What does EDDC Leader Paul Diviani know about the Brown investigation?

There seems to be some confusion.

When he was asked by Cllr Susie Bond at last week’s Full Council meeting (23rd July) for an update on the police inquiry into the activities of ex-councillor Graham Brown, Cllr Diviani replied: “Along with everyone else, I await hearing from the Police on the outcome of their investigation”.

Strange, therefore, that he was able to confidently tell an EDA member in June that the inquiry was about to conclude with no finding of wrongdoing against Mr Brown? “There is no evidence”, he said.

Stranger still, where did M.P. Hugo Swire’s office get the same information, which was passed on to another member of the public some weeks ago?

Disgraced ex-Councillor Graham Brown: Express and Echo update

Good precis of the current situation here

http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/Police-confirm-investigating-East-Devon/story-22045324-detail/story.html

One has to wonder why this is taking so long. The original story broke on the front page of the Daily Telegraph in March 2013

see here
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9921344/Councillors-for-hire-who-give-firms-planning-advice.html

and here:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9921333/If-I-turn-a-green-field-into-an-estate-then-Im-not-doing-it-for-peanuts.html

Information Tribunal rules on councils keeping employee grade criteria secret: they can’t

Bradford Council loses its appeal as they tried to stop an employee finding out how posts are graded:

The council had originally argued against disclosure under s. 43(2) FOIA (prejudice to commercial interests) but at the tribunal changed this to claim an exemption under s. 36(2)(c) FOIA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs).

Bradford argued that disclosure would lead to “a risk that a proportion of applicants will exaggerate the responsibilities of the post which could then result in an undeserved higher grading” and that were the methods published there would be an incentive for a significant proportion of the 3,000 or so staff to whom its ‘Professional Scheme’ applied to make fresh grading applications.

The resulting applications would “themselves place a significant burden on the authority’s resources and would be likely to thereby prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs,” it argued.

The council suggested that the balance of the public interest favoured non-disclosure.

But the Information Commissioner said that even where applicants do not know the criteria upon which their posts will be graded, it was still open to them to speculate on this and non-disclosure could not, therefore, sensibly be said to prevent exaggeration by applicants.

The idea that disclosure would lead to an increase in exaggeration was merely a hypothesis unsupported by evidence, it said.

If employees did exaggerate, this would not necessarily create a cost burden for the council since a single evaluation might apply to a number of individual post-holders.

It was therefore unlikely to be the case that each individual application would need to be dealt with separately, the Commissoner said, adding that transparency – as guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission made clear – was “the cornerstone of a non-discriminatory pay structure”.

The tribunal said it agreed with the Commissioner and the requester in their analysis of the public interest test, concluding that there was a significant public interest in favour of disclosure of the disputed information.

“Further we are not persuaded that there will be any significant damage to the public interest by disclosure,” it added. “In particular we are not persuaded that such risk of exaggeration by applicants as does occur is either increased or altered in any way that cannot be dealt with in the normal scope of the Human Resources work. [The council’s single status project manager] conceded that exaggeration is commonplace in any event.

“We find little tangible evidence of the nature or extent of the perceived increase in applications or in difficulties that would arise in dealing with any increase in the number of applications as a result of disclosure. Again we find little evidence about the increase in the financial burden that the council might suffer over and above that which will be incurred in the transfer that is already planned.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=19458%3Atribunal-tells-council-to-disclose-criteria-used-for-grading-positions-of-employees&catid=57&Itemid=25

It seems that the push is for greater transparency …..

Musings on the damage being done to the countryside by the National Planning Policy Framework

A thoughtful article in today’s Western Morning News:

http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Region-threat-building-countryside-easier/story-22044503-detail/story.html

Perhaps if we re-designated our green fields as “green manufacturing industries” and our tourist industry as “coastal and rural economic growth generators” we might get some people to understand why they are so important.

As both our local MPs are “hunting, shooting, fishing” men perhaps they could weigh in on our behalf?

