Jacob Williams
Monday 23rd December, 2013

The Golden DonQui Award 2013 nominees

The Golden DonQui Award 2013 nominees

Cllr. David Pugh’s now-infamous rant at the December full council meeting has attracted a slew of comments on this website. In his tirade towards Cllr. Mike Stoddart, Cllr. Pugh called him either incompetent or a liar, over the accusations he has made and discrepancies he has highlighted in the awarding of public money in Pembroke Dock through the building restoration grant schemes.

Cllr. Pugh likened Cllr. Stoddart to ‘Don Quixote,’ and reminded councillors and the public watching from the gallery and online, that Don Quixote’s “…madness drove him to see enemies in everyone, and ended up tilting at windmills.”

He also said of Cllr. Stoddart, that: “getting at the truth is apparently not on his agenda.” As we all now know, Cllr. Stoddart must’ve taken this as a cue to investigate the veracity of not only the grant schemes, but the defence of them – and it’s a good job he did, because Cllr. Pugh’s pre-written spiel addressed the discrepancy he had highlighted on his website in the square meterage of wall covering at number 25 Dimond Street. Cllr. Stoddart’s calculations claimed that the figure quoted in grant documentation over-measured the area by as much as six times the actual amount. Cllr. Pugh took great delight in theatrically ‘revealing’ that Cllr. Stoddart’s calculations had forgotten to take into account a side-elevation that Cllr. Pugh had seen with his very own eyes.

It has now been demonstrated by Cllr. Stoddart (see here) and accepted by Cllr. Pugh (see here and here) that this ‘side elevation’ was actually a figment of Cllr. Pugh’s imagination. In a somewhat unusual apology, copied to all councillors, Cllr. Pugh takes ‘full responsibility’ for the ‘genuine error’ and offers an ‘unreserved apology for the remarks’ he made ‘regarding the rendering of no 25 Dimond street.’

There is a sting in the tail, however, because this ‘unreserved apology’ is anything but – it’s more of a ‘conditional unreserved apology’ – as Cllr. Pugh signs off the email by asking Cllr. Stoddart to accept and ‘put on record that most of your allegations regarding these grant schemes have proved to be without foundation and incorrect.’

Fat chance! This, you’ll surely agree, is a far better joke than anything you’ll find inside a Christmas cracker over the coming days?

It spurred a comment on my website from Paul Absalom. Taking into account the poor way Cllr. Pugh conducted himself at the council meeting, his outrageous comments directed towards Cllr. Stoddart, and then his humbling comedown when it came to the ‘facts,’ Paul Absalom suggests that, following the back-firing ‘Don Quixote’ gag: “I bet Cllr Pugh feels like a right ‘Don Qui’ now.”

“This is to make an ass of me; to fright me, if they could.”
— Motto of the Golden DonQui Award

And so, the idea of the Golden DonQui Award was born. In early January last year, you may remember that the author of that other website revived his New Year Honour list, the OGREs (Old Grumpy Rewards for Excellence.) The OGREs are awarded in a plethora of ever-changing categories, and are chosen by Old Grumpy himself. I was awarded the Alastair Campbell Medal for shameless publicity-seeking (excluding cabinet members.)

The Golden DonQui award is going to be very different. For a start, there’s just one category – the eponymous Golden DonQui. All of the nominees below are the shortlisted candidates for this inaugural award, only one of which will claim the top spot.

The biggest difference is that this award is totally in your hands, because the winner will be chosen by you, by voting at the bottom of this article. Popular vote will decide the lucky recipient, which will be announced in the New Year. Pembrokeshire’s two county-wide newspapers have each earned their place in the shortlist, along with a trio of the county council’s cabinet members, among others.

The Golden DonQui award is simple, and, if you haven’t quite latched onto the idea, its motto, from William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, might assist: “This is to make an ass of me; to fright me, if they could.”

Golden DonQui Award

The 2013 nominees.

Cllr. David Pugh

For valiantly relying on the efforts of others*, in the face of (a losing) battle.

The introduction of Cllr. Pugh’s nomination needs little further than has already been said. Sticking to his pre-prepared speech, at the December full council meeting, he laid down the insults to Cllr. Mike Stoddart thick and fast. You can watch it back online. Among other things, he claimed that Cllr. Stoddart’s allegations and concerns over the probity of the distribution of public cash splashed over a number of Pembroke Dock properties were inaccurate and misleading. Whilst it is true that councillors have to have a thick skin, and to put up with robust debate, the trouble for Cllr. Pugh was that the only thing that was inaccurate and misleading was his eyebrow-raising spiel. Even if he doesn’t win the Golden DonQui award, he’ll be inextricably linked to it, and surely regrets the ‘Don Quixote’ prank.

*I’m assuming that Cllr. Pugh’s pre-scripted speech was written or approved by A. N. Other – if it wasn’t, then I will offer Cllr. Pugh an ‘unreserved apology’ – as long as he accepts that ‘most’ of the rest is ‘well-founded and correct!’

Cllr. Jamie Adams

For furthering research into selective amnesia.

