Jacob Williams
Tuesday 11th August, 2015

Driving a hard bargain

Driving a hard bargain

Waiting limo

Council cuts affecting public services in Pembrokeshire have only just begun. Things are only going to get worse. “Every damn service” is at risk of cuts – the words in May this year of the council’s leader, Cllr. Jamie Adams.

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There have also been some minuscule cash-saving efforts made among councillors which, with the best will in the world collectively amount to a drop in the Cleddau. Such as the introduction of tea and coffee fees in the members’ tearoom. ‘We’re not immune either,’ is the public message, I think.

It is all a piddly amount compared to the council’s budgetary pressures and what many see as the abundance of cosy middle and senior management at the authority, which, in a private business simply wouldn’t exist as-is.

A novel proposal that Cllr. Adams is currently spearheading will see councillors have to pay for paper copies of council meeting agendas.

Such token displays of parsimony when others are concerned contrasts remarkably with the leader’s cavalier way with public cash – his submission of four years’ worth of backdated travel expenses once he knew he was going to be unopposed at the 2012 election, springs to mind. (See: ‘To hell with the expenses’ and ‘No expense spared’.)

The leader amassed historic mileage claims worth a whopping £4,650 – and he was paid in full despite the council’s three month time limit.

It’s one of many examples demonstrating the unhealthy culture and non-stick nature of the elite at County Hall – which not all of us are convinced can be resigned to the history books.

It’s also reminiscent of the unwritten and unsanctioned roll-over arrangement which allowed former chief executive Bryn Parry-Jones to save up his unspent monthly car allowance sums which he later pooled together to fund a far costlier luxury Porsche than his monthly allowance alone would stretch to.

Any old councillor can claim mileage costs – but may not get away with Jamie’s antics which he put down to ‘poor bookkeeping.’ However for the very select few councillors lucky enough to make the chairmanship (there is a new one every year) the council provides an official vehicle, paid for by you.

Amid a backdrop of penny-pinching and endless tinkering with service provisions, Cllr. Bob Kilmister put down a proposal earlier this year that the council should not renew its lease on the chairman’s car. Known in the council tearoom as the chauffeur driven limousine, it costs a hefty £18,170 per year.

Cllr. Kilmister, who leads the council’s three-member Pembrokeshire Alliance group, says this form of ultra-exclusive transport is “from a bygone era” and cannot be justified “at this time of austerity and when basic public services like Library opening hours are being reduced.”

And you’d think he’s got a point because, on last year’s usage he said the average cost is £156 per journey. His bid to axe the limo eventually made its way to a final debate at last month’s full council meeting.

Thanks to a split opposition and the ruling group’s block-vote – with not a single rebellion among its ranks – Bob’s proposal was overwhelmingly defeated by 36 votes to 14. It was a useful exercise nonetheless.

See how your councillor voted at the end of this post

In response to Cllr. Kilmister’s proposal a report was drafted for councillors by council officers in which a great deal of effort was put in to weighing up the pros – and to a limited degree the cons – of the current arrangement.

It’s a black Seat Alhambra people carrier which, driven by a council employee who has other duties besides driving, has covered approximately 850 miles per month since being leased in January 2012.

‘It’s not a chauffered limo, it’s a very practical people carrier driven by a council employee,’ was the view expressed by a few councillors aghast that Bob dared question what they say represents prudence on wheels.

The same dissenters would have winced at the tentative but well-meaning suggestion in the official report to council that the chairman might instead be driven to events in one of the authority’s Ford Fiesta pool cars.

Part of the officers’ research involved asking Wales’ 21 other councils what their chairman’s transport arrangements were. Of just nine responses received, neighbouring Ceredigion – along with three other councils – provides no car, one provides a Ford Mondeo for the job, and four councils use a Skoda Superb.

My petrolhead readers won’t be surprised at the Skoda’s clear popularity. With unparalleled legroom thanks to its long wheelbase the Skoda Superb has for some time been the undisputed standard bearer of the minicab industry.

Another part of the back-room research into Cllr. Kilmister’s attempt to make an easy cash saving involved – I kid you not – an ‘equalities impact assessment.’

A casual reader of the officers’ report would be forgiven for assuming it was going in Bob’s direction with the limo heading for the chop.

