The Western Gazette carries a decent piece on the Audit Commission Report in the Public Interest and some cracking quotes from Keenan and Canvin themselves. Keenan is quoted as saying that the Report is, “full of mistakes and serious inaccuracies.” but fails to provide any evidence of those "mistakes and serious inaccuracies". The only evidence that the Report details are the documents kept by the Town Council. Maybe Keenan and Canvin keep their own secret notes about what went on and, if that is the case, maybe they should produce them.
Canvin is reported as saying that, "all members of the then town council were aware of what was going on in regards to the sale, purchase and conversion of the hall." Canvin's only problem in this regard would seem to be that he can't prove that claim because it isn't substantiated by the Town Council's records. There is also the little problem of the request (documented), from 8 Councillors, for a public meeting to discuss the deal that Canvin organised. Cllr Jerry Rees informed me that Canvin went ballistic when he heard about the petition and made his views clear in no uncertain terms. Maybe other Councillors did know what was going on and didn't quite approve.
In the last week, one version of events was described to me where the Etsome Terrace/Tin Dunny deal was rigged-up because Edgar Homes didn't have the funds to buy the Etsome Terrace land. Instead, the idea was to unload the Tin Dunny onto the community in exchange for the Etsome land. If that is true then Somerton Town Council were, in effect, baling out Edgar Homes with public funds. Ex-Cllr David Harrison referred to this view in a letter to Keenan, dated 30th September 2008, when the deal first became public and his words are informative. In his letter Harrison suggests that local people have already commented to him that the purchase of the Tin Dunny is, "a stitch up deal between pals, all about helping mates of certain councillors, with the top priority of helping out a local builder rather than meeting the needs of the local community. In rough terms, a parochial Somerton version of the ongoing international bailout of overstretched bankers, using public funds." From where I sit, ex-Cllr David Harrison was talking to people who were a lot smarter and more perceptive than most of Somerton Town Council.
But, as with the bankers, the money is gone, the architects of the scheme have run away and the taxpayer is left holding the baby. From the limited information that I have received from the Audit Commission, the Report is the most expensive investigation of a Town or Parish Council. The funds that may have been spent 'unlawfully' could encompass the entire Etsome/Tin Dunny deal including the refurbishment which totals up to just less than £1,100,000 which is a pretty big baby.
Till next stitch-up deal, I'm Niall Connolly