Saturday, 21 March 2015

Moles and Hypocricy

  On 21 January 2012 the Western Gazette published an article by reporter Rob Golledge, about an alleged mole within the Somerton Town Council who had supposedly been leaking confidential information, the article is shown below. The chairman at the time Mr Frazer-Hopewell told the reporter; minutes of confidential in camera (secret?) meetings had been leaked. He said, "There is someone on the council it seems we can not trust to keep sensitive and confidential information". sic.

Now, it would seem that Mr Frazer-Hopewell may had his own mole within STC since his departure in November 2012. I have been reliably informed that a certain councilor, who is shortly leaving the council has been found with emails from their personal STC account direct to Mr Fraser-Hopewell, apparently detailing confidential items from recent STC meetings; possibly TAG meetings. TAG meetings are a process where councillors can hear confidential information and then make recommendations on that is then voted upon at sub committee level, or in full council. Thus giving full clarity and visibility at all times to sensitive matters. I must stress to my knowledge, that in the current council during TAG meetings no votes are made on information heard and the town clerk or the assistant town clerk keeps full comprehensive notes.

Now, considering Mr Frazer-Hopewell went to great pains to hold a meeting with a reporter in January 2012 to complain about an alleged mole, his apparent use of a mole within the council since that time stinks to high heaven of hypocrisy. Mr Frazer-Hopewell's recent letter in the Western Gazette about alleged secret TAG meetings, it would seem he conveniently forgot that, Mr Bob Harris gave an Old Town Hall (OTH) presentation to a closed-to-public (then) FAG meeting, possibly in an attempt to influence the council’s thinking on the matter.  Mr Frazer-Hopewell was at the time a trustee of the Somerton Historic Buildings Preservation Trust (SHBPT), campaigning to raise funds for the restoration of the OTH. 

Had the mole been manipulated to provide information of the council’s business to him? Thus prompting his recent letter to the Western Gazette, insinuating that STC was trying to hide underhand dealings within the TAG meetings?

It would seem there may have been a minor procedural error in one of these meeting and that the mole may have passed this information on, thus the catalyst to the writing of the letter? I would say, that if this tiny piece of intelligence is all he could glean from the mole since 2012 in his effort to demean the current council, then the council has done extremely well and it has been open and accountable to all. 

I would also like to point out as previously reported in Veritas the following: That, on 19th May 2011, Frazer-Hopewell was reported as saying that,

he would pay all costs if no fault was found in the old council by the auditors”.

Veritas has already commented that he likely knew the outcome of the audit before he made this statement. Therefore, he was in no danger but, having thus declared a potentially heavy personal financial interest surely he should have had absolutely nothing more to do with the matter?

The cost to you the tax payer was a £66,000 audit.

Noted, he did not raise the initial complaint, this was done by the past Somerton Blogger, Nial Connolly. However, he could have terminated the action once he was informed by the the police, that they were not proceeding with the case, 

"as there was no case to answer".

On top of this there are undisclosed solicitors costs. If you add on an £11,500 grant from the now defunct Somerset Levels and Moors for a "feasibility study" of the OTH (for all the good that did) and grants from STC and SCA for the same project; admittedly the last two were in hundreds rather than thousands, it all adds up to an eye watering amount and the total of all this squandering may yet reach £100K.

This works out at around £40 per person in the Somerton Council Parish.

If this were not enough; there was also under Mr Frazer-Hopewell’s chairmanship, the selling off of STC assents such as the tractor, trailer and hedge/grass cutting equipment at ridiculously low prices and then putting in place an outside contract to do said work and finally, the valuing of the councils own land on Etsome Terrace at a paltry £1.00.

All of this in the opinion of many Somerton residents, wasted money.

Your money!

Mr Frazer-Hopewell dared to criticise the current and past councils in his recent letter to the Western Gazette since his departure for what they have (not) achieved and yet he dares to boast, and not for the first time on how he was a model chairman of the council he oversaw.

