The auditors have dug up a scandal. The plan to transform West Somerset and Taunton Deane councils was based on lies. The promised savings were inventions. The most basic research was missing. The redundancy scheme cost double because so many staff took advantage of its generous terms – including the Chief Executive!
It was a disgraceful scheme which cost taxpayers a fortune and has left the new council with a system that still doesn’t work.
What rankles with me is the involvement of “expert” consultants who extracted large sums of public money to devise and implement such a dreadful “transformation” programme. They were hired, of course, by a Chief Executive who might have got away with being described as gullible until she herself became the beneficiary of the redundancy arrangements.
She worked out her notice as part of the same “expert” consultancy team who were taken on by Somerset County Council to advise on creating a huge new Unitary Authority!
In my book that is called having your cake and eating it. It also supplies me with another powerful reason to oppose the very idea of a vast, impersonal unitary council.
Meanwhile councillors were deliberately kept in the dark about what was happening. As West Somerset and Taunton began to work together the only committee set up to oversee the changes was quietly disbanded.
The former Chief Executive seems to have been granted extraordinary powers to act. But granted by who? And why?
These are questions that should be addressed by everyone involved. There appears to have been a complete failure of elected representatives to control what was happening.
Right at the start of this “transformation” saga I warned them it was doomed. It gives me no pleasure now to say that I was right.