Radio Devon interview with EDA Chair, Paul Arnott, broadcast throughout yesterday.

Intense media interest in the new East Devon Alliance of Independent Candidates for the 2015 elections, has begun with reports of yesterday’s press launch.

Radio Devon was the first to pick up the story on its news bulletins on Monday, and prominent coverage was given in today’s editions of Pullman’s ‘View from..’ in Axminster, Colyton & Colyford, Honiton, Ottery St Mary, Seaton & Beer and Sidmouth. Here’s a sample:  AxminsterViewLaunch

Independent Councillors, Susie Bond and Claire Wright, wrote enthusiastic accounts on their respective blogs:

And needless to say, the Real Zorro, too, gave rave reviews, and has this especially  useful post

EDWatch will keep you updated on any further reporting this week….and up to and beyond the May 2015 elections…

And so, we’re sure, will



Public accountability charity urges national review of scrutiny mechanism

… “Ultimately in my view, it is weak leaders who seek to control and limit scrutiny; confident leaders can face effective challenge and recognise the value it adds to their decision-making and efforts to improve services.”

The Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS) has called for a full national review of the effectiveness of local governance and scrutiny mechanisms.

The call was made after the CfPS published the results of a survey it carried out into the effectiveness of local scrutiny following the findings of the Alexis Jay report into governance weaknesses at Rotherham.

The Centre said this research found that “in a small but worrying minority of councils, local leaders and senior officers appeared to be seeking to control and limit the effectiveness of local overview and scrutiny inquiries”.
Examples included leaders choosing the chairs of scrutiny committees, requests for information being obstructed or refused by senior officers and leading members, and the role of the statutory scrutiny officer being low profile and misunderstood.

However, the CfPS also noted evidence that Monitoring Officers were valued as providing support for effective scrutiny.

“In the vast majority of councils information is provided as requested and as required by law and councillors are providing robust, effective challenge,” it added.

The survey drew responses from 95 local scrutiny functions.
The Centre made six recommendations in addition to its call for a full national review.

These were that:

Local leaders – both members and officers – “should recognise and support the value of effective challenge in helping them improve what they do”;

Councils should review their own member governance in the light of the Francis and Jay reports, if they have not already done so;

Councils should seriously consider how chairs of scrutiny are chosen “and whether they always get the most effective people for this important role, in terms of skills, independence and credibility”;

Regulators and auditors should work with CfPS and others to raise their profile with scrutiny members “to ensure members know how to raise concerns about governance and service performance with the right regulatory bodies”;

Scrutiny and challenge to decision-makers should be informed by the views and experiences of service-users and members of the public, “and members should ensure that when considering performance they are not solely relying on the views of officers to inform their judgments”;

The impact of resource reductions must be included in any national review of the effectiveness of scrutiny and governance at local level.

Jessica Crowe, outgoing Executive Director of the Centre for Public Scrutiny, said: “CfPS’s work over the years has highlighted the value of effective scrutiny in improving local services and giving local people a voice in shaping service plans and decisions.

“However, what we are now seeing is a twin threat to that effectiveness from resource reductions – with resources for scrutiny down to their lowest level in a decade – and a political culture in a small minority of councils which seeks to control and limit its effectiveness.”

She added: “When making difficult and controversial decisions as councils are now faced with doing, strong scrutiny is needed more than ever before. Decisions that have been robustly challenged and passed muster can be seen to be more solidly based, and open, transparent scrutiny is a way of building consensus and engaging communities in those decisions.

“Ultimately in my view, it is weak leaders who seek to control and limit scrutiny; confident leaders can face effective challenge and recognise the value it adds to their decision-making and efforts to improve services.”


Why should an Independent stand under the East Devon Alliance banner?

A new website that went live yesterday, has the answers!

EDA Chair, Paul Arnott introduces it, and addresses the question about Independents,  here:

The East Devon Alliance has been an influential campaigning group working in the context of what many believe to be a maladministered district for the last couple of years. But there’s no point just moaning about it from the sidelines. So we decided that the only way to reform our council is through the ballot box.

Therefore, we are constituting ourselves at the Electoral Commission so that we can support Independent candidates at the next district elections, who may if they wish stand as “Independent East Devon Alliance” candidates. This works both ways -the candidates have some protection and support, and the voter can carefully scrutinise what they stand for …

We know how hard it is for Independents to stand without both camaraderie and practical support in local elections. But we also know that if people are to be happy putting a cross next to an Independent on the district ballot paper, they’ll want to know much more about them than what gets said in the pub.

That’s why we’ve launched this website   which explains as much as we possibly can, and we hope sets an example to the current ruling party for transparency and openness.

In law, if an Independent, say Jane Smith, is to be able to have the words ‘Independent East Devon Alliance’ alongside their names on the district ballot paper we are obliged to register at the Electoral Commission as a party. However, none of us have any interest in climbing the greasy pole of national party politics, and I think our very name makes that pretty obvious.”


Knowle alert!

Another public consultation, EDDC-style, is underway. Can anyone find the plans online?  Unlike planning proposals, comments ‘must be made IN WRITING’  (no mention of website option).

Details here

Your friends and neighbours might like to know.