12 July 2009

In the Court of the Kangaroo King

What: Meeting of Somerton Town Council
When: 23rd June 2009
Where: The Tin Dunny
With: 15 Members of the Public (MoP)

07:30 Apologes from Cllrs Bisgrove, Morgan, Smith (D) and CCllr Zouche
Public Q's for local Police. Sgnt Allan Bell introduced himself and discussed policing in the Somerton area. In summary, Somerton is below the National Average for crime reporting. ASBOs in Somerton are down significantly since last year. Judged by ASB stats, Somerton is a good place. Cllr Neale raised issue of speeding on Langport Rd and Sgnt Bell informed the meeting that a request has been made for increased Road Traffic presence. 07:35 and Cllr Neale raised the issue of alcohol consumption on the playing fields. Cllr Webber reported having been approached by an MoP regarding the sandwich board sign obscuring visibility at the Sutton Rd/Langport Rd junction. Cllr Keenan observed that this was not a Police issue. An MoP observed that Neighbourhood Watch in West End has made an improvement and congratulated local Police. Cllr Keenan echoed those congratulations. 07:39 Cllr Smith (M) referred to perennial problem of parking in West Street. An MoP raised the issue of disabled carriages and enquired about regulations for them. An MoP questioned the use of flashing speed signs and their effectiveness. 07:45 Cllr Neale raised issue of vandalism at Junior School and robbery at Costcutter cash machine. Regarding the latter, Sgnt Bell confirmed that arrests had been made out of town. An MoP stated that 'Lord Jimmy Zouche' doesn't exist. 07:48 Public Q's and comments. An MoP enquired about progress in cleaning up Etsome site (letter has been written). An MoP enquired about progress on Medical Centre (none). Cllr Neale raised issue of loos on sportsfield and enquired about progress. Cllr Keenan reminded Cllr Neale that the Council left it to Cllrs Neale and Rees some 6 weeks previously. Cllr Neale reported that one quote had been received. Cllr Keenan suggested that: "...... this summed up what you (Cllr Neale) have been complaining about. You cannot get the quotes. Its been like this for 10 years. We always end up doing it ourselves. Getting people to produce quotes is a waste of time.". There followed discussions about: quotes; the steps in New St; the paving slabs in the Square and the shrubs on the railway path at Behind Berry. An MoP raised the issue of 'dog mess' in the town and during the discussion Cllr Smith (M) observed that dogs can't read signs.

07:59 Cllr Keenan suspended the meeting and convened the Somerton Kangaroo Court which took up approximately 15 minutes.

08:15 and the meeting reconvened. Declarations of Interest attracted none. The Minutes of the last meeting were approved and Matters Arising covered: the lack of a bus stop on Behind Berry; thanks from Mrs Thomas for the flowers; the survey of the Parish Rooms for a water meter; (08:17) a discussion about the Portaloos for the sportsfield and, finally, the Town Clerk then provided the following, "Just an update on the previous Freedom of Information enquiry from Mr Connolly following the last meeting I sought some legal advice regarding the ability or otherwise to charge .... and the comment I had back was that if the Authority reasonably suspected that information might be tampered with, damaged or destroyed then there was grounds for there to be a member of staff there with the person and a charge could then be levied on the basis of the original charge or what is called a search fee. That information has been passed on to Mr Connolly .........". 08:22 and Finance saw the schedule of payments approved and Cllr Harrison suggested some clarity about the expenses for the hall. 08:25 and Planning Applications saw no applications for discussion. 08:26 and Correspondence dealt with: requests for grant support (£100 approved); invitation to bid for insulation grants for community halls, sustainable electricity generation and electric vehicles; a letter about verge cutting and a letter from the Arts Festival enclosing 4 tickets for a concert. 08:31 Cllr Keenan asked if there was any pressing additional post. 08:31 The Town Clerk advised the meeting, "A further FoI enquiry from Mr Connolly which I am currently checking as to whether any of the information he has asked for is exempt information under the Act. My initial comments back to me the enquiry actually relates to my personal contract of employment but I am waiting for a response in writing before corresponding further with Mr Connolly. Its that aspect which I would when I said earlier that I wanted to raise something within the Council meeting....... One of the recent blogs referred to the Council tax banding ....... in Somerton when he asked if I had information on precept levels over as many years as possible I said well I've been here over 20 years but didn't have the information ready to hand as it wasn't something that was collated in that form. Those of you who have read the blog will now see how it is now on the blog. ......so he went to the District Council and got it there. I in fact at the meeting suggested that the information would be more easily available at the District Council. I was not denying that we had the information. It was not on one single piece of paper. I did in fact get all the information within about 15 minutes but on the basis that the blog as other councillors have said has a certain spin on it I will seek Council's approval that in future I will not to talk to Mr Connolly but I will correspond in writing so that at least if there is any spin the opposite is available for correlation for a conversation taken out of context can never be proved either way. I have done this once in the past with another gentleman where he said I said something over the phone which I know I did not. The Council at that point approved any further contact to be in writing so I am seeking your approval." Cllr Keenan stated, "If I could just I would personally like to say and therefore there will be no insinuations of what was said or not said so if everybody is happy we will ask for all communications with Mr Connolly to be in writing please." Cllr Canvin stated, "That goes for all councillors. I think that goes for everybody sat round this table." An MoP asked if that applied to everybody who wants some information or just Mr Connolly. Cllr Keenan replied, "You can request anything at all, you can have it. Do not expect to walk into the Clerk's office and just say I want to see 20 years of accounts ...... that cannot be done that might happen at County Hall that might happen at District Council where there are swarms of people but up here there's one............We've asked for a vote of support for the Clerk......everybody show of hands." Cllr Neale then introduced the Core Strategy Programme which he described as being part of a "Regional Spatial Strategy" which may now be on hold due to legal challenges in the High Court. The Town Clerk confirmed that workshops relating to it were still on schedule. 08:40 and the Finance Committee made it to the floor. Cllr Neale proposed the setting up of a Finance Committee to oversee and regulate the financial activities of the Council. The Chair asked Cllr Deering to respond which he did, at length. There ensued an exchange of views between Cllrs about what work was being done for the Council, by whom and on what basis. 08:53 Eventually the proposal to set up a Finance Committee was approved and the Meeting moved on to the Approval of Accounts which it was informed have been approved by the Internal Auditors. 09:03 Market Towns Investment Group funding for replacement flags in Market Sq. Cllr Neale fronts this project and the Chair suggested he team up with the Town Clerk to co-ordinate it. 09:08 The Old Town Hall grant funding request. The OTH group made a presentation to the Council seeking £350 grant support which was referred to the Finance Committee. 09:21 Chair's report contained nothing which led to Agenda Items for the next meeting and The End at 09:22