Jacob Williams
Tuesday 4th March, 2014

It’s in Arwyn’s hands, folks!

It’s in Arwyn’s hands, folks!

It’s been a while since the last post, but from all indicators, the Pembrokeshire public has been very well aware of the county council’s infamous Valentine’s Day Massacre meeting. I feel an exclusive gossip update will go some way in bringing you up to speed with the situation.

This evening the ruling party of Pembrokeshire County Council – the oxymoronically named ‘Independent Plus Political Group’ – held its county council pre-meeting.

For those unaware, if your councillor is ‘independent’ there’s a good chance you’ll find he or she is not independent at all, but a member of this ruling group – though I prefer party, it’s far more accurate.

Before every council meeting they have a pre-meeting where the party seniors lay down the party line, establish potential discord among the partygoers and attempt to iron out any troubles prior to the meetings, outside of the chamber; avoiding any nasty spectacles in front of the press and public in the gallery. (And latterly, at home or elsewhere in County Hall, via the webcam.)

The pre-meetings are legendary affairs, where the Pembrokeshire political greats wear their hearts on their sleeves creating scenes which would never be recreated at any public meeting. This evening’s was apparently no let-down. It was the pre-meeting ahead of Thursday’s full council, during which the budget will be approved.

It was one of the longest pre-meetings my moles can remember. At nearly three hours, you may be surprised to learn that, instead of lengthy discussions about intricate cost-saving measures and heated exchanges over officers’ budgetary provisions, the secret meeting almost exclusively centred around the numerous votes of no confidence tabled by opposition councillors.

There are twenty on the agenda, fourteen tabled over the chief executive, five over the monitoring officer, and one over cabinet member, Cllr. David Pugh.

Most of the public make the fair assumption that the votes of no confidence will take place during the meeting, but the constitutional process for submitted motions is that they are placed on the agenda of a full council meeting where they get batted off to a committee such as the cabinet, and then eventually come back at a subsequent full council meeting for final debate and determination. The constitution also gives the chairman the power to bypass this automatic committee referral mechanism, and allow the debate and votes on motions to take place during their initial meeting.

My ultra-reliable sources inform me that, this evening, it was still not yet known – even by the chairman – whether these no confidence debates and votes will be allowed to take place on the day, or whether they’ll be automatically referred. If they are, then it’s thought the cabinet is where they’ll be heading, where the earliest they could come back to be voted on is the next full council meeting in May.

During tonight’s secret pre-meeting, council leader and IPG party leader Cllr. Jamie Adams expressed great concern that, if the chairman allows the no confidence motions to be thrashed out on Thursday, then they could succeed. He told the meeting that, if so, depending on the result, it could mean the ‘end of the Independent group.’

He went further.

He told the meeting that his earnings from the council were not important and he would have no problem continuing with just his farming business. Cllr. Brian Hall even said he would resign from the council if such a catastrophic outcome materialised.

A number of councillors (names provided) told the meeting they were adamant that the no confidence votes must take place on Thursday, and that any attempts to dodge them would be short-sighted and likely to seriously backfire within the council and the public at large. Things were likened to ‘North Korea.’

I should say for those who don’t know, the chairman, Cllr. Arwyn Williams, with his important sole-discretion, is also a member of this ruling Independent party. He owes his position and Special Responsibility Allowance that comes with it to the party’s bloc-vote, which elected him chairman.

A basic sense of right or wrong tells that the chairman should not be under the control of the ruling group, or of any other. He is the chairman of the whole county council, comprising every councillor, on behalf of every county constituent. Yet Cllr. Williams (who has been put under all sorts of pressure since the agenda was published to exercise his discretion to allow the votes to take place on Thursday) has been overheard saying that he will first have to consult with the leader, and that in any case he will not be making his mind up until after the ruling group holds its pre-meeting.

I have it confirmed that he was in attendance tonight, so hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to find out if he’s going to accept the calls of a growing number of councillors, to allow the votes of no confidence to be dealt with on Thursday. To give you an idea of the strength of feeling in the IPPG against any diversion/avoidance technique; despite saying he would resign if the outcomes resulted in the end of the IPPG, even Cllr. Brian Hall was among those at tonight’s meeting who said the no confidence motions must go ahead on Thursday.

