South Somerset secrecy continues

On Monday we published an article about South Somerset District Council. That looked into the chain of events behind the appointment of Clare Pestell back on 5 May this year. We published the report because it was our view that SSDC had been engaged in a cover up. Specifically hiding details and the actions of Leader, Val Keitch and then Chief Executive, Alex Parmley.

In view of the public interest, we felt we were under an obligation to publish. The following day, SSDC issued a statement acknowledging some details in our report. They acknowledged that 2 members of staff had been dismissed. They further acknowledged the breaches of the code of conduct that had taken place. Albeit declining to give the details we gave in our report. However SSDC claimed that they always intended to inform press and public.

So by Thursday morning most of the relevant information was in the public domain. And SSDC had issued a statement themselves acknowledging the facts. And claiming an intention to keep press and public informed.

Yesterday (Thursday 16 December) a Full Council meeting was scheduled. On that agenda was a confidential item. That item dealt with the handling of the Clare Pestell issue. And also our reports on the subject.

It seems especially odd that this item was held in confidential session. Why? remember SSDC said this on Tuesday “It was always the Council’s intention to inform elected members, staff and the public appropriately at the right time.”

And in any case the whole issue had been in the public domain since Monday.

So why was the item held in confidential session? Once again it seems that the actions of SSDC are at odds with their public pronouncements.

Minor glitch

Added to which they failed once again, to follow the rules when going into confidential session. Those rules require that the council must give a reason for going into confidential session. Then they must have a proposer and seconder and hold a vote. All of that process MUST be in public session. It is only once a vote has been taken that the confidential session begins.

Team leveller were watching the meeting via YouTube. The live feed was cut before a proposer and seconder had been found for the motion. And we would have liked to see the councillors voting. We wanted to know who thought it was a good idea to take that item into confidential session.


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