Jacob Williams
Thursday 28th November, 2013
Papa’s got a brand new PAG

Papa’s got a brand new PAG


Official papers were filed at County Hall yesterday to formalise the configuration of a new group on the council.

The Pembrokeshire Alliance Group has been set up by three councillors who were not members of any group. In order of length of service, they are: Cllrs. Peter Stock, Bob Kilmister, and Jonathan Nutting.

The revelation of this new formation, I’m bound to remind you, came courtesy of this website three weeks ago. It quickly drew contributions in the comments section from all three members, one of whom said I’d ‘jumped the gun a bit,’ though none made any denials.

Tomorrow afternoon outside County Hall the official launch will take place as the sun (hopefully) beats directly down on the heads of Councillors Kilmister, Nutting and Stock – a triumvirate which the author of that other website observes sounds like ‘a dodgy firm of solicitors’!

The mid-day photo opportunity, which will no doubt feature Cllr. Stock’s treasured Pembrokeshire flag, will mark the first time the council has had five groups since the Lib Dems perished in the mid 2000s.

The alliance has even gone to the bother of drawing up a sugar-coated manifesto (published below), and I challenge any member of the public to find anything within it which is disagreeable – excluding a small minority of my readers who would definitely have strong feelings over ‘Key Objective’ number six: “We want to see an end to the excessive pay of senior staff.”

On my first skim through it I was left with the impression that PAG’s got high ambitions. In particular it was the part that states:

“All cabinet members will present to the relevant scrutiny committee draft copies of their policy objectives on an annual basis. This will allow proper scrutiny to take place.”

At first I thought that this was a condition for any of the group’s cabinet members to abide by, should they reach such heady heights. This would be quite some feat, especially with just the three members, but I’ve now concluded that the group does know its place, and this is one of the group’s overall desires to bring pressure to change the current way of doing things, along with:

“To eliminate patronage, we believe that Councillors should apply for all posts of responsibility in writing, explaining what they want to achieve. We want to see the most able and committed people filling these roles not the most loyal.”

Not that the group formed to improve its chances in the SRA stakes, of course, but such matters can’t be overlooked.

A membership of three entitles PAG to a seat on the national park, that’s small fry compared to the equal 50% claim it now has to the £9k per annum scrutiny committee chairmanship that is currently held solely by the three-man Tory group’s Cllr. David Bryan.

With such a lucrative post in the balance, who knows how the matter will be resolved – maybe the Pembrokeshire Alliance and the Tories will come to a gentleman’s agreement to chair every other meeting, or alternating stints.

This would all be academic if the alliance could get a fourth member to join, where (ruling out any other changes) PAG’s claim to the scrutiny committee chairmanship would be 100%.

With this knowledge in mind, the Pembrokeshire Alliance might not struggle as much as some would think to find a fourth member. And with icy weather forecast this winter, conditions might be just right to support a snowball effect.

Pembrokeshire Alliance Group Manifesto

(If the file doesn’t display below, you can view and/or download it by clicking here.)

Pembrokeshire Alliance launchPAG launch with flag goes without snag

I’m told that the group’s launch on Friday went well, and have been sent the following photo of the PAG members – still just the three of them. For now.

There’s not long to go until the December 12th full council meeting, which will be the day of many firsts.

PAG’s first meeting, the first time there have been five groups in years, and it will be the first to be filmed, according to the site from which meetings will be streamed live.

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  • Barney

    Good luck to this lot, they have at least set something out in writing which is much more than the IPG has ever done, where everything is done with a nod and a wink.

    PAG can be held to this document and I am sure they will stick to it, possibly they will even do what the cabinet is now doing and ask the public what suggestions they have for shaping their own policy as well as council policy?

    I see the manifesto includes that PAG intends to run candidates as PAG candidates in elections…which is much more than can be said for the IPG whose members deny its existence come election time, despite a mass of evidence courtesy of friendly moles and Jacob’s and Grumpy’s websites which proves everything you need to know about them.

    Let’s wish this alternative well and hope that it will bring down the IPG!!

  • John Hudson

    They say they want “to delegate more decision making power from the current Cabinet System to a larger number of Councillors”.

    In a council made up of mostly “independently” minded councillors this intention can only be applauded. This can only be achieved by redrafting the existing Constitution that is designed to centralise power and authority to a hand picked Cabinet and a system of delegation to chief officers. This will mean more individual councillors voting and doing more work with a bigger say in what happens.

    Interesting times. I hope that they get full support to change things, somebody has got to do something after a catalogue of failures.

  • Keanjo

    Unfortunately they intend to maintain the Cabinet system which is the root of existing problems. Interesting though – how many IPIGs will join the PAGs?

