The population of Taunton Deane and West Somerset is around 150,000. So why did fewer than 550 people bother to submit their views about the proposed council merger? The councils say that such a low level of response indicates that most people are not bothered about what happens. This is a pathetic attempt to disguise the fact that a majority of those 500 plus people were seriously worried about the merger plan: If you wade through the paperwork which has now been published, the responses that predominate are along the lines of this one:
Of course, it was never going to be a fair consultation. The people who organised it set out to fool everyone. Respondents were not asked to provide names and addresses – which opened the door to multiple entries, mickey mouse entries or downright stupid entries (after all if you haven’t got a clue who is saying what, there can be no validity in the exercise) But the remarkable thing is that most of those who answered the questions did so sensibly and a majority said they didn’t like the proposals. A sham is now being presented to Government. The two councils have gone out of their way to obtain endorsements from prominent local people and businesses….76 of them in total! The “favourable” comments are prominently highlighted in the submission to Government: Like this email from the Chief executive of Summerfields, the Taunton-based building firm who work regularly with Taunton Deane council and its leader:
It may seem an impressive endorsement, but it is not representative. The architects of this costly consultation sham are trying to use every trick in the book to make the results support their argument. They contacted 76 bodies, went round and chatted up many of them and then asked for responses in writing – the more glowing the better. It didn’t always work. When they approached Sedgemoor District Council to write a supportive letter they got this reasoned reply: Letter to Cllrs Trollope-Bellew and Williams 100217
The madness of this consultation con is that it proves absolutely nothing and cost tax payers a packet. There was a fat consultation fee to the web design firm who built the special council merger website.
There will also be a big bill to be settled with the national polling firm Populus:
Populus was hired to contact several hundred people by telephone and get their detailed opinions. They called me, twice, even though my home phone is unlisted. Who gave them my number? Who did they imagine they were talking to? I wasn’t asked for my name, or where I lived. Like so much of this consultation sham it was pointless and expensive.
I intend to ensure that Ministers are not bamboozled by the today’s submission. This was not proper consultation. The only people who can do that properly are the Boundary Commission. It is high time they were called in to examine the whole question of council reorginisation in this area.