Jacob Williams
Monday 24th March, 2014

Fine print

Fine print

If the author of that other website is to be taken seriously – and he’s had a recent run of good form, for a change – there may be a rather interesting sub-plot to the Partygate scandal which last week culminated in deputy leader Cllr. Rob Lewis being hauled before the Standards Committee where he was found guilty on all counts and suspended for a fortnight.

In the face of overwhelming evidence, Cllr. Lewis had little scope to do anything other than hold his hands up to creating umpteen pieces of election literature for his ruling independent party colleagues on county council computers in clear breach of the rules.

Supposedly “independent” candidates had entrusted cabinet duo Cllr. Lewis and former councillor David Wildman with their election promotional literature, with a gentleman’s agreement to join or remain a member of the ruling clique if they managed to get past the ballot box at both the 2008 and 2012 council elections.

The legal implications of the independent party’s dodgy scheme from an electoral view has been on JW’s mind ever since the Partygate files landed on his desk. As Old Grumpy reports, leaflets, posters and all other electioneering material used by candidates in local government elections are required to include an ‘imprint.’ An imprint, which is normally found in fine print at the bottom of a publication, is a statement which must contain the name and address of the promoter (the candidate or his/her election agent if applicable) as well as the printer/publisher – the person who puts ink to paper.

For instance, a candidate who acted as their own election agent (i.e. did not appoint an election agent) and who printed their own leaflets themselves should include an imprint such as: “Printed and promoted by Joe Bloggs, the candidate, of [address.]”

If the same Joe Bloggs had his leaflets or posters printed for him, his imprint should say: “Promoted by Joe Bloggs, the candidate, of [address] and printed by [Name of printer], of [address.]”

A flick through my vast Partygate archive shows that the imprints on all of the 2012 election candidates’ publications follow the same format, or a close variation of it:

“Printed and Promoted by [candidate name,] [candidate address.]”

So assuming the imprints on the printed leaflets that landed on residents’ doorsteps were the same imprints that appear in the Partygate digital originals, we can glean that all of the leaflets were printed by the candidates themselves using their own printers?

Well, if the transcript of Cllr. Lewis’ formal interview with the Ombudsman is anything to go by, or what he had to say during his appearance before the Standards Committee, it would appear not. In his then role as party secretary, Cllr. Lewis, assisted by his co-collaborator Wildman, says he collated IPG candidates’ preferred wording for their leaflets and their photographs, saved them in Microsoft Word format, and sent them off to a professional publisher called Clive James who produced professional PDF format proofs. These proofs were then checked over before printing, which, in Cllr. Lewis’ case, was also carried out by Clive James, or, as he so eloquently puts it: “Clive done all the printing yeah.”

Electoral Commission guidance on the topic says alleged breaches of the imprint requirements for electoral communications should be reported to the police, and if a police investigation leads to a successful prosecution, such an offence could attract a maximum fine of £5,000.


The party’s over

The ruling group of Pembrokeshire County Council – known over the years as the Independent Group, the Independent Political Group, the IPG, Independent Plus, Independent Plus Political Group, IPPG or IPG+ (not to mention other popular but unprintable nicknames) – has always denied being a political party.

From the ambitious IPG elite right down to the unambitious rank and file stalwarts, the idea of acknowledging their membership of the IPG as a party has been fought off most strongly.

Most of them even used to deny being members of a constituted ‘political group’ until the revelation of the official paperwork bearing the then group members’ signatures blew their cover.

Fortunately the public isn’t as naive as the IPG/IPPG would like to think, and members of this ruling clique – if they are publicly supportive and/or privately critical of their fellow party members’ antics – can no longer get away with such hollow denials. It simply will not wash.

Rather fittingly, the Ombudsman’s final report into the Rob Lewis investigation records the situation perfectly.

In its entirety, and with my emphasis in bold, the sole conclusion reached by the Ombudsman was:

“The 21 files that Councillor Lewis created or saved whilst using the Council’s computer systems are political in nature. Councillor Lewis admitted that he used the Council’s computer systems to create or save election literature for colleagues and other documents for his party’s political purposes.”

’Nuff said!


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70 Comments...

  • Robin Wilson

    Even the “non-stick” properties of “Teflon” (other non-stick materials available) fade over time!

  • Lobsterman

    That’s brilliant! All those candidates whose election material was produced secretly by the IPG should surely now be reported to the police as per the Electoral Commission’s guidelines, if there is reason to suspect breaches have been committed. The IPG itself should also be included in the investigation. Let’s see them squirm.

    Would that call the electoral results into question? Can we have a rerun?

