sit on PCNPA when the other candidate, although now unaffiliated, has strong roots in Plaid Cymru. I wasn’t surprised by his decision to join the biggest gang. I will be surprised if he makes a second term.

  • Malcolm Calver

    So Cllr Preston had concerns regarding the loyalty of Cllr Joseph to Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales, earlier in the year, because of his lack of interest in party matters.

    Surely the duty of councillors is to the people of Pembrokeshire first and the party second, that surely is what is wrong with the Independent party.

    Cllr Preston states “we gave him the benefit of doubt”, so I assume by that under “duty of care” it involved a discussion with the leader of the Plaid Cymru on Pembrokeshire County Council, Cllr Michael Williams.

    My question relating to election expenses was in relation to the returning of any financial assistance given by the party for his election campaign.

    It was interesting to note that Cllr Preston and his Plaid Cymru colleagues only supported the other candidate for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park seat because of his “strong roots” in Plaid Cymru. I believe that candidate was Cllr Phil Baker.

  • Paul Absalom

    HA! Cllr Joseph should have been in Scotland at the comedy competition. He says he should never have joined a party (Plaid Cymru) in first place and then joins another party (IPPG PARTY). Oh I forgot, it’s not really a party just ‘like minded’ people trying to work together for the good of the county. Like hell!

    Do the IPPG party honestly believe that Pembrokeshire people believe they agree on every decision? Do they think we believe every one of the 29 councillors who voted for Cllr Adams’ expenses claim not to be looked into really agreed with the way they voted? They are all morally bankrupt.

  • Malcolm,

    I’m not aware of any “strong links” between Plaid Cymru and Cllr. Baker, however he did stand for council in 2004 as a Liberal Democrat candidate, so perhaps it was a slight mix-up on Cllr. Preston’s part?

    Cllr. Preston merely stated that it was a lack of interest in party matters that gave him doubts about Cllr. Joseph’s loyalty to the Plaid Cymru cause, and not that the Plaid Cymru cause was more important than the county or the people of Pembrokeshire.

  • Jon Preston

    Have a chat with him Jacob. It was mentioned in his proposal to the position on PCNPA which party he had roots in, but we digress!

    See what Malcolm did there? Clever!

    I checked Cllr. Joseph’s election expenses and he has declared none. I supported Cllr. Phil Baker because I thought, and still think, he was the best man for the job. But if we’re moving on to party matters, which party did you support in past general elections Malcolm? And did you share this with your electorate whilst you were an elected unaffiliated member?

  • Phil Baker

    Malcolm, Jon and Jacob, just a quick message to confirm that it was actually within the pen portrait I put together for my unsuccessful County Council Vice Chairmanship bid that I included my very limited political history.

    This included canvassing for Plaid Cymru in Merthyr Tydfil some 40 years ago. However as Jon mentioned this is far off what the county needs to concentrate on at present.

  • Malcolm Calver

    It is getting a little confusing, firstly Cllr Preston states that Cllr Baker has “strong roots” in Plaid Cymru and that is why the Plaid Cymru party on Pembrokeshire County Council supported him for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park vacancy, and then Cllr Baker comments on here indicating that he put a pen portrait together for his unsuccessful County Council Vice Chairmanship bid, not the PCNP vacancy.

    I do genuinely not understand Cllr Preston in his suggestion that I was being clever, when all I was doing was asking questions in relation to his statement on the defection of Cllr Joseph and the possible return of any financial assistance that Cllr Joseph might have received from Plaid Cymru to fight his election campaign.

    I note that Cllr Baker is suggesting that this is far from what the county needs but let us get all the facts straight. Anybody can make a remark such as “what the county needs to concentrate on” so perhaps Cllr Baker can enlighten us on his thoughts for the county and where the Independent Party, in partial control at County Hall, are going wrong.

  • Quill

    You’re hard to please Malcolm, Cllr Phil Baker is perfectly right to say this is not even an issue worth talking about when there’s failing education departments, planning cock-ups, huge pay cuts for loads of hard working staff, corruption of democracy, I could go on and Cllr Baker surely could too.

    Though I do admit I didn’t think you were being clever if that’s what Jon Preston meant…you were trying to ask whether Plaid Cymru paid for any of Steve’s 2012 election campaign material and if so whether he will be paying the money back only a year later as he has shafted them big time.