Finally, from the same article on 21st January 2012. The final point made by the reporter was that; the four well respected men from Somerton that were arrested by armed police and held in a police cell for some considerable time: No charges were being brought against them.

Police said,

 “they found no evidence that any crime had been committed”. sic.

This person’s hypocrisy is truly nauseating and I now hear a rumour that he may be planning to stand for council election on 7th May 2015. If this turns out to be true remember what happened last time he served on our town council.

Do you want to go back to a handbrake house style bureaucracy? Where much is important business is parked and little, to nothing is done. Possibly, little done at great expense and at great detriment to the community?

I would hope not.


Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Running sores……. open wounds

Picking at scabs 

It has been relatively quiet so far this year and it might have seemed that the matter that divided Somerton with such bitterness was at last beginning to heal, albeit with no justice for the Somerton Four, no official recognition of the colossal flaws in the audit into the old council or the gross scheming that lay behind that and the arrests.  Left alone, there was half a chance that the matter, albeit unresolved, would just die of old age and lack on interest.  Sadly, this has not been the case.  Sadly, one of the principal protagonists of the matter has been unable to let things be and has resumed scratching at the town’s still infected wounds.  

Readers of the ‘Western Gazette’ on the 26th of February may have noticed a letter from the former chairman of Somerton Town Council, Mr Michael Fraser-Hopewell.  Anyone who could be bothered to read his lengthy tome closely will have noticed between the lines his message that the council has always been run badly except during the fairly brief interlude of his chairmanship, when, of course, everything was done perfectly.  He also repeats his sly allusions of public exclusion from meetings, takes a swipe at the Edgar Community Hall and dredges up the matter of the audit yet again, something of which we will be hearing much more very shortly.

However, for the moment let us concentrate upon the fact that Hopewell’s letter was not his only attack upon the council but one of a whole series that he has made over the years, for example, letters in very poor taste to two members of the old council on 2009, his campaign against the leadership of that council, derogatory letters directed at council staff, aggressive verbal behaviour to council employees during public meetings (including his and his wife’s vicious assault upon the much-respected Somerton Community Association, to much public disgust), the mob attack led by Hopewell against the chairman of the Access and Highways Committee, Cllr Dean Ruddle at the February 2013 meeting and not least, Hopewell’s utterly disgraceful and disruptive behaviour at last June’s council meeting, when the police, summoned to the council’s assistance, arrived just after he had left, virtually kicked out by their impending arrival.  And now he’s at it again – telling people how to conduct themselves, trying to demean those councillors who have to deal with his questionable legacy, attacking them in the press.  

Don’t do as I do

This is all pretty rich considering that in an article in the Western Gazette of 12th June 2014, ‘Dismay that council is still under attack’ Hopewell lamented the resignation of chairman Eirian Williams owing to ‘attacks’ on the council and went on to claim that he and his wife were themselves ‘forced to resign’ after personal attacks.  It would also appear that Hopewell had forgotten the reasons that he actually gave at the time for his resignation and which were published on 6th December 2012, in an article entitled, ‘Council couple resign to travel the world’.  Far from containing a single word from Hopewell about being forced off the council by attacks, it read instead like a glowing accolade from himself concerning the tremendous job that he had done as chairman and that, having left the council in such a wonderful condition, he was now rewarding himself with a huge holiday.  It has also been noted that the much vaunted world tour did not seem to have taken the intrepid voyagers much further than the Market Square.  Nonetheless, it has been widely observed that Fraser-Hopewell actually set the fashion for attacks on councillors; he has certainly clocked up more assaults than anyone else with the possible exception of his pestilential soul-mate, the M&B Blogger.  However accustomed we become to such hypocrisy, it always disgusts.

Towards another £60k?

One wonders, of course, where all this is leading.  Why don’t we just ignore Hopewell and his self-righteous ramblings in the press and let him stew in his own juice but we need to remember that this is more or less how the last episode started - with Hopewell pointing fingers at the old council and now he’s doing precisely the same thing again.  Given his track record, it seems unlikely that he intends to remain silent or that the matter will end here.  The wound continues to suppurate.

