22 May 2009

As in Westminster, so it is in Somerton

Somerton Town Council are acting in exactly the same manner as our Parliament did when trying to block public disclosure of Public Information regarding MP's expenses.

Yesterday (Thursday) I was due to visit the Tin Dunny to look at records relating to the purchase of the Etsome Terrace site. Just before heading off to the Dunny I received a phone call from the Town Clerk who told me that the visit had to be cancelled and that he had emailed me with an explanation. It didn't sound too sinister and, frankly, I was glad not to go because I find these visits depressing, usually as a result of what I see. Anyway, the Town Clerk's email didn't arrive till this morning and the text is reproduced in full below.

Its worth pointing out that when I visited Somerset County Council a couple of weeks ago to view their files on Etsome Terrace, I was assisted by a senior staffer who was present to explain and answer any questions. Rather different, I'd suggest, than having a member of the Town Council's Stasi present to make sure you don't see anything incriminating.

As I've said previously, any organisation that obstructs legitimate enquiry creates the the impression that they have something to hide, even if they don't. This is a perfect example of Somerton Town Council seeking to hide their financial transactions and this only leads to the conclusion that they do, in fact, have something to hide.

Till next time, may your God go with you.


Mr N Connolly,
2 Mount Hey,
Somerset 20th May 2009.

Dear Mr Connolly,


I would refer to the above and your proposed visit to the Somerton Town Council Office at 2pm tomorrow, to view certain of the Town Council files.

Since the visit was arranged last week, I have been made aware of your latest ‘blog’ concerning the Council and in particular the publication on the web-site of a photographic copy of one of the invoices that you had sight of on a previous occasion. (Niall says, "Look at the Blog for 11th May to see the document in question.")

You were well aware of the question of payment for any photocopying requested – a service that you did not avail yourself, but you clearly created a photographic image of part of the files that you were perusing, without any authorization.

This, in addition to comments made, again on a previous visit, asking me ‘whether I had removed anything from the file since your earlier inspection’ which was a clear indication of a basic lack of trust on your part, has now created the same view on my part. In the light of such a breakdown in mutual trust I propose that in the future any inspection will require another person from the Council, to be present, the cost of which will need to be borne by yourself, agreed, and indeed paid for in advance. This is in fact the same approach, in terms of officer attendance during your inspection as when you visited County Hall recently, the only difference being that SCC has elected not to charge for officer time, whereas Somerton Town Council, being a much smaller body (and where staff time is much more restricted) does charge, at £25.00 per hour. Please remember that your previous visits have not incurred a cost to you, as your visits were not supervised.
On the question of your actions re: photographs, one person from whom I have sought advice indicated that your actions are such that the Town Council could decide to decline any further requests for information from you.

Any future date for file inspection will need to be agreed in advance and in accordance with the above.

Yours sincerely,

Copy: Mr Keenan,
Mr Canvin,
Mr Deering.
File Ref: 137-09.