It identified that “the cheapest option for the Council would be for the Chairman to use his/her own vehicle on official engagements” which could “save the Council in the region of £13,800 per annum, primarily due to there being no leasing, insurance, fuel or driver costs.”

All very well. But this bonus was offset, as these things so often are, by the sort of consideration which could only be dreamt up by a long-time inhabitant of the Kremlin’s confines.

The report continues that “this may not always be possible or practical.”

It contends: “the security of the Chairman when attending civic functions” is a “primary consideration” and that the chauffeured limo “ensures that the Chairman and others can be transported to and from official engagements safely and without risk to their security.”

The report fails to elaborate on the nature of such perceived safety and security risks, so we can only wonder about the sort of imaginative plots racing through the minds of the report’s authors that ring alarm bells for PCC’s chain-wearing supremos.

A list of men, which, I must remind you includes such sitting ducks as Arwyn Williams and Tom Richards.

Like shooting fish in a barrel!

The best the equalities impact assessment could come up with was that the elder statesmen who reach the heady heights of the council’s chairmanship may “no longer drive due to age.”

However should such a situation pose itself – or should a disabled councillor hit the big time – it says the chairman: “could be transported to civic events in a council pool car, with a member of facilities staff driving on an ad-hoc basis.”

Under the ‘gender reassignment’ heading, readers will be delighted to learn that the equality risk of Bob’s proposal didn’t register on the scale. However the rurality of the county was flagged up as potentially problematic to non-driving chairmen as “the use of public transport to attend civic events may not be a viable alternative.”

These chairmen are clearly an entitled breed!

For what it’s worth, I can understand the desire for the chairman to be driven rather than drive to some functions – but certainly not all of them. And to have a paid council worker sitting behind the wheel on standby whilst the chairman downs the contents of the municipal wine cellar at some civic function or other – sometimes involving an overnight stay – isn’t an ideal situation.

Mine and other councillors’ rather simple answer to this is, for longer journeys a train, or shorter ones a taxi. And by taxi I don’t mean a chauffeured private hire executive car, I mean a fare-paying minicab.

I must admit the image of a civic chain-donning chairman hailing a taxi from beneath a rain-soaked umbrella has some appeal. Among an unprecedented budgetary squeeze it has strong potential to become the defining display of municipal selflessness.

Not if Monkton’s Cllr. Pearl Llewellyn has anything to do with it!

During the debate Pearl the girl bemoaned the indignity a chairman would suffer rolling up to a civic bash in a car emblazoned with “BOBBY’S TAXIS.”

The shame of it!

The conspiracy theorists have speculated that Pearl’s less than subtle contribution was a master-stroke. An inventive way, they say, of subtly sewing the seeds of doubt in councillors’ minds that Cllr. Bob Kilmister has a clandestine plot underway to enter the taxi trade. Others say Pearl’s reference to “Bobby’s Taxis” was purely coincidental.

However if Bob is scouring the pages of Auto Trader for a suitable Hackney carriage he’d do well to remember the roomy Skoda Superb can comfortably accommodate all the Alliance’s members with seats to spare. Not to mention a capacious boot for their baggage – of which I’m given to understand there’s plenty.

Yet despite her candid observation, Pearl wasn’t the star of the show. Entertaining, yes. Outmoded, no doubt about it. But the out-of-touch award must go to Cllr. Reg Owens. He wasn’t happy to simply hint that the chairman’s turbo diesel Seat Alhambra was very humble.

Cllr. Owens says the Seat should be replaced by something more upmarket.

He also accused Cllr. Kilmister of “playing to the gallery and looking for cheap headlines,” saying the car was neither a ‘limousine’ nor was it ‘chauffeured,’ adding that this bespoke transport arrangement for the chairman “to go to prestigious events within Wales and perhaps even further” was “the least we can do.”

Claiming that the choice of a people carrier as the chairman’s car “is not a good advert for Pembrokeshire,” the self-styled socialist made his case for the chairman to be shuttled around in a more distinguished motoring marque.

He said: “I would like to put down the argument that we upgrade the car,” citing examples of other councils in Wales who – he’s seen with his own eyes – make use of posh motors adorned with flags.

The card-carrying Labour party member whose affiliation on the council is to the oxymoronic ruling ‘independent’ party justified his suggestion: “If we went down the line, say for example of a Jaguar, we would also be promoting the hard-working car industry of the UK where many many components are made in Wales.”

