Rural Broadband meeting, Upottery 6 February – update

Those intending to be at Neil Parish’s meeting on Rural Broadband in Upottery (see below) may first wish to read this as background information:

Broadband Public Meeting

(Organised by Upottery Parish Council)
Friday, February 6, 2015, 6pm to 8pm
In Upottery Manor Rooms EX14 9PL
Neil Parish, MP for Honiton & Tiverton will chair the meeting.

Invited speakers include:
Phil Norrey, DCC Chief Executive & Chairman of the CDS Board
Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, DCC portfolio holder for CDS
Keri Denton, DCC Head Economy & Enterprise & Director of CDS
Cllr Paul Diviani, Leader, EDDC & DCC Councillor
Cllr Ross Henley, Somerset CC & Taunton Deane Councillor
Paul Coles, BT South West Regional Partnerships Director

What has Hugo Swire been up to recently?

Stirring words in Parliament on the lack of democracy in Hong Kong about which he said:

During my visit to Hong Kong in January, I met with the President of the Legislative Council as well as a number of legislators from a range of parties, and with a range of views on the constitutional reform debate.

and corrupt companies in the Republic if Congo about which he says:

We expect all companies to act appropriately and to the highest of standards, and encourage anyone with evidence of serious fraud, bribery or corruption to contact the Serious Fraud Office.

I’m sure we could find him some similar stuff very much closer to home if he was interested…..!

Independent councillor calls for more Independent Councillors

[At her manifesto launch] Mrs Wright called for more councillors of other political parties to stand at this May’s town and district council elections, adding: “We have a Conservative crime commissioner, a Conservative MP and every council locally is Conservative.”

“The county council…tends to be, fairly progressive, but the district council is…a dinosaur. It has always had a large Conservative majority…getting things through is quite difficult because they block vote, and that can’t be good for democracy.

“People are tired of the old political parties, and May 7 has to be about getting a better balance on EDDC, and [a greater number of] other councillors, especially independents, because they don’t have to toe a party line and can vote with their consciences.”

“To a Louse”: with particular reference to Councillor Moulding, Axminster Hospital and Knowle Relocation

“To a Louse” is, of course, the poem by Rabbie Burns which contains the immortal line:

“O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.”

Bear this saying in mind when reading the following report on a recent meeting about the reduction in services at Axminster Hospital sent in by a correspondent (very slightly edited of its more pungent comments) and compare it with public criticisms about Knowle relocation: a leading advocate of which is one Councillor Andrew Moulding:

At a well attended meeting to discuss progress in the fight to maintain in-patient beds at Axminster hospital, Cllr Andrew Moulding (wearing both his Town and County councillor hats) spoke to concerned residents about his representations to the Devon CC Health and Wellbeing OSC. He made clear his feelings on the matter to the OSC and stated that his only job as a Councillor was to convey the feelings, views, anger and frustration ohf Axminster people over the shameful way in which the CCG and NDHT had conducted themselves, with misleading figures, loaded and biased consultations and the heavy handed (and expensive) use of lawyers to force a decision through…

A member of the public replied that the whole situation was ” kafka-esque ” and that despite public passion and anger and a huge response ( against the establishment view ) to the Consultation document, it seems as if the publics wishes and views were simply ignored… How do we change this state of affairs…

Jeremy Walden then waded in to say that it wasn’t his place to tell the public how to change things they didn’t like but that the day to do so was soon upon us all…. oooh, cryptic!

However, the real eye opener was when AM then said that the CCG must keep an open mind on the whole issue and could not just proceed as it pleased disregarding public sentiment and that he did not believe them when they said that ” no decisions had yet been made ” – he chuckled good naturedly – again, my only job is to pass on my electorates views, which I will do with a passion… ( confetti rained down from the ceiling, trumpets blared etc ). The CCG and NDHT have not been forthcoming with their figures, the ones they have released are flawed, they have used Commercial Confidentiality as an excuse to withhold data and this does not allow an analytical, reasoned, impartial review to take place by those opposed to the plans. THIS IS QUITE WRONG AND MUST BE CHALLENGED!

