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First Impressions of a New District Councillor

Tuesday 21 June 2011, 14:18
By Nick Colbert

Nick Colbert, recently elected South Somerset District CouncillorFollowing the excitement of the recent District Council elections on the 5th May, the count at Westlands Social Club on the 6th May and my subsequent election, I was invited to an introduction to South Somerset District Council at its offices in Brympton Way in Yeovil.

Yeovil is not a place I often visit, but I dutifully set off to my induction course, the start of many such courses and training sessions. Arriving at 8.50am for a 9.30am start I met a colleague I recognised from the count and was led to the "Members' Room" before being shown into Committee Rooms 3 and 4. There we were treated to a welcome and a series of talks telling us how wonderful South Somerset District Council is and how they have been shortlisted for many awards (it seemed to me they were mainly meaningless awards invented by public bodies for the self-gratification of public bodies). There was no mention of why South Somerset District Council has the highest rates in the whole of Somerset; apparently this did not feature in their list of priorities.

We then set off on a tour of South Somerset District Council's palatial new offices. My first impression on arriving was the large free car park the council enjoys, clearly a perk and no doubt taxed as a benefit in kind. The reception is very spacious, equipped to the highest of standards and armed with expensive looking security equipment requiring a special swipe card to gain entry. As I hadn't been given one I just loitered around until someone else went in and I just tagged on behind them. I did this for the first three weeks until I was given my swipe card.

The tour was extensive and needed to be as we were shown over office after office, a subsidised canteen (another benefit in kind and no doubt taxed as such), the Council Chamber, more offices and then onto the second floor, followed by the third and then, yes, the fourth floor. So many offices and so many people working for a district (not county) council surprised me. It seemed rather an empire to cover only one out of seven council areas in Somerset (five district and two unitary), but I was starting to understand why our rates are the highest in Somerset.

I asked who owned the building and who paid for it? I was told South Somerset District Council owned the building and the ratepayers paid for it. Noting the £359,000 budget this year for maintenance to South Somerset District Council's properties, I asked how much the council's property portfolio was worth. £53,000,000 came back the answer. I can't help but feel empire-building has been running amok at South Somerset District Council.

On May 19th at 7.00pm we were invited to our first full council meeting where various people were voted into various positions. There was a lot more of people congratulating each other and a lot of back-slapping as everyone said what a good job each other does (still no mention of the highest rates in Somerset). Then more excitement as we were told the Council had just been shortlisted for yet another prestigious award, this time the Diversity Award. We were told this award recognised how much the council had done for migrant workers (presumably as opposed to the indigenous population who have paid the rates here for years). Apparently some of the council staff has to attend, at the ratepayers expense, the presentation of this latest award even though they are only shortlisted and may well not win it. If they do win it I am sure we will be treated to another bout of self-congratulation and back-slapping by the council - even though I suspect hardly a resident or ratepayer in South Somerset will even notice or care.

Some Lib/Dem councillors must be wondering if their party is doing all it can for the indigenous people of South Somerset. There seems to be a lot of money being wasted and a lot of effort and money going into "Equality and Diversity" policies which seem to work for the benefit of travellers and migrants at the expense of South Somerset people. It seems to me that some of the more responsible Lib/Dem councillors might have to consider voting against some council policies for the benefit of their constituents.

I can't wait for my next full council meeting.

Nick Colbert




Comments

henry@hobhouse.tv
Posts: 1
Comment
Offices at Brympton Way
Reply #1 on : Wed June 22, 2011, 12:57:25
Nick Colbert could do with checking his facts before writing articles. The offices in Brympton Way were built in the 1980's and are not new. They are neither plush nor excessive as we are moving staff back into them as the size of the District Council is decreased. The property portfolio is tiny compared to the Test Valley Council where Economic Developement has been driven by the council to such an extent that they earn more from their rent than ther goverment funds them. South somerset has sold on the majority of their industrial sites creating a £32000000 million fund in our bank accounts.
davidsmith
Posts: 1
Comment
Are we rich, now?
Reply #2 on : Wed June 22, 2011, 14:38:03
Can we check the '£32000000 million'?

If accurate, it would be great if we could donate a small slither to the government, in the interests of paying off national debt all at once. Then we can scrap some of these nasty cuts...
Nick Colbert
Posts: 3
Comment
First Impressions of a New District Councillor
Reply #3 on : Wed June 22, 2011, 16:16:09
£32000000 million I think you need to check you facts Henry.

I always check my facts where possible, borne out by the fact that out of the entire article the only bone of contention seems to be when the offices were originally constructed, I actually meant the new offices as opposed to the old offices at Petters Way. I understand SSDC still owns some of the old offices at Petters Way as well.

Let me assure you Henry that most small business people in South Somerset would love to be operating from business premises as large and plush as South Somerset District Councils, and that is why most begrudge funding better offices for beaucratic councils than they can afford to fund for themselves.

