Jacob Williams
Wednesday 8th January, 2014

Call for extraordinary council meeting to reconsider ‘tainted’ decision

Call for extraordinary council meeting to reconsider ‘tainted’ decision

It appears that the controversy over the vote taken at full council on 12th December to deny councillors access to the Pembroke Dock grant scheme documentation is ramping up a gear.

The main argument put up against revealing the documents all started to unravel in the days following the meeting, after it was discovered that the sexed-up speech given by Cllr. David Pugh, the cabinet’s frontman, rated pretty highly on the bogus scale.

His award-winning performance was scripted in a way to encourage councillors to vote against the motion which would have allowed the documentation to be made available to councillors on a confidential basis, and with the ‘commercially sensitive’ data redacted.

Cllr. Pugh argued, chiefly, that any suspicions raised over the Pembroke Dock properties apportioned public cash through restoration grant schemes, and doubts over the probity of the grant scheme administration, were baseless.

The author of that other website, Cllr. Mike Stoddart, who tabled the original motion, has today sent an email to all councillors. He says:

“I am rather concerned that the decision taken by full council on December 12 regarding my Notice of Motion calling for the release of information on property grants in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock was based on false information.”

“As most of you will know, Cllr David Pugh has now admitted that what he told that meeting about “a third side elevation” at No 25 Dimond Street Pembroke Dock was false, and he has issued an apology for accusing me of either telling a “deliberate untruth” or “incompetence” through not checking my facts.”

His email continues to say that this, taken by itself, would be enough to “taint the decision” that was made to deny councillors access to the grant documentation. However, having gone through Cllr. Pugh’s speech with a fine-toothed comb, he subsequently re-inspected number 29 Dimond Street, the location of the Paul Sartori charity shop, to check up on some of the remarks Cllr. Pugh made about the building.

Cllr. Stoddart has typed up a transcript from the webcast of Cllr. Pugh’s speech, which can be accessed at this link:

http://oldgrumpy.co.uk/archived/Pugh%20speech.html

Alongside the transcript he has also highlighted what he calls “some of the more egregious inaccuracies” made by Cllr. Pugh in his speech.

For instance, Cllr. Pugh claimed that the majority of the floorspace at number 29 Dimond Street was at the back of the shop, i.e. the shop floor accessible to customers amounted to a minority of the shop’s total floorspace. The webcast (and transcript) records his words exactly as he said them:

“The £21,000 grant for retail space included work such as asbestos removal, insulation, electrical work and work to renovate the walls and floors.

But, as you know, this is a charity shop and most of the retail space is taken up with space that has been used for storage and cleaning of clothes and so on.

If he’d bothered to check, he would see that the main work done in that retail space by bringing a semi-derelict building back into use and is not just the front shop. The bulk of that work was done to the rear and was completed satisfactorily.”

This revelation was supposed to discredit Cllr. Stoddart’s observations that, upon visiting the charity shop, there was little evidence of such high expenditure (£53,000) being splashed on number 29’s retail space. Much like his phantom claim of a ‘third side elevation’ two doors along at number 25, it appears that Cllr. Pugh’s claim about the proportion of shop floor space is based upon nonsense. Such nonsense, it would seem, that a simple sum can be used to demonstrate the matter quite succinctly.

Cllr. Stoddart explains on his website: “What Cllr Pugh describes as “most of the retail space” consists of a small partitioned-off area measuring roughly 2.5m x 2.5m – 7 sq metres in all – which makes up less than 15% of the 50 sq metre retail space.”

Further, his post says that the only mention in the original tender of asbestos removal which Cllr. Pugh used to defend the scheme related to ‘outbuildings to the rear of the property’ which didn’t qualify for public grant money.

29 Dimond Street

Paul Sartori Charity Shop, 29 Dimond Street

Do you have confidence in the decision that was made by full council to deny councillors access to the grant scheme information? Do you think Cllr. Pugh’s fictitious ‘arguments’ undermine the basis of the decision taken by the majority of councillors?

You might think so, and so does Cllr. Stoddart, because he hopes for councillors to reconsider the matter at an extraordinary meeting. His intention is for the matter to be debated ‘in light of the actual facts, as opposed to Cllr Pugh’s flawed testimony.’

As well as re-explaining the expenditure on works at number 29, it should also provide Cllr. Pugh a second chance to account for the apparent over-calculation of exterior wall space for painting and re-rendering at number 25.

After all, he claimed that the figures were not over-estimated because they included a side elevation. Now that we know – and he has acknowledged – this elevation doesn’t exist, and couldn’t possibly account for any alleged over-measurement, we’re back to square one – and this discrepancy, of course, remains unexplained.

The council’s constitution prohibits a vote from being revisited within six months, but this can be overridden with the signatures of fifteen councillors – a quarter of the authority’s membership – which I understand has already received more than sufficient support, though how many of the signatures will come from ruling group members in receipt of an SRA, remains to be seen.


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89 Comments...

  • Les

    This has got to be a resigning issue. If Clr Pugh had any sense he would walk just to reduce the temperature. He just does not have any credibility in this.

  • Sealight

    My flabber is gasted! This debate must be reconvened and a new vote taken. The names of those supporting the “override” request should be available to the public so that we may deduce who did not support such a request.

    I should expect all non-IPPG Councillors to sign as a matter of service to ALL the voters of Pembrokeshire. IPPG Councillors who do not sign should reflect upon their motive and fitness to serve their constituents.

    However, common sense and justice do not flow through the corridors of the “Kremlin on the Cleddau”. What can be done if this debate is not reconvened?

  • Keanjo

    This meeting is necessary because the County Council were misled by erroneous statements by Councillor Pugh. The cost in Councillors’ expenses and officers’ time will be considerable and I would suggest that they should be met by Councillor Pugh.

  • Jon Coles

    I am sure this is the old pharmacy: I think I recognise the racking for the shelves on the wall from years ago, when I used to change my prescriptions there!

  • Goldingsboy

    The cancer within the council has become far too acute for in-house physicians. We need, therefore, to look for professional help from much further afield. As many of you as possible should write to the Wales Audit Office if you really want this matter properly investigated.

  • Hi Sealight – if you want to see the voting record on this matter when it was debated at December full council, you can do so at this article on my website.

    The list of councillors, and the way they voted, is included at the bottom of the article just before the comments section.