Presumably the only flag flying on the bonnet of Reg’s Jag would be red.

There was a time when buying British continued as a tradition belying financial and common sense in the face of foreign alternatives.

The prohibitive costs associated with a modern Jag will disappoint Blighty’s patriots – the sort who would sooner see tired-out Austin Princesses or flaky-painted Humber Super Snipes dripping oil on the paved drives of civic HQs up and down the country, over plastic-trimmed family wagons from the Czech stable of the Volkswagen parent group.

Alas, the Seat Alhambra may not be a Rolls, a Bentley or even a Jag or Merc, but as the photos I snapped in February show, in spite of its decidedly unassuming badge the council’s civic car doesn’t appear to lose any shine in the eyes of its VIP passengers.

With its smoked glass windows to prevent shameless ogling of its occupants by the hoi polloi who pay for it, and a uniformed flunky at the wheel, the imposing Seat people carrier can capably smooth the ego of its notable luminary who, lest we forget, is second only to the Queen in order of precedence in the county.

There was a noticeable skip in the step of the then chairman, Cllr. Tom Richards as he lugged himself and not one but two briefcases into his waiting carriage. One for official business and one for the road, perhaps.

Providing what can accurately be described as a door-to-door service, the limo regularly reverses right up to the County Hall entranceway in an area off-limits to everything else but pedestrians. The only thing missing was a red carpet – you can see why they love it!

As recently as last week Cllr. Jamie Adams was spreading the message that deeper cuts to the council’s services are an inevitability, so just remember the way councillors were with your money when it benefited the select few, and not the many.

As for the real savings, it will be interesting to see what plans (if any) the council’s new chief executive Ian Westley has in mind for the unwieldy staff structure he now presides over.

The limo debate can be viewed 24 minutes into the meeting’s webcast at this link.

Leaving doorway

Ground control to Major Tom: The ‘chauffeured limo’ sits on standby at County Hall’s front door, awaiting the moustachioed dapper don’s departure

Entering limo

Voting record

With a united front, all ruling IPPG party members present opposed Cllr. Bob Kilmister’s bid to scrap the limo.

Contributing to the resounding defeat was a split opposition with five unaffiliated members following the IPPG’s lead to keep the civic car (one of whom brushes shoulders with the IPPG cabinet, Alison Lee) who were even joined by some members of both Labour and Conservative.

As beneficiaries of the motor, the current chair and vice-chair, Cllrs. Wynne Evans and Tony Brinsden, abstained.

If your councillor is one of the eight whose name doesn’t appear – all of which are men – he wasn’t present for the vote.

Plaid Cymru
Rod Bowen
Rhys Sinnett
Michael Williams

Conservatives
David Bryan
David Howlett

Unaffiliated
Tessa Hodgson
Mike Stoddart
Vivien Stoddart
Jacob Williams

Pembrokeshire Alliance
Bob Kilmister
Jonathan Nutting

Labour
Paul Miller
Tom Tudor
Guy Woodham

14

IPPG
Jamie Adams
John Allen-Mirehouse
Daphne Bush
John Davies
Mark Edwards
Lyndon Frayling
Brian Hall
Simon Hancock
Paul Harries
Umelda Havard
Mike James
Lyn Jenkins
Michael John
Keith Lewis
Rob Lewis
Pearl Llewellyn
Peter Morgan
David Neale
Reg Owens
Myles Pepper
Sue Perkins
David Pugh
David Rees
Tom Richards
Ken Rowlands
Arwyn Williams
Steve Yelland

Unaffiliated
Phil Baker
Owen James
Stephen Joseph
Alison Lee
David Lloyd

Labour
Pat Davies
Gwilym Price
Tony Wilcox

Conservative
Stan Hudson

36

IPPG
Wynne Evans (current chairman)

Unaffiliated
Tony Brinsden (current vice-chairman)

2



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45 Comments...

  • Andrew Lye

    As the car is required for “security reasons”, does the Chair of Council have heavies to surround him or her, if facing an unruly audience?

    Is the same vehicle protected from IEDs found at the side of the road, aimed at taking out the Chair, with materials to deflect explosions?

    Since when has there been ANY security issue in Pembrokeshire, in which the Chair needed protection? Have IS made any implied threats against the Chair?

    Or do they just like this perk and are prepared to cut vital services, yet protect this car, especially as other Councils manage perfectly without one, as in Ceredigion?