Be on your guard, Somerton!  The last thing we need is another £60k bill!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

The right to respond, denied by the Western Gazette

I have been quiet for some months now, hoping that peace and calm would settle in our town and divisions would heal. However, just over a week ago the Western Gazette published a letter by Mr Frazer-Hopewell, criticising the past and present town councils and boasting about his tenure. A response to Mr Frazer-Hopewell's accusations and criticisms penned by Mr Pat Mountain, himself and ex-town councillor and previous chairman as not put to print. The response was sent in good time for this week’s publication. However, the Western Gazette in their "one sided" wisdom refused to publish the letter. Therefore, have decided in the interests of free speech" to publish it for him in my blog:

The Letter

           I note with dismay the letter by your correspondent, Mr Fraser Hopewell (26th February). It seems that not content with dividing Somerton into opposing factions during his brief term as Council Chairman some years ago, he is now intent on re opening old wounds.
His statements on the supposed culpability of councillors prior to his council days do not bear examination and he needs to be reminded that, despite all his efforts no one was ever found to have committed a criminal offense. Four people, including Somerton's Town Clerk, were arrested, kept in custody and homes raided by armed police, only to be released unconditionally without any charges being brought, They were shown to be entirely innocent. Of the four, three were noted local businessmen who were responsible, and still are, for making our town into a flourishing community where places of work and retailing centres were hugely expanded. We have much to thank them for.
It is an unfortunate trait of some people in nearly every community, that they are only too ready to believe ill of those they perceive to have done well in life and to castigate them for imagined wrongdoing, and so it was some years ago during Mr Fraser Hopewell's chairmanship of our Council. Rumours were spread by those of ill disposition that certain people, including councillors had misappropriated public money. Nothing could have been further from the truth and the Town as a whole is richer by some hundreds of thousands of £s due to the efforts of those who were formerly and wrongly accused. It is surely not a co-incidence that the present chairman of our Town Council is also a successful businessman and seems to be the target of Mr Fraser Hopewell's latest criticisms. He has also had yet another attempt at denigrating the use of our Edgar Community Hall; a feature of the Town which is the envy of every similar sized town in the country and where large organisations such as our splendid U3A are able to meet, for the first time.

Our once contented and balanced community has regained much of its former status over the last few years and it would be a tragedy if we were give way to some who may wish to grind an old and battered axe. Let us pray that this will not be allowed to happen

Patrick Mountain.  Formerly of Somerton Council and Chairman thereof.


One could be excused for assuming that Mr Frazer-Hopewell and the Directing Editor of the Western Gazette have a common bond or close friendship, as it would seem that every letter or item sent by Frazer-Hopewell to the Western Gazette is published in haste. Whereas letters in reply to his rants are simply discarded. I know this to be true, because I have sent letters in response to Frazer-Hopewell's print in the Western Gazette and these to have been cast to file thirteen every time. It would also seem that the Western Gazette actively seeks out negative stories about our hard working current town councillors and regularly misrepresents statements made when requested to comment on council business. One can only guess what the Western Gazettes motives are for seemingly behaving in this manner towards our fine town council and why they feel they are correct to censor opposing views and hence stifle free speech. Something the press are the first to jump up and down about if they are held back from expressing their views.

Hopefully, this is a minor set back to the sense of calm and harmony that has blossomed in the early months of 2015 due to the hard work of our volunteer councillors, but with the impending local elections I fear Mr Frazer-Hopewell is bent on causing as much disharmony as he can amongst our community for his own selfish gains. Our town may well end up with more unwarranted expense, with you the people who pay the council precept, having your hard earned taxes spent on another useless audit, rather than being available to the town council to improve the services of our town. Whatever happens, I urge you to take a long clear view on Mr Hopewell's criticisms and accusations, past and future and decide in your own mind, exactly what his motives really are?

