From the Somerset County Council Newsroom on 10 March 2015:

“Somerset County Council is today publishing the findings of a Standards Committee Hearing Panel into complaints against Cabinet member for Resources, Councillor David Huxtable. The Panel findings, recommendations, and actions can be found at this link: http://www1.somerset.gov.uk/council/meetings/results.asp?ccode=51

The Panel’s findings are also available here

Although SCC have not released the details of exactly what Huxtable did to break the SCC’s code of conduct but given the background reports it would seem very much linked to his exchanges with the WSRA’s agent (Roger Bush), some of which were released under FoI last year and which give a good picture of the kind of behaviour which seems to have led to today’s outcome.

The WSRA have previously stated that Roger Bush was retained by the trustees to ask two questions of SCC. And yet here we see the result of something far more involved and certainly not the behaviour any member would wish the WSRA to condone or encourage. So the big question for members is – was Roger Bush acting alone or did the WSRA know but turn a blind eye in the hope of gaining the freehold?

We are sure the membership will not be too long in demanding a statement from the WSRA on this development – we will post it here if and when.

Update 12 March 2015.

The Somerset County Gazette website carries this statement from David Williams, Chairman of the Association:

“Association chairman David Williams said it is ‘difficult’ to comment as the Association was not a complainant and not invited to give evidence. He said “The conclusions of the report neither augment nor diminish the merit of the charity’s offer to purchase the railway freehold, as that does not appear to have been any part of this investigation. The Association trustees have at all times sought to do what is best to secure the future of the West Somerset Railway and that has been their only consideration throughout.”

Today, we have emailed all Trustees and encouraged them to issue a full statement on the hearing’s decision and also to provide answers to these questions:
(a) did the WSRA request the hearing be held in private (and if so, on what grounds)
(b) did the WSRA make the “written submission” as mentioned in the official “Outcomes” document (and if so why did the WSRA feel it necessary to do so)
(c) did any of the WSRA trustees had sight of the Lyons Report before the hearing (and if so, explain how that was possible)

Update 15 March 2015:

Yesterday we received a reply from the WSRA chairman who starts by saying “The WSRA made no request for the report to be suppressed.”

In response to the above questions:
(a) “The decision to hold the hearing in private was a decision made on the day of the hearing by the councillors involved without our prior knowledge as to what was going to happen.”
(b) not answered
(c) “All parties including WSRA and Plc were given the opportunity to read the initial draft of the report and the supporting evidence, under the constant personal supervision of council officers. This was after the evidence gathering stage had been concluded and after the conclusions had been drawn. We could make no comments on the findings of the report itself because they neither directly affected the Association, nor were we offered the chance to submit evidence.”

The WSRA Chairman’s reply ends with “No-one in the Association has seen the final version of the report and that is why we cannot comment on it.”
We are grateful for the WSRA’s response.

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