No Confidence motion at SSDC

The full council meeting of South Somerset District Council on 28 February promises to be a lively affair. Normally there would be plenty to debate anyway. This is the council meeting where SSDC sets a budget. Already the project to refurbish the Octagon looks like it will over run by £6m. But in addition a motion has been submitted for debate which proposes no confidence in the leader, Cllr Val Keitch.

Martin Wale who submitted the motion had hoped to present it. Unfortunately having planned a holiday to avoid a clash, he is unable to be present as full council. This is because SSDC moved the meeting date. This means Cllr Wale can attend by Zoom, but will be unable to vote. The item will be the last one on the agenda – item 22.

The no confidence motion relates to the handling of the appointment of Clare Pestel as Chief Executive. The text that follows is self explanatory but you can find all the background in the January edition of The Leveller®. You can also find Val Keitch’s response in the February Leveller®.


Council has no confidence in the leadership of Cllr Val Keitch due to the facts that this Council was misled, misinformed and criminal allegations were delayed from being reported to the Police with proper diligence before, during and after the Appointment of Clare Pestell as Chief Executive of South Somerset District Council.


Full Council was misled by Cllr. Keetch and the then Chief Executive by recommending to the Appointments Committee and then full Council that the only candidate for the role of Chief Executive was the best and only Candidate for this position, knowing that serious professional and criminal allegations had been made against her and other senior members of that candidates directorate. The option of delaying the selection process was not considered and the process pushed through both the Appointments Committee and full Council on the recommendation of the Leader and the then Chief Executive, whose last action as Chief Exec was to highly recommend Claire Pastell for the role, knowing of the allegations and of her business interests and the difficulties she was having balancing her two roles, prior to his departure to New Zealand. It has been stated by Cllr.Keetch that it wouldn’t have been fair to not go ahead with the selection process in relation to the candidate because at the time the complaints were unsubstantiated. The fact that all Councillors were misled and misinformed to hurry this flawed selection process through is more than unfair and display’s abuse of the proper process required to be taken by a Leader of this Council. An independent Investigation report headed Corruption , Fraud and Bullying was served on Cllr Keetch on June 26 th. This report fully upheld all the allegations from the original whistleblower and uncovered more. These are serious Criminal Allegations, however these were not reported to Police until Thursday 16th. December, a period of six months. This report was only made because I was to make a statement to Council on that evening.

To not support this motion is to condone misleading and misinforming Council and for six months covering up and not reporting Criminal allegations of Corruption, Fraud and Bullying and not taking proper action by , at least, delaying the selection process for Chief Executive.
Martin WaleCouncillor Blackdown and Tatworth Ward


  • “Motion

    Council has no confidence in the leadership of Cllr Val Keitch due to the facts that this Council was misled, misinformed and criminal allegations were delayed from being reported to the Police with proper diligence before, during and after the Appointment of Clare Pestell as Chief Executive of South Somerset District Council”.

    Long-time coming; Northcliffe’s ‘dictum’ many years, the ‘escutcheon’ Western Daily Press, alas not the ‘West-Newspaper’ of yester-year, pace ‘lamented’ Reg Dickenson ‘let light e’re shine on power, less that power corrupts’! Your ‘letters’ column the ‘life-blood’ of any self-respecting newspaper, pace February LEVELLER ‘the situation at South Somerset District Council, a scandal the likes of over 45 years having worked across some 40 councils’. This ‘octogenarian’ witness to the ‘demise’ with notable exceptions of ‘community-first’ elected members, succeeded by party apparatchiks & increasingly ‘paper-candidates’ to complete the ‘political-party’ nominations-listings; twasn’t always so!

    Whither the ‘fourth-estate’ in thraw of the LEVELLER expose?
    Sir Ray Tindle whose 220 titles from the Abergavenny Chronicle to the Cowbridge Gem in a ​valedictory message asserted “Local news in depth is what people need” supported by someone at the opposite end of the media food chain, Sir Martin Sorrell former head of the world’s biggest advertising company, advocating advertiser should keep ‘faith’ with newspapers.

    We’re witness the ‘abrogation’ across ‘governance’ both locally & nationally in a National Code of Conduct, pace Nolan/Scarman LJ et al.* It further exposes a ‘deficiency’ in the ‘elected’ member’ per se. Local Councillors are elected by the community to decide how the council should carry out its various activities. They represent public interest as well as individuals living within the ward in which he or she has been elected to serve a term of office. Councillors have regular contact with the general public through council meetings, telephone calls or surgeries. Councillors are not paid a salary for their work, but they do receive allowances. All members of the Council are required to complete a register of interest’s form. South Somerset District Council is made up of:- 60 locally elected members – 40 Liberal Democrats, 14 Conservatives, 5 Independents and1 Green (as at 6 May 2020).

    It begs the question, why an Extraordinary General Meeting can’t be summoned, specifically to adress ‘corruption’ consequent the absence, of Councillor Martin Wale?

    Our Leader and Chairman

    Council Leader: Cllr Val Keitch (from 01/09/2018).

    Council Chairman: Cllr Paul Maxwell. Vice Chairman: Cllr Wes Read.
    Leader of the Opposition (Conservative Party): Cllr Martin Wale.
    Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party: Cllr Nick Colbert.
    Leader of the Independents: Cllr Dave Bulmer.

    The writer sometime Chairman, Administration & Finance Committee, the adjoining Local Authority of Mendip, during the ’emergent’ Ashdown ‘renaissance’ subsequently withered on the vine!

    Graham E Livings
    sometime 611th Mayor of Wells/Prospective Parliamentary Candidate; YEOVIL
    *BURNING THE BOOKS: 1SBN 978 1529378 76 4 Richard Ovenden

  • Why was the meeting moved? Was it to avoid having Martin Wales present?
    It’s a pity that the motion only covers Val Keitch and the Ms Pestell scandal. What about all the other failures eg no planning enforcement, lack of adherence to Freedom of Information legislation, environmental problems, inability to budget property (Chard and the Octagon for example) and failures to adhere to the Council’s Code of Conduct? The issue of the Chief Executive is the tip of the iceberg!

  • Whatever happens the council is finished….just a pack of no hopers clinging onto something rotten, and only they know what the rotten is….remember all their names for the next election ,and make sure none of them are voted in again. Democracy at work .. a complete and utter shambles that nobody could be proud of ….. except themselves. Just pure and total rubbish.

  • Sad to see this former beacon coucnil struggling. I feel that the Lib-Dem erm leadreship has grwon rather lazy and complacnet. This finacial scandal somes on top of the collapse of the regeneration project in Yeaovil and the withdrawal of the Chard project after funding was withdrawn. This council will cease to exist in May 2023 when the new unitary authority takes over. Looks like it would benefit from so new blood if it is to continue to deliver public serviecs through the coming year.

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