20 May 2010
Call me irresponsible........
Like many people in Somerton, I suspected that the new Somerton Town Council would face very real challenges when they took up office and that is proving to be something of an understatement. Nothing illustrates this better than the utter shambles that is the Town Council's 'records'.
The enquiries that I have made via the Freedom of Information Act still take me back to the Dunny and, each time, I am struck by the level of disorganisation in the Town Council's record keeping. Take, for example, the little matter of the 'Office Diary'. This document would give you an idea of what business meetings, discussions, phone calls etc etc were being undertaken by staff and councillors. Its a common business tool most notably used by solicitors and lawyers use to track their business activities and most businesses keep one to make a daily record of what's been going on or what is going to happen.
But such sensible business methods were clearly not popular within the Keenan/Canvin Town Council where there is no record whatsoever of what was done when, by whom and on whose instructions.
The 'filing system' at Somerton Town Council simply doesn't exist and if there is any rationale to what does exist there, then it certainly escapes me. There is no index to what exists and there is no index to where it might be. The same documents, both in original and copy form, are scattered throughout the filing system with absolutely no semblance of order or intention. The only saving grace is that the shambles is so consistent and even that it must have existed for years rather than having been instigated recently - cock-up rather than conspiracy.
And that brings me to the position of the Town Clerk who is also known as the 'Responsible Officer'. The Town Clerk is, in other language, the Chief Executive or the Chief Operating Officer which means that the Town Clerk is responsible for the manner in which the Council is run. It also means that the Town Clerk is responsible for the proper running of the Town Council which, in layman's terms, means that he is meant to know the law and the regulations that constrain the operation of a Town Council.
Now, our Town Clerk, Mr Rodger Calderwood, has been in post for some 20+ years so you'd have thought that he would know the job and know how things should be done. You'd have thought that he would have advised the Council that obstructing the Freedom of Information Act would be a bad idea. You'd have thought that when the District Valuer 'valued' the Tin Dunny, you'd have thought that the Town Clerk would have made sure that the District Valuer was in possession of all the material facts influencing its value. You'd have thought that when the Town Council decided to sell off land at Etsome Terrace, you'd have thought that the Town Clerk would have made sure that the sale was handled properly with a genuine public tender of the asset.
But no, Mr Rodger Calderwood, Somerton's Town Clerk, did none of these things. In fact, I am unaware of any written record of the Town Clerk ever having objected to any action that the Town Council took or any action that the Town Clerk was instructed to undertake. And from this, I must assume that Mr Calderwood approved of everything that he did and was instructed to do over the last 10 years. And from this, I must assume that Mr Calderwood will accept responsibility for what he did and what he was instructed to do.
Which makes me ask if Mr Rodger Calderwood, Somerton's Town Clerk, is 'fit for purpose'. I'd say not. I'd say that Somerton could spend £36,000 per annum a lot more constructively and productively.
Till next time, I'm Niall Connolly
Posted by niall connolly at 00:51