Then, oh lord yes, he came up with this peach…

We (the working party – doctors, councillors, league of friends) believe that no decision on this critical matter should be taken until after the General election as governments may change, funding may change, policies may change and so to make the decision before then would be quite wrong as there are too many unknown factors at play. (cue: rousing applause).

Compare, of course, this statement with the Cabinet view at EDDC – of which AM is the deputy Leader – regarding the HQ relocation saga. When a motion proposing a moratorium on the process was proposed by the opposition independent group, the ruling majority were outraged! Why should we hold off on major decisions until after the election; that is not democratic and simply delays good decision making and as for using lawyers to suppress the truth, issuing flawed figures, hiding behind commercial confidentiality, making decisions before consultations complete…. I don’t recall AM making a similar stand then!”

Truly some of us badly need the ability to see ourselves as others see us.

5 February 2015 – National Voter Registration Day

Honestly, to read the EDDC webpage you wouldn’t think that our Chief Executive and Electoral Returning Officer had recently been brought before a Parliamentary Committee and hauled over the coals for doing little or nothing to register votes over the last few years! What’s that noise? Spinning, spinning!

“National Voter Registration Day is about spreading the word and encouraging people to take action by registering. However, it’s not only young people that we’re keen to register, we want all our residents that are eligible to vote to register, and we hope this day will focus attention on this aim.

Registering to vote is easy, just visit”

EDDC’s “Strategic Management Team” decided what questions to ask staff and public

No, we didn’t know what or who the “Strategic Management Team” is either – they don’t seem to be mentioned anywhere but we are told it is the head honchos here

Click to access eddc_smt_structure_chart_sept_2014_with_salaries.pdf

Below is a question on survey design on the Whatdotheyknow website that mentions them and where EDDCs replies are “Sir Humphrey Appleton” masterpieces of using lots of words to give almost no information!

So basically the six very highest paid officers devise all questionnaires – presumably including the one that didn’t include staying at Knowle as an option – a very odd decision!

So when you read that just about everyone in East Devon is satisfied witheverything EDDC does, you know who designed the questions to give the most positive answers.

Are you: ecstatic, over the moon or very happy with their creations?

Cameron … Devon … Science Park … no Diviani

Promises … maybes … looking into … might … eventually … possibly … PM here twice in a week … panic … yabber, yabber, yabber, yabber … same old … .

… but no Diviani or other EDDC Tory councillors in the pictures – has Hugo had a quiet word with Dave? And did the words “Claire Wright … threat to my majority” figure?

South Somerset District Councillor lives in America, claims allowances

And there is nothing anyone can do about it as the rules say a councillor only has to attend one full council meeting every six months. And even if you never attend a meeting, as long as the Chairman accepts apologies they don’t actually need to do anything at all.

Some councils publish statistics about how many meetings their councillors attend – but not South Somerset or East Devon.

Tesco “culls” Head Office staff – should Councillor Twiss report them to Hertfordshire police?

See story re Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition below and recall that Tory Councillor and maybe-or-maybe-not Tory awhip Twiss reported Independent Councillor Claire Wright to Devon and Cornwall Police when a commentator on her blog suggested that Tory councillors should be culled. He went on to say that Councillor Wright was “beneath contempt” for allowing use of the phrase on her blog.

The Daily Mail online has now used the phrase in its headline about Tesco reducing the number of staff at its head office.

It appears Councillor Wright has been much more mature and has made no comment on Councillor Twiss’s actions.

Councils must speed up adoption of Neighbourhood Plans

This is not a great deal of help in East Devon at present as a Local Plan trumps a Neighbourhood Plan and we have no idea what will be in a final Local Plan and how anomalies will be dealt with:

Government introduces legislation aimed at speeding up the time it takes to designate a neighbourhood plan area

The Neighbourhood Planning (General) Amendments Regulations 2015 amends the existing regulations in particular by ‘prescribing’ the date by which a local planning authority must determine applications for designation of a neighbourhood plan area.

