9 March 2009

Taking care of business ...........

Date - 24th February 2009
Location - Parish Rooms, Somerton,
Occassion - Meeting of Somerton's Town Council.

The meeting was attended by 13 Councillors with the Public represented by 11 brave souls, less than 0.25% of the populace.

07:35pm and the meeting got off to a cracking start with a member of the public who was convinced that the Landspeed Record was being broken with monotonous regularity on the Langport Road. This individual sought to pour scorn on the local 'Speedwatch' effort and the exchanges with Councillors took on a vaguely surreal tone. The plot was lost early on and the discussion covered most aspects of traffic regulation relating to some view of 'speeding'. But things took a sinister turn when Cllr Webber intoned that she had been informed by the Police that they (the Police) were waiting for fatalities (on the Langport Rd) before doing anything and with the obvious implication being that the Police were being negligent. The item was concluded leaving me completely mystified as to what, if anything, had been the point of the debate.

07:55 - light relief with a discussion about noxious smells from the Whiscombe Landfill site seemingly caused by broken pipework adjacent to the lagoon. Cllr Harrison gave a very good explanation of the problem and went on the explain that resolution was being handled by the Environment Agency.

08:05 - Finance and the Council was asked to approve the fortnight's raft of expenditure. A respectful silence fell across the gathering as Cllrs viewed the depth of the financial hole down which the Council is falling. Obviously the figures are so shocking that they could not be shared with the Public but, after some further moments silence out of respect for those deceased taxpayer's pounds, payments were approved unanimously.

08:11 - correspondence and Somerset Links requested financial support and got a grant of £1,000 in the coming Financial year. STC was invited to join the Rural Links Network and the meeting was informed that South Somerset is already a member of SPARSE whereupon Cllr Neale enquired if this was more C-R-A-P. Very witty. There was a request for support for the Tour of Britain and the STC was quite animated in its enthusiasm for cycling through the town (probably because Speedwatch won't be required).

08:29 - the Council was informed that the Flood Awareness workshop to be held at Donyat had been cancelled because the venue ............................ had been flooded. Laughter all round.

08:30 - a curio. The Town Clerk has been meeting with the Land Registry and it was agreed that the Town Council should seek to register all its land or property assets. I've been wondering exactly what Somerton Town Council actually owned and it looks like the Town Council isn't too sure either.

08:35 - the Town Council was addressed by Greta Mattingley representing a local community group which was seeking the support of the Town Council for an initiative to purchase the Old Town Hall building and convert it into an 'enterprise centre'. This item sparked off some interesting comments from councillors and it became apparent that the local business association is well represented on the Town Council. Cllr Jerry Rees, also Chairperson of Somerton's Business & Trade Association, waffled on about "unfair competition", a theme re-inforced by Cllr Nigel Bisgrove and this exchange made me wonder about the make-up of the Town Council and what part of the community it actually represents.

Obviously the Leader of the Council, Tony Canvin, is a major mover and shaker in the business community with property and business interests spread across the town. Cllr Paddy Keenan (Chair of the STC and Tony's mouth-piece) is another prominent member of the business community and Cllr Rees is clearly heavily involved as are Cllr's Bisgrove and Smith. Cllr Beale may also be related to 'Beale Transport' and there may be other members of the Council with significant connections to the local business community.

I have long wondered about the activities and machinations of Somerton's Town Council and it has been my impression (one that I share with many other members of the local community) that Somerton's Town Council does not represent the wider community of Somerton. Nothing made that clearer that the manner in which the Town Council destroyed the concensus that was built by the Community Hall Steering Group. Back in 2006, it was my impression that a small core of the then Town Council (Cllrs Canvin, Keenan, Gardiner, Smith and Langmaid) were determined to ensure that the wider Community did not gain any significant voice in deciding the future of the Community Hall project. Today, almost three years later, the Town Council has sold land to one local builder (Edgar Homes) in exchange for an industrial shed (owned by Edgar Builders) which was built on land sold to Edgar Builders by Anthony Henry Canvin (aka Cllr Tony Canvin). Seems to be a lot of business interest there and not too much community. But maybe I'm just being cycnical. Forgive me.

Anyway, the discussion about the old Town Hall project rumbled on until Cllr Ian Neale waded in with his usual insightful contribution. He prefaced his comment with some blether about not being "against" the project but he wanted to know if the Enterprise Group had sought the support of 2/3rds of the 3,000 adults (his number) in the Parish. Well, Cllr Neale, forgive me for saying this but these guys aren't asking for anything more than an expression of support and you want them to canvas the town. So how much support did you get before you decided to spend over a £1,000,000 of taxpayer's money on the Tin Dunny? I don't remember you asking for anyone's opinion. What a jackass.

In the end Cllr Paddy managed to make some sort of disingenuous expression of 'support in principal' for the idea and after another couple of minutes the meeting came to an end. But not before we were reminded that the next meeting will be ...................... at the Tin Dunny. If 10 people turn up that will mean that each seat cost £100,000. I can't wait.

Till next time.