The allowances for cabinet members of Somerset County Council amount to around £30,000pa. To many this may appear to be a reasonable reward for civic duty. But those who display more extravagent tastes might find it hard to afford luxury items without additional income streams. Some councillors have legitimate means. Others would like the world to believe that they do.
Cllr David Huxtable is not known for business accumen. Until his elevation into the cabninet he chaired the Audit and Resources committee – a post which does command the payment of some expenses from public funds. However his conspiciously flamboyant lifestyle required a great deal more to pay for personalised number plates, expensive sports cars and a luxury yacht.
It is assumed that Cllr Huxtable secured income from a company known as Huxegolf, believed to have been established to import a particular brand of golf club many years ago. The name still adorns his Conservative email address. There is, though, no such company registered at Companies House.
Cllr Huxtable was chairman of the Audit Committee when South West One was created in 2007. Under his chairmanship the company received glowing reports despite the fact that South West One was operating inefficiently, at a considerable loss and at great expense to public funds. Cllr Huxtable’s support for South West One and IBM was difficult to square with the opinion of his opposition political colleagues. The Conservatives were suspicious of this joint venture excercise.
Did IBM secure Cllr Huxtable’s support by helping him finance his obsession with motor cars and boats? Are they helping him still as he seeks to extend his political influence outside Somerset? Cllr Huxtable’s computer at County Hall has a distinctive screen saver – a photograph of himself next to a smiling David Cameron. He has been overheard recently in the building talking about his ambitions to become a Member of Parliament. To do so would require unseating an existing Conservative MP or challenging a numerically weak Liberal Democrat. The latter course is thought to be more likely and – with an election several years away – would require time and money.
If IBM is putting its generosity in Cllr Huxtable’s direction they will seek a positive return on the investment. He continues to loyally bat for the IBM team.
On February 24th the Audit Committee debated a report prepared by South West One’s procurement chief, Ian Conner. What the published records do not relate, however, is the fact that Mr Conner’s report was described as “full of holes” and “riddled with inaccurate figures” by other Conservative members of the Audit Committee. In the event Cllr Huxtable, acting as Cabinet member for Resources, waived aside all objections and told his colleagues that he personally thought the report was excellent.