  • Flashbang

    What is the new CEO actually doing? I haven’t seen or read a word about him since he was parachuted one step up on the gravy train.

    Why haven’t the legal department been sacked yet as it’s quite plain for all to see that they don’t understand their brief and continually give the wrong advice when asked a question. Not to mention roping in outside legal advocates to also give the wrong advice.

    As for the very real terrorist threat on councillors’ security you only have to look at Labour’s South Pembrokeshire Assembly candidate Marc Tierney on keeping the police helicopter in Pembrokeshire as reported in the Western Telegraph.

    Personally I think PCC should get in touch with one of the many private security firms that have access to the latest high tech weapons systems to keep a drone in the air above the Kremlin at all times.

    Obviously it will mean a rise in what the public pays to keep those lovable rogues safe and secure but they are worth it aren’t they?

  • John Hudson

    Is it really for Ian Westley to perpetuate the non elected officer “control” and direction of the Council regarding budget reductions? Why do we elect councillors?

    I thought we had all had enough of an officer-led council, unless of course councillors have no thoughts on the level and type of services we are to continue being provided with.

    Did I hear that the “silent” passed over Deputy CEO has left or is leaving?

    I hope that Mr Westley will now provide councillors with proposed options for budget cuts, leaving councillors with their proper role for determining priorities, rather than the hitherto unthinking rubber stamp.

    It’s about time that those councillors responsible for the failings of this council can be seen and held to account for their decisions.

    We were told that “documents” had been presented at the members only budget seminars for this year’s budget. An FOI application I submitted to see them, revealed that they were still considered confidential and were mostly slide show presentations. So much for the changed ethos and improved openness and transparency.

  • Tim

    While on the subject of cars for councillors, what is the situation with PCC employees using work vehicles for their commute to and from work (and dropping off other work colleagues). Common practice which must be costing quite a bit and is a nice ‘perk’.

  • Keanjo

    That other website has published travelling claims from a few members which is worth a look. Reminds me of old time weddings when the local ragamuffins scrabbled in the dust for pennies thrown by the groom.

  • Goldingsboy

    I see, in a recent post in Pravda, that Comrade Putin has gone back to riding about in a armour-plated Zil limousine, using the special traffic lane reserved for very important party officials.

    I look forward, therefore, to reading in our very own official organ that our Kremlin’s Works Dept. has made similar provision for our top commissars of the people.

  • Welshman 23

    Regarding the cuts, while the IPPG are in power nothing sensible will get done to save money. I have questioned the waste of cash with the alterations at Greenhill Crescent Merlins Bridge, the Bulford Road bypass and finally all the work done over the years on the Nash Fingerpost where the junction still has serious safety issues.

    And I also wonder if the grant fiasco has been swept under the carpet.

  • Tim

    Welshman 23, I may be wrong but I believe the Nash Fingerpost is a Trunk Roads Agency responsibility and they have paid rather than PCC. I do not know about the other two.

  • Forsheda

    Ah, the infamous “we’re all in this together” cry from the Tory posh boys comes to mind. Still, the election date looms closer and closer and the people of Pembrokeshire have long memories.

  • Jonathan Nutting

    I don’t know much about the previous two examples but Nash Fingerpost falls under the Trunk Road Agency and not PCC.

    Everyone highlighted the need for a roundabout. This included Angela Burns AM, Simon Hart MP, Pembroke Town Council, myself etc etc. The Trunk Road Agency knew better and did not listen to anyone.

    Many bad accidents later do you think they might be reconsidering..? Don’t think so 🙁

  • Patrick

    The chair’s chain appears to have become a liability rather than for its purpose of recognition. Perhaps a much cheaper alternative could be found in an impressive badge or tie for a man or a similarly impressive brooch or scarf for a lady.

    As for the chair’s transport, and trying to make savings, the idea of using taxis and trains for some and recompensing those who drive themselves to me seems a good idea.

    I presume whichever councillor becomes the chair, whether a driver or non-driver, they have in the course of their previous council duties already provided their own transport and claimed expenses, but as soon as the chain is worn this appears to become a no-no: odd that.

    At the end of their term the chair invariably says what a privilege it has been and they have had a wonderful time – so you would think they would be only too pleased to make savings by using their cars, or taxis.