It has been introduced in part in response to the considerable variation in the time local planning authorities take to designate neighbourhood plan areas. While some authorities have taken 45 days to reach a decision, some communities (including parish councils) have had to wait over six months for a decision, with some waiting over a year.

It also adds to the list of documents that a qualifying body must submit to a local planning authority with a proposal for a neighbourhood plan.

A copy of the regulations can be found at

Click to access uksi_20150020_en.pdf

originally blogged at

Twissgate: London’s Victoria and Albert Museum makes Claire Wright famous and Councillor Twiss infamous!

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a current exhibition (soon to close) called “Disobedient Objects” which the museum describes as:

“From a Suffragette tea service to protest robots, this exhibition is the first to examine the powerful role of objects in movements for social change. It demonstrates how political activism drives a wealth of design ingenuity and collective creativity that defy standard definitions of art and design. Disobedient Objects focuses on the period from the late 1970s to now, a time that has brought new technologies and political challenges. On display are arts of rebellion from around the world that illuminate the role of making in grassroots movements for social change: finely woven banners; defaced currency; changing designs for barricades and blockades; political video games; an inflatable general assembly to facilitate consensus decision-making; experimental activist-bicycles; and textiles bearing witness to political murders.”

A major exhibit is a wall of recent sayings associated with civil disobedience:


Look very carefully at the slogan between “Badger Watch Area” and”London’s Burning” and you will see the slogan

“Cull the Tories”

This exhibit wall was curated by the V and A and, as far as we know, the museum has not been reported to the Metropolitan Police.


Problems with East Devon District Council On line Planning

From Gaeron Kayley of Save Clyst St Mary campaign group:
‘Please be aware that a number of people are having difficulties logging their comments onto the EDDC website. The website suggests your comments have been successfully submitted, yet they never appear. If this has happened to you too, please notify: will help if you can include the application on which you were commenting, along with the approximate time and date you submitted your comments.’

Claire Wright (Ind) Manifesto launch press release

The Independent Parliamentary candidate for East Devon, Claire Wright, launched her general election manifesto in Exmouth on 27th January.

Speaking to 80 enthusiastic supporters, she explained that her manifesto was unique because it was based on the local voters’ concerns. It took into account hundreds of responses to a survey, comments from street events in all the constituency towns and many villages, conversations with thousands of local people and hundreds of town centre traders, “the life blood of our local economy”.

bnSome 40,000 leaflets had been distributed, which prompted more ideas and offers of help. Claire Wright also mentioned her experience on the East Devon District and Devon County councils and looked forward to a series of public meetings.

Now, with less than 100 days before the general election, she outlined some of her policies. The subject of greatest concern to local people, and to the rest of the country, was the future of the National Health Service. “East Devon’s community hospitals…have never been more at risk than they are now. We hear every day of the postponement of operations and of casualty departments not being able to cope.” She warned that in five years’ time, as demand grows, the NHS in Devon will be over £400 million in deficit and vowed to fight to protect local health services and argue for more funds for this area which has been historically under-funded.

Claire Wright condemned the East Devon District council for failing to agree a local plan which had allowed “rapacious developers” so “we are at a high risk of speculative and large-scale development”. This could not continue: the infrastructure was creaking. The environment also concerned local people and “human beings cannot exist without a successful natural world and this would also be a priority area for me”.

The possibility that the ground occupied by the Exmouth Rugby Club might be used for a new supermarket would damage local traders and was not consistent with current supermarket policy. The area should remain a sports field. Claire Wright condemned EDDC who had taken at least two years to decide on the future of “the unique” Exmouth Sea front, thus causing planning problems for local businesses. The council had behaved “quite badly”.