In a rare and brilliant scoop for the author of that other website, in the summer, Old Grumpy uncovered what he called some ‘rather unorthodox’ expenses claiming practice by the council leader, Cllr. Jamie Adams. Within less than a fortnight after the close of nominations for the 2012 county council election, when he knew he was not opposed and his council seat was safely in the bag, Cllr. Adams submitted – and was paid for – historic travelling expenses claims stretching back four years amounting to £4,649.

Had Cllr. Adams been opposed in the election, anybody wishing to check his expenses claims would have deduced that, over the previous term, for a busy cabinet member, his out-of-pocket expense claims were extremely modest to non-existent. They would never imagine it possible for him to be able to trouser the cash four years after spending it.

There is also a council-imposed 3 month time-limit, which is clearly stipulated on expense claim forms, which, apparently, can be, and was, ignored or over-ruled by the Director of Finance who approved them. Cllr. Adams was approached by the Western Telegraph and dismissed the matter by saying: “It’s poor bookkeeping on my behalf. I got out of the habit of claiming and it’s my fault entirely. The chance came at the end of the council term to reflect on a number of things and update everything ready for the next term of council.”

After digging further, Old Grumpy discovered another sharp rise in Cllr. Adams’ expenses claims in 2008 – the year of the previous election. Much like Cllr. Pugh, Cllr. Adams doesn’t need to win the award to go down in history as the ‘man who claimed four years’ worth of backdated travelling expense claims.’

Cllr. Huw George

For devising a sustainable ‘cashback’ economic theory of taxation.

At the end of September, Cllr. Huw George explained to a BBC Radio Wales reporter his understanding of the ongoing controversy over Pembrokeshire County Council’s senior officer pension payment ‘arrangement.’ The behind-closed doors meeting at which this ‘arrangement’ was approved by a panel of six senior councillors, was held in the Chief Executive’s office. The minutes of this gathering record that it was introduced as a way of allowing the highest paid council officers the option to avoid ‘substantial tax liability’ on their pension contribution payments, by receiving the payments as lump sums.

Cllr. George’s understanding of this arrangement, which you can listen to again here, is that, despite allowing the highest paid officers to avoid tax, this is not to the detriment of the tax man, because: ‘the tax man gains in each and every way.’

Gordon Brown laughably claimed that the days of boom and bust were over, and he was proven wrong. He was rewarded with losing the 2010 General Election. Cllr. Huw George’s financial mechanism – which allows for lower tax levies and greater income to the treasury – has yet to be proven or disproven; but that doesn’t mean you can’t still reward him with the 2013 Golden DonQui.

The Western Telegraph

For endeavouring to encapsulate public sentiment in local journalism.

At the start of the summer, the Western Telegraph ran a puff piece on PCC leader Cllr. Jamie Adams, off the back of an exclusive interview it had been granted. It was dressed up as a profile of a great statesman, but failed to touch on the questions members of the public would’ve asked him, given half a chance. The piece was way off the mark, and, to give an idea of its content, at one point it referred to our man from Camrose as “…the popular Independent Plus Group councillor.”

As if the WT’s nauseating profile of our dear leader wasn’t bad enough, the following week’s newspaper contained a second steaming dollop of sugar-coated effluent. It was even longer, but given lower prominence, and wasn’t quite as bad as the first, but it still failed to register on the scale of public sentiment, and catered for an audience I’m not convinced exists anywhere in Pembrokeshire but the confines of the IPG secret pre-meetings in County Hall.

The author of that other website described the profiles in ‘the newspaper that fights for Pembrokeshire’ as: “…a bit like reading Pravda in the days before the fall of the Soviet Union” – and the two articles, as I noted at the time, were also met with severe criticism in the comments section of the WT website.

The Pembrokeshire Herald

For raising the awareness and profile of Pembrokeshire among the wider world.

I can’t think of anything in 2013 that brought more attention to Pembrokeshire than the Pembrokeshire Herald’s infamous lewd advert.

In only its third edition, the brand new newspaper inadvertently created one of the most widely-shared truly viral stories of 2013, by the unexplained addition of just three extra words to a Rent-A-Car advert. Those three words advertised services of a sexual nature, an embarrassment which the rental company appeared to take in good faith – reassuring the public that this was, in fact, not a service its clients could expect from the Milford Haven branch – or any other, for that matter.

It spread like wild fire thanks to Twitter, Facebook, rolling television news channels and websites too numerous to mention. It wasn’t confined to the UK, either, it took the American mass-media by storm. For a change, it wasn’t our plethora of glorious sandy beaches that put Pembrokeshire on the world stage, but an advertisement cock-up, if you’ll excuse the pun.

Cllr. Stephen Joseph

For humanitarian efforts to prevent the extinction of pork-barrel politics.

Milford Haven councillor, Stephen Joseph, was one of the two new Plaid Cymru councillors in the 2012 intake, having ousted a serving cabinet member in what was arguably the biggest upset of the election. Barely a year later, despite having displaced one of their leading lights, he could resist the attraction of the ruling party no longer, and crossed the floor to join the IPPG.