Sunday, 4 January 2015

A happy new year

A hope for the future

I wish you all a very happy New Year for 2015.  Last year saw a great deal of shenanigans around the town, so let’s hope this coming year will be one where the past can be resolved and laid to rest and our lovely town can get back to being the idyllic place it used to be.  Sadly, such resolution may yet take time because evidence continues to emerge of the chicanery employed by a small group of recently arrived, very self-important individuals who chose to use our town and its institutions as a vehicle for their own colossal egos and self-interests and, without caring who got hurt by their arrogance, their scheming and their downright lies, were prepared to go any lengths to get their own way.  It is salutary that those whom they attacked have largely been the very people who have done the most for this town over a great many years.  Fingers crossed that it will soon all be out in the open instead of festering away like an un-lanced boil beneath the surface.

Changes in the Town Council

2014 saw big changes on the town council with the departure of Roger Calderwood as town clerk and Terry Philpot taking post. I wish to thank Roger for his long-standing tenure over a difficult time. Terry is a no-nonsense, straight talking post holder and I am sure he will be an asset in the future. It is good also to see the assistant clerk working hard at the day-to-day administration that makes the council work and she too is to be thanked. It is good to see that finally the majority of town councillors have gelled and work as a team to make our town a better, more comfortable place to live and work. Their efforts over the past year have not gone unnoticed and I wish them all power to their elbows for the coming year.

Learning from mistakes

2014 also saw the opening of the new Wessex House care home in Behind Bury  and the doctor’s surgery. I still dislike the look of the care home building as to my mind it does not fit the architecture of the town and the doctors’ surgery is not large enough for its populace. Still, it’s been built and therefore we must live with what we have and learn the from mistakes made in the planning stages of this development and make a better case next time to oppose any plans that do not fit and gel with the town’s image.

So what’s in store ahead? We await the final outcome of the old Wessex House (Pesters Lane) planning saga, the initial application having been soundly rejected by both town and district councils.  It would appear that lessons were learned from the Behind Bury care home were put to good use here. Do not get me wrong, I am not opposed to the project, but it must be a balanced development and not driven by greed to cram as many units into one space as possible. Thought must be given to the current skyline and the colossal bulk and height of this proposed development.  Another concern is the limited parking available and the prospect of overspill parking on Pesters Lane, which would create problems for emergency vehicle access should the need arise.

And another questionable project

One would like to see a mutually acceptable resolution for another saga, namely that of the Old Town Hall.  SHBPT, the charity that aspires to own this important building, has failed to secure any meaningful funding to move forward and we as council tax payers should not subsidize this charity unless the building is to be of use to the whole town and not just a few self-regarding, snobbish, upper class wanabees who crave the building for their own self-centred interests.

But there again…….

So as we move firmly into 2015 I wish you all, including those with whom I do not see ‘eye to eye’, a safe and harmonious year and maybe, just maybe we will see yet another candle wax masterpiece?

Until the next post……

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Divide and Rule

How to compromise a council
Very recently the Stepping Stone Group, builders of the ghastly new Wessex House care home in Behind Berry, held a series of meetings in the Old Town Hall, which they own, in order to unveil amended versions of their plans to construct yet another gruesome and overpowering edifice on the site of the old Wessex House in Pesters Lane, their original plans having raised considerable public ire as well as being comprehensively rejected by Somerton Town Council.  Attendance at the meetings was by invitation only; to selected persons at 2.30pm, prospective purchasers of apartments within the proposed development at 3.00pm, members of Somerton Town Council at 3.30pm and finally residents of Wessex Rise at 4.30pm.   It is reported that attendance at the meetings was very poor, with the possible exception of Wessex Rise residents who were there in some numbers as would be expected as they are the most likely to be affected by the development of the colossus looming over their homes and the likely parking overspill into their gateways.
Mr John Bailey of Stepping Stones is quoted in the ‘Western Gazette’ as saying that he was particularly pleased that representatives of Somerton Town Council attended to get a better understanding of ‘close care’, the concept behind the proposed development.  Anyone would think from this that the council had been there in force and after listening intently, had gone away in guilty understanding of how wrong and precipitate they had been in throwing out the proposal in the first place.  As it was, only two members turned up, one of whom is a trustee of SHBPT, which is attempting; somewhat lamely it seems, to raise enough money to buy the Old Town Hall from Mr Bailey.  A third attendee from the council was the Clerk, from which one must assume that none of the council trio was aware that the meeting was to be held in camera, nor would have gone had they known, for attending private meetings with a developer, whose foremost concern must be his own vested interest, is a certain way to compromise one’s position. 