  • Barney

    If the Ombudsman says it’s a party, it’s a party! How else could he describe it?

    It’s so obvious and people need to start being more open and referring to them as a party, none of this ‘group’ claptrap. That includes the media especially the Western Telegraph. I hope from now on all opposition councillors will also call them the ruling party. Then if there is any booing or jeering, politely remind them of Partygate…the party’s actions and track record…and the Ombudsman’s conclusion. Boom!

    My question would be what can the Pembrokeshire Alliance do to prevent it being accused of being a party? They are talking about recruiting and openly fielding Alliance candidates during the next county-wide elections, which the IPG/IPPG has never done, so at least the people who vote for their candidates will know what they are in for if successful.

    It seems to me we’re at a crossroads, there’s greater knowledge than ever before of what goes on in our council, there’s a real appetite for change, a way of bringing about that change could be on the way, yet unfortunately the council as we know it today almost certainly won’t be in existence for the next election.

    Therefore, we will never really know how much of a drubbing the IPG will receive as there will probably be different wards and fewer councillors. This will make similar comparisons to those that can be made between the 2004 and 2008 and the 2008 and 2012 election, pretty difficult.

    Sticking to the present moment though – Rob Lewis is surely going to have to resign from the cabinet and as deputy leader, right? If he doesn’t can’t councillors force this to happen?

  • Dave Edwards

    Barney – Perhaps a motion to the next Council meeting along the lines of :-

    “This council accepts that Cllr Lewis’ conduct, condemned by the Ombudsman and its own Standards Committee, brings into question the legality of the election material distributed by those IPPG members and others that he assisted by the improper use of the council’s computers.

    It calls on him to stand down from all positions of Special Responsibility and appointments to outside bodies with immediate effect.

    It further calls on the council’s Chief Executive, who was the Returning Officer at the 2012 Local Government to refer this allegation to the Electoral Commission for an impartial investigation”.

  • Bob Kilmister

    Barney, the Pembrokeshire Alliance are looking at the issue of registering as a political party very seriously.

    Registration is very cheap and has some benefits but equally has disadvantages. We are fortunate that we do not have to take that decision quickly. I can say with confidence though that we will be open and transparent about reaching that decision.

  • Kate Becton

    ‘Another fine mess they’ve got themselves into’! At least if you stand for a ‘political party’ you have an election agent – which is in effect what Cllr. Lewis was – who knows the rules and makes sure candidates stand by them.

    OG or Jacob – who would be responsible for any beaches of the rules, all of the Councillors or just Cllr. Lewis? OG has illustrated that it always pays to read the small print!!

  • Hi Kate,

    The individual councillors, I would have thought – it’s their promotional literature, after all.

    Maybe QC Kerr would be best placed to provide the definitive answer, not at taxpayers’ expense, though!

  • John Hudson

    I have already sent the Council report of this matter to the Electoral Commission asking whether all is as it should be.

    I fear that the Commission has no remit to investigate, but I wonder if the Ombudsman will refer matters to the police? He should be the most informed as to whether anything potentially unlawful has occurred requiring investigation by the police.

    Until this is all sorted out, I cannot see any point in voting, especially when candidates “cross the floor” post election.

    My “promoted” candidate’s election address that was popped through the letter box just says “Published and printed by” with the candidate’s name!

    Should I feel misled or cheated?

    Don’t election expenses have to be declared somewhere in an official return?

  • Sealight

    There appears to be a prima facie case to answer. Who will contact the Police? My help available if needed.

  • Keanjo

    Surely everyone who accepted promotional election literature created by CC Lewis on his council computer, whether they won their elections or not, should now be billed for any relevant costs by the County Council.

  • Kate Becton

    I am aware that John Hudson is far more aware of the functions of the Electoral Commission than I am, but don’t I recall that they have passed cases to the Police when they have suspected unlawful behaviour in Elections?

    I don’t think that the Ombudsman can investigate individuals unless there has been a complaint about them – perhaps this could be a route to take – long and tortuous though it might be.

    The more I think about Councillors’ claims that they were unaware that Cllr. Lewis was using PCC computers to produce election material, the more ludicrous it becomes. After all, two of them share the same Cabinet room with him and the scale of what was going on was much much larger than I originally envisaged.

    Could there be the opportunity for individuals to complain directly to the Police, though the difference between alleged ‘unlawful’ behaviour and alleged ‘illegal’ behaviour may rule this out.

    Methinks that I have been out of the loop for too long – a bit of advice on the above would be most welcome.

  • Hi Kate, any allegations of breaches of imprint requirements would be a criminal matter to be investigated by the police, nobody else, so the words ‘unlawful’ and ‘illegal’ as you put them, are one and the same.