  • Malcolm Calver

    With no real cuts made yet and the likely reduction in the number of county councils by the Welsh Assembly, I wonder if the group has made any contact with county councillors from the two neighbouring counties.

    Councillors will have to start cutting the cost of local government and on this note it would be interesting to see what services presently being carried out by Pembrokeshire County Council these councillors propose cutting.

  • John Hudson

    I think that a change from the Leader/Cabinet system can only be achieved by us following a referendum to see if we want to change.

    Councillors can change the Council’s Constitution/rules about how the Leader/Cabinet system operates.

    I doubt whether any proposed changes would find favour with IPG.

  • Dave Edwards

    At least none of the PAGs was involved in the infamous Senior Staff Committee ‘Pensions Arrangements’ decision. It is very interesting to see the different reaction to the warning letters sent out by the Auditor on this matter.

    In Carmarthenshire it was referred to in a public meeting (when officers and councillors involved said they were frightened by the tone of the WAO strictures) in Pembrokeshire we have had total silence to the extent that apart from a confidential email to all councillors, no comment has been allowed out of the Kremlin.

    Those in receipt of the letter and the Confidential Consideration Document (for comment as to its accuracy) are Bryn Parry-Jones, Mark Lewis and the members of the committee at the time.

    We await the Public Interest Report.

  • I wouldn’t want to sound negative about PAG, but in my native Cumberland (now Cumbria) we have a word ‘paggered’ which means tired, exhausted, knackered.

    Though it was never mentioned in front of us children, I have a sneaking feeling it denoted the sort of weariness brought on by over-vigorous indulgence in bedroom activity.

    Most people will be familiar with a common Anglo Saxon term that means much the same thing.

    I hope this isn’t an omen.

  • Roy McGurn

    As a distant observer and former resident of Pembs, this has to be a positive step. However, austere times lie ahead and many of the “efficiencies” practised by the authority in “good times”, effectively passing costs onto the community councils and the general public are unlikely to be acceptable if open and scrupulous governance is to be achieved.

    These “efficiencies” have made the council tax nearly £300 less than the assessed standard set in Cardiff, and this is before real efficiencies are made in the next settlement.

  • Chas.

    If ALL interests and memberships are declared by members of the new party, so nothing is hidden, then it might just turn out to be an honest and transparent new start to the murky and nepotistic way PCC is run.

  • Jonathan Nutting

    My father was a proud Cumbrian. His father was a strong union man when it was not sensible to be so. He was a boiler maker and worked in the iron works. My father was a miner in Yorkshire before he went into teaching. We stand four square behind what we say.

    I understand cynicism. I have many reasons to be cynical. Once in a while we have to try, otherwise those who don’t deserve our trust become powerful. As my father would say ‘think on.’ I have decided to ‘put up.’ Pity a few more don’t get out of their trenches…or from behind their pens!

  • John

    I would like to ask Jacob, Mike or any other Councillors on here if they will be joining this new group, and if not, why not?

  • John,

    It seems to me that there are only two respectable reasons for joining a political party or group.

    First, because the members share a common political ideology which can best be promoted by collective action. This will inevitably require members to vote for things they don’t agree with in the name of party unity.

    The second, which applies particularly to local government, is to circumvent the political balance rules that put unaffiliated members at a disadvantage.

    For instance, prior to the formation of PAG there were two unallocated seats on the National Park committee which, by default, were the property of the unaffiliated members. One of those seats now belongs to PAG as of right (number of members (3) x number of seats on NP (12) divided by the number of members of PCC (60) i.e. 36/60 which is > 0.5 which rounds up to one) reducing the seats filled by unaffiliated members to one.

    If another three-member group were to be formed, the seven remaining unaffiliated members would have no seat at all.

    For myself, I am most uncomfortable with the idea of having to toe the party line. Of course these political groups claim that nobody is ever told how to vote, but, if that is really the case, you have to ask what can the group achieve that can’t be achieved by its members acting individually.

    And the main reason for my reluctance to join a political group is that my election address contained a firm promise that I wouldn’t.

  • I won’t be joining. I am independent.

  • John


    Thanks for your reply and also Jacob’s brief post. I can fully understand your main reasoning re promises made to your electorate and also fully understand the reluctance to join a party/group as of course sooner or later something will come along that lead to disagreements, that is one reason why I have never joined a political party as all seem to have something that someone is not in full agreement with!

    I think we can all agree that the IPG is totally discredited and needs to be replaced, the question then is how is that going to happen.

