8 March 2011

Easy money........

Did you ever wonder exactly where the money came from that enabled the old Somerton Town Council to buy the land at Etsome Terrace? Well, the simple answer is that the money came from you and me, the good old taxpayer but that isn't the whole story. Whilst the taxpayers of Somerton are repaying the money, the funds themselves came to the oSTC in the form of a loan from a little known organisation called the Public Works Loan Board or PWLB. The PWLB are a government funded lender and they lend to local authorities to fund 'public works'. So, how does a body like the oSTC get its hands on the PWLB (taxpayer's) dosh?

Firstly, the oSTC had to complete a set of forms which it sent to the National Association of Local Councils. In this case the oSTC sent the documentation to NALC's local office for Somerset which is in Taunton and headed up by Peter Lacey. The documents include the amount to be borrowed, the purpose of the loan and other financial information about, in this case, the Town Council. NALC don't do and are not required to do any 'due diligence' to check the facts of the application. NALC simply confirm that the applicant body, in this case Somerton Town Council, is known to them and they forward the information to the next stop on the bureaucratic chain which was, in 2003, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister or the ODPM.

On the basis of the NALC confirmation that the documentation is genuine, the ODPM then decided whether or not to approve the loan. The ODPM didn't do any due diligence because the NALC had confirmed the legitimacy of the application and the ODPM simply decides if, on the basis of the information provided (which they assume is correct) if the purpose of the loan application satisfies their criteria. In the case of the Etsome Terrace loan, the ODPM approved the application and that approval was forwarded to the PWLB, allowing the PWLB to make the funds available.

So thats it. Easy peasy. What you might notice is the complete lack of oversight on the documentation front. No-one checks whether or not the 'facts' as represented are accurate. Everyone assumes that someone else has done the due diligence when, in fact, no-one has and it is really down to the author of the documentation to make sure that there is no misrepresentation.

So, for your amusement, I have reproduced three documents authored by our revered Town Clerk on behalf of the oSTC as it was constituted in 2003. These extracts are in support of loan applications but to what do each of these documents relate? The Rodger Calderwood Award for Creative Writing and a cheque for £25.00 will go to the first person to answer correctly. (Members of the oSTC, employees of STC, local property developers, family and friends are excluded from participation even if they don't know the answers.) I apologise in advance for the redactions (the ugly black lines) but I wouldn't want to make it too easy. As ever, click on an image to see it in a larger version.

Till next time, I'm still Niall Connolly