    From the standards committee’s point of view, Cllr. Lewis’ actions were ‘against the code of conduct,’ which is neither a breach of criminal or civil law, it’s just wrong, and enforceable as he violated the statutory code of conduct which he was bound to abide.

    In answer to an earlier commenter, this is not a matter that the Electoral Commission can ‘investigate’ or get involved with, it’s for the police – the Electoral Commission says as much in its advice. I imagine a police investigation is unlikely to commence without an allegation being made by a member of the public or a self-referral, and I am not aware that any have been made.

  • John Evans

    Is that the same Clive James who works for PCC? If so was the work done on his time or the council’s, and where was the printing done?

  • John Hudson

    It seems that the integrity of our election process depends on our awareness and detailed knowledge of the correct procedures. How many of us are aware of the intricacies of these rules?

    The veil surrounding PCC elections has been lifted by Councillor Bryan’s submission to the Ombudsman concerning the use of council resources by two councillors for election purposes. But for this, the scandal would have remained undetected, but it looks as though a more thorough investigation is required to uncover all the potential areas of possible transgression.

    From my reading it seems that “independent” or “no-name” candidates, who are not standing as authorised registered political party candidates, can only use the above descriptions on ballot papers and by default become their own election agents unless they nominate an agent responsible for complying with the rules. Apparently they are not bound to give us a clue about any group inclinations.

    The only clue we may get as to whether they are backed by a “promoter” is the required declaration on their publicity as OG has discussed. How many of us read that?

    I also came across the rules surrounding postal vote counting arrangements. I did not realise that several opening sessions can take place before polling day, and that candidates, and or/their agents may attend, but are bound not to disclose any knowledge or information gained at these sessions. I do not think I will be postal voting.

    I wonder why we are not taught about how we are governed. How on earth are we expected to know, but are expected to have blind faith in the system and active participants who may or may not know more than we do?

  • Tim

    So Clive James is also employed by the council?

  • In answer to a couple of questions, I understand the Clive James who printed some or all of the election promotional literature cited in the ombudsman’s case is the same Clive James who has been an employee for some time at the county council’s print department.

    According to the ombudsman’s evidence, ‘Appendix I,’ Mr. James also trades privately as: ‘Clive James Design & Print,’ and according to the transcript of Rob Lewis’ ombudsman interview, this is where candidates had their leaflets printed.

  • Tim

    Let’s hope it wasn’t done with council resources or while on council time.

  • Kate Becton

    Jacob – does this mean that Mr. James’s name should have still appeared on the literature and didn’t? I am assuming that this also means that the individual standing for election is still solely responsible for what appears within their imprint – even the exclusion of their printer’s name.

    I am beginning to feel a headache coming on! Does anyone who purports to run Pembrokeshire have the foggiest notion what they are doing?

    In the meantime, I read in the WT that the cost of home care is to be increased from £6.20 per hour to £14.20 per hour, apparently this will increase revenue by £700,000 per year – dream on!

    Also meals-on-wheels has an inflation busting increase – if it were me I would switch suppliers and hope that that nice Ronnie Corbett would deliver – or go to a local small business who can do it cheaper.

    Anyway enough of this idle chatter – do we have a consensus of what we can do?

  • Ianto

    It could be the leaflets were printed with all details required. Does anyone have a copy of the final printed leaflets?

    Do the Councillors’ election expense returns show a payment to Clive James Design and Print, or indeed any print costs?

  • Keanjo

    So Clive James is also a CC employee. Do conflicts of interests apply to council employees as well as councillors?

  • Concerned

    I will be watching developments with interest.

  • John Evans

    I would be interested to know who owned the equipment used to design the proofs and print the documents, and where they were designed and printed.

  • The printer (which, for clarity’s sake is the individual or company that put ink to paper) should be included in the imprint.

    The imprint on every digital proof (PDF file) I have stipulates that each candidate printed his or her own leaflets, with no exceptions. Of the printed copies that are known to exist, including one still in the possession of John Hudson as he mentioned in an earlier comment, as far as I know, they are exactly the same as the PDF proofs.

    I don’t imagine it would be any different for a candidate who has appointed an election agent, but for candidates with no election agent it is certainly their personal responsibility to make sure the imprint on their promotional material is correct, and to include all promotional expenses incurred within their financial declaration following the election.

    This applies to successful and unsuccessful candidates.

  • Jon Boy Jovi

    So many questions. Was any work done and were any emails/documents exchanged using PCC equipment and/or during council-funded time?

