Fysh calls for special measures
Yesterday the Draft Somerset (Structural Changes) Order 2022 was debated in Parliament in committee. This rather wordy title, is the document that will create a unitary “Somerset Council”. It is not a council for the whole of Somerset, and excludes both North Somerset and BANES. The latter two are already unitary authorities.
The debate should have been a brief affair to nod the thing through. But there was of course plenty of opportunity for political point scoring. Opposition MPs made regular references to the referendum conducted by the district councils or Somerset. The outcome of which was indeed ignored by the Minister. Partly because he had told them not to conduct it. Partly because only one side took part in it.
MP for Yeovil Marcus Fysh waxed lyrical about South Somerset District Council (SSDC). He mentioned the jailing of former council leader Ric Pallister. He noted that SSDC is “currently also under investigation for endemic and widespread corruption.” No doubt it was pressure of time that caused him to omit any reference to The Leveller’s work in exposing this. Without which the MP would have been unaware of the extent of the corruption, cover up and investigations.
However the most extraordinary part of his tirade was this. “I wonder what the Minister can say about whether she will, for this period, which is so important in making the transition to a proper integrated unitary council, put the Lib Dem South Somerset administration—today—into special measures.”
In fact The Leveller® investigation into SSDC is already in the hands of Michael Gove. The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government is well aware of what has been happening. If SSDC is to be put into special measures, he will be the one to make it happen. Meanwhile in Committee Kemi Badenoch Minister for Levelling Up Communities was having none of it. “My hon. Friend specifically asked about putting Lib Dem South Somerset into special measures. I cannot do that in the SI debate, but I will update him about some of the issues that he has referred to. I am sure I can get officials to write to him to provide additional information.”