30 October 2009

Doing the Berlin Wall

It would be unrealistic to let last Tuesday evening's Somerton Town Council meeting go unnoticed and it certainly didn't go unnoticed by those who were there.

The Dunny hasn't had many meetings where the car-park was absolutely crammed and that was the first clue to tell you that something was afoot. Inside it was much the same with all the seats taken and standing room only. A rough head count suggested that 160 people had turned up for the meeting and they included a pretty broad spectrum of the community.

The meeting kicked off at 07:30pm with the introduction of Somerton's only electorally mandated councillor, Pat Bennett and she may now be seeing her success at the ballot box as something of a poisoned chalice. County Councillor Zouche followed up with an announcement that the pedestrian crossing at Behind Berry would not happen, another testament to the commitment of the residents there who took Somerton Town Council head-on when the Council were ready to pass the proposal on the nod.

Michael Fraser-Hopewell, the runner-up to Pat Bennett in the recent election, gave a brief summary of the Town Meeting which was held immediately before the Council Meeting. The Town meeting was called in response to the widespread disquiet caused by Mr A H Canvin's application to locate a new amenity site at Badger's Cross. The meeting had decided to hold the proposal of a Town referendum in abeyance until Mr Canvin re-introduces his application. In the meantime a decision was made to form a civic society for Somerton and this was generally seen as a positive step given the lamentable inability of Somerton Town Council to communicate with the community.

Public questions followed with a probing enquiry regarding the Town Council's continuing efforts to resist the Freedom of Information Act and the Town Clerk was unable to explain exactly why this peculiar course of action had been taken. A question was put with regard to to poor sound quality in the hall where most councillors were quite inaudible, even when they had something to say.Then followed a question about the running costs and generated revenues from the Tin Dunny and again, the Town Clerk was unable to give the gathered throng much of an answer. And then, about 33 minutes into the meeting, it all started to go Pete Tong.

The Vice Chair stood up, put on his jacket and started a brief speech about how he was sick and tired of something or other and how he was going to leave it all up to the Town. At that point it seemed like he was presenting his resignation and this stunning news was greeted by the audience with rapturous applause. This seemed to trigger of a convulsion of action on the part of most of the rest of the council. As one they rose up and the Chair was subject to a proverbial avalanche of resignation letters before he himself resigned. Clearly a rather well orchestrated action but whose point was rather lost on those who were watching with a growing sense of wonderment. As the sheep filed out, a euphoria spread through the hall and everyone there shared their own 'Berlin Wall' moment. Freedom. Heady days indeed.

Till next time, may your God protect you from those who won't.