    Where are the invoices for candidates’ election expenses kept? Can they be scrutinised? Did Cllr. Rob ‘Suspended’ Lewis receive payment from his colleagues for his efforts?

    Is this a police matter and/or a council disciplinary route for Cllr. Lewis? Whichever it is, he must fall on his pitchfork before Farmer Adams impales him. Please!

    To be honest, there must now be some votes of no confidence in Rob ‘Suspended’ Lewis to be debated, if not the whole Cabinet.

  • Kate Becton

    Gentlemen, whilst all this is very fascinating are we or are we not going to do something about it?

    If a complaint is going to be made to the Police, I assume that we are going to need evidence to put before them – copies of the election leaflets, the Ombudsman’s report, copies of election expenses etc.

    Whilst not making excuses, my computer skills are so far fairly (very) limited – I shall be away until 21st April; though I shall try to keep in touch via cyber (is that the right word) cafes, however it’s decision time – shall we put our money where our mouth is?

    Over to you. Sorry, also included are any ladies in the mix!

  • Ianto

    How do we access the declarations of election expenses?

  • I believe all candidates’ election expenditure returns/declarations are held by the returning officer and have to be made available for public inspection following the election, but I’m not sure how limited the inspection window is, if at all.

    The following quote comes from this document on the Electoral Commission’s website: (http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/141791/Part-6-After-the-declaration-of-results-LGEW.pdf )

    Election spending returns:

    1.25 – Spending returns can be inspected by any person after they have been submitted. Copies can also be made for a fee of 20p per side.

    1.26 – Spending returns are kept for two years. You can request to have them returned to you or your agent at the end of this period. If you or your agent does not want them back, they will be destroyed.

    The following links may also be useful:

    http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/141773/ca-part-3-locals-ew.pdf

    http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/146561/Candidate-spending-return.pdf

  • Jon Boy Jovi

    Once again we are indebted to Stodds for sifting the good crops from the manure. There must be an OBE for that man soon.

  • Vivien Stoddart

    Kate Becton mentions the range of the proposed increase in non-residential care services provided by Pembrokeshire County Council.

    The menu of charges includes: home care services up by 135% to £14.50 an hour; meals provided by social services to increase by £1 to £4.34; community alarm service to increase by over £1, etc etc.

    Most drastic of all, free day care is to be charged at £23.70 a day.

    However, care charge increases will not affect those on low incomes who do not pay now. At the other end of the income spectrum, the council is obliged to cap care charges at £50 a week.

    Following a request by myself and Cllr Jonathan Preston, the proposed charges initially before cabinet were put on hold.

    We asked the chairman of the older persons’ health and well-being overview and scrutiny committee, Cllr David Bryan, to “call in” the cabinet decision, so scrutiny members could examine these care charges, which would have been implemented on 1 April.

    Cllr Bryan agreed, and the scrutiny committee will examine the proposals tomorrow, 27 March.

    The meeting is open to the public, commencing at 10am in County Hall.

  • John Evans

    The conclusion reached by the Standards Committee following the Ombudsman’s investigation already recognises that council property and facilities have been used inappropriately.

    I wonder to which extent the Pembrokeshire public have been subsidising such ventures. Who in the council is responsible for guarding against the potential misuse of materials and equipment and is this incident a one off or the tip of a larger iceberg?

  • Kate Becton

    Vivien – thank you for that information, I am sure that you agree that the whole situation is very worrying and confused.

    I might be mistaken, but it seems to me that the idea that PCC Social Services will provide proper care for older and frail people at a reasonable price is at an end.

    In my experience Carers in this County which can encompass family, friends, neighbours, etc., are unstinting and it can put enormous strain on individuals.

    PCC pays, at best, lip service to people who, through love, devote their time, effort and energy to caring for their family members. We are not doing enough to support them.

    In the meantime, now that Mike is about to be knighted, at the very least, can we organise what can be done about any potential breaches over the last two council elections?

  • Malcolm Calver

    It is no use Viv complaining about increases in charges without providing alternative areas as to where savings should be made. Surely you are aware that the present taxation levels on community charge ratepayers is both wrong and unsustainable.

    Perhaps we can have some suggestions from those not in the Independent Party, like yourself and Cllr Preston.

  • Keanjo

    Mike Stoddart’s OBE should be awarded for services to the community in exposing Other B*****s’ Errors.

  • Melanie Phillips

    All I know is that when I stood for election against Daphne Bush (who beat me by 8 votes!!) afterwards I had to submit all my receipts etc from Monddi Print and the whole lot cost me a decent amount of money.

  • Kate Becton

    Malcolm – It is the scale of increases that is worrying, I do appreciate that you feel that family members should take more responsibility – in my experience families in Pembrokeshire do their very best to support and look after their loved ones.