The council-imposed cuts and the proposed Devon County Council reduction of another £30 million next year were criticised. There were closures or the threat of closures, for youth centres, libraries, care homes, day centres, children’s homes, minor injuries units and inpatient beds. The use of food banks, even in East Devon, “had shot through the roof”. The House of Commons would soon be voting on funding for local authorities. “We shall see whether our current MP, yet again, votes in favour of the monumental cuts meted out to local authorities.”

How could some of the essential services could be funded? Claire Wright cited the “dubious HS2 project whilst local lines are denied funding”. It should be scrapped and the money spent on what people want. The plan to create elected police and crime commissioners had cost £70 million, equal to £14 per vote recorded. “We don’t need the commissioner: we need more police constables”. £3 billion had been spent on “yet another confusing and totally misguided re-organisation of the NHS… Government priorities on spending are wrong” and the cynical phrase “we’re all in it together, has never had such a hollow ring”.

There was widespread anger with East Devon District Council and its “arrogant bulldozer attitude to local people’s views”. It will “go its own way, even if it harms local people’s livelihoods” and the formation of many campaign groups, such as the East Devon Alliance, “should have sounded alarm bells to our MP and the local council but they appear to be deaf and blind to the threat posed by the public’s fury”. “Because the council and our MP are members of the same political club, challenges to either are few and far between. This damages democracy, the credibility of local government and its parliamentary representatives.”

Claire Wright promised to continue to challenge the councils and to condemn unnecessary expenditure. She would back the campaign for votes for young people who tended to be ignored. “People of 16 can get married, join the armed forces and pay taxes. Youth unemployment rose by 30,000 to 764,000 in the three months to last November. They should be represented.”

Speaking with conviction, she explained why a vote for an independent was a very positive vote and, that, as an independent, she would never have to choose between her conscience and a party line.

Task and Finish Forum Budget Scrutiny – suspicion about inadequate resources and Local Plan


(4) that there should be greater transparency in the Council financial information (including the Budget and Outturn report) in detailing the use and costs in obtaining external legal services and external consultancy services;

(5) that consideration be given to increasing the resources, possibly in conjunction with neighbouring authorities, for the further development of a coherent strategy and plan for the maintenance and improvement of the economic well-being of the district. (There was a suspicion that inadequate resources devoted to this activity had, amongst other things actually contributed to extra costs and delay in the production of a convincing local plan)

(7) That an annual audit review of the cost and effectiveness of external consultants is undertaken.

…As regards the wider matters of economic development, the budget has clearly been reduced considerably over the years, particularly on tourism promotion, which is now confined purely to the premises costs of some tourist information centres.

Click to access bstafff-scnd-rpt-jan-2015.pdf


The value of trees was a major theme at last night’s Sidmouth Arboretum AGM (held in the Annie Leigh Browne Room, Old Unitarian Church).
Guest speaker AONB Manager Chris Woodruff, gave an informal but very informative presentation on the aesthetic, social, environmental, and economic benefits of trees.. He spoke of the value to the local economy of modifying the woodland environment ((for example, the profitable provision of family attractions at Haldon Hills). Wood for fuel is in increasing demand, and local woodburning stove company, Stovax, saw sales rise by 50% last year. But England has a surprisingly low percentage of sustainably managed woodland, (barely half) compared with the other UK countries. Another surprise Chris Woodruff mentioned, is that hedges, i.e. “vertical woodland”, are not included in such surveys.

Meanwhile, Sidmouth Arboretum now has a Transatlantic link! It is working in partnership with the American organisation, Treeconomics, on a tree survey being specifically adapted for our local environment. Following Sidmouth’s lead, two other towns (Crawley,and Lewis, in Sussex) are currently establishing a civic arboretum.

The value of trees is increasingly being recognised….!
More info here

National Audit Office report on conflicts of interest

Particularly recommended reading to all those majority party councillors at EDDC who think that there is no such thing as a conflict of interest just meddling Independent councillors making a mountain out of a molehill. And the Standards Committee which continues to drag its heels on this issue.

Well, the National Audit Office appears to side with the Independents – surprise, surprise.

Click to access Conflicts-of-interest.pdf