  • John Hudson

    Whilst this investigation is of some continuing concern and importance it is unlikely to be settled in the near future. I would suggest that a more immediate concern is the Council’s draft budget proposals due to be considered by Cabinet on Monday followed by a round of usually ineffective Scrutiny Committee meetings, which normally result in no changes to draft budget proposals.

    We long suffering “milk cows” are to be asked to pay for this Council through a system of direct charges for services levied on us, as individuals, regardless of our ability to pay them, and of course, the Council tax levied on all, which is estimated at some £40.5m in 2014/15. There is no explanation of the amount to be sought from direct charges.

    The proposed cost reductions in respect of direct service changes (Appendix D) amount £4.6m. Included are a number of proposals involving reviews of charges i.e. increased income to the council but additional costs to us, if we use or can afford to use them.

    Is it too much to expect or hope that councillors will engage in an open public debate about the balance to be struck between direct charges and Council tax? Perhaps this has already happened in the 2 secret Members-only budget seminars, but there is no public record of these.

    I would tentatively suggest that additional income, to be realised through normal inflationary increases in fees and charges during 2014/15, has possibly not been included in the 2014/15 budget proposals.

    The 2013/14 adjusted budget shows total estimated income from services as £106,516,000 (excluding Housing Revenue Account income), whereas the equivalent revised estimate of income is £112,283,000, an unexplained income increase of £5,767,000. How has this arisen? No explanation is given in the budget documentation.

    Total budgeted Service income (excluding HRA) for 2014/15 is estimated at £109,786,000, LESS than the revised estimated income of £112,283,000 for 2013/14. No explanation is given in the budget documentation.

    The Council’s budget focuses attention on the Council’s net budget requirement to be met by Council Tax, that is after we pay fees and direct charges for services. Cabinet does not concern itself with any consideration of the total amounts we have to finance from both direct service charges and council tax.

    It seems that “the Council” is regarded as an entity in itself and we, or our pockets, are of little or no concern. How else can the apparent non-consideration of fees and charge income in the Council’s budget considerations be viewed?

  • The blue room to the right rear of the shop is a toilet/washroom.

    The partitioned-off area to the left rear is the what Cllr Pugh described as: “most of the retail space” that was “taken up with space that has been used for storage and cleaning of clothes and so on.”

    The beam (top of picture) divides the ceiling roughly in half, so “most of the retail space” amounts to roughly 15% of the total.

    And Cllr Pugh had the nerve to accuse me of being cavalier with the facts!

  • Sealight

    Hi Jacob, I have seen the voting details for the 12th Dec. I was referring to the support, or otherwise, for an “override” request. Great blog; even if your elder shamed you into it!

    Goldingsboy: thanks for that advice. I shall write. So should we all.

  • Hi Sealight,

    I can confirm that I have now had more than enough positive responses to my email to all councillors to ensure that I can marshal the 15 (minimum) signatures required to have my NoM reconsidered.

    I would have thought all members would have been eager to have the matter determined on the basis of the truth rather than Cllr Pugh’s error-strewn testimony.

    However, sad to say, not a single member of the IPPG has volunteered their support.

  • Mayday

    More than £100 million income to provide services in Pembrokeshire. Does this sound like a lot of money to anyone else? Can someone break that down into per capita amount?

    In the recent “consultation” on where to make expenditure cuts some of the amounts in “Other” equalled or exceeded the amounts in named services. This is a business practice that would not be condoned in the most basic of accounting principals. 10% savings are required and yet the leadership seem unable to identify areas of waste or over spending. Do they have/understand a P&L account?

    The positions of anyone saying they don’t should be reconsidered immediately as they cannot hope to have any oversight/scrutiny on a budget of such size. Or maybe it is because the numbers are reported without ,000 on the end that our representatives think they aren’t very big?

  • Ianto

    Ask a councillor to spend £25,000 on a bus shelter and you might receive a response, but £300,000 plus to keep an airport open will be beyond their comprehension, and don’t even question Scolton Manor.

  • Malcolm Calver

    I would suggest whilst some County Councillors receive an SRA (Special Responsibility Allowance) all the rest receive a generous allowance. The purpose of this allowance is to make decisions and safeguard the interests of the residents of Pembrokeshire, this includes financial responsibility.

    Time for all of them to take this seriously and whilst I do not expect either Cllr Adams or Cllr Pugh to support the call for a meeting, I do hope all those councillors attending the meeting will fully examine the facts of the case as presented by Cllr Stoddart.

  • John Hudson

    Ianto, you might be interested to know that the secure bike shed outside the Haverfordwest Leisure Centre cost about £60,000. This was approved under officers’ delegated powers and therefore did not go near any elected members for approval. This apparently was part of the Sustainable travel centre initiative funded by Welsh Government.

    I understood that officers are, or were under an edict to regard “our money” as if it were their own when considering spending decisions. It is perhaps worth recording that councillors and cabinet have washed their hands of all spending decision approvals. Once the Revised budget and new budget have been approved by Council, this gives Directors full approval to spend their net service budgets. In addition the Director of Finance has full delegated powers to allocate Reserves, both Capital and Revenue.

    Given the financial straits our Council finds itself in, I think it is time that councillors re-considered their ability to to play a meaningful part in financial decisions and imposed some structure and stages in the delegations given to officers to spend money.

    Incidentally, the sums the Council spends with Amazon is staggering, mostly by means of officers’ corporate credit cards. Could any of this be kept “in County”?

  • Roy McGurn

    The Council are allocated a sum of about £3,000,000 in the block grant for “affordable housing”, based on an IBA (Indicator based assessment) in the Green Book. These funds were simply diverted to keeping the council tax down in the aftermath of the Mavalon care homes legal case, were they had to pay realistic rates to fund domiciliary care for the elderly. The funding for affordable accommodation is therefore well below the WAG’s guidelines. The council had previously been commissioning about 25-30 units a year for this purpose, the last few years it has been non-existent.

    John Hudson raised the argument that the public generally are asked to pay for council services. Whilst the council tax is unpopular, it is relatively fair. The people who are going to make these “savings”, such as those in need of affordable housing or social services are “paying”.

    This should be a council the Tax Payers’ Alliance should be in raptures about, unless of course one was in need of some council services.