    Where to make savings – firstly, the quite ridiculously high salaries that are paid to public servants in Pembrokeshire, mainly for failure!

    Secondly, there seems to be no proper audit of where money is going – is it called ‘risk assessment’ auditing – it’s not good enough that we don’t know whether the County is getting value for money or not.

    The constant obsession of having the ‘lowest Council Tax in Wales’ – this is fine and dandy as long as services can be provided at a reasonable cost and at a level of service that people are happy to pay for.

    The amount of money that has been spent on Leisure Services – terribly PC and all that, but how many people will want to take advantage of it – the well off middle class, I suspect.

    Further thoughts provided tomorrow – in the meantime are we going to do anything about the imprints issue or not?

  • Malcolm Calver

    Kate – I would not disagree with you that the salaries paid at County Hall are excessive but it is not only at the top but a good way down the tree. You must admit that with over six thousand council employees, with the addition of those from private industry that carry out work for the council, it is unsustainable. I would suggest that for the average person in Pembrokeshire if 30% of those presently employed were made redundant it would not make any difference to their lives.

    I would say that for the majority that are paying council tax it is crucial this is kept to a minimum and I am afraid we are going to have to make many more cuts yet.

    I would agree that most of council spending is hidden from councillors but all I was suggesting was that it is no use Viv, Cllr Preston and the others outside the Independent Party complaining about rises without giving alternatives to resolve the present financial position we find ourselves in as residents of this island.

    I will give you some examples of possible cuts.

    Subsidised meals for luncheon clubs when many of the members arrive in 4x4s, disability car allowances whilst in receipt of a free bus pass, employees at County Hall in the tourism section when the council does not produce a Pembrokeshire Guide any more, children being provided with council subsidised transport to attend schools outside their area.

  • Tim

    Does anyone have a copy of these Quark Xpress files?

  • Goldingsboy

    Hi Viv and Kate,

    Further to your concerns, just a couple of weeks ago I attended a “public consultation” into the current cost of the provision by PCC of day-care and related services.

    I asked the council official, after noting the absence of any local councillors in the packed-out gathering, whether elected members had been invited to the county-wide meetings. He replied that each one had been invited to attend – but none had chosen to do so.

    Anyway, imagine my surprise this morning, after such a short interval, when I learned from my 90-year-old mother-in-law that she had received a letter in the morning’s post, from the council’s Head of Revenue Services, headed “Provisional Assessment for Non-Residential Charges from April 2014”.

    The cost to her, as a result of a disembodied “Personal Financial Assessment” is to be raised from £4.60 per week, (the cost of her two light lunches), to a staggering £47.40.

    I think everyone will agree, through this and similar examples of shrewd management of our finances, that our CEO is worth every single penny that we peasants throw at him.

    And well done Farmer Adams, he must feel so proud when he observes the litter of IPGs, he has so carefully husbanded, feeding so greedily at the trough so amply provided for by public subscription.

  • Kate Becton

    Having read today’s Pembrokeshire Herald I have the impression that the matter of the dodgy leaflets is now being investigated – does anyone know if this is the case?

    There doesn’t appear to me to be much doubt that the rules have been broken; the irony is that Cllr. Lewis might not be involved in a breach of these particular rules, unless the name of the printer does not appear on his leaflets.

    One assumes that Mr. James was paid for his work so if electoral expenses were claimed for printing of leaflets this should appear in the financial returns.

    Malcolm – I am still thinking about areas of savings that could be made, but the ideas that I have come up with, given the level of savings that are required, are a drop in the ocean.

    It is quite frightening to realise just how dependent Pembrokeshire is on public sector employment.

    Vivien – I was unable to attend the meeting yesterday – would you be kind enough to let us all know the result?

    Thank you.

  • Dave Javu

    Malcolm – For your information, PCC spend around £500,000 each year on private taxis to transport children between home and school and back again.

    2011-2012 – £577,782
    2010-2011 – £517,825
    2009-2010 – £473,267

  • Kate Becton

    Goldingsboy – I am hoping that you will not accept the new charge for your mother-in-law, I am sure that there are local people who would be more than happy to provide two lunches for her for much less than £47.40 per week.

  • Malcolm Calver

    The figures quoted for school taxi provision are enormous. I can accept transport being provided for children to attend religious schools outside their residential area, but how much is spent providing transport when there is an ordinary primary or secondary school close to their home?

  • Goldingsboy

    Sorry Kate, but the point that I was trying to make was that free day care (only the meals were being charged for), has been abolished by the council, in the absence of any real democratic debate.

