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BADGER AND THE DICTIONARY

badger_2087377bPEMBROKESHIRE County Council, in common with others across Wales, will need to find a lot of money if it is to balance its budget in light of the Welsh Government’s reduction in money paid over to local authorities.

The size of the savings that needs to be made means that a harsher and more critical light needs to be shone on some on Council spending decisions.

For example, the Council took a punt on acquiring the former tax offices at Cherry Grove, Haverfordwest. Pembrokeshire County Council, with the confidence borne out of its investment in other white elephant commercial projects, has spent over three-quarters of a million pounds buying and tarting-up those premises. It expected that businesses would flock to occupy a refurbished 60’s office block.

The success of its investment can be measured by the number of tenants the Council has managed to attract to justify its investment of public money in the scheme.

In round figures, the number of tenants is precisely zero.

In order to occupy the premises, the Council is to shuffle its own staff into the building.

Is the Cherry Grove project a ringing endorsement of the Council’s business acumen? Badger thinks not.

The Council has spent the last few years trying to dispose of property in order to shore up its accounts and save money. Its track record is not one of unparalleled success. The Council is even now eyeing up schools for closure to go along with the farcical way it has handled the redevelopment of the County Library.

No doubt there will be exciting opportunities for eagle-eyed property developers to cream off the best sites in a transparent and open tendering process. In an infinite universe all things are possible.

The Council leader, ‘popular’ mathematician and one-time yoghurt salesman Jamie Adams, says that the Council’s acquisition and refitting of Cherry Grove represents ‘value for money’.

Badger thinks that Jamie Adams inhabits some strange looking-glass world. In fact, Cllr Adams is rather like Humpty-Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. Carroll wrote:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master-that’s all.”

Those of us familiar with the Council leader’s elastic and idiosyncratic approach to the English language know that his regular verbal contortions are a result of having to stick to a script that allows him neither to admit of fault nor apologize for an error. As the head of the senior officers’ club that passes for the political leadership of our County Council, poor Jamie’s linguistic gymnastics are the result of many hours work on answers that are semantically accurate without in any way addressing the issue the question seeks to illuminate.

So much is, of course, the lot of the politician. While the impulse to be honest in answer to a question may exist (however tiny such impulse might be), any politician must protect his own side and their interests. The issue with the IPPG, of course, is just whose interests they are protecting. Badger can scarcely credit that many IPPG councillors’ constituents approve of their representatives cutting rubbish collections or closing schools and libraries while making sure that senior staff continue to ride the gravy train of high salaries.

Those high salaries are justified on the basis that if you want the best, you must pay for it. Those high salaries are also described as value for money.

Of course, we all understand that when Humpty Adams talks about “value for money” in relation to senior staff salaries he really is making words mean so many different things.

And we all understand whose interests Humpty is sticking up for when he defends cutting everything but the salaries of the Council’s top earners.