    On the other hand, the Director of Highways was on television recently about the storm damage at Newgale. The begging bowl is already out and being waved at Cathays Park. How can any accounts and estimates submitted by this authority be taken seriously if this is how council projects are funded?

  • Concerned

    What John is telling us is scary. As I have said elsewhere, PCC is burying its head in the sand with the scale of cuts required over the next few years. Only today there is news that the leader of Powys County Council has resigned over £20 million worth of cuts that that County is having to make.

    The problem in Pembs is that the ruling party is incapable of making any big decisions, leaving them all to the staff at County Hall. There is no mandate or strategy and the opposition groups are weak and divided.

    Whilst I applaud the efforts of OG and Jacob to root out individual issues within PCC, there is only so much one person can do on their own, and until a ruling group is elected that is prepared to tackle head on the big picture, then I cannot see much changing.

  • Mike Cook

    The IPPG are against another meeting. Just another reason they should not be in power in Pembrokeshire. Keep fighting for the truth and slowly but surely the walls of the Kremlin on the Cleddau will come tumbling down.

    I hope the IPPG members are wearing their hard hats.

  • Welshman 23

    I notice from a comment that PCC provide corporate credit cards for their employees to make purchases, do councillors receive any credit cards? With what’s going on in the Kremlin I hope these cards are not being abused.

  • Goldingsboy

    I have just read, with a certain amount of trepidation, John Hudson’s latest post in which he makes reference to PCC “officers’ corporate credit cards”.

    Only this morning, Radio 4 reported that senior staff at NICE (NHS clinical watchdog) have been using their corporate plastic to spend tens of thousands of pounds on fine dining and luxurious accommodation at 5-star hotels in various parts of the world.

    Thank heavens we in Pembrokeshire can rest assured in the certain knowledge that our governance is entirely free of such venal excess.

  • Hi Welshman 23, I am not aware of any councillors being issued with payment cards or any form of making payments, however I do believe the council chairman (a councillor which has come from the ruling group every single time) has a municipal allowance, or some such fund.

    I know John Hudson knows about this fund/allowance quite well, and I hope he will explain a bit about it for us the next time he comments.

  • John Hudson

    For a few years now, at the Annual Public Inspection of accounts I have asked for, and been provided with, details of the “Chairman’s Expenses” Account.

    For 2012/13 I asked for, and received, details of expenditure incurred on the Council’s civic and ceremonial budget which amounted to some £30,132 and included the Chairman’s expenses expenditure of £6,801.96.

    Just to give a selective (biased?) flavour of highlights included in the Civic and Ceremonial Budget:

    – £161.40, for 12 bottles of wine to the chairman’s suite 15/5/2012, (also marked for Chief Executive office.)
    – 107 Ladies’ polyester scarves £839.20
    – £894.00 Wine (120 bottles) delivered to the Chairman’s room 27/3/2013
    – £6,218 lease for Chairman’s car (which is also used for other council purposes.) + fuel of course (from a previous year’s experience I understand that the Chairman benefits from being driven from door (home) to door).
    – £525.82 Catering recharge (from one of the central corporate budgets not identified in any budget document nor open to any formal public scrutiny as per other central corporate services area of the Council’s activity.
    – Pembrokeshire Show Breakfast £415.

    While Councillors do not have corporate credit cards, there are a number of credit card purchases made by central corporate office staff listed, together with the normal invoice payment vouchers.

    Although such payments are all listed by a reference number, in some cases the supporting documents (orders/invoices) were not to be found so the item purchased could not be identified, some of these were significant sums.

    I understand that there was not an annual civic dinner that year, but one hopes that normal service has been resumed. These are not cheap affairs (the 2011/12 bash held at Bluestone in March 2012 cost us £952 for about 20 covers – £47.50p a head) and I would hate to think that a Chairman and the CEO, who usually attends, was missing out.

    After all, we are all in this together.

  • John Hudson

    Just a thought, for 2013/14 all councillors are receiving a £500 per year allowance for IT, phone and office expenses.

    For 2014/15 the Independent Remuneration Panel expects that there will be no reduction made to salaries, or extra “blanket” allowance paid for this purpose.

    Where such expenses are incurred, the IRP expect them to be reimbursed by submitted claims with supporting receipts.

  • Les

    Having just read OG’s latest blog I have a feeling that it could be a long time before Cllr Summons decides to put his head above the parapet again. I bet he is feeling mightily foolish right now and let’s hope that he learns a lesson about being used as cannon fodder.

  • Goldingsboy

    I agree with you Les and did you notice how Cllr. Summons constantly asserted in his defence that no one twisted his arm?

    As Queen Gertrude would say: the councillor doth protest too much, methinks.

  • Keanjo

    John, I was recently told by someone connected to County Hall that the wives of certain senior Officers/Members were given a dress allowance so that they could accompany their husbands to official functions. Is that true?

  • Welshman 23

    Thank you John for your explanation about the credit cards. Why does the Chairman need the use of a leased car? It seems that the use of credit cards to buy items from Amazon is common, I read somewhere that Amazon pay very little or no tax to the UK. Support local I say.

  • Morgi

    Going back to the EGM issue – would this be webcasted?

    Does the independently chaired Audit Committee of six comprising allegedly four Independent Plus Party Group councillors and two others sit in private session?

  • John Hudson

    Keanjo, if it is I have never found any invoices/vouchers. However there are parts of the accounts that are legally “protected” from public scrutiny as they are regarded as personal information. Officers’ expenses are one of these.

    I do not think that expenditure incurred is reported in the officers’ remuneration details required to be disclosed in the accounts, as it is a reimbursement rather than remuneration.

    A few years ago now, the veil was slightly lifted in as much as such details were protected if there was a confidentiality clause included in the contract of employment. I would have to find and look up the precise wording.

    Lastly, there are missing supporting invoices/vouchers from my sampling of the payments listing. I would add that the staff helping at the public inspection are very helpful, but explanations about payments have to be referred back to departments and this can take some time to get back in the four week period allowed, especially in July when key staff may be on leave.

    The opportunity to inspect the accounts is a public right, and given the level of information made available to us, is one of the few statutory opportunities to delve a bit. I wish more people would exercise this right.

  • I couldn’t agree with John Hudson more about how important it is to make use of the opportunity, every July, to inspect the accounts when they are open for inspection for the whole month, at Thornton.