    Respite care now comes at a cost of £23.70 per day (to which the cost of the meal must be added – £2.30, and also going up). The (revised) weekly cost to her is something over £52.00 – it used to be £4.60.

    Has it reached the ears of the local press, I wonder? I don’t think so. But then, that is the way that our crafty commissars usually operate. Their cunning plan, it seems to me, is to bide their time until respite-care levels fall to “unacceptable” levels. The centres are then closed, the buildings sold off, (perhaps converted into lucrative, grant-aided studio “apartments,”) and the dedicated staff dispensed with.

    A vital service, providing necessary breathing space for carers and their families, will have been lost before anyone can really appreciate what has actually happened. The IPG mob can then congratulate themselves that their dubious boast that Pembrokeshire has the lowest council tax in Wales, is heading out of harm’s way. Should be worth a few cases of that specially labelled Cabernet, eh? Cheers!

  • Vivien Stoddart

    Goldingsboy,

    Older persons’ scrutiny committee met last Thursday and, following criticisms of the proposed day centre charges by Cllrs Tessa Hodgson, Bob Kilmister, Alison Lee and myself, it was resolved that the matter be sent back to Cabinet for reconsideration.

  • John Hudson

    I have just heard from the Electoral Commission “putting voters first”:-

    As we suspected they are not empowered to investigate allegations in relation to the Representation of the Peoples Act 1983, which they advise should be made to the police. Offences under this Act are also subject to a time limit, which means that any prosecution arising from an offence must begin with 12 months of the date of the alleged offence.

    The Commission further advises that it takes steps to minimise the risks of non-compliance with the rules by issuing guidance for candidates and election agents with all the information they need to comply with the law.

    The Commission confirms that there are no rules preventing elected members from forming, joining (or choosing not to join) political groupings after the election. So we ought to be more aware of the integrity of candidates when we elect them. Voters beware – be aware of candidates, councillors and their un-appointed agents conspiring to run clandestine election campaigns.

    If Deputy Leader Councillor Lewis had used his own computer the problem would not have come to light. Nobody would have been certain that the group had been recruiting and promoting candidates. Thanks to Councillor Bryan for dragging this out into the open, ex-councillor and ex-cabinet member David Wildman and Councillor, Deputy Leader and Cabinet member Rob Lewis, we now know.

  • Goldingsboy

    John, I have just had a look at advice provided by the Crown Prosecution Service and they make the following comment:

    Extension of time limit: section 70

    In addition to the two offences created, section 70 EAA inserts section 176(2A) of the RPA providing that an application may be made to a magistrates’ court for an extension of the current 12 month time limit for bringing a prosecution by up to a year. The court may grant an extension, if it is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances justifying the grant of the application, and that there has been no undue delay in the investigation of the offence.

    I’m no lawyer, but surely the legal time-clock would begin ticking from the moment of discovery of the offence?

  • Kate Becton

    Goldingsboy – thank you for that further information, and it seems via information from Vivien that there is a cap at £50. This still seems excessive, unless you’re receiving five days of care – I doubt there are many that do.

    I totally agree with your analysis of the situation – demand will fall – leading to sell offs of buildings etc. How this will square the circle of the Council estimating that these charges will raise £700,000 per year extra is difficult to see. I wonder if there is a breakdown of how these figures have been arrived at – perhaps that will be available at the Cabinet meeting – oops there are a couple of pigs flying by my window!

    Thank you John Hudson for the disappointing information that it is outside time to get a Police investigation into Leafletgate – is it against the Code of Conduct, where it would seem that such time limits do not apply?

    I am very much enjoying contributing to this website – I have been on others and have felt very uncomfortable with some of the comments – thank you all.

  • John

    John Hudson,

    Are you sure that prosecutions must get made within 12 months of the offence, or is it within 12 months of when the offence came to light?

    It is surely ludicrous that you can potentially have electoral offences committed and offenders get away with it, if it is not found out soon enough?

    If the situation is as John says, then the matters should still be brought to light and highlighted in the press etc. if only to expose potential wrongdoings and try to force a change in the rules/law.

  • Keanjo

    Kate, we are rapidly coming to the point where County Hall will be fully staffed and functioning smoothly but not providing any services to the people. However, the Leader (that title always reminds me of der Fuhrer) will still announce proudly that we have the lowest council charge in Wales. We are getting close to the Yes Minister sitcom – the efficiently run hospital with no patients.

