26 April 2009

What's the damage..........

With the 'official naming' of the Tin Dunny fading I found myself considering the nature of the damage that Somerton Town Council's activities visit on the community of Somerton. You may find that a rather radical and possibly challenging proposal, that Somerton Town Council actually damages the community, but it is an idea worthy of exploration.

To start with, what do I expect of a town council? Given Somerton's modest size, I think that I expected that Somerton Town Council, or, more accurately, Somerton's Councillors, would reflect the views and seek to realise the aspirations of the whole of the community that is Somerton. Afterall, if councillors aren't there to reflect the community's needs and aspirations then what are they there for?

In that context, it doesn't seem very much to ask that councillors put the community first. It doesn't seem too much to ask that councillors consult with the wider community and establish what that community wants. Afterall, the community is generating the taxes that pay for the council's activities so it only seems fair that the community be considered first with regard to how the money is spent and on what it is spent.

But based upon observable fact, Somerton Town Council and its councillors don't put the wider community first and don't care to know what the wider community wants, especially when it might not co-incide with what councillors might want. I'm not the first person, and I doubt I'll be the last, to observe that Somerton's Town Council doesn't undertake any consultation with the wider community in Somerton. The naming (and shaming) of the Tin Dunny was a perfect example of their disinterest but what is the long term effect of their disinterest?

Well, come to any meeting of the Town Council and the community's disaffection is best described by the poor attendance. At most meetings that I have attended there is rarely more than 0.25% of Somerton's population in attendance, which translates, roughly, into 12 people. At most meetings the Council outnumber the public. So, quite obviously, the public have got the message that they are not wanted.

Talk to most people in the town and a very common view is that most Somerton Town Council decisions are sorted out well in advance and the meetings are there to rubber stamp them. So that's another reason not to bother. And the corrosive effect of councillor's disinterest in the wider community leads to a vacuum where, to misquote the already misattributed Edmund Burke, 'for evil to triumph good men and good women must stay away'. And so it is in Somerton.

Given this situation, what I find quite astounding is that the de facto Leader of the Gang, Cllr Tony Canvin, still indulges in bullying when it is quite clear that the spirit of the Council, and of the Town, is completely broken. His outburst during the non-debate of the non-list of names for the Tin Dunny was a case in point. Why did he feel the need to indulge in such a public display of ill-temper? Toya again because all it achieved was to draw attention to his own investment in having the Dunny named after the bloke who very conveniently made the Dunny available to the town just at the point that the same bloke wanted to buy from the Town one of the best development sites in the town. So why does Cllr Canvin get his shorts in an uproar? I don't know. Maybe its because he labours under the misapprehension that Somerton Town Council is answerable to him and not to the people of Somerton. And, certainly from his perspective, right now, that is the case.

But, in the end, the damage that is done by the disinterest of the Council is witnessed by the fact that the people of Somerton vote with their feet and stay away. And, right or wrong, who can blame them.

Till next time, may your God go with you.