    For just one example: had it not been for last year’s inspection we may never have found out about the scandalous submission and payment of our dear leader and ‘popular independent group councillor’ Jamie Adams’ four years’ worth of backdated travel expense claims. All credit to Cllr. Viv Stoddart for spotting that!

    Morgi – It’s a good question if it will be webcasted. Obviously it should be, and I imagine it would be – I can’t think there will be any excuse or reason anybody would have the nerve to come up with for deciding it shouldn’t be, but, still, nothing should surprise you!

    As for sitting in private session, no committee automatically sits in private session – as you may know – councillors have to resolve to go into private session from a recommendation to do so from senior officers. I would imagine that it is highly likely – indeed, almost a certainty – that such a recommendation will be forthcoming.

    Whether councillors and the independent member vote in support of going behind closed doors is up to the individual – there are actually seven members, not six – the ‘independent independent’ non-councillor chairman is a fully-fledged member with voting rights.

  • Goldingsboy

    The really good thing about PCC officials shopping online with Amazon is that Pembrokeshire County Council should receive a £10 gift certificate for every 1000 loyalty points earned.

    Perhaps Jacob can discover just how much has been earned since this form of purchasing was introduced.

  • John Hudson

    On the question of whether Committees sit in private or not, an officer takes a view to recommend that categories of exempt information are likely to discussed and recommends accordingly.

    However, there is an overriding test of whether the public interest outweighs the need to maintain the exemption. We do not know what expertise an officer has got to reach such recommendations or apply the public interest test.

    Where committees determine to consider matters in “workshops”, or for that matter the budget in members’ seminars, these private meetings get round the need to open a meeting to the public.

    If a councillor dares to question the budget in open Council, the cry goes up, from certain sections of the Council (IPG), that they had their chance in the budget seminars and that this was the proper place to do so.

  • John Hudson

    Welshman, I’m afraid that I am not the person to ask about the Chairman’s need for a leased car. This again is one of the central corporate budgets that does not have a specific Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

  • Welshman 23

    Thanks John, perhaps the Chairman should use public transport and see how long it takes for him to get to the Kremlin. Also he must make sure he goes to the toilet before leaving as there is a list of toilets closing or being demolished in April.

    The decisions made by our council could have been made by kids. It’s a long time coming Adams and your bunch of merry men, cut out the waste in the Kremlin and start to address the problems or are you too chicken to stand up to your leader? It seems from the full council meeting webcast in December that you were more concerned about your Xmas dinner.

  • Keanjo

    John, it is alarming that the accounts can be designed so that all sorts of expenditure can be hidden from inspection of the accounts, provided of course that they are allowable by statute.

    In my view the public should have an absolute right to know precisely how their money is spent down to the last penny. Without the full information, what else can we do but draw our own conclusions.

  • Dave Edwards

    Keanjo:- It may surprise you to know that in another hidden-from-view cost, 16 of our elected members received pension contributions totalling £48,581.56 in the last year.

    That’s either one senior teacher, two clerical support staff or three basic grade care workers. Value for money?

  • Goldingsboy

    Dave Edwards, I’m astonished that elected members receive pension contributions in addition to their other allowances. Where, exactly, are the regulations governing all of disbursements to councillors to be found?

  • Malcolm Calver

    I was aware that county councillors could join the council pension scheme David, but is it possible to identify which members joined the local authority pension scheme? It would be interesting to see if any are already in receipt of either private or local authority pensions.

  • Welshman 23

    Councillors getting pensions, what next, company cars and private medical cover? Stop paying your rates they will go bust.

  • John Hudson

    Goldingsboy, the Welsh Government set up the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (search on this) to establish the range and maximum level of allowances (salaries) payable to councillors. This took away the power of councils to set their own rates. Under the Publications after 2010, its draft proposals for 2013/14 and past years will be found.

    Closer to home, PCC publishes its Councillors’ allowances scheme. This can be found under the PCC website’s ‘Your Council and Councillors’ section, details are provided under its ‘Members’ Allowances Scheme’ and ‘Members’ Claims.’

    At the annual inspection of accounts, supporting documents covering expense claims in respect of “Approved Duties” made by individual councillors are available to be examined.

    Under the Council’s Constitution Article 4, only the council can adopt a councillors’ allowance scheme. However, apparently councillors’ expenses are not regarded as an allowance. Councils can determine their own period for submission of travel and expense claims and this specified period does not prevent late claims from being submitted and paid.

    The Council has not formally determined its period of grace, which was increased from 2 to 3 months, or any specified circumstances under which late claims can be paid. One might have assumed that this legal leeway was made available for use only in reasonable, exceptional circumstances and not just ‘poor book keeping.’

    The Director of Finance authorised payment of the very late claims submitted by Cllr Adams. Incidentally, the IRP covers Councillors’ pension arrangements.

  • Dave Edwards

    Malcolm, I’ve got the information as to the amount paid but PCC claim that it is a breach of councillors’ privacy to tell me who the recipients are.

    I see it as a clear case of benefits given to certain members and no different to the other payments such as allowances and expenses which are reported annually. I have appealed against non disclosure.

  • Goldingsboy

    Dave Edwards: I have just gone through the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales 2012 Annual Report and discovered the following paragraph:

    5.3. The Panel has now determined that the entitlement to join the LGPS [Local Government Pension Scheme] shall apply to Members of all principal local authorities in Wales.

    Whatever your view is concerning this kind of benefit to elected representatives – it does appear that it is all kosher.

    However, I found another paragraph within this same report which really excited my interest. I quote it in full and perhaps those who understand the legal jargon will kindly explain the strange sort of contradiction in its tail:

    42. An authority must specify a time limit from the date on which an entitlement to travelling or subsistence allowance arises during which a claim for those allowances must be made by the person to whom they are payable. However, this does not prevent an authority from making a payment where the allowance is not claimed within the period specified.

    I wonder if Old Grumpy is aware of this ruling by the body charged with regulating the business of councillors’ expenses?

  • John Hudson

    This is exactly what our council has done, but the question is what, or who is “the authority” that made the decision?

    Constitutionally, (Article 4) only the Council can adopt its allowance scheme (under Article 2.05) as set out in Section 6. Our Council has not formally approved the time limit or the reasons for disregarding it.

    “Expenses” are not regarded as “allowances” by our Council and these decisions have apparently been taken under officers’ delegated powers.

  • Dave Edwards

    Goldingsboy – I know that the pension contributions are legal; what I am complaining about is the non reporting!