    As I understand it, and I stand to be corrected, the independent ‘group’ (or call it what you will) was initially formed by Councillors to take control of the Council. And since then they have held controlling balance. The question then is how do we get to a better place?

    Is this new group that promises that posts will be genuinely advertised for the best candidates and that no one will be forced to ‘toe the party line’ with no whips for voting a better option than we have got now?

    There is also a manifesto on offer that can be added to or discussed so that the electorate can see what is on offer, rather than have an independent candidate that promises ‘to do the best for my town/Pembrokeshire’ etc, (this of course with all due respect to yourself as your record speaks for itself to your electorate).

    If for example following an election we end up with a majority of Independent Councillors not affiliated to any group or party, there is then a need for a council to be formed, leader elected, policies agreed, posts to be filled etc etc. I’m curious to know what would happen in that scenario?

    Is it not better to have a scenario where we have a new group, (breath of fresh air), with a clean slate, to build for the future?

  • Michael Williams

    I thought Councillor Kilmister was elected as a Lib Dem?

    Obviously a highly principled person, or a typical Lib Dem? Remember their election promises? Student fees and many others, all dumped when the chance to get into bed with the most reactionary right wing Tory Government in living memory.

    So much for principles. It almost makes one wish for the return of Dyfed.

  • Dave Edwards

    John, the illegitimate birth of the IPG has been well chronicled by Mike and myself over the years, but it, nevertheless, bears repeating.

    When PCC was reformed in 1995, thirteen, out of sixty members, including myself, were elected having stood under the Labour Party banner. The then leader of the Masonic faction (eighteen in all) Eric Harries, persuaded the brethren and others that somehow, if they did not band together, Labour would control the council.

    How, as a teacher, he could work this out I have no idea; but then, the relationship of councillors who were teachers and the truth has a shaky track record on PCC.

    Whilst the masonic element on PCC has diminished the “Labour in control” argument, still spurious, is alive and well in the IPPG.

  • Barrie Woolmer

    Democracy went when the Labour government introduced and recommended all councils to set up leader/cabinet system.

    The leader should be a Chairman elected from 60 Councillors. Committees would be formed by the full council. All Councillors should have the opportunity to speak on any resolution put to committee or council.

    As non political members are in the majority, a council could be formed that was democratic and worked for Pembrokeshire and not their pockets.

  • Keanjo

    Barrie, I’m glad to read that post because those are precisely my thoughts. Jacob posted an interesting article on this matter a few months ago and it was disappointing that more people didn’t comment.

    Democracy will only return to the CC when this system of patronage is scrapped.

  • Cllr Jamie Adams’ speech to potential IPG recruits, together with my comments, can be read on my old website at this link.

    It is littered with half-truths such as the claim that, absent the IPG, Labour as the biggest group on the council with nine members, would take control. The arithmetic behind this assertion has never been explained.

    The result, I’m afraid, is that the council is now controlled by a clique that is entirely held together by patronage in the form of some £200,000 of taxpayer-funded Special Responsibility Allowances that the Leader has at his disposal.

    Your money used to trash your democracy!

  • Malcolm Calver

    I read the comments of Michael Williams and David Edwards with interest, especially that we have the most right wing reactionary government in living memory.

    Whilst not being a supporter of coalition politics you would surely have to admit that Labour left us nearly bankrupt as a country (no money left in the pot) and with an education system that failed our youth. They are about to repeat the failures in education again with many worthless apprenticeship schemes.

    Pembrokeshire County Council has been holding drop in sessions around the county for the last month to hear the public’s views on how savings could be made. I wonder how many members of the public bothered to attend but equally as important, how many opposition councillors attended to gauge public opinion.

  • Bob Kilmister

    In reply to Cllr Michael Williams’ comment, I will quote from our document “It has been easy to view all politics within Pembrokeshire with a destructive mind set”, it would appear Cllr Williams proposes to continue with that model.

    Could I ask him to send Jacob a copy of Plaid Cymru’s vision for Pembrokeshire so he can publish it and allow readers to compare it with ours?

    In our document we wrote “Councillors and supporters are permitted to be members of political parties providing they make their status clear at all times”.

    I make my position very clear – I have been a Liberal member since 1980 and it is my intention to remain one. Being in coalition is extremely difficult and I do not personally support all the actions this government has taken.

    I doubt Cllr Williams is particularly proud of some of the decisions taken by the Labour/Plaid Cymru “One Wales” coalition in Cardiff either between 2007-2011. I think he should stop playing party politics because most people are fed up with that way of conducting matters.

    As for Dyfed, my group opposes a return to this failed model of local government and we want to see Pembrokeshire remain but governed in a proper manner.

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