Conversion to basic democratic principles

First published in Letters

Dear editor, I TAKE issue with Pembrokeshire County Council’s Leader, Cllr John Davies’ claim (Milford Mercury, February 2, Accusations of spin over audit office report) that “There is no such thing as an Independent Group block vote and the recorded votes on record prove it as recently as 2010”.

Having analysed the 16 recorded votes on constitutional reforms proposed by opposition members since I was elected to the council in 2004, I can tell your readers that Independent Political Group (IPG) members have cast a total of 530 votes for the Leader’s proposal to reject the reforms with 26 (less than 5%) going against the party line.

As the IPG has a 39 to 21 majority on the council that has always provided a comfortable majority for the ruling group.

With regard to the particular issue I raised last week (opposition proposals that members should have the right to address cabinet in support of Notices of Motion they have submitted), my researches reveal that opposition members have proposed this reform on four separate occasions.

In 2007 the IPG voted 32 to 0 against with two abstentions and in 2009 (29 to 4) and 2010 (34 to 2).

On its most recent appearance at the council meeting in December 2011, in a complete reversal of his previous stance, the Leader proposed that the reform should be adopted and, on a show of hands, the IPG voted unanimously in favour.

Readers might wonder what caused this dramatic conversion to basic democratic principles.

One popular hypothesis is they have been influenced by presence in county hall of the Welsh Government’s Ministerial Advisory Board, headed by a retired High Court Judge, which, as part of its remit, has been asked to look into the county council’s democratic culture, or lack of it, As Voltaire said: “Under coercion, there is no virtue.”

Mike Stoddart, Liddeston

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