    Your second point is well made. What is the point of setting time limits for claims if the council can them set them aside?

  • Martin Lewis

    The point is simply that they can then deny late requests for ordinary employees of the council but allow outrageous back dating of claims for the likes of Jamie Adams and others of his ‘ilk’.

  • Roy McGurn

    There’s a big difference between legal and wrong. (A good debate, and one does not need an overpaid QC from London to have it.) Carmarthenshire County Council managed to work that one out.

    Inflated salaries in the public sector are legal, but quite often wrong. Hopefully the proposed pay review board being set up in Wales will rein this in. We could save even on this and use the Ministry of Defence pay scale and simply rate officers with an equivalent military rank (i.e. private or corporal.)

    I believe the Chief of Staff at the MOD is on a bit less than many local authority CEOs (circa £170,000 pa) yet is responsible for a budget of £30 billion and the power, in principle, to lay waste to half of Europe.

  • Quill

    Come Monday we could be seeing ‘Privates on Parade’…or maybe ‘Carry on Sergeant’!

  • Goldingsboy

    Dave Edwards, you say that secrecy is the issue here but officialdom will argue, with good reason, that they are simply preserving the privacy of members of the pension scheme. Therefore, unless there is evidence of maladministration or wrongdoing, what is the point of pursuing it?

    A good example where such a question is justified is shown in the current controversy regarding the council’s chief executive who, among his other duties, is entrusted with ensuring that residents pay their full revenues to the county, and then takes advantage of an arrangement which was brought in to allow him to shrink his own obligations to the nation.

    Quill, and who is on jankers?

  • Tasso

    I am pleased to see that the Council’s newsletter is covering this story in depth and providing its usual detailed coverage of stories that its paymasters in the Kremlin on the Cleddau may find embarrassing.

    If it wasn’t for the Pembs Herald, Grumpy and you – Jacob – nobody would be any the wiser about this scandal. Are council news stories within the Haverfordwestern Telegraph being edited in County Hall these days?

  • Keanjo

    Tasso, drop the Telegraph, buy the Herald – read the whole news and save money.

  • Powertothepeople

    The partitions were there before this charity shop opened up. When Lloyds Chemist bought it off Mr Thomas they used the one tiny room to talk to customers in private.

    Also if you look at Lloyds chemist in Argyle Street and Pembroke, you will see the same blue partitioned off areas for private patient consultation.

  • Powertothepeople

    I hear twenty people from the council and the EU Grant body turned up here yesterday for a look around!!!

  • Powertothepeople

    Saw the hole in ceiling in above shop. Hole is an understatement, you could get a double wardrobe through it is so big.

  • Peter Stock

    If there is one man I hold in high esteem who has served Pembrokeshire and our people to a high quality in local government it’s William Rees, past Chairman of South Pembs District Council, and I wish he were on Pembs County Council now. But I must ask him to be very careful in asking the Welsh Assembly to intervene in the local governance of Pembrokeshire keeping in mind that the Assembly is hell bent on getting rid of our county at any cost and this will give them another reason to do so.

    Many of us myself included did not have the opportunity last Friday to contribute to the debate, unfortunately I had to leave the chamber early to attend a funeral at Narberth of a good friend and colleague. We must also remember Pembrokeshire is still one of the best councils in Wales with many dedicated officers and staff from all departments striving to put our county first.

    So please William give us a chance to try to put our own house in order. All of us must always, including our hospitals, fight for their survival.

  • William Rees

    Peter Stock is pure Pembrokeshire and I worked under his leadership in the fight to ‘Bring Back Pembrokeshire’.

    I applauded his initiative in setting up the Pembrokeshire Alliance and if I had been elected I would have joined with him. I still hope that other disillusioned IPPG members will join him after the latest debacle. I take heed of what he says, we could well be facing another fight to keep Pembrokeshire, but our chances are not going to be helped by the chaos we are in.

    Peter is, quite rightly, in a small minority group and the ruling group does not seem to listen to opposition. Our best chance of keeping Pembrokeshire is to get the house in order.

  • Nev Andrews

    Gentlemen, surely it’s now apparent that any opportunity for “Pembrokeshire” to put its house in order has long since been and gone…

    All that has happened in the last 4-5 months is that weight has been added to the call to dissolve the existing arrangements and introduce new ones. Originally this seemed to be a cost as well as a critical mass question for the provision of services. Now we can add in the gross failure of the political (cabinet) system, the weaknesses of those that populate it and inept and uncontrolled officers who are now integral or instrumental in fundamental governance collapse. The toilet has been very firmly flushed…

  • Keanjo

    Nev Andrews is right. I do not recall this level of chaos under the old system of local government but under the present system we have problems in Pembrokeshire and also in Anglesey, Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Caerphilly, and Rhondda.

    The new system and divisions in Wales are not working and both need a radical change. This system of Unitary Authorities was tried out in Wales as an experiment before introducing the system in England a few years later. It is significant that only a modified form was introduced in England.

  • Nev Andrews

    Correct Keanjo, unitary authorities are not universal in England by any means and two tiered local government remains in certain areas. Probably, in part, for exactly some of the reasons it has patently failed in most of the rural heartland of Wales.

  • Peter Stock

    May I please remind Viv Edwards that Dyfed was NEVER a united County, and never will be.

    There will only be one winner, just as it is at the moment with the health authority, and that is Carmarthen.

    Please don’t have short memories.

  • Keanjo

    Peter Stock may not be aware that Dyfed was a Welsh Kingdom long before Pembrokeshire was thought of. Incidentally, as I recall, Dyfed CC was run much more smoothly, effectively and economically than the shambles that exist in both Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire today.

  • Peter Stock

    Yes Keanjo, Dyfed was run effectively and economically with Pembrokeshire money, we had high council tax and high unemployment and dear old Carmarthen having all the benefits and employment, it was lovely days with no new schools being built here but new modern ones in…guess where??

    I could give you so many examples! But please read the comments by “Badger” in the Herald three weeks ago. “O” yes the old Kingdom of Dyfed never did us a favour either!!

  • Weasel

    Peter Stock is correct that in the Dyfed days the cream was skimmed off by Carmarthenshire with little funding going to Pembrokeshire and even less to Ceredigion. I fear however that following today’s outcome we are headed back to the same arrangement only this time Pembrokeshire will be third in the pecking order.