  • Goldingsboy

    Kate, your information concerning a cap of £50 per week is correct, but the charge for meals falls outside of it. I also made an error with the daily cost of lunch to the “service user”. My wife has reminded me that we were told at the “consultation” road show that it was being increased to, as she remembered, around £5. So, her mother’s twice-weekly care-centre visits will go from c. £7 pw to £60 pw.

    Jacob, that was very cunning of you to introduce a mathematical problem at the gateway to your your blog.

    It is clearly designed to prevent the poorly-educated members of your council from filling your columns with the sort of garbage that duty forces you to listen to whenever attending council.

    I know, I sometimes have difficulty working out the solution myself!

  • Ken Dalziel

    Kate, did you read the letter in the Herald from Vicky Moller? It appears that her councillor voted to keep BPJ as it was explained to him that if Mr Jones was suspended then he could take legal action and Pembrokeshire would be in deep trouble.

    All I can say is Jings, Crivvens an’ Help ma’ Boab!

  • John Hudson

    Quote from my letter from the Electoral Commission:-

    “We are not legally empowered to investigate allegations in relation to the Representation of the People Act 1983, which should be generally made to the police.

    Offences under this Act are also subject to a time limit, which means that any prosecution arising from an offence must begin within 12 months of the date of the alleged offence.”

  • John Hudson

    I think that some of our poor councillors got a bit confused at the last meeting.

    I may be a bit confused myself, but the Notices of Motion submitted were about votes of “No Confidence” in both the Chief Executive and the Monitoring Officer.

    Who introduced the scaremongering about suspension? It no doubt achieved its purpose with the IPG members.

  • Keanjo

    Precisely JH. There would be no need to suspend or dismiss a person following a no confidence motion. It could be used to warn the person concerned that he/she needed to improve his/her performance to a level which was more acceptable.

  • Goldingsboy

    John Hudson, I have copied the following online version of the Representation of the People Act 1983:

    (2) For the purposes of this section—

    (a) in England and Wales, the laying of an information;

    (b) in Scotland, the granting of a warrant to apprehend or cite the accused (if, in relation to an offence alleged to have been committed within the United Kingdom, such warrant is executed without undue delay); and:

    (c)in Northern Ireland, the making of a complaint,

    shall be deemed to be the commencement of a proceeding.

    The laying of an information, to this layman, surely means the discovery/and or the reporting of it to the police. What say you?

  • Jon Coles

    There are a couple of points worth noting: if the Returning Officer becomes aware of the possibility of breaches of the RoPA 1983, he surely has a duty to investigate or refer it.

    Since the Ombudsman’s investigation into Cllr Wildman’s conduct began before the expiry of the twelve month time limit, I believe the RO should have suspected there was potential for breaches of the RoPA and should have referred the matter of potential breaches (whether known definitively or just suspicions) to the Police. It is for the Police to investigate. The Returning Officer, in this case, is Bryn Parry-Jones.

    Secondly, I would suggest that the course of the Ombudsman’s investigation into Cllr Rob Lewis was very revealing, and potentially implicated others. Whether he knew – or cared – that breaches of the imprint requirements are a criminal matter, is practically immaterial. His interview with the Ombudsman and the revelations contained within it were only made public with the recent publication of the Ombudsman’s report and could not have been known by a lay person before that point.

    Now the question is from what date does limitation run? Is it the date a person could be reasonably suspicious that an offence may have been committed, or is it the date upon which the suspected offence was committed?

    It would be most unusual if Parliament meant that a suspect could be immune from prosecution and avoid criminal culpability just because there was no way of knowing about their conduct.

    Of course, there is no harm in anyone picking up a phone, dialling 101 and asking for Gloucestershire Police to investigate.

  • Jon Boy Jovi

    If I’d been a candidate that stood and lost at the last two elections I’d be questioning the legality and seeking justice! The only IPPG member in the clear would be Cllr. Rob Rumpole Summons as at least he declared his intention to join the IPPG (if elected) before he stood in his by-election.

    It will be interesting now to see how Cllr. Rob Suspended Lewis will be handled/handle himself. Has he or the IPPG got the brass neck to front it out?

  • Clive Davies

    Given the circumstances, presumably a magistrate would grant an extension to this time limit anyway.

    Shouldn’t Bryn Parry-Jones be asked if he intends to make a referral? At the same time, definitive evidence could be requested from Clive James.

  • Goldingsboy

    Sorry Jacob, it has since occurred to me that it would help anyone who wishes to see the Representation of the People Act 1983, to supply its online address:

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1983/2

  • Kate Becton

    One of the problems with this time limit is, quite obviously, when does the clock start ticking? Clearly it cannot be at the date of the alleged offence – no one knew that it had happened.