    One of the reasons put against the use of taxis appears to be the indignity of the chair arriving in a taxi. To me there is no indignity in using taxis or your own transport, in fact it would be a sign for common sense (and lots of MPs use bikes in London).

    Most people have to get to work and pay for it themselves. Can you imagine saying to an employer: no thanks, I do not wish to have my train and taxi fares or car mileage to work paid for, but want a driver and car provided instead at much greater cost, although in my job I am supposed to provide value for money to the employer?

    The main picture you have taken of the previous chair leaving, I think is terrific on many levels, and should be placed in the Pembrokeshire archives.

  • Malcolm Calver

    Surely one of the great benefits to a chairperson (who maybe enjoys a tipple) being driven to functions is there is no fear of the breathalyser on either your homeward or perhaps even outward journey.

    I am sure our police force would not turn a blind eye to drink driving no matter how important you are deemed as being to the community.

  • Mayday

    Paddington Bear would be jealous – two briefcases of marmalade sandwiches for the journey into Darkest Pembrokeshire!?

  • John Hudson

    So far it has not been widely recognised that on the 6 July 2015, in considering the WAO report on the council’s 2013/14 accounts (just after the 2014/15 draft accounts were opened for audit) the council accepted that the financial position of the Cleddau Bridge was “uncertain” and that a review was necessary to clarify the financial position and that regular reviews would be a good idea and good administrative practice, although not required by legislation.

    The council, or rather the 13-member Corporate Governance Committee, has now accepted that the financial history of the bridge, for which the council has been responsible since 1996, could produce a financial result ranging from an accumulated deficit of £64m; an accumulated surplus of £9.3m, or an accumulated surplus of £17.6m at 31 March 2014. (A range of £84m over the life of the undertaking!)

    Council had been advised early on 17 October 2013, by the relevant cabinet member that “he met regularly with the Director of Finance and Leisure on a regular basis to discuss the toll structure and considered that a regular review was not relevant as the current practice occurred on a more frequent basis.” Why did these reviews not uncover the lack of clarity?

    At that meeting, council referred the question of the bridge to the Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee, with a specific reference to examine the legal and financial context in which the Cleddau Bridge operated.

    This Committee considered a report from its task and finish group (advised by officers) on 20 March 2013. The minutes record that members raised concerns that the recommendation did not offer a long term strategy for the future of the Cleddau Bridge.

    Members stated that the toll had a detrimental effect on the economy of the council and that it was unfair for the toll charges to fall disproportionately on the regular and local users. The Chairman concluded that he considered that the report reflected the issues and the views of the task and finish group. Why didn’t the rigorous scrutiny of the task and finish group uncover the lack of financial clarity?

    Pending the reporting of the required review, this committee has declined to consider why its scrutiny of the bridge failed to uncover the now accepted financial uncertainty.

    The annual operating costs of the bridge produce a “profit” of some £1.9m, which is regarded by the council as “its own” and is applied to reduce non-bridge highways and transport expenditure, and hence the council’s budget requirement, or council tax. Thus: tolls, raised for the purposes of the bridge, as defined in the ruling Dyfed Act 1987, could be said to be subsidise council taxes.

    In its accounting treatment of the bridge, the council overlooks that the toll income is a separate stream of income, raised under an Act of Parliament which requires toll income to be used for the purposes of the bridge and for no other purpose.

    The effect of applying an estimated surplus toll income of £1.861m in 2014/15 to reduce council expenditure means that bridge users, through tolls, reduce the council tax for every one, including themselves, at each council tax band by :- Band A: -£23, Band B: -£27, Band C: -31, Band D: -£35, Band E: -£43, Band F: -£51, Band G: -£59, Band H: -£70, and Band I: -£82.

    Should tolls be reduced to provide an equitable solution of overall council funding, as appropriate between council tax payers and toll payers? The forthcoming review should provide the answer.

  • Blodwen

    Are county council chief execs clones of each other? They all look remarkably similar to me.

  • Brian

    Hmmm, if you are too pished to drive yourself home from an official function are you really representing PCC well?

    Labour party members in power have always had a weakness for a Jag…remember John ‘Two Jags’ Prescott.

  • Ivor Whistle

    I can see the economies of scale of several members being driven (in the same vehicle) to functions.

    What needs to be evidenced is that the provision of transport etc is, in tax terms, wholly necessary in the fulfilment of their duties.