Let’s hope none of our rash of new homes have these problems

“Families are increasingly being forced to squeeze into smaller spaces, with many children forced to share a bedroom and many new homes not having a garden or adequate storage space.”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2711257/The-space-age-long-way-How-family-homes-halved-size-700-square-feet-century.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

Though we have heard of at least one local model house that had to have fitted wardrobes inserted in bedrooms during the early part of the build because not even flat packs will go up the stairs!

The missing 6,000 voters: a personal perspective from an EDA blog commentator

Paul Freeman, a regular commenter on the EDA blog, has sent in this blog entry which represents his personal view after asking questions of the district council at last week’s full council meeting:

“Mr Chairman, Councillors

I would like to make a statement and ask some questions relating to democracy in East Devon which is on today’s agenda.

It has come to light in the past few weeks that the Electoral Registration Officer for East Devon has deregistered at least 6,400 people in East Devon and possibly as many as 7,000 citizens from the Electoral register. This is equivalent to 1 in 15 of all voters in East Devon, In other words, of all the councillors and officers in the room today, the entire top-table has been disenfranchised. Or of the visitors, the public here, these three gentlemen behind me have lost their vote. It is a matter of public record that the Electoral Registration Officer for East Devon has failed to meet the standard set by the Electoral Commission on doorstep canvassing for the past three years in a row. In addition, last year the Electoral Registration Officer reported to the Electoral Commission a perfect score, in doorstep canvassing, i.e. he reported that the number of households not canvassed was zero, yet when the Electoral Commission looked into this further they decided that his performance was still below standard in this area.

1. Can the council assure us that this lack of performance was not, even indirectly, the cause of these citizens losing their vote?

2. Secondly, can the council please tell us whether mis-reporting his performance is a disciplinary offense against the Electoral Registration Officer?

3. Can the council please confirm whether the telephone canvassers that have been promised to be recruited, have indeed been recruited, yet?

And finally:

4. Is the council aware that as part of his activities to implement Individual Electoral Registration, that our ERO has already mislaid a further 900 voters in Budleigh Salterton?”

Leaving aside the appropriateness of the Chairman handing these questions to the ERO himself to answer (CEO Mark Williams) when they included questions about his own performance and possible disciplinary action …

The statement made by Mark Williams, EDDC CEO and ERO, probably says more about his own regard (or lack of it) for the voters of East Devon than any number of assertions by members of the public such as myself:

“Well I will answer on behalf of the council.

I think first of all, Mr Freeman, I recommend that you double check your facts.

The second thing I’d say is that as members know from a report I took to the Cabinet Meeting, that we are transitioning from an Electoral Registration System that the government has said is unfit for purpose.

And the third thing I’d say to you is that in any major change process it is not where you start from that counts but where you end-up.”

(You can listen to the question and the ERO’s answers in the first 3 minutes of the recording of the meeting available on the councils web site at http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/council_agendas_and_mins.htm .

Disregarding that he didn’t actually answer ANY of the questions asked …

And leaving aside that he effectively denied the facts I stated (which have been discussed in depth on this blog) and which I can back up with citations to Electoral Commission documents and to documents from the ERO himself released in response to a Freedom of Information request…

And disregarding his misrepresentation of the old electoral system which was certainly fit for purpose for several decades, and is being changed only to ensure that voters do not lose their registration if the head of household refuses to add them to the form (a rare but regrettable occurrence)…

The key point is that I am sure that all of the 6,400 – 7,000 deregistered voters who were unable to vote in the European Elections will be heartened to know that the ERO believes that it doesn’t really matter that they missed this recent election because they will eventually be reregistered and able to vote in some future election – maybe in time for the May 2015 local council elections, or maybe some future election after that. Does Mark Williams think that elections are like busses – if you missed this one, never mind because there will be another one along in a minute or two?

In the light of this public statement, I again call upon the East Devon Electoral Registration Officer, Mark Williams, to resign his post of EDDC CEO (which includes his role as ERO) because his position is (even more) untenable.