11 February 2012

Where now?

With the publication of the 'Report in the Public Interest' detailing the failings of Somerton Town Council's Keenan/Canvin administration within fiscal 2008/9, I now wonder if there is a next step and what it might be.

What are the consequences of this Report? Well, with regard to those Town and ex-Town Councillors responsible for the events described (Gill Beale, Nigel Bisgrove, Tony Canvin, John Deering, David Harrison, Edna Holland, Paddy Keenan, Jackie Medley, Kevin Morgan, Cllr Ian Neale, Cllr Brian Raybould, Jerry Rees, David Smith, Martyn Smith, and Joy Webber) it would seem that there are to be none. Equally, Rodger Calderwood (the Town Clerk and 'Responsible Officer') receives no sanction in the Report and remains in post to collect his  not insubstantial salary (c£40,000 pa).

It is also important to point out that the problems described in this Report did not appear overnight but reflected the established culture of Somerton Town Council where secrecy and exclusion were the norm. It is also significant to note that two of the Coucillors, Beale and Canvin, were at the time also District Councillors and Deering was an ex-Dictrict Councillor. They all approved the actions described in the Report which indicates that these problems are probably recognised and accepted behaviour at District level.

The expenditure and debts amassed by these town councillors remain for the community of Somerton to pay off and the Report also confirms the title deficiencies of the Tin Dunny (known in some quarters as the Edgar Hall). The value of the Dunny is cast into doubt by the two restrictive covenants held over it (one of which is held by ex-Vice Chair Canvin) and there is also the problem that ex-Vice Chair Canvin also owns the roadways serving the Dunny and has not granted a legal 'right of way' to the owners of the Dunny. If the Town Council were to dispose of the Dunny, who would buy it and would its sale price recover the investment made in it? That's a difficult one but the indications are that the Keenan/Canvin administration's 'valuation' (£1.3M) is fantasy.

There is, of course, one way out which would be for the key players, the Councillors noted above and the Town Clerk, to club together and buy the Dunny from Somerton at their valuation of £1.3M. At the same time, they could re-imburse the town for the cost of the External Auditor's Report. By my calculation that is £1,360,000 which, split 16 ways, would mean that they would each contribute £85,000 and remove the cost of their stupidity from the community. Now that would be something to celebrate but I suspect that hell will freeze over first.

Till next time, I'm still Niall Connolly