In fact, this was exactly the kind of scenario that Mr Niall Connolly, the Somerton Blogger of Muck and Brass infamy, tried to create and exploit in his campaign against the old council to insinuate their involvement in secrecy, sleaze, shady deals and the comforting rustle of brown envelopes.  Although Connolly’s snide insinuations had no basis in fact, the fallout from his vindictiveness is still contaminating this town and it beggars belief that the lessons of the recent past have been so quickly forgotten.  Let us hope that our elected representatives and council staff take heed in future. 

And if Mr Bailey has information for the council, then he should present it in the open, at a town council meeting at the proper time and place and not with councillors behind closed doors. 

Why not one meeting?

Inevitably one must ask why Stepping Stones conducted a series of meetings instead of just one for everybody and, more to the point, why do it in private.  If Stepping Stones had any confidence in their amended proposals, why didn’t they hold a public meeting?  Could it have been that they not only wished to concentrate their efforts on selected target audiences but also to keep out noisy and persistent dissenters?

History repeating itself
All this leaves one with a sense of déjà vu, especially for those who recall a certain Parish Meeting in the Ladysmith Hall a while back, when the occasion was hijacked by the then chairman of the Town Council, Mr Michael Fraser-Hopewell and Mr John Bailey.   
Parish meetings are for local voluntary groups to showcase their activities, not for developers to promote commercial interests or friendly and obliging council chairmen to pave the way for them.  This may not have bothered Bailey but Hopewell should never have countenanced, let alone facilitated such a blatant  misuse of the meeting, whose attendees were expected to suspend their own activities while he proclaimed that a very important presentation was about to take place.  The presentation was all about the proposed new doctor’s surgery and, oh yes, Mr Bailey’s new Behind Berry care home. 
Following the presentation questions were invited from the public but were answered, not from the stage, but by Stepping Stone representatives circulating on the floor and speaking to individuals, by which means any awkward questions would not be heard aloud.  Is there a pattern discernible here?
It is also noteworthy that when Stepping Stones’ Behind Berry planning application came before the council, Hopewell announced from the chair with staggering lack of impartiality that this was the ‘last chance’ for a new surgery in Somerton.  He was talking twaddle, of course – there’s always scope for further development – but, despite some uneasy muttering from councillors, the application was approved.  However, we digress.
That wicked Old Council
When the councillors elected in January 2010, who should have been busy running the town, were expending their energies on gathering what they and the Somerton Blogger wishfully thought was evidence of criminality against the leadership of the council they had recently replaced, a series of ‘briefing sessions’ were held by Hopewell and Vice-Chair Pat Bennett for other councillors, ostensibly to ‘present the detail’ to them of the auditor’s Draft Statement of Facts in respect of Blogger Connolly’s objection to the council’s accounts for 2008/9.  There is a great deal more that could and will be said about this but for the moment it is the briefing sessions that engage our attention for there were five of them held in early July 2010 for very small groups of councillors.  The subsequent arrests of four completely innocent people is testament to the success of cosy and intimate brainwashing sessions as opposed to one meeting for all concerned.
Bottom line
If this is beginning to sound familiar that is because it is just that … is far easier to nobble people in small groups than en masse, where the personal elements of eye-to-eye contact and (contrived) sincerity are lost and where one determined objector can carry a lot of inconvenient and contrary opinion with him or her.  It is far better to divvy up the rabble and knock them into compliance piecemeal.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Missing Masterpiece revealed

