22 November 2010

This is all very familiar........

Any follower of M&B will know that one of the drivers behind M&B's enquiries into the activities of the old Somerton Town Council (ie the Keenan/Canvin administration pre 27th October 2009) was the old Town Council's refusal to answer perfectly reasonable questions. Looking back on the enquiries in question, its easy to see that they went pretty much straight to the heart of the concerns about the Etsome Terrace/Tin Dunny asset swap. Its also clear to see, in part with the benefit of hindsight, why the old Town Council and the ex-Vice Chair in particular, would have wanted all the documentation to stay completely hidden from public view. And today, M&B is faced with another remarkably similar situation but this time it relates to enquiries made of Somerset County Council.

A couple of weeks ago, and in the light of the increasingly worrying statements coming out of County Hall, I decided to email the Leader of Somerset County Council, Ken Maddock, with a few questions. The text of the email is reproduced below (click or double click to see it in a larger version).
Now I don't think that these are unreasonable questions and I'd have assumed that they could be answered quite quickly, or at least acknowledged, but, thus far, silence. And I suspect that there might be a reason for the silence and the reason might be embodied in the Matthew Parris quote that adorns the top of this page.

Its my suspicion that Ken and his crew don't have a plan and, because they don't have a plan, they have't thought through the impact of the cuts. However, as ideologues (see Pol Pot, Chairman Mao etc etc) they don't actually care what the impact of the cuts is going to be. They only care about the final objective (or should that be solution?) and that was probably outlined in instructions that they received from George Osborne. George probably told them what the likely figure was that County would receive from Council Tax, Uniform Business Rate etc etc and George probably suggested that they get going with the chainsaw.

Now I'm just as concerned as the next person about 'debt' and if County is carrying unsustainable levels of debt then its only right and proper to get those debt levels down to manageable levels. But the timescale applied to that reduction is important. The longer the timescale (4 years to the next election) the smaller the chance will be that Ken will hit George's schedule. The shorter the timescale, the more drastic the cuts, the more in the way of asset disposal will be required. Rather like a choice between between a decent landing and taxi to the terminal or a belly-flop which will probably destroy the aircraft and kill the passengers. George probably wants the latter because it will satisfy his timescale and, speaking as a passenger, I'd prefer the former.

The question is, "How badly does Ken want to feature in the Birthday Honours List?".

Till next time, I'm Niall Connolly