It is an empire built up at the public's expense, not a lot of it is to do with delivering core services. The council are not supposed to be setting themselves up as landlords but should be there for the people and to ensure core services are delivered properly and efficiently.

Still no mention from the Lib/dems that we pay the highest rates in Somerset!!!
Last Edit: June 22, 2011, 18:47:00 by Nick Colbert  
James Phillips
Posts: 1
Comment
Re: First Impressions of a New District Councillor
Reply #4 on : Thu June 23, 2011, 01:30:43
That really is an impressive surplus you guys have built up from selling industrial properties.
David Onamade
Posts: 2
Comment
First Impression of a New District Councillor
Reply #5 on : Mon July 04, 2011, 18:16:12
We are sad that there are still people like Cllr Nick Colbert in South Somerset. We are particularly sad because his outburst seems calculated to whip up the type of emotion that causes community tension; the type of tension that the police and voluntary agencies, like us, are working hard to curtail.

We are also sad that the councillor does not seem to know the facts? He does not even seem to know the facts about the ‘…council’s palatial new offices’ as he call Brympton Way. He may be talking about another place altogether?

Good luck I say, if what Mr Colbert wants to do is discredit his political rivals, or even his Conservative colleagues, but the impression that the council should not carry out their legal obligation of complying with the Equality Act because he does not think it a priority, is not what many would expect from a councillor. Furthermore, the councillor seems to hate everything South Somerset. He could even be that he is angry because the council did not employ someone, specifically, to wait on him during the induction?

It would be interesting indeed to know what he means by ‘indigenous people of South Somerset’. The people of South Somerset we know, be they White or of any other ethnic group, work hard, sometimes holding down three jobs to make ends meet. To say that a lot of money is being expended on ‘travellers and migrants at the expense of South Somerset people… who have paid the rates here for years’ smacks of ignorance. I trust that Mr Colbert has evidence to show that ‘migrants’ and ‘travellers’ don’t pay tax or rates?

The reason that the council has been shortlisted for a diversity award is because they have found a way of working with the community of South Somerset to improve access to all users of their services; improvement that does not always require money.

Indeed the council should be applauded for successfully accessing the Migrant Workers Impact Fund, a government fund that seeks to alleviate some of the problems that migrant workers face. Mr Colbert should address his ignorance and get behind the council’s drive to be an exemplary council for all.
Nick Colbert
Posts: 3
Comment
First Impression of a New District Councillor
Reply #6 on : Tue July 05, 2011, 19:57:42
Who I wondered was David Onamade so I googled him only to find out that he is the Director for the "Somerset Racial Equality Council" and the on the top site which came up for his name it awarded him their "W****r of the week" award and I quote directly from the site:

"For indulging in thoughtless, out-of-proportion, self-serving, knee-jerk politics, David Onamade of the Somerset Racial Equality Council is our "W****r of the Week", and a very well deserved one at that. If you'd like to tell him about it, his email address is: [email address removed].

The GOS says: In the course of our research into this farce, we discovered that there is such a thing as the "Black South West Network". It claims to be "a voice for the Black VCS to provide representation where it matters most with statutory bodies; to unlock further funds for the sector and increase effectiveness through the provision of advice, information, training, publications and development services". BSWN is located within the Black Development Agency in Bristol.

Odd, isn't it, that in these days of racial equality there are organisations that exist purely to serve the interests of certain racial minorities? Is there also a "White South West Network" or a "White Development Agency"? No, of course there isn't.

The GOS wants to join the Black South West Network. He isn't black, but why should that be an issue? Aren't we all equal? And if they refuse to let him in, wouldn't that be racial discrimination?

End of quote (identical except I censored a few inappropriate words).

For anyone wishing to read about his award if full the link below takes you there:

http://www.grumpyoldsod.com/old%20wanker%20of%20the%20week%2024.asp

I do not need advice about race from David Onamade, on Saturday I watched the David Haye fight with one of my best friends who is a mix of 8 races including Norwegian & Jamaican, I am a mix of 2 races - we were both supporting David Haye. I suggest Mr Onamade needs to learn the difference between racial discrimination and objections to large sums of public money being spent on travellers and migrants.

Finally I note Ian Duncan Smith, on behalf of the coalition government requested employers to give jobs to local British people rather than migrant workers. Presumably Mr Onamade would not support the coalition government on this either.
Last Edit: July 11, 2011, 15:16:13 by davidsmith  
David Onamade
Posts: 2
Comment
First Impression of a New District Councillor
Reply #7 on : Wed July 06, 2011, 17:59:22
It is unfortunate that Cllr Colbert is so publicly aligning himself with racists whose internet campaign against me, for doing my job, prompted calls for me, my wife and children to be killed.

