A bumper Overview and Scrutiny Committee agenda with some hidden gems!

Thursday 22 January 2015, 6.30 p.m. Knowle

The agenda is here:

http://new.eastdevon.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/committees-and-meetings/overview-and-scrutiny-committee/

It really is hard to know where to start! So much to overview and (maybe not quite) scrutinise!

1.  An update on relocation – the first for this committee since June 2014 (pages 14-35). Includes a long report about why Knowle is too run down to work in and the horrendous cost of putting this right. No mention of the fact that the buildings have had little or no maintenance for the at least the last 4 years (and almost certainly longer) so they have been allowed to deteriorate. Costings that would include stripping out and replacing just about EVERYTHING!

And, by the way, a little paragraph tucked away that confirms that EDDC was somehow planning to enter a “fixed price” contract for Skypark that would have been against EU regulations. Now, why wasn’t THAT spotted by the experts right at the start?

2.  Then we move on to how to “improve” Task and Finish Forums. Basically, this would be done by agreeing the scope of such TAFFs in advance and not deviating from them one little bit. Oh, and getting the Legal Officer’s “advice” on such scoping. You see what we mean about a lot of overview and very little scrutiny. In this case, the Legal Officer fires the arrow, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee draws a bulls-eye around it and a TAFF says “look at that – exactly in the centre of the target!”.

A TAFF is meant to INVESTIGATE. To investigate it has to have a format that allows it to explore areas that might not at first be evident. No way, says EDDC, a TAFF does what our officers tell it to do, no more no less – though less would be good.

3. And then we get to an agenda item on the Business Task and Finish Forum (pages 61-65) which basically says that, as its Chairman Graham Brown is no longer with us, what’s the point of all this – let’s kick it into the long grass where it belongs just before an election.

It misses the point entirely: this was not (just) about its Chairman and his myriad of council and business interests. It was about a group of big local landowners and developers carving up the district in their own image (something which has,to a certain extent, since happened) and whether this was an appropriate way to bring together evidence and policy for a district council and its Local Plan.  Well, that isn’t going to get an airing is it!

Much is made of a successor to the East Devon Business Forum – the EAST DEVON BUSINESS SUPPORT GROUP.

This group apparently has a one-page website which lists its members (basically Chambers of Commerce, the NFU and Federation of Small Businesses) but contains no mention of any constitution, meetings, scope, etc (perhaps the EDDC Legal Officer could help with that, just like the Economic Development Officer was SO helpful to the East Devon Business Forum as its Hon Sec). However, at least two of the “same old” names appear on the list of members crossing over with the old EDBF.  And it has this addition:

“The East Devon Business Leaders Group.

“This organisation represents the larger businesses that operate within our district & it provides them with a forum where they can meet together to discuss matters which are of interest to the larger businesses.”

No web pages, no names of members, no names of businesses involved- oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!