    Where’s Cllr Mike Williams? We know he reads this site because of the article Bend it like Beckham…come on, let’s hear from you! If you don’t want to speak about Cllr Joseph shafting you can you answer Malcolm and whether Plaid Cymru candidates are given any assistance and if so whether you or the party will politely ask for him to repay the contribution made to his election material and campaign?

    Funnily enough election literature is one of the things you’ll be able to guarantee will be taken care of for Steve Joseph as long as he’s a member of the IPG party!!! (See Partygate!)

    What we all want to know is will Anne Hughes be canvassing for Steve Joseph at the next election? It’s one of life’s big conundrums! Sums up the IPG perfectly!!!

  • Come the 2017 election, Milford Haven is slated to be home to one of Pembrokeshire’s four brand new two-member wards (Milford North-East though, not Milford Central) so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that there could be one ex IPG councillor pitted against an incumbent IPG councillor, and both could succeed in being elected to serve the same ward alongside each other!

  • Phil Baker

    Malcolm, apologies if I have confused the issue, my comment related to the county not needing to concentrate on my dim and distant canvassing history. I was not suggesting that the movement of Councillors during their term of office from one party to another was not worthy of discussion and debate.

  • Quill has hit the nail on the head.

    At the last election, the voters of Milford Haven Central ward rejected the IPG candidate Anne Hughes by quite a sizeable margin.

    Less than 18 months later, as a result of some typical backstairs dealing, they find themselves with an IPG councillor.

    So much for the will of the people!

  • Keanjo

    Quill lists the deficiencies of the County Council but he misses out what is probably the root cause of the problem, the cabinet system which enables a clever cabal to elect a leader, exercise financial patronage and disenfranchise almost half the members elected by the people of Pembrokeshire.

    Who will rid us of this troublesome system? Until that happens the problems in Pembrokeshire will persist.

  • John Hudson

    The Cabinet system would work, if:-

    – Elected Councillors honoured their ballot paper descriptions.

    – The system recognised the rights of unaligned non group councillors who in some respects are not treated as a group in the seats game. Is this a fault of the system or the way in which the PCC Leader operates it?

    – Cabinet members were responsible and accountable for their own portfolios, rather than shared collective responsibility.

    – Overview and scrutiny was more challenging as a means of providing more perspective and differing viewpoints in shaping policy.

    – Officers properly informed members.

    – Councillors took back some of the powers that they have delegated to officers to ensure that they control and direct officers.

    Perhaps it has failed Pembrokeshire because of the political make up of the county, where there is little opportunity for political County wide policy consensus pre election. Councillors are led to believe that they are there just to look after and promote their own patch, not as a member of a strategic county wide council.

    The Local Government Act provides for Councils to operate Area Committees, geographical areas represented by councillors, of what ever party/group residing in the area. This would at least enable areas of the county to develop plans for their own communities, rather than as now, a centrally led directive. This may be messy for officers to administer, (control?) but councillors would at least be working towards an agreed policy for their area/constituency.

    Competing area policies would have to be prioritised in full Council, where debate should happen and councillors held to account.

  • Malcolm Calver

    I note the point made by Keanjo. I wonder how many county councils in Wales operate the cabinet system and of those that do, how many are led by an independent party/group.

    I suppose there must be some in Wales led by a formal recognised party, do they operate in a more inclusive manner?

  • Dave Edwards

    Malcolm, there are 10 Labour councils, 10 coalitions of various sorts and 2 IPG (Pembs and Powys).

  • Keanjo

    I believe all the Welsh Councils adopted the Cabinet system which was imposed by Tony Bliar’s government, you remember Tony – he was famous for Weapons of Mass Destruction.

  • John Hudson

    Following the passing of the Local government Act 2000, all councils had to establish the cabinet system, safeguarded by overview and scrutiny arrangements.

    There are a number of detailed arrangements for each council to determine, so called local arrangements. These can be tailored to be open and transparent, or quite restrictive, as designed and advised by officers and approved by all councillors. Couple this with an officer cadre that has been found not to properly inform councillors so that they are unable to meet their statutory obligations, you end up with…

    Officers are duty bound to review the effectiveness of the Constitution. Despite many independent reports and reviews following the experiences of Councils and developing best practice, ours has never been changed, unless there were statutory requirements.

    Many hopeful reforming non-IPG councillors will verify that their proposals to improve matters have been turned down, mainly on the basis of officers’ reports to Corporate Governance Committee and recommendations to Council to oppose reform.

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