    Many in the Welsh Government saw today as Pembrokeshire’s last chance to clean up their act. With the IPPG block vote in the main holding firm however, the slim chance of the “least bad” merger option (with Ceredigion only) has now gone. WG will see this as their opportunity to sort CCC out and PCC will just be left to wallow with minimal capital funding until reorganisation in 3 years time. Indeed we have already seen signs of this in recent regeneration funding announcements where PCC have lost out.

    So the writing is on the wall, and Peter Stock abstaining from today’s vote against the Chief Executive must shoulder a tiny part of the blame. Will Bryn Parry-Jones care? Not a jot, by the time reorganisation is implemented he will retire on his obscene pension courtesy of Farmer Adams and the stooges.

    With the seats in the new authority likely to be split 36 to Carmarthenshire, 24 to Pembrokeshire and 15 to Ceredigion, the IPPG members’ rewards will however be short lived. If any do survive and god forbid manage to get re-elected to the new authority it is almost certainly going to be a Plaid Cymru led administration and the likes of Adams, George, Lewis and Perkins simply will not get a look in.

    Yes Cllr Stock, Dyfed by another name is on its way, and the Pembrokeshire you fought so hard for will suffer thanks to the incumbent self serving members of IPPG non-political non-party party. Even John Davies could not bring himself to toe the party line today, presumably because he has his sights set elsewhere, even if he couldn’t break away totally his abstention together with an apology for his mistakes certainly sent a message that he no longer wants or can afford to be fully aligned with Adams and Co.

  • John Hudson

    Yesterday’s events must have hammered more nails in the Pembrokeshire coffin. Who would want to amalgamate or merge with this disreputable outfit? Perhaps this is the master plan to preserve Pembrokeshire.

    Yesterday we heard that the constitutional review – sought by external “advisers” and limping along, masterminded by a constitutional working party under the leadership of Councillor Adams – has not sat for months, and is now to be sidelined pending the outcome of the future of Pembrokeshire. (A new model constitution has been available, “off the shelf” since April 2013).

    What a stroke this is, how much more on the Leader’s improvement path can now be delayed under the excuse of an uncertain future?

    The constitutional reform may not be a front line service but it does govern the way in which chief officers and the cabinet system work.

    All local authorities have been on a learning curve, and there have been several reports and reviews published over the years by learned bodies, and even guidelines by Welsh Government.

    Our Council has been kept in the dark about all of these potential improvements in corporate governance and more “open” elements pointed out in guidelines have been ignored right from the start, on the basis that they are not statutory requirements. So we basically have the same tight, closed, constitution as originally drafted by officers amended as and when required by new statutory provisions.

    In a recent report, the auditor commented on the lack of motivation to challenge officers’ reports by most councillors and a lack of capacity. But then Leader Adams does not think much of the auditor’s views. No one in this council is responsible or accountable for anything. We apparently do not understand. It’s all a big misunderstanding.

  • Peter Stock

    Weasel, I always find your comments balanced, well thought out and most of all not jumping to the wrong conclusion. You obviously also have a great love and loyalty to our County.

  • Keanjo

    Peter, In your reply you mentioned the cost of rates under the Dyfed/South Pembrokeshire system and asserted that rates were higher under the old authorities. Perhaps you can explain to us why the council rates on our unaltered house have risen by nearly fourfold since reorganisation, in a period when inflation has risen by 60%.

    No work by Dyfed – have a look around at the Town centres and highways in South Pembrokeshire and Preseli. Education – the standards attained under the old system were infinitely better than those today without the need for intervention from Cardiff. I love Pembrokeshire too but people should not associate our beautiful County with the name of this shambles of an Administration. Get rid of the latter and the county of Pembrokeshire will remain.

    Moreover Councillor Stock, what faith can anyone have in a person who makes a passionate speech against the CE and then abstains. Many of the IPPG members must have been swayed by the arguments put forward but had predetermined their opinions. The result might have been quite different if a secret ballot had been held which should be the norm in this type of case. Who will rid us…

  • Keanjo

    I’ve been thinking about Peter Stock’s assertion that Dyfed did little work in Pembrokeshire.

    Tenby – roundabout at Greenhill, town centre, Gumfreston. Pembroke – St Daniel’s Hill improvement. Pembroke Dock- bypass to the Dock, Front Street, town centre. Haverfordwest – town centre, bypass to St David’s, Thomas Parry Way, Fishguard bypass. Aberystwyth bypass and others which people with better memories than I will be able to remember.

    What has PCC done apart from cutting the Highways Budget to a ridiculously low level? You know Peter, there are none so blind as those who do not wish to see. You should step down.

  • Peter Stock

    Keanjo, I really did think you had common sense and was a true Pembrokeshire man but how very wrong I was.

    Most of the things you have mentioned were done by the Welsh Office, Dyfed was only their agent. Again I ask you to read the comments of “Badger” in the “Herald” and in Pembrokeshire’s Best.

    Keanjo can you please tell me just one good thing you have done for Pembrokeshire??? If not, take the A40 road out to a place you seem better suited. I have been out all day selling Welsh and Pembrokeshire flags to raise funds for SWAT (Withybush Hospital). While you were probably watching the rugby!!

    I am proud to say I have raised over twenty thousand pounds for charities in Pembrokeshire including seven thousand pounds for the Noah’s Ark Children’s Appeal, perhaps YOU will help our children and hospital and give up some of your time, but I very much doubt it?

    I love my County so much and would willingly resign tomorrow if you will guarantee to stand against me in a by-election. You think you know all the answers, so here is your big chance!!

  • Weasel

    Keanjo, I think you’ll find that most of the improvements you mention were not funded by Dyfed County Council. The various bypasses were on the Trunk Roads network, and whilst overseen by DCC, the funding and priorities were set by the Welsh Office, whilst the town centre improvements were led by the two District Councils.

  • Keanjo

    Peter and Weasel, I’m sorry both, all the schemes I mentioned were financed by Dyfed County Council. Some of the town centre schemes were led by the District Councils with a major contribution from the County Council where county roads were involved.

    For example in Milford Haven, led by the District, Dyfed contributed around £80,000. Dyfed even contributed toward the Haverfordwest Eastern bypass which was principally a trunk road scheme for works carried out on County roads in the same contracts. Look it up, it’s all in the archives but as someone said recently don’t let the facts spoil a good story.