These motions are at the end of the agenda, so it’s very possible that Cllr. Williams will put on his poker face until the very moment these contentious items are reached, and then take a head-count (and/or instructions) before revealing his hand.

The tension is killing me!

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  • Jacob,

    While I am envious of your apparent access to the The Party’s inner temple, your mole(s?) must surely be mistaken when he/she/(they?) told you that members of the IPPG were being put under pressure to toe the party line.

    Could I remind you what Cllr Adams told the IPPG’s post-election recruitment meeting in May 2012:

    “It is a promise I would be pleased to place on record, that I would be happy to ensure that it’s a guarantee, actually, that we will never tell anybody how to vote – that’s a categoric guarantee – you heard it from me that nobody has ever been told how to vote, and that’s how it will continue.”

    He actually said it three times, so your mole must be wrong. Has to be!

  • Jon Boy Jovi

    Jacob and Mike have done a sterling job over the years in raising issues from the Kremlin and more recently also the local press. I’ve commented elsewhere on this site about the corner getting closer for IPPG but a comment via a mole does concern me… Farmer Adams and Brian Hall could survive without their income as county councillors. You have to ask the question are they in for the people or for themselves?

    I would hope all IPPG members as I’ve also intimated in a previous blog comment use a modicum of common sense when casting their vote on Thursday. It’s also well worth remembering that Thursday’s meeting should also set a budget for the ensuing year. One thinks the councillors are spending too much time on issues that should have been dealt with appropriately months ago and not on the important role of doing the best for your constituents and Pembrokeshire.

  • Quill

    You say Cllr Jamie Adams told last night’s secret meeting:

    …it could mean the ‘end of the Independent group.’ ?

    Sounds good to me!

  • Viv Edwards

    Interesting reading, how reliable your “mole” is doesn’t concern me. As a council tax payer I am hugely disillusioned with the way our elected councillors are behaving. The next local elections will give us the voters the chance to change things. Though it seems that some councillors go with choices other than the wishes of the people they serve.

    Pembrokeshire County Council is surely a laughing stock. I should imagine the Senedd are rubbing their hands together at the actions within both Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, a united county as was Dyfed will soon be around the corner.

  • Martin Lewis

    Interesting developments Jacob. I’ve been following local politics for many years now and I feel that this is the best chance in recent memory that the pressure of public feeling will result in change for the better.

    If Farmer Adams returns to farming it will be a fantastic development although his claims about not needing his big council salary and allowances fly in the face of his 4 years £4k expenses claim.

    And Brian Hall’s resignation from the council would please no end of people around the county.

    There is a feeling of real optimism amongst the public. I’ve gauged feeling on recent matters amongst people in Neyland via Facebook and the response was overwhelming. I’ve relayed the feedback to Simon Hancock and it is to be hoped that he at least will listen to the very clear message sent by those who engaged in the crude straw poll relating to the motion of no confidence in Bryn Parry-Jones.

    There’s not much that can be done other than canvassing your elected representative so at least they can’t say afterwards “Oh, I didn’t realise people felt so strongly”.

    Fingers crossed for tomorrow. The unravelling of the IPG in its entirety is a lot to hope for but stranger things have happened.

  • Miss Marple

    Who is the mole? I have been looking at all the faces of the members of the ruling group, trying to work out who it is. Give me a clue next time you see me…

  • Weasel

    I must say I shall be tuning into the webcast tomorrow but more in hope than anticipation.

    I am told that the party whips are busily spreading misinformation about the Welsh Government planning to take control if BPJ is ousted, whereas in truth that is more likely to happen if he isn’t dealt with.

    The fact that as many as 14 members felt the need to individually submit notices of motion against the Chief Executive patently demonstrates that there is a will to debate this now. The tactics of the ruling party to deflect the debate are at best an unwarranted delaying tactic, or worse, yet another IPPG led deliberate attempt to subvert the democratic process.

    Farmer Adams’ comment that this could spell the end of the IPPG party is an attempt to bring wary members into line. What it means in truth is it could end their ruling majority, and the gravy train that goes along with it. The majority of its members would not be welcomed into the opposite parties so when Farmer Adams says he doesn’t need the allowances to survive and Bullyboy Hall threatening resignation should the vote go against them, what they are really saying is the IPPG faithful DO need the income and so they better behave.

