Whilst didn't stay for the whole of last week's inaugural meeting of the New Somerton Town Council I did mention the statement from the new Chair of the Council, Michael Fraser-Hopewell, that the Chair would be occupied by three different councillors between now and May of 2011. This is a decision that deserves specific comment because it indicates the strength of the sea-change that has overtaken Somerton.
Looking back at the Keenan/Canvin administration, the Council was divided roughly into two parts, one the one hand the Bullies and, on the other, the sheep. The Bullies, messers Keenan & Canvin, set the agenda and the sheep were there to rubber-stamp the decisions that had already been made by the Bullies.
But under the New Somerton Town Council there is clearly a determination to create, over time, an experienced body of councillors who will not be dependent on any one individual for their leadership. This in itself suggests that the agenda of the Council is far less likely to be set internally, especially if the New Council continues its determination to be open, transparent and accountable. Because there is less than 18 months between now and the next election, a six monthly tenure will give Somerton three councillors with experience of holding the Chair. It may be that 6 months may be too short a period but certainly one year will be adequate and time will tell how this arrangement will work in practice.
It will also be interesting to see what impact this new administrational environment will have on the administration of the Town Council. The Town Clerk has been in post for some 20 years and is therefore very familiar, not to say comfortable, with the style of the old regime. It will be interesting to see how the Town Clerk adapts to the new reality.
Till next time, I am Niall Connolly