    If not, I would expect rather a large P11D tax charge to be dropping on the said recipient’s doormat.

    As an aside though, I would be concerned if I am relying on a person to do an important role for me who was not fit (through age or otherwise) to drive.

  • Bayard

    In response to Andrew Lye’s comment: “Or do they just like this perk and are prepared to cut vital services, yet protect this car…”

    – I think you misunderstand. As far as they are concerned, the car is a vital service, much more vital than looking after the elderly, say.

    In his comment, Patrick says: “One of the reasons put against the use of taxis appears to be the indignity of the chair arriving in a taxi.”

    – At one time the prime minister used to go to work on the bus.

  • Goldingsboy

    I see from the Pembrokeshire Herald that police enquiries into the Pembroke Dock grants scandal has moved into a new police phase.

  • Welshman 23

    Why has it taken so long to get to the next stage of the grants fiasco? Let’s hope they pass this to another reputable force to carry out the investigation on why it has taken so long to get a detailed response.

    Great point from Ivor Whistle, I have a company car and have to pay tax on this perk so I hope Wynne Evans is contributing to this benefit in kind.

  • Phil

    Not only a new police phase, Goldingsboy, but it seems the fire brigade is also in on the act.

    On Thursday morning, Dimond Street was temporarily closed while the fire tender with the special articulated ladder propelled a man with a tape measure on to the roof of the now infamous property.

  • Keanjo

    Whilst obviously we cannot draw any firm conclusions until the police have completed their investigations, if corruption is proved in the grants fiasco we have the right to demand the resignation of all the Councillors who ridiculed Mike Stoddard’s findings to the extent of accusing him of telling lies.

    Fortunately they can all be identified from the December 2013 full council meeting webcast:

  • Casual Observer

    If a County Councillor fails to reply to what one hopes is a reasonable request for information from that Councillor, what recourse is there?

  • It is heartening to learn that the police are at last taking action.

    They received the dossier of evidence from PCC on 8 April 2014, so nobody can accuse them of carrying out a rush job.

    Not sure why the fire brigade needs to be involved.

    The dossier set out the issues with the roof at 29 Dimond Street – details of which can be found (complete with pictures) at:

    http://oldgrumpy.co.uk/2014/1196/the-roof-the-whole-roof-and-nothing-but-the-roof/

  • Timetraveller

    The rationale of this council has for a number of years been to achieve low rates. At what point officers “led” this agenda is hard to say, but practically all authority business is delegated to them anyhow. Certainly officers seem to work to achieve this objective.

    They do not have a secret formula to achieve low rates, it is mostly cost cutting in social services in particular. Scrutiny at various levels will simply add to costs, as the cost cutting has been achieved, in many cases, by cutting a few corners.

    The Pembroke Dock grants scheme is a typical example of cutting a corner that they cannot afford to have scrutinised. The nature of such operations requires a minimum of paperwork, which in that example would be incriminating. In this respect the officers are merely executing the political direction from the ruling group.

    Councillors were told last year that cuts had to be made, same all over. What has not been on the political agenda is the balance between rates and the quality of service provided. More expensively run authorities do not necessarily waste the money, they are more compliant with regulation and accountability. Few other authorities would have ended up with a diversion of funding such as the PD grants scheme.

    The opposition in particular need to be more aware of costings as suggested in the ‘Green Books’ and holding this council up to account. The Mavalon case, for example, was a significant under-funding of care for the elderly that had to impact on the quality of care. It was left to the care homes to successfully fight their case against the council through the courts when the opposition should have been on to it.

    However much of this is technical and the authority’s accounts are too obtuse to clarify the issues. There is only one direction council tax bills can go if due compliance was achieved across the board, that is why Farmer Adams and his friends resist such scrutiny.

    Legal are reasonably competent, the “wrong” advice that’s always given serves its purpose, the present head of legal services is a home grown product and seems to me to be well versed on the need to keep people like Jacob and Mike at bay.

    However, this lack of compliance does leave the authority open to charges of corruption, and its many entries in Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs column.

  • Keanjo

    They claim rates are low but I pay three times the amount I paid South Pembrokeshire District Council for a markedly inferior service.

    The Council’s revenue from council tax has increased substantially from the rebanding exercise a few years back when approximately a third of the houses were remanded upwards and also the substantial number of new houses which have been built in recent years.