  • Timetraveller

    On the face of it, Pembs is blessed with the lowest rates in Wales, where one gets more for less. The CX responsible should easily merit being the highest paid CX in Wales – well done.

    So why aren’t other authorities flocking to Haverfordwest to “see how it’s done”? Why hasn’t the CX been enticed by even bigger salaries? Why hasn’t he been lauded with honours, OBE, CBE even a knighthood?

    How come the only people who seem to have come down to “see how it’s one” are the Ministerial Board, National Auditor and Glos Police?

    Councillors will be asked to vote on a budget that is £12 million less than the amount the Welsh Government calculate it takes to run the authority, an authority which contained irregularities (‘unlawful payments’) in previous accounts, and an authority doing its utmost to deny irregularities in a project at PD.

    Maybe most of what goes on in Pembs is a case of getting “less for less”. Concerns must be had about areas of the social services budget, as roads, refuse and education seem to cost more or less the same as most other authorities in Wales.

    If members cannot have confidence in the CX, they cannot vote in a budget without some detailed scrutiny from an independent source, especially as regards social services provision. Any budget should be deferred pending such investigation. It is probable that such expertise and impartiality can only be provided through the offices of the WG, possibly secondment of qualified officers from other authorities.

    Those members who consider that they need to vote a budget in should note issues coming out of last year’s budget are currently unresolved. The ruling group may attempt to put votes of confidence into the long grass until May, they cannot be so devious if they have to defer a budget.

  • Sandboy

    The gravy train is waiting for the signal to turn green tomorrow. Let’s hope there’s leaves on the tracks – time to get off and get a new engine driver on board!

  • Lizzie-Tish

    The thing is for most of the councillors it’s ALWAYS been about the money.

    Hancock/Perkins defected for the dosh, Jamie Adams – what a laugh, he claimed backdated travel expenses going back four years! ‘Doesn’t need the money’ my arse. Here’s a thought: can anyone actually think of anything commendable most of the IPPG Councillors have done? No, me neither, all they’ve done is bring democracy into disrepute.

    What amazed me about the webcast was how few councillors actually spoke at all, talk about a silent majority.

    Oh no, the simple sum beckons.

  • Welshman 23

    If a meeting took place then judgements were made on the possible outcome of tomorrow’s meeting. Are the people who attended this meeting barred from making comments and voting tomorrow?

    Was this meeting held in the Kremlin in the evening using our electric and heating for a political party meeting that does not exist? If so, can I hire the Kremlin free of charge to hold a birthday party?

    Let’s hope the councillors that said nothing at the last meeting will show their true colours and speak up and nail their colours to the mast.

  • Morgi

    Let’s get Kerr back – all those notices of motion against the CE and others show a clear determination – come what may, we’ll kick this one into touch!

  • Kate Becton

    ‘Be careful what you crave, for you will surely get it’ – Councillor Arwyn Williams must be reflecting on this as we speak.

    I feel obliged to say that during my time as a councillor the vast majority of Council Officers were nothing but professional, unbiased and fair – this must be a very difficult time for them.

    My other reflection this evening is that, despite all that has been said and done, despite all that has been thrown at him, Cllr. Hall has been elected by the voters of Market Ward in Pembroke Dock – that’s democracy folks.

  • Hangerman

    Is the thought of Brian Hall stepping down enough to convince the IPPG benches that a showing of no confidence in Bryn is a price worth paying to be rid of him?

  • Welshman 23

    Good luck to all councillors that have tried to bring the goings on at the Kremlin to our attention. Let’s hope that other members with consciences come to the table and vote to register their disapproval.

  • Jon Coles

    The motions must go ahead: the consequences of them not going ahead would be catastrophic. Not all our Councillors – even the IPPG ones – are self-interested fools. That more moral majority will want these motions debated.

  • Welshman 23

    Less than 4 hours to go, I hope the councillors have had a good night’s sleep and are refreshed for possibly the biggest day in their political lives. Please vote on the motions that are put before you. Good luck Mike and Jacob.

  • Jon Boy Jovi

    Peter Stock elsewhere cites Dyfed as not being beneficial to Pembrokeshire. Jon Coles is spot on; it can’t be any worse. Rumour is that Pembrokeshire would prefer to merge with Ceredigion as opposed to Carmarthenshire if there is a restructure only because we’d have more councillors! LOL.

