10 October 2009

A virtual hustings

In order to better inform myself about the beliefs and values of the three candidates for the current Somerton Town Council vacancy, I presented the same 10 questions to each of the candidates. Their replies, edited for space, are reproduced below. The candidate's answers are reproduced in alphabetical order with initials identifying the candidates: PB for Pat Bennett; MFH for Michael Fraser-Hopewell and DR for Dean Ruddle. The questions are shown in italics above the answers. If anyone would like to see the unedited answers, please contact M&B.

1. Have you undertaken any official training in preparation for your possible participation as a councillor on Somerton’s Town Council? (If yes, please specify.)

PB: "None to date...... I shall be seeking initial induction and training."

MFH: "No I have not taken any specific training..... I have asked for....information on the responsibilities and legal liabilities of an elected Councillor."

DR: Did not respond.

2. Are you aware of the legislation regulating the activities of Somerton Town Council and its Councillors? (If yes, please specify.)

PB: "NALC Practitioners Guide; Local Govt Act 2000; ICO Model Publication Scheme and Sustainable Communities Act 2007."

MFH: "See note above please." (see answer to 1 above - Ed)

DR: Did not respond..

3. What aspects of the Council’s activities do you believe should be hidden from public view or enquiry? (Please specify.)

PB: "......I believe that the role of our Councillors is simply to represent the people of Somerton so there can be no reason for secrecy regarding any aspect of the work they do."

MFH: "In general, no activities whatsoever, conducted by an elected body, should be hidden from public view."

DR: Did not respond.

4. Should Somerton Town Council publish a register of Member’s Interests?

PB: "There should be a register of Members Interests and it should be published."

MFH: "Yes. It would certainly be an aid to transparency."

DR: Did not respond.

5. Based upon your own knowledge of Somerton Town Council, should the Council undertake more or less consultation with the Community?

PB: "In my opinion there should be considerably more consultation with the Community."

MFH: "Without a shadow of doubt, definitely more."

DR: Did not respond.

6. What do you see as the top 3 priorities facing Somerton Town Council today?

PB: "Improving every aspect of Communication; Improving Consultation with the Community and Developing a clear plan for the future of the town."

MFH: "a. The future of Edgar Hall. In my opinion an ill-advised venture completed without due consultation. 
b. The regeneration of the Centre and heart of Somerton (Retail and commercial) before it is too late.
 c. Regaining the trust and respect of the community as a whole."

DR: Did not respond.

7. Based upon your current knowledge, is Somerton Town Council currently making the best use of the Precept and, if not, how should the use of the Precept change?

PB: "I have no idea if the Precept is being spent wisely or if we are getting good value for money. I believe there are issues around the lack of financial information, the size of the Precept relative to other towns, the size of the administrative element, the level of borrowing and the budgeting process........"

MFH: "I would need to see a copy of the budget, future proposals and accounts before I could truthfully answer this question."

DR: Did not respond.

8. Have you seen the current accounts of Somerton Town Council including its assets and liabilities and, if so, what is your view of the Council’s current situation?

PB: "The only financial information I have seen to date is: The breakdown of the Precept in the Annual Council Tax review; the summary of receipts and payments in the annual Somerton News and the monthly expenditure in the Council Minutes."

MFH: "A request has been made for these."

DR: Did not respond.

9. What issue(s) do you wish to promote, should your candidacy be successful, and by which you would wish your tenure to be judged? (Please specify.)

PB: "....the same as the top 3 priorities facing the Council today." (see 6 above - Ed)

MFH: "Really the points covered in question six." (see 6 above - Ed)

DR: Did not respond.

10. What particular qualifications make you the best candidate for the current vacancy?

PB: "I have the time, energy and enthusiasm to deal with the obvious frustrations that lie ahead. My previous role with Clarks involved working strategically, operationally and as an agent for change. I know how to build good teams, communicate effectively at all levels and manage dissent. I know my way around drawings/plans, balance sheets and budgets, laws and regualtions, action plans and performance coaching..........Having observed the Town Council meetings for some time I do recognise that I've never operated in an environment where the 'team' is not broadly engaged with achieving the same task. But I'm willing to give this my best shot and am not daunted by any aspect of this challenge."

MFH: "My previous career as the Managing Director of a large International Company equipped me with skills of Communication, consultation, delegation, problem solving, decision-making, teamwork or leadership as appropriate; and vision.

I have a sound knowledge of budgetary control, fiscal responsibility, project management, marketing and some legal complexities.

I bring a positive attitude and a “can do” approach, tempered with a large slices of common sense. I have a practical and somewhat pragmatic approach to dealing with the issues that some people would rather avoid."

DR: Did not respond.

So, dear readers, there you have it. The candidates responses (or lack of them) to 10 questions which, hopefully, give some indication of how these candidates will behave if elected. Think about your choice carefully because, once made, Somerton will be stuck with it for another 18 months till the next election. And remember - your job isn't done once you've voted. You must remain involved and make sure that you hold your councillors accountable. If you don't, Somerton may just end up with another Tin Dunny on its hands.

See you in the voting booth.