Secret Meetings in Taunton too
The Leveller has been reporting regularly on the cult of secrecy at South Somerset District Council. Here secret advice, secret meetings and decisions from which press and public are excluded are no longer rare. But now we have heard of another secret meeting; this time to be held in Taunton.
Because of a historic anomaly, Taunton does not have a town council. Instead district councillors from Somerset West & Taunton council who represent the area of the town that has neither town nor parish councils, sit collectively as the Charter Trustees.
Just as many parish and town councils have done, the Charter Trustees are meeting this afternoon to discuss the pros and cons of a Unitary council.
The meeting however will take place in secret. The more specific purpose of the meeting, The Leveller understands, is to formulate a response by the Trustees to the Unitary debate. In other words it seems as if they will formulate a view, on behalf of the Charter Trustees – and therefore on behalf of the people of Taunton. Whatever that view is, it should at the very least be formulated under public scrutiny. After all the Charter Trustees are a public body.
Yet it has been confirmed that press and public will be excluded from the meeting. Which begs the question why would a public body hold a secret meeting to discuss policy?
South West & Taunton defended the meeting in the following terms:
“The meeting which took place with the Charter Trustees was a briefing on the public consultation being carried out by Somerset County Council. Briefings are a normal local authority practice. The pros and cons of a Unitary Council were not debated. Mr Fothergill did not pull out of attending the briefing – he was asked to attend the public meeting which is taking place on Thursday 2 July at 6pm.
At this meeting Cllr David Fothergill will be presenting SCCs view on the unitary proposal, and the Leader of SWT, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, will be sharing the view of the four districts councils. The Charter Trustees will then discuss their response to the survey. Members of the public are able to participate in the meeting by submitting questions by 4pm on Monday 29 June to the Governance Team at firstname.lastname@example.org
The agenda will be published on our website shortly https://democracy.somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=405&MId=2769 Members of the public will be able to see the debate taking place using our live streaming service https://somersetwestandtaunton.public-i.tv/core/portal/home “