    By the way I did watch the rugby together with a good proportion of other Pembrokeshire men and women.

  • Keanjo

    Weasel, I am open to correction but I believe the trunk road network in Pembrokeshire is the A40 to Fishguard, the A487 from Fishguard to Cardigan, the A477 from St Clears to Waterloo roundabout, Pembroke Dock and the A4076 From Milford Haven to Haverfordwest.

    All other public highways are the responsibility of the County Council. I only brought this up because we always get this hard luck story from the ruling junta in County Hall, just like national politics where problems are inevitably blamed on the previous government’s shortcomings.

  • Weasel

    Keanjo, I think you’re missing the point. Nobody is denying Dyfed CC funded or contributed to many Pembrokeshire road schemes, and other works. The point is that Dyfed was a large authority, centralised in Carmarthen, and with the largest share of councillors from Carmarthen, naturally when there were choices to be made both Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion got the short end of the stick.

    I am not even saying there was anything wrong with that, that is human nature, and the same applies now within Pembrokeshire. However the larger the scale, the more effect those funding differences can make. For instance, if funding is spent on regeneration of Haverfordwest as the county town, that would create jobs, and the people doing those jobs could come from Fishguard, St Davids, Milford, Neyland etc. therefore the economic benefit spreads. Similarly tourism jobs in Tenby can benefit the south of the county and so on.

    The Merlins Walk shopping centre in Carmarthen however has a negative economic effect, drawing shoppers out of Pembrokeshire and not providing jobs for Pembrokeshire residents.

    I believe the recent events have ensured the the Welsh Government will now go all out to destroy Pembrokeshire and recreate Dyfed (albeit by another name). If that happens it is almost guaranteed to be run by a Plaid Cymru, or possibly Labour coalition with the power firmly in Carmarthen and Ceredigion having more say than the Pembrokeshire “independent” councillors.

    PCC had its chance to sort out its problems and failed miserably thanks to the block vote of the self serving members of the IPPG, whose only interests are greed and power, and now as a result we are condemned to be the poor relation within a Dyfed superpower.

  • Keanjo

    Weasel, denying that nothing was ever done by Dyfed CC is precisely what Peter Stock is doing. For goodness sake, it is 20 years since reorganisation, the services in Pembrokeshire are in a mess and until the IPPG is ousted I cannot see any chance of improvement.

    If we really want to save the County Council we must get rid of the IPPG otherwise the Welsh government will step in. Frankly I’m surprised that hasn’t happened already.

  • Peter Stock

    Well Keanjo, you always have plenty to say, so why don’t you reply to my three questions? Perhaps your name should be “NOT-KEEN-jo”. Not keen to do anything for Pembrokeshire except to be critical at all times and then get it all wrong!!

  • Keanjo

    Oh dear dear Peter Bach, we are getting petulant aren’t we. Say sorry or you’ll have to go to bed early. On another thread you are being asked why you abstained on the Chief Executive vote. Why don’t you answer?

  • Kate Becton

    This is a very interesting debate; I have to declare an interest, I have known Peter Stock for many years, worked with him on PCC and PD Town Council. I recognise the passionate commitment Cllr Stock has to Pembrokeshire.

    When you spoke at Council you said, the sound was fairly awful, that you felt that you did not have the evidence you required to make a decision. You were right (see Mr. Kerr’s advice on CCC website.)

    The usual response from the IPPG to any sort of adverse comments or any suggestions for change has always been that this is a slur on Pembrokeshire. I particularly recall a NoM of mine suggesting that people should be allowed to speak at Planning Committee meetings – honestly Peter, one would have thought that the barbarians would have been at the gates. It took nearly three years to get that through and now I think that it has worked very well.

    The point that I am trying to make is that the IPPG has been the author of its own misfortune, instead of owning its own mistakes it has been in thrall to senior officers who, quite frankly and in my experience, councillors thought were Gods. They forgot the golden rule that I was informed of the night I got elected – ‘Always remember, your are not the Council you are the Councillor’.

    If Pembrokeshire disappears – and it will – it has nothing but the IPG to blame.

    Jacob – these simple sums are getting harder – algebra next?!

  • Peter Stock

    Thank you Kate, your comments are as always fair and not one sided, you don’t jump to the wrong conclusion without giving it some thought.

    You picked up on what I said at Council with regards to evidence and the police inquiry, I also try to be fair, that was my reason for abstaining, some people must remember this was not a vote for suspension while a police investigation is going on.

  • Keanjo

    Fair!!! Peter Stock seems not to have listened to his fellow Alliance member, Bob Kilmister’s speech then. So much for the Alliance.

  • Malcolm Calver

    It is all very well Kate being passionate about Pembrokeshire, although as a Pembrokeshire born man I do not understand the reason for this attitude.

    Most people ask “is there a need for and what benefit do we get out of over six thousand employees at County Hall” and are you really suggesting that we need separate directorates for each of the three counties that made up Dyfed, with three separate administration systems?

    The present structures are unsustainable and it is farcical to have another body, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, operating within Pembrokeshire as well.

  • Martin Lewis

    No, it was a vote of no confidence in a Chief Executive that has led this council through crisis after crisis after crisis. The pension scandal is just the cherry on the cake Peter. How do you expect people to take your Alliance Party seriously when you won’t even take the opportunity to register the county’s disapproval of the council’s greedy chief executive who’s proved time after time that he is not worthy of his salary, let alone our confidence.

    In the most important debate and vote in the chamber in recent times, you copped out, just like so many others.

  • Jon Boy Jovi

    Got to agree with Keanjo and Martin Lewis that Peter ‘Splinters’ Stock bottled it.

    As with the majority of our current county councillors, it’s what they want for themselves and not what is best for Pembrokeshire. I’ve advocated nailing the political colours to the mast for all councillors as the IPPG operate as an out of control political party.

    It seems the Pembrokeshire Alliance Party is heading the same way by chirping about a candidate in every ward etc. At least if we knew it was a Conservative, Liberal, Labour or a Plaid Cymru administration we could expect what to get; you don’t see such continued alarming crisis in other Counties in Wales with political led administrations.

    Perhaps it’s time for ‘Splinters’ to get off the gravy train and leave a new wave of councillor to come through. We all do our bit for Pembrokeshire but don’t keep selling our souls by proclaiming how much we do on social media!