This decision attracted a lot of criticism and scrutiny, which culminated in Cllr. Joseph’s explanation that he felt he would be able to ‘get more done’ for his home town as a member of the ruling party. He 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 carefully adding that, his membership of the ruling party and his expectations of getting more done for the town is “not a case of preferential treatment.”

The unlikely marriage of these irreconcilable statements, given to the same reporter in the same interview, has landed Cllr. Joseph a Golden DonQui nomination.

Cllr. Arwyn Williams

For services to free and unfettered political debate.

Quite simply, it’s not been a good year for open and free debate in the Pembrokeshire County Council chamber. Not that the council chamber is the be-all-and-end-all to Pembrokeshire life, but, as the presiding chairman, it is Cllr. Williams’ duty to ensure fairness and order in whatever goes on in this wood-panelled bear pit.

Cutting dead debate, shouting, disallowing questions, preventing councillors from speaking, using the gavel at nearly any opportunity, Cllr. Arwyn Williams’ time so far as council chairman has been a disappointment. Following the July full council meeting he was reprimanded in a letter arranged by Cllr. David Bryan sent to the local press, which was co-signed by numerous others – myself included. It doesn’t appear to have had much effect.

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  • Raymond Stoddart

    Made the rest look like donkeys.

  • Keanjo

    If the DonQui was wooden, I would have voted for someone else but since it is golden I have voted for the leading contender.

  • Les

    After OG’s piece today I think you should include Clr Summons for his dismal performance which appears to have been a gift to the great man. He appears to have unlocked another thread in this sorry tale about preferential treatment to certain councillors. You honestly couldn’t make it up. I think he should be included for his contribution to forensic questioning (Not!)

  • Jonathan Nutting

    This vote is unfair!!! I want to vote for more than one 🙁 Can’t we at least score them from 1 to 7?

    I would like to see:-

    ‘Uriah Heep Award’ for best party line voter (dead heat at moment with over 20 contenders – thank god for Reg et. al.)

    ‘Titanic Award’ for the most tenacious member of the ruling party. The one who is hanging on the best, even though the IPPG ship is badly holed and listing. Side bets could be taken on the actual date of its demise.

    Finally the ‘Golden Foot in Gob’ for the most excruciatingly poor piece of puerile verbosity. A hard fought category in a year punctuated with excellence in several areas by a number of contestants. I may even figure in this list myself with my thoughts on the Cleddau Bridge 🙂

    Anyone else got any suggestions for speciality awards of their own? 😉

  • Keanjo

    Would it be ungenerous to wish the Cabinet a ‘scary Christmas and a crappy New Year’? What do you think?

  • On Saturday, Old Grumpy put up a blog post saying he’s got some more gossip to spill on Cllr. Pugh, but that he’s going to wait until after Christmas is out of the way first, or, as he put it: “I have further information that will discomfit Cllr Pugh, but, being a compassionate soul, I will let him enjoy his turkey and Christmas pudding before revealing it to the world.”

    I don’t think I know what this new revelation is, Keanjo, but maybe it will turn out to be the ‘genie’ that grants your wicked wish!

  • Concerned

    I voted for our Jamie, as leader of this shower of s#!t. Mind you it was very close and there are other contenders not mentioned.

    Merry Xmas all.

  • A Brock

    It’s like “Highlander”: there can be only one!

    I urge voters to concentrate on sustained form over an extended period of time…that doesn’t narrow it down too much, mind you: but any one of Jamie, Huw, or their newsletter would be worthy winners.

  • Paul Absalom

    It was a difficult choice, but Jamie must get it for claiming over £4,000 and then telling Pembrokeshire people we are all in this together.

  • Wayne

    You’re going to need more than one award!! What about a separate “creaming it” award?

  • Keanjo

    If in doubt vote for the one who ‘pulls the strings’.

  • Dave Edwards

    Unfortunately, no senior officer is on the list.

  • Richie S.

    A big WELL DONE Jacob, to both yourself and OG for all of your efforts throughout the year. Without the two of you, the ordinary person in the street would have no idea, and certainly couldn’t begin to contemplate the shady shenanigans that go on in the Kremlin!

    It would be nice to think that certain individuals will get their just deserts.

    Thanks again for all your efforts, keep up the good work in 2014.

  • You could have included ex-Cllr David Wildman in the list of runners.

    After all, he showed tremendous loyalty to the IPPG cause when he admitted to the Ombudsman that he had unlawfully used council computers to generate election material on behalf of the party in both 2008 and 2012 (see Jacob’s ‘Partygate files’).

    That Wildman “took one for the team”, even though a cursory examination of the files shows that he wasn’t the main culprit, amply demonstrates why he came to be known as the yes-man’s, yes-man.

  • Wayne

    Time for Cllr Pugh or his Spin Doctor to be struck off!

  • Ian Thomas

    Speaking to various people about the reports of potential over payment of monies on grant work carried out. If there has been then the people who carry out the signing off on grant work and the people who receive the money should be reported to the police to investigate if any crime has been committed.

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