He can make this about me as much as he likes or publish my email a thousand times if he must; it will still not remove from the truth that the statements he made are not based on facts. The council’s premises are not new. Large amounts of tax payers’ money are not being spent on ‘migrants and travellers’ or to the detriment of anyone else. We would oppose any such action; we are set up to help both black and white people, who have been discriminated against on the ground of race whoever they are.

Black South West Network (BSWN), like any trade union or pressure group, exists because it represents a community that feel marginalised and unequal; a community that feel that it is treated differentially and a community that still faces barriers in access to employment, education and services etc. I suspect that what BSWN, like SSDC, is doing is trying to bring the minority communities to the level of every one else. It has never been about advantaging the minority at the expense of the majority. BSWN, as far as we know, has never turned any white person away from using its services. Furthermore, there is nothing stopping Cllr Colbert from starting a “White South West Network”, if he thinks that such an organisation is needed.

I am English, black and local and very proud to be. I have also been attacked 7 times and called names in the streets of Somerset, sometimes by children as young as 13, and told to go to where I come from; to a large extent because of misinformation and incitement, the type that the councillor spouts here. I doubt that he has ever been called racist names in the streets of Wincanton or wherever it is that he lives. Yet I am to believe that he knows all there is to know about race because he wanted David Haye to win. Fat good his support did David Haye!

And oh, he also wants us to believe that he does not need advice from me about race because he is a ‘mix of 2 races’. I am jealous! But may be someone should tell him that being of two races does not make a saint; just as racism is not the preserve of whites. Blacks can be racist too; anybody can be racist!

Cllr Colbert should get some training about what SSDC does, why and how. Whilst he is at it a bit on equality awareness would not go amiss. After which he may, just may stop making things up?
Nick Colbert
Posts: 3
Comment
First Impression of a New District Councillor
Reply #8 on : Thu July 07, 2011, 19:13:44
Mr Onamade, attacking people who are not racist for being racist does the cause you claim to want to promote immense harm, I am sorry you have been attacked 7 times but you seem to come across as a bit of an extremist.

You say "There is nothing stopping Cllr Colbert from starting a “White South West Network". I would have no interest in starting an organisation of that sort because race holds no interest for me. I believe the people who started the "Black South West network" are racist or they would not start an organisation excluding other races.

If Mr Onamade had read what I said properly he would have seen that I said "the new offices as opposed to the old offices at Petters Way." This is because SSDC's old offices were at Petters Way; their new offices are at Brymoton Way. That doesn’t mean they have just been built, may I suggest your understanding of English does not appear to be very good.

Your last paragraph gives the game away as you mention "a bit (of training) on equality awareness would not go amiss". Clearly you have been primed by certain Lib/dem councillors as they are the only ones who would know that I chose not to attend the compulsory "Equality & diversity" training, so all becomes clear.
rupert_j
Posts: 1
Comment
Re: First Impressions of a New District Councillor
Reply #9 on : Fri July 08, 2011, 17:56:42
Mr Onamade, may I ask, at what point did Mr Colbert mention race, from where I am standing you are making a brash attempt to tarnish Mr Colbert's reputation as, from what I can see from only searching your name on Google shows you are attempting to make a habit of. I believe that Mr Colbert's aims of the article are to highlight the haemorrhaging of finances by the SSDC rather than any attack that you seem to have forged from nowhere. Perhaps if the SSDC reduced the ‘money going into "Equality and Diversity”’ then perhaps the debate on parking charges would not exist and more could be spent on attempting to reduce the anti-social behaviour across the entire of South Somerset.
Victor Meldrew
Posts: 2
Comment
Re: First Impressions of a New District Councillor
Reply #10 on : Sat September 17, 2011, 13:36:05
Mr Hobhouse, perhaps you could explain where the monies from the sale of the, then Council houses, and susequent sale(?) of what was South Somerset Homes to Yarlington. They managed to put up a plush office complex. They also put up houses for "Social Letting" then sell them on, on the pretext of not having the money to build them. So don`t try to lecture on Council finances. The `c` word springs to mind.
Victor Meldrew
Posts: 2
Comment
Re: First Impressions of a New District Councillor
Reply #11 on : Fri October 14, 2011, 17:13:47
I note that Mr Hobhouse has decided not to enter into a debate on here is a very good idea. On re- reading these comments I can only say that I am sure he meant £320 million, as what he stated was nearly the total DEFICIT for the US Govt. Now I am sure that there has been, and no doubt still are, dubious practices at District, but I cannot believe that they hav managed to amass such a sum of 32 Bn. If they have managed that then they should be in Govt!I also note that Mr Onamade, if that is his name, has not had the nerve to reply to Rupert_J. I would add that it is unfortunate that in the SW we still have supposed intelligent people that willingly allow themselves to be encouraged into unfounded and totally imagined racist allegations by someone with political malic

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