    The claim of the lowest Band D council tax in Wales is a fraud. I’d like to know the average amount of tax per household for each of the Welsh local authorities which would be much more meaningful in showing Pembrokeshire County Council’s relative efficiency.

  • Ivor Whistle

    Between corruption and plain incompetence I suggest that there is a fine dividing line.

  • Jon Boy Jovi

    I wonder if there was an intrinsic link between the eagle eyed traffic warden booking a police van in Haverfordwest for outstaying its welcome in a loading bay to the police in Gloucestershire ramping up its investigation into the Pembroke Dock grant scheme? The old adage ‘I’ll scratch your back and you scratch mine’ thus being replaced by ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’.

    I just hope Farmer Adams doesn’t need to call the fire brigade if he loses his paddle up the swanny in the near future.

  • Jon Boy, Dyfed-Powys Police is investigating the Pembroke Dock grant scheme irregularities, not Gloucestershire Constabulary.

    Dyfed-Powys Police recused itself from the criminal investigation into PCC’s unlawful pension opt-out scheme for senior officers, saying it was “not appropriate for the Force to carry out the enquiry” due to its “close working relationships and partnership arrangements” with the council. So the investigation was sent up the line to Gloucestershire. It eventually came to nothing.

    Funny that these close links didn’t preclude Dyfed-Powys Police from undertaking its ongoing (and extremely long-running) ‘investigation’ into the fraud allegations in the grant schemes – which are administered by the council!

  • John Hudson

    The answer to the “close links” question may be explained by reference to Dyfed Powys Police’s accounts for 2013/14.

    Note 12 of the commentary on senior employees’ remuneration, includes the comment that:-

    Dyfed Powys Police Authority approved the Chief Officers’ Benefits Policy but nationally, concerns have been raised over the legality of these allowances. Legal advice has confirmed that the discretionary payments could be unlawful, and in the light of this, such allowances were stopped until such time as the legal position is fully clarified.

    Chief Officers who have been in receipt of these allowances have been informed of this and that potential recovery action could be taken if the allowances are subsequently confirmed as being unlawful. This remains an open issue that will be progressed during 2014/15.

    Our Council’s position recognises that contractual difficulties may arise, if the scheme is found to be unlawful.

    While the police’s 2013/14 accounts show that all employer’s S&P contributions were paid in that year as normal, the council’s draft 2014/15 accounts show that no employer’s S&P contributions were made in respect of the council’s Director of Finance and Leisure for April and May 2014, when he retired.

    As page 62 of these draft accounts reveal, the council rescinded the scheme on 14 February 2014, before the start of the 2014/15 financial year.

    The council’s draft 2014/15 accounts are currently being audited.

  • Dave Edwards

    Keanjo, the average household bill in Pembrokeshire is £937, still the lowest in Wales, but followed closely by Caerphilly at £943 – just £6 per year more.

    You highlight the problem of how the data is presented and the lack of understanding about what conclusions we can draw from the much quoted Band D comparison trotted out by PCC leaders over the years.

    Anyone looking at Pembrokeshire’s Band D of £801 and Caerphilly’s of £992 would get a very different idea of their actual tax bill per household than what actually is the case.

  • John Hudson

    There is another close link between Pembrokeshire County Council and Dyfed-Powys Police through the chief officers’ club, or ‘Local Service Board.’

    This is made up of all the public service CEOs – council, police, health, fire and other statutory services and public bodies in Pembs. PCC’s Leader chairs this august body, which the council is required to have by WG, who also attend meetings. This Board co-ordinates delivery of services.

    Minutes of meetings are on the council’s website.

  • Goldingsboy

    Further to last week’s revelation in the Pembrokeshire Herald concerning police enquiries into the Pembroke Dock grants’ scandal, I see they have added even more detail to that scoop in this week’s edition, suggesting that the “activities” of a “prominent” councillor (whom they are not naming for legal reasons) are “likely to form part of the ongoing Dyfed-Powys Police investigation.”

    Well done, once again, The Pembrokeshire Herald.

  • Vivien Stoddart

    Timetraveller mentions the Mavalon case. The council fought and lost two judicial reviews brought by care homes, seeking a fair level of fees for their provision of residential care to Pembrokeshire residents.

    Timetraveller, this opposition member was “on to it”!

