21 September 2012

Somerton, September 2012

'Muck & Brass' found its genesis (November 2006) in response to the disinterest of the then Town Council in Somerton in the southwest of England. That Town Council had, for many years, ignored the community in issues which were of direct significance, consequence and cost to the community. M&B sparked a debate about the Town Council's activities, particularly with regard to the Council's swapping, in 2008, of public land for an industrial shed to be refurbished, at public expense and without oversight, and used as a community hall.

The response to M&B was incendiary leading to 27th October 2009 when 12 members of the then Town Council, having learned of an Audit Commission investigation into their activities, staged a mass resignation.

Today, almost three years later and seven months after the publication of the Audit Commission's damning Report into Somerton Town Council (2008/9), a report describing 'unlawful expenditure', 'abuse of public funds' and 'acting without authority', none of those involved have faced any formal sanction.

M&B is, therefore, a cautionary tale. For regulations to have any credibility, they must be enforced and the failure of the authorities to impose any sanctions has turned the Audit Commission's Report into a template for delinquency. Any self-interested councillor only needs to read through the Report to find out that they can break almost all the rules without any fear of consequences.

For the individual who seeks to shed light on such actions, M&B is another type of cautionary tale - throwing light on wrongdoing is not without risk.

Niall Connolly
21st September 2012