It is now over two weeks since the public meeting in Langport to discuss the fate of the Hanging Chapel. A lot has happened since.
- Seven councillors have resigned.
- The September town council meeting has been postponed (please note).
- The Town Clerk has asked South Somerset District Council to appoint emergency councillors until such time as the town have elected or co-opted seven new councillors.
Yet despite everything that has happened there is one thing we do not know. We do not know exactly what was discussed at the June Town Trust meeting which kicked everything off. The item was held “in camera” with press and public excluded. We do know that all councillors voted for the item to be held in camera.
Val Saunders has alleged that a full discussion on the sale of the Hanging Chapel took place. She and Caroline Dunn have alleged that the in camera vote was de facto, invalid. Why? Because the vote to hold the agenda item in camera was to allow a lease discussion. To discuss the sale would be a different agenda item and no such item had been put on the agenda.
The seven councillors who resigned cannot tell their side of the story. They believe the “in camera” resolution was valid and that as such to reveal the content of the discussion would be morally and legally wrong.
By the way there have been several suggestions that Councillor Saunders is a “Whistleblower”. This is factually incorrect. Val may well feel and the public may agree that she has done the town a favour but that is not the same thing. Government has laid down processes and procedures for Whistleblowing (you can find more out here https://www.gov.uk/whistleblowing) and none of those involve going straight to the press and public with your concerns.
Whatever. There is a lot at stake here. The minute of that June meeting now becomes very important. What was discussed goes to the heart of the dispute. For instance, the discussion held “in camera” might have been predominantly about the lease of the hanging Chapel, and someone added as a throwaway remark at the end, something to the effect of “if we can’t agree a lease we may have to think about selling the Hanging Chapel”. If that is the case, then it will be hard not to conclude that this whole sorry mess has been manipulated.
Equally there might have been a full blown discussion of selling the Hanging Chapel where the lease was really a relatively small part of the conversation. That might well justify everything that has happened since.
To understand the rights and wrongs of what has happened over the last month, the minute of the June Town Trust meeting needs to be published. It is not just a minute. It is a very important minute. It is one that the rights and wrongs of this debacle hang on.
As it happens, the only councillors remaining in office are the four councillors who loudly proclaimed a stand of openness at the August public meeting. They have a majority. They believe in openness at all costs. There is no opposition.
What there is not, more than two weeks later, is any sign of a minute.