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Somerset council resigns over blog

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Eleven councillors from a rural Somerset town have resigned their posts having had a bellyful of a local blogger who waged a concerted online campaign against them.

Niall Connolly has variously accused Somerton Town Council of corruption, called them "jackasses" and slammed a "Good Citizens" statement as "a Nazi call to arms or an invitation to ethnic cleansing".

His Muck&Brass blog is a chronicle of his struggle to restore democracy to Somerton - a town which was until a Tuesday night council meeting apparently under a fearful jackboot of oppression.

The meeting proved eventful, with vice chairman Anthony Canvin leading a mass exodus, as a delighted Connolly reports:

The Vice Chair stood up, put on his jacket and started a brief speech about how he was sick and tired of something or other and how he was going to leave it all up to the Town. At that point it seemed like he was presenting his resignation and this stunning news was greeted by the audience with rapturous applause. This seemed to trigger of a convulsion of action on the part of most of the rest of the council.

As one they rose up and the Chair was subject to a proverbial avalanche of resignation letters before he himself resigned. Clearly a rather well orchestrated action but whose point was rather lost on those who were watching with a growing sense of wonderment. As the sheep filed out, a euphoria spread through the hall and everyone there shared their own 'Berlin Wall' moment. Freedom. Heady days indeed.

Canvin, 61, confirmed to the BBC: "I'm not going to tolerate it when I'm working for the town. I started it. I said 'I've had enough' and handed in my resignation."

A motion that other councillors resign due to "impossible working conditions" was then approved, and another ten left their posts. One more also walked out in sympathy, leaving just two in their chairs. One was on holiday, and missed the entertainment.

The upshot of this is that Somerton Town Council now has just four of its full quota of 15 councillors. Since a quorum is one-third of the full council, South Somerset District Council will now have to arrange new elections.

Whether Connolly will stand is not reported. ®

Bootnote

Some background to this unholy spat can be found in the Somerton Town Council minutes of 23 June this year. A council "right to reply" records:

A resident has been causing mischief with incorrect statements on his “blog”. Mr Connolly was invited to stand and introduce himself but did not respond. Tony Canvin explained that some 3 years ago when clearing a Bancombe Road Unit after the demise of the occupant, an unlicenced caravanette was found parked.

The owner was not established after extensive enquiries, so the vehicle was removed. At a later time Mr Connolly arrived and enquired as to the whereabouts of his vehicle which he stated was parked on public property. He was informed by Tony Canvin that this was not the case as the property was, in fact, private.

It is felt that Mr Connolly is seeking vengeance against Tony Canvin via the blog, but is including the entire Council in his retaliations in the process.

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