    At the time of the first review, in December 2010, a council spokesman said the hearing would fully vindicate the authority’s position. Hmm…

    I raised concerns the following month, only to be slapped down by the then council leader, Cllr John Davies. He accused me of making a number of unsubstantiated accusations.

    We now know the final legal bill for the care homes fee fiasco came to over £400,000, paid for by you.

  • Galf

    Nice piece in today’s Herald about Pembroke Dock grant scheme. My first thought was: Bloody Hell, who could this councillor be?

  • Welshman 23

    At least we have saved some dosh by reducing the amount we spend on bailiffs.

  • Tony Wilcox

    After reading today’s Herald story regarding the Pembroke Dock property grant scandal, I must confess I have no idea who this prominent councillor can be. I can however rule myself out as I have never clapped eyes on the developer concerned and in no way can I be deemed prominent!

  • John Hudson

    Viv, following the first judicial review, I well remember the High Court judge commenting in his report about the woeful lack of evidence the council could produce justifying its decision audit trail.

    Officers could have remedied this shortcoming then, but rather chose to block any review and report on its shortcomings on the grounds that such a report could be detrimental as a second judicial review was likely.

    Quite how correcting the council’s decision recording – both at officer meeting and committee level – could be detrimental is a moot point, and could have been administratively corrected at officer level. There must have been reasons why this was not seen as a good thing.

    Recently the quality and content of council/committee minutes has improved, although the council Leader has expressed concern about the extra time and cost involved.

    As the care home fees judicial reviews illustrated, the council may have to provide evidence and justification for why it reached the decisions it made. It is not sufficient to just record the decision.

  • Keanjo

    Tony, although the Herald couldn’t name the person, they listed several matters in which he is alleged to have been involved.

  • Phil

    Come, come Tony! You do yourself an injustice. All the voters who put their cross against your name and gave you a huge majority in Pennar think you are prominent enough.

    As for the “secret” identity of the un-named councillor, I believe there are actually two people who really don’t know the name. One is a hermit living in a sand bunker on the barrack hill golf course and the other has been in a coma since 1986!

  • Welshman 23

    “Pembrokeshire council workers were disciplined 340 times, with 30 fired” – an extract from WalesOnline. These are the figures for the last 5 years. Shame the figure was not increased by 1 in 2014/15.

  • Timetraveller

    Vivien, notwithstanding the sterling work you and Mike do, the opposition as a whole do not function as they should. I believe the Malavon case was worth £2.5m pa to them, a significant amount of under funding on care for the elderly in the county.

    Just how cynical did they get? Well £400,000 is not such a big deal against what they stood to pay. It was a no hoper from the start, whatever Cllr Davies said at the time. The costs involved were also an attempt to frighten the claimant off, more or less hiring QCs to try and prove black is white.

    The accounts do not make clear reading, perhaps wilfully so. The standard spending assessment for domiciliary care for the elderly was about £25m at the time, indicating they were trying to achieve at least a 10% reduction on this by under paying. To achieve the lowest council tax in Wales they have to shave something like £12m pa from these standard spending assessments.

    Outside of education and social care, their spending is “normal”, more or less as the SSAs. So all this “saving” is from these two areas.

    In their bad school report from ESTYN a few years ago, the inspector saw fit to mention that spending was slightly below the SSA for schools, which suggests that social care is the main source for “savings”. (Assuming this highlight has forced higher spending since.)

    One would think that this would be fertile ground for Labour.

  • Tony Wilcox

    Keanjo, there was an additional paragraph to my comment, however the young master’s censorship pen deemed it may well have been dodgy legally.

    Phil, you sound like a nice person!

  • Malcolm Calver

    I personally cannot see why anyone would want the community charge to be higher in Pembrokeshire, other than those who are not paying the charge.

    The problem lies with the fact that you need to be above average ability to understand the calculations and I presume most county councillors do not have that ability. There is also the fact that councils do not charge the same for directly paid services.

    I do believe the majority of county councillors have the ability to decide what it is necessary to cut, if given the opportunity to prioritise. I am still waiting for the new chief executive Ian Westley to provide councillors with a comprehensive list of services the county council has no statutory duty to provide.

    Jacob, on a lighter note, looking at the stance of Cllr Richards leaving County Hall, are you sure there is not a horse missing from your photo?

  • Welshman 23

    Jacob, great performance on Thursday. I’m very concerned about the monies being spent on work at a Pembroke school that my be wasted.

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