26 May 2009

A rate-payer replies:

After receiving the Town Council's letter of intent to deny access to public documents, I have reproduced below the text of my response to the Council.

Till next time, may your God go with you.


Mr Roger Calderwood, Clerk to the Council
Somerton Town Council
Council Offices
Wessex Park, Unit 8,
Somerton Business Park
Bancombe Road
TA11 6SB

Dear Mr Calderwood

Re: Your email dated 20th May and received by myself on 22nd May 2009.

I received your email and read its contents with great sadness. It is a dark day indeed for Somerton when the Town Council commits to writing its implacable opposition to democracy, transparency, accountability and the rule of Law. I would comment upon your email as follows:

1. At no time during any of my conversations or contact with yourself, did you indicate, either verbally or in writing, that the Town Council sought to prohibit photography of documents. The Council’s action as described in your email is simply an indication of the Council’s continuing attempts to obstruct legal and legitimate enquiry into the affairs of Somerton Town Council. Affairs which, it would seem, the Town Council wish to hide from the rate-payers and voters of Somerton.

2. I made no secret of my attending Council premises with photographic equipment. On two occasions, prior to reviewing documents, I entered your office carrying my equipment in full view and you made no reference to it.

3. During our conversation regarding the files that I had viewed, my words to you (and I made note of this) were, “Have any documents been removed from these files since my last visit?” I regret that you have personalised this fair and reasonable enquiry.

4. Regarding your suggestion that, “........the Town Council could decline any further requests for information.......”, I believe that such a course of action is in direct contravention of the Freedom of Information Act. I have therefore made the same request in writing and you received the request on 22nd May. The Town Council has until Tuesday 23rd June to respond to my enquiry and provide the information I have requested. Failure to provide the information in a reasonable manner will result in my referring the request directly to the Ombudsman.

5. Finally, whilst the reasons for the Town Council’s refusal to make documents available to me are entirely spurious, they indicate just how out of touch Somerton Town Council is with regard to environmental issues. Photographic copies are far less harmful to the environment than are photocopies. Photographic copies consume less energy, create less pollution and have a smaller carbon footprint than do photocopies. I would have thought that Somerton Town Council would wish to be seen as caring for the environment. The Town Council clearly places secrecy regarding its activities far above environmental concerns.

Yours most disappointedly,

Niall Connolly
Copied to all Councillors