    Might it be at the time that Cllr. Bryan made his complaint, or could it be when the Ombudsman made his report? That is if it is not deemed that eighteen months from start to finish would be considered ‘undue delay’.

    Is there any consensus of how this could be taken forward – thoughts please, anyone?

    By the way Jacob, I’m with Goldingsboy about these blinking simple sums!

  • John Hudson

    Goldingsboy, I am afraid that I am swamped out with looking at the RP Act and subsequent Statutory Regulations and amendments. What Section of the Act did your quotes come from?

    Section 110 of the Act refers to details to appear on election publications and 110 (7) provides that the Secretary of State may, by regulation, make provision for imprints etc. Other than the guidance issued by the Electoral Commission, I have not found that any such Regulation has been made. Sections 9 and 10 of 110 details fines applicable while 12 refers to “an illegal practice”.

    I have not found any definition of when an alleged infringement comes to light.

    What strikes me about all of this is that we poor electors did not get any consideration from the Council’s Standards Committee, however they did take into account the length of time the Ombudsman had taken to investigate as a mitigating circumstance. Who appoints the membership of this committee?

    In addition, the Monitoring Officer, doubling up as Clerk, was present in the closed sessions, rather than the normal practice of being invited in when and if the Committee needed to seek legal clarification. The Ombudsman could have had a barrister present for the public sessions to press his case. We got stuffed as usual.

    Still, at least we now know that the IPG recruits candidates and promotes election material. We can all be on the watch for imprints and promoters next time round. I wonder how IPG members feel about nearly getting caught out by the actions of an ex-cabinet member and Deputy Leader. It must give them confidence in their Leadership.

  • Goldingsboy

    John Hudson,

    The section of the Act that, I think, requires the scrutiny of someone with legal training is paragraph 176 under the italicised heading: General provisions as to prosecutions, and is sub-headed in bold: Time limit for prosecutions.

    “(1) A proceeding against a person in respect of any offence under any provision contained in or made under this Act shall be commenced within one year after the offence was committed, and the time so limited by this section shall, in the case of any proceedings under the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (or, in Northern Ireland, the Magistrates’ Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1981) for any such offence, . . . be substituted for any limitation of time contained in that Act or Order.

    (2) For the purposes of this section—

    (a) in England and Wales, the laying of an information;

    (b) in Scotland, the granting of a warrant to apprehend or cite the accused (if, in relation to an offence alleged to have been committed within the United Kingdom, such warrant is executed without undue delay); and

    (c) in Northern Ireland, the making of a complaint,

    shall be deemed to be the commencement of a proceeding.”

    The passage you want is just over half-way down the document. Hope this makes the finding of it easier.

  • Goldingsboy,

    A little further down the page at that link you posted, it occurs to me that there could be something else of interest:

    181 Director of Public Prosecutions.

    (1) Where information is given to the Director of Public Prosecutions that any offence under this Act has been committed, it is his duty to make such inquiries and institute such prosecutions as the circumstances of the case appear to him to require.

  • Goldingsboy

    Jacob,

    Well done to you for your perseverance and forbearance in your reading of this lengthy and turgid document. I think you have discovered a key provision of the Act.

    I apologise for the long delay in my reply, but I had to hunt around for a decent calculator to assist me with your fiendishly difficult mathematical question.

  • John Hudson

    Goldingsboy, sorry I did not cotton on to your technical “link” sooner.

    While we have the Ombudsman’s report, which gives proof of the publicity produced on the Council’s computer, is anybody out there as sad as I am, and has kept copies of the election leaflets shoved through their door?

  • Melanie Phillips

    Are there any honest people out there?

  • Goldingsboy

    Of course not, Melanie. We are all, to varying degree, dishonest.

    For example, if you were to ask a member of the IPG if he serves the people of Pembrokeshire with utmost honesty, he would, almost certainly, reply with a bald-faced lie.

  • Clive Davies

    It seems the answer is a referral to the DPP. Shouldn’t Plaid Cymru or Labour or Conservative or all do this since it is other party organisations who were directly disadvantaged by the Independent Plus behaviour (in addition to the wider equity issue regarding public morality.)

  • Fox

    Private Eye today. Sums it up nicely.

  • Jon Boy Jovi

    WG suspends funding to Pembrokeshire in respect of Commercial Property Grants until the conclusion of the live police investigation into allegations of fraud. WG reviewing PCC (at last). No comment from PCC until it is discussed at Cabinet.

    Couple this with many other things that have happened, me thinks BPJ is on death row again in terms of his position. The IPPG foot soliders’ resolve to stay loyal will now be tested to the full whilst this just might be the wind of change to see Farmer Adams put out to pasture.

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