    A question; who has undertaken a review of the work of the CEO in recent times – performance management? If there has been where are the outcomes and the measures to address such failings he has overseen? Again, a political led administration would have the expertise and background knowledge of the party to oversee such measures.

  • Keanjo

    I think we all owe Jacob a tremendous vote of thanks for setting up this website which enables us not only to keep in touch with the activities in the Kremlin but also to express our opinions on the administration and perhaps more importantly to find out what others think. Thank you Jacob, I wish we had more Councillors like you.

  • Jonathan Nutting

    Martin, I understand your frustration but infighting now just serves those who should be squarely in our sights.

    People need a united opposition against the IPPG. They are the real problem. Jobs for the boys. Jobs for underachievers, buying their votes etc etc. The block vote. Herding the sheep. Lurching from one banana skin to the next. One catastrophe after another. The list is endless.

    At least we do not predetermine. Peter listened to the debate. We may not agree with him, but…he made his mind up for himself, using his judgement. What more can we ask. It is democracy…something the IPPG does not understand and have subverted to their own interpretation.

    The alliance website is now live. We are standing up to be counted. Now we need all others including Labour to say what they envision for our county 🙂 bring it on 😉

  • Harfat Girl

    To Councillor Nutting: Couldn’t agree more that the county needs a united opposition – so why did Peter Stock abstain?

    How will you all vote next time you need to ‘stand up and be counted’? What is the point of forming a party if you’re all just going do your own thing? It makes the Pembrokeshire Alliance just look like IPG-lite.

  • Kate Becton

    Malcolm – I did not say that I was passionate about Pembrokeshire – and in fact I agree with you, why it takes 60 councillors to represent 116,000 people, plus MPs and AMs is quite beyond me.

    I respect the opinion of people who wish to remain ‘independent’, but it’s not going to happen – even if PCC was the most efficient Council in Wales – which it manifestly is not – however the impact of amalgamation on the local economy will be significant and the loss of jobs will, I believe, mean that Pembrokeshire will lose more of its young people to seek opportunities elsewhere.

    On the other hand, are the residents of Pembrokeshire willing to support their Council in running what is effectively a job creation scheme?

    It’s a problem that requires careful thought and I am still thinking about the implications that amalgamation would bring. A fundamental problem is that Councillors have allowed the most ridiculous salaries to be paid to Senior staff and I certainly do not think that the people of Pembrokeshire have been well served in the last few years.

    I look forward to everyone’s comments on this. Thank you.

  • Jonathan Nutting

    I vote for Pembrokeshire and its people every time. I represent the feelings of those in Pembroke. I will defend democracy and the individuals’ rights above my own needs and to my last breath. Is that clear enough?

    I also do not agree with block votes or forcing people to vote with you.

    Strength comes from debate and ideas even if we do not agree. We would be an IPPG lite if we forced anyone to vote against their conscience or beliefs. I will never do that and I would not have joined the Alliance if that was a prerequisite. Think about the consequences of what you ask for.

  • Kate Becton

    I am a little unsure of what Cllr. Nutting is saying, after all this is a County Council not the People’s Republic of Pembrokeshire and there is really no need for anyone to defend anything to their dying breath – unless it’s residents parking permits!

    Let’s get a grip, provide people with excellent education services, excellent social care, clean streets, black bags that do not split at the slightest provocation, job security and decent pay for those who provide the services that matter.

    If amalgamation means that we can eliminate layers of ridiculously overpaid managers it does not mean that Pembrokeshire will lose its identity as the stunningly beautiful place that will always attract the visitors it depends on.

  • Malcolm Calver

    I read with interest the comments by Kate but we really need to look more closely at what has gone wrong. I will just comment on the issues she has highlighted.

    On education the state has tried to take over the role of the parent in raising children. Before long we will have an official at the birth snatching the child. Parents (and I do mean both parents) have to take more responsibility for their offspring and not rely on the state. Youngsters are now in school for fourteen years and leave without the skills to enter the workplace.

    On social care there is a need for more family commitment and to sort out those not in genuine need of state help.

    On clean streets people need to be more responsible for their actions when it comes to litter.

    On black bags I do not have a problem with them splitting if handled correctly.

    Job security is dependent on what service you provide and if there is a genuine need for what you provide.

    On decent pay the problem we have is the amount of stoppages out of our wages, to provide employment in mainly the public sector, most of which are really not needed and unsustainable.

    Remember Kate it is costing every man, woman and child over £3,000 per year to operate Pembrokeshire County Council services and that is if everyone paid.

    I would hope that amalgamation would bring savings but not only on the cost of overpaid managers but also a reduction in the amount of staff employed. Does Pembrokeshire really need over 6,000 staff and what do they all do?

    Sadly on your last point relating to tourism, the Pembrokeshire tourism industry has been in decline for many years.

  • Morgi

    It’s difficult to find anyone who: 1) feels that BPJ is not grossly overpaid and approves of the pension payments tax dodge and 2) who approves of the conduct of Cllr Pugh and his untruthful actions defending apparently corrupt practices etc; or who believes these have been discussed ad nauseam.

    If the opposition can’t unite to rid these, what hope is there for democracy to return to Pembrokeshire?

    Once the removal of those aspects that are popularly despised are achieved, then return to represent the electorate in dealing with local issues where party political differences should be of secondary importance.

  • Jon Boy Jovi

    Morgi, the words cuckoo, land, cloud come to mind to form a phrase. Don’t be such a dinosaur clinging to the ethical ethos of earlier Councils. This no longer works on the gravy train of local politics.

    Accountability. Value for money. Honesty are what’s important and can only be achieved by a national party led administration…which can be challenged but it can also hold the Officers in check.

  • Keanjo

    Morgi, the only hope we have is if the IPPG members who are not on SRAs or some other payment, decide to jump the ship.

    For example Narberth is being treated very badly, losing out on its swimming pool and its retirement home so I can’t understand why Wynne Evans doesn’t rebel and there must be others who are disenchanted with their adopted party.

    Once a few resign more will follow so we must press our local members who are members to quit the IPPG. How about it Wynne? Show your displeasure on behalf of the people of Narberth.

    Incidentally with all the cuts in expenditure in Wales has anyone heard of any cuts in Councillors’ allowances or Chief Executives’ or Directors’ salaries?

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