    Let’s face facts today. There is a responsibility on everyone present to ensure Pembrokeshire does it right. How many of us have contacted our ward councillor over today’s meeting and the current climate in Pembrokeshire: either by email or in person? How many councillors have formally consulted us over our views on this matter?

    The fallout could be catastrophic by tonight. Moot point but in the wake of the intense build up to the meeting will BPJ step aside at the last minute citing ‘for transparency and the good of Pembrokeshire’? If not does that mean he will be present for the meeting?

    Perhaps now all the IPPG councillors need to take stock (not Peter) and man up. Rob ‘Rumpole’ Summons has been a lone (if discredited) voice in recent meetings and perhaps every IPPG member needs to have an individual voice and not hide behind the collective and protective banner of ‘the gravy train’. Next stop, Lonely Street otherwise.

  • Goldingsboy

    I wonder, after reading Welshman’s thoughts about the costs incurred by the SRA-Dependent Party meeting in the Kremlin on Tursday night, whether its attendees will also be making an extra visit to the expenses trough?

  • John Hudson

    The Chairman of the Council (a member of the majority group) has roles and functions set out for him in Article 5 of the Council’s Constitution.

    These should ensure that this Council meeting addresses the most dire problems facing our Council efficiently and with regard to the rights of councillors and the interests of the community.

    In exercising his role, he is guided by Article 1 which sets out the purposes of the Constitution which he is required to uphold and promote, to enable the Council to provide clear leadership to the community and help councillors represent their constituents more effectively.

    We are about to see whether his majority group loyalty weighs more than his position as impartial Chairman to the County Council.

  • Malcolm Calver

    Kate, if you are going to comment on councillors and democracy you must not judge just the antics of your political opponents but also your political allies. Cllr Susan Perkins was elected as a Labour Party candidate for her ward in Pembroke Dock but is now part of the Independent Party machine at County Hall with a substantial SRA (Special Responsibility Allowance).

    So Peter Stock believes Dyfed or any joint authority would not be beneficial for Pembrokeshire. In light of all controversy over Pembrokeshire of late, does he really believe we will forget he was a leading light in the Independent Party for many years, with an SRA.

  • Martin Lewis

    Have we got enough time to go downstairs for a DECENT meal? Haha, I wonder if the commended crews clearing up the storm damage in recent weeks had enough time to stop work for a DECENT meal!! Bring a sandwich in boys or order in a pizza like normal people and get on with the job in hand. You can have your DECENT meal tonight when you get home!!!

    Highlight of the meeting so far…Mike Evans’ comment about Jacob’s conflict of interest arising from his use of the school bus 🙂

    Sad that Simon Hancock is ill and unable to attend the meeting on behalf of Neyland people but happy that the chief officers’ pay policy vote went the right way, very proper comment from Paul Miller about us normal people being able to see which of our councillors voted against such a common sense and fair proposal.

    And you behave yourself now Jacob or Arwyn will deal with you. Probably give you the slipper or the cane, hope you’ve got your copy of The Beano to put down your trousers 🙂

  • I hope this meeting is over before my school bus departs.

  • Martin Lewis

    Get the lollipop lady to ring your mum if you miss the bus 🙂

  • Kate Becton

    Malcolm – I did make a comment about Ken Rowlands, Sue Perkins and Simon Hancock in response to your comments – perhaps you missed it and I am afraid that I lack the necessary skills to reproduce it here – I thought that a browser was someone in a bookshop.

    Also it is dangerous to make assumptions about whom I consider to be my political allies or not. One must not have a closed mind about any beliefs and sometimes, after thought and consideration, beliefs change.

    I was disappointed in the result today; however if we have a belief in democracy then we have to accept it. I thought the debate was good and that Arwyn was fair in that he allowed all Councillors that wished to speak to do so.

    I hope that PCC will now go on to tackle the problems that they face – particularly in Social Care provision – perhaps Malcolm, we should declare an interest – we might be availing ourselves of the service soon!

  • Gareth Jones

    Missed the votes of no confidence, what was the outcome?

  • Keanjo

    You won the argument but lost the vote today, Jacob, but I believe you were speaking for the majority of the people of Pembrokeshire. Please keep the pressure on.

  • King Kerr

    Was it a recorded vote?

  • Nev Andrews

    Are you a QC in disguise King Kerr?

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