19 February 2009

The two faces of eve.........

As I've observed so often in this blog, meetings of Somerton Town Council rarely fail to amuse me and the last meeting (10th February) was, once again, no exception. Initially I did wonder if the meeting would start at all because the band leader, Tony Canvin, wasn't present and it was touch and go to see if the sheep would come to order. Obviously Paddy Keenan had been taking the brave pills and the meeting set off on another journey into the unknown at 7:35pm.

Cllr. Ian Neale is slowly emerging as the star performer and he got off to a flying start with a rant about the condition of Somerton's roads which are, by his estimation, the worst in the county. His idea, wait for it, is that Somerton Town Council should be given a bunch of (public) money so that it could sort out its own roads. My immediate thought was to wonder who might then become the controller of such funds? (Anthony Henry Canvin would be my bet.) Fortunately County Councillor Pauline Clark put things into perspective with some information about the size of the County and the scale of work that the Councty Council has done in the face of the recent extraordinary weather.

At 7:48 the matter of the pedestrian crossing on Behind Berry was raised and this generated some spirited discussion but, once again, Cllr Neale struck out on his own and showed everyone else just how it should be done. Without a hint of irony, he suggested that there should be a consultation on the issue. Isn't it curious how some issues are worth consulting upon (a pedestrian crossing) and some are not (the sale of Etsome Terrace and the purchase of the Tin Dunny).

At 8:18pm there was a discussion about the vexed issue of the Medical Centre. The beautifully coiffed Paddy K made some comments about national policy and 'super sized' health centres and then informed the gathering that there would be a meeting between the PCT, STC and the GP practice to discuss developments. When questioned by one of the sheep, Paddy went on to say that the meeting would not be public and this, once again, illustrates the two faces of Somerton's Town Council.

There was little of real substance discussed at the meeting and few of the Councillors had anything significant to report. Yet the one decision of significance, the approval and signing of cheques, was passed without comment. I wonder if the wider community would be quite so acquiescent if they knew that the approval was for approximately £57,000 of expenditure for January. The preceding month's approval (December) was for £106,000 and before that there were approvals, by month for £57k, £30k, £16k, £12k, £17k, £42k, £25k and £10k. This year's expenditure is currently around £378,000 and we still have February and March to go, with the Tin Dunny still unfinished.

The point is that nothing that happens at Somerton Town Council public meetings informs the public (ie the taxpayer who funds this clown show) of what is happening behind the scenes. From what I see, an awful lot happens out of sight of the public and it leads me to wonder why Somerton Town Council's leadership should want to maintain this veil of secrecy.

In closing, its sad to see that the only sign that has been installed at the Tin Dunny proclaims it to be the home of Somerton Town Council (although the previous owner's sign is still in place on the building). I'd have thought that the first sign to go up would be one proclaiming it as the Somerton Community Hall. From where I stand, this sign indicates that the focus of the leadership is on building a bureaucracy rather than on enabling the community who pays for it all.

Till next time.


PS A lot of photography is about being in the right place at the right time, as these clouds over Badgers Cross illustrate.