After my previous blog about the Missing Masterpiece the demand to view the item by the residents of our dear town has been overwhelming. By chance a certain local man who has a flair for re-creating and crafting, managed to make a similarity, albeit not to scale as the original was much larger. However, he has preserved the work for prosperity and possible future exhibitions. The recreation can viewed for free, in a window of a high class emporium of carpet and window furnishings on West Street. How long this exhibition will be on view is not known, but an early viewing is recommended so as not to be disappointed. The whereabouts of the original work is not known, which is a shame as the original artist clearly has certain fuelled moments when her talent comes to the fore and must be expressed. One wonders if there are other masterpieces out there yet to be discovered and whether new works will be created over the festive period?

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Missing Masterpiece – Latest News!

A remarkable recovery
When, on the 21st October, we reported on the Missing Masterpiece, we thought that was the end of the matter as we had heard that this unique work had been destroyed without trace, something we regarded as a tragic loss.  However, it now transpires that it was in fact seen by quite a few people, who have been able to provide corroborative descriptions of the piece and from these it has been possible to create a partial replica which, although it cannot match the size of the original, that being a complete dining room carpet, does perfectly capture the spirit of the original, thereby preserving for posterity an important part of Somerton’s cultural heritage.  Shortly, and for a limited period only, this remarkable piece will be on display in the window of Somerton Furnishings in West Street.  Do keep an eye open for it as this opportunity may never arise again.

But who was the original artist?
We have heard that although the identity of the lady who created the original is becoming quite widely known around the town, we have elected to respect her anonymity, which we are sure, would be her fervent wish.

We also understand that the lady who created the original work did in fact recover from her hangover, although it must be said that we are not sure which one.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Bah humbug....

How mean can you get?

This is a Christmas tale that defies belief and one that Dickens’s Scrooge would be proud of.  I am reliably told that a certain Barrie Davies, Somerton Town Councillor and Treasurer of the Old Town Hall Charity, SHBPT is opposed to paying for the electricity that powers the Christmas lights that decorate the OTH and told the town council that if they would not pay the electricity costs, then the lights around the OTH would not be switched on.  Almost held to ransom by one of their own councillors, the council agreed to pay the costs to ensure that the centre of Somerton looks festive, especially after councillors and other members of the public, notably minus Councillor Davies, had spent a lot of their own time and a great deal of effort in cold and inclement weather to ensure the season’s decorations went up in good time. 

But it gets even worse

However, the penny-pinching story does not end there.  In a twist that might have embarrassed even Scrooge, the same Councillor Davies blustered into a well-known Somerton whole-food shop and declared that SHBPT would not pay a single penny towards the electricity costs for the lighting.  The lady who owns the business had spent a great deal of her time as a volunteer helping to put up the lights and running her successful business as well, tasks not easily juggled.  In a public-spirited rebuttal to this heartlessness, the good lady took £20 of her own money and offered it to Councillor Davies, who quite unbelievably took and stuffed it in his pocket and without much of a “by your leave”, turned on his heels and walked off. 

Now, I understand that the OTH is a charity and that money is tight, but this meanness defies belief.  Most, if not all Somerton traders on West Street, The Market Place and Broad Street, not to mention pensioners in the Hext Alms Houses gladly contribute towards the costs of the Christmas lights to make our beautiful town festive at this time of year and bring some joy and festive cheer to shoppers and children alike.

Bringing a charity into disrepute

It is well known that SHBPT guard their charitable status with jihadist fervour, but seem to not understand the true meaning of the very word ‘charity’.  They seem to think that it means standing there with their hands outstretched waiting for others to shower ever more munificence upon them.  You can’t help wondering what the Charity Commission would make of one of their registered charities acting in such a disreputable way.

I say shame on you SHBPT - no wonder the people of Somerton express ever lessening support for your designs on the OTH, whatever you may claim to the contrary.