4 December 2008

Somerton is #1 - its official

Given the prevailing economic climate with its attendant doom-sayers, its great to be able to celebrate something. Doubly so when its your own town that has proved itself better than all the rest. And so it is if you look at the Precept that is charged by South Somerset's 121 Town Councils in Fiscal 2008/9.

Now in total amounts, Somerton (£220,000) doesn't charge as much a some (although the Town Council are clearly trying very hard) and it is only in 4th place behind Yeovil (£783,925), Chard (£529,505) and Crewkerne (£229,200) in terms of total Precept charged. But, when you start to look at the amount of the Precept and divide that across the total properties in the Town, that's when Somerton really powers into the lead. Based upon the Precept for 2008/9, Somerton is the only SSDC Council to impose a level of Precept in triple figures at £100.69p per residence. In comparison, Yeovil lags far, far behind in 6th place with a charge per residence of only £58.84p

Somerton's dominance in the Precept League is again underscored when you consider the average Precept charged by the 121 Town Councils in South Somerset. The average Precept charged per property across those Councils is a paltry £24.85p and Somerton exceeds that by close to 400%. Somerton again charges more than 8 times (8.21 times to be precise) the average total Precept across those same 121 Councils at £220,000 compared to an average of £26,773.43p

So, its official. Somerton has the greediest, most money grabbing Town Council in South Somerset, bar none. Doesn't that make you feel good about yourself?

Next time I'll start to look at what Somerton's Town Council spends our hard earned rates on.

Till next time.

Niall

PS In case you think that I'm making this up (and I wouldn't be surprised if you did) then the figures are in the public domain here www.southsomerset.gov.uk/media/pdf/a/a/PARISH_TAXING_TIMES_08-09.pdf with additional population figures here www.somerset.gov.uk/somerset/statistics/contents/population/estimates/2002mye/

28 November 2008

Liar Liar, pants on fire.

The Minutes of Somerton Town Council are not, by any stretch of the imagination, what could reasonably be called a measured and balanced reflection of its considerations and activities. When you read them you would imagine that the Town Council is a haven of peace and tranquility. Furthermore, you get the impression that everything that the Council does is blessed with perfection, an impression heightened by the self-congratulatory tone set by Cllr This thanking Cllr That for their sterling efforts. All in all, a sickening display of brown-nosing sycophancy, but I digress, I was talking about the Minutes. Every now and again a little nugget of something approaching the truth slips through Somerton Town Council's 'reality filter' and so it was on 10th January 2006.

The Minutes for that meeting of the Council quote the self-appointed 'scourge of bureaucracy', none other than our very own Cllr Tony 'Whirly-bird' Canvin as counseling caution with regard to expenditure on any proposed Community Hall. Cllr Tony is quoted in the Minutes as follows, ".........Cllr Canvin noting that a Hall would cost some £500-600,000 to build, apart from the present debt (mortgage) on the site of some £250,000."

So, guided by Professor Canvin's statement, it seems that on 10th January 2006, Somerton Town Council (funded by the taxpayers of Somerton) were in debt to the tune of £250,000 and that debt was the borrowings and repayments incurred by the purchase of the Etsome Terrace site. With me so far?

The clock then flies forward to 23rd September 2008 when Somerton Town Council issue a 'Press Release' where they trumpet the sale of the Etsome Terrace site (thanks to so-and-so blah de blah de blah) and go on to announce the successful purchase of Tammany Hall. At this point the Council obviously starts to take copious amounts of drugs and alcohol or maybe they are just arithmetically challenged because nowhere is there any balance sheet for these "totally separate set of negotiations" (who are they kidding?).

The £250,000 debt referred to on 10th january 2006 by our very own 'scourge of bureaucracy' has magically disappeared. This magic disappearance is also noted in the pages of 'The Viaduct' which repeats the fantasy 'Press Release' almost verbatim.

So, was the debt paid off or has it just been buried by an accountant's wrist action? Only time will tell but, if I am ever honoured with a reply to my letters, maybe at some point Somerton's Town Council will actually start telling the truth about these transactions. Because, afterall, it isn't their money, its the taxpayer and rate-payer's money but when did any politician let a little matter like that get in the way of their self-interest?

Till next time.

Niall

14 November 2008

Get on board the gravy train

Wikipedia is a wonderful thing. It is so broad in its references and, because the contributors aren't always academics, those references can be quite amusing and culled from widely different sources. Why do I mention this? Well I've just heard the latest chapter of the 'Tin Dunny' saga and it rang vague bells so I went to Wikipedia and looked up the subject of 'Tammany Hall' and 'Tammany Hall politics'.

If you are reading this then you can easily look up 'Tammany Hall' yourself but, in a nutshell, the term 'Tammany Hall' is a shorthand for corruption, cronyism and insider dealing, at the expense of the taxpayer or voter and usually at the expense of both. And today, here in little old Somerton, it looks like we have our very own 'Tammany Hall' located way, way out on the edge of town in the wonderfully picturesque setting that is the Bancombe Industrial Estate.

Evidently, in keeping with the Town Council's rich tradition of ignoring the community at every turn, work is already in hand converting the Tin Dunny into one very narrow vision of what a 'Community Hall' should be. The result will very much be the handiwork of none other than our very own Cllr Canvin and it will be interesting to see what his vision of a 'Community Hall' delivers. On the same theme, and again in keeping with Somerton Town Council tradition, that works are underway are underway without tendering, because the Council have agreed (or are instructed) not to seek tenders for works under £5,000. So, all you have to do is divide the budget (probably the £130k balance of the asset swap that delivered the 'Tin Dunny') by 5 and break the work into that number of bits. Then someone, possibly Cllr Canvin, can place the 26 chunks of work where they want and do so without interference from the people who are paying ie the community of Somerton.

And I thought that the spirit of free enterprise was dead!

Till next time.

Niall

PS The cartoon below is from the Wikipedia entry and I found it quite amusing. I'll leave you to cut and paste the image of of your favourite councillor into it.