Courtesy of The Guardian:
EDDC’s press release today (see our previous post) speaks of ‘lessons to be learned’ from the Tribunal’s scathing report, though it overlooks the fact that the criticism was “unanimous”, and not solely from the judge. There is no reference to the reportedly “discourteous” manner exhibited by EDDC , though the Council regrets that the Tribunal found it at times “unhelpful”.
To compare this press release with the one posted earlier today from Save Our Sidmouth (which contains the the Tribunal’s devastating comments), go to these links:
… and, as usual, light (featherlight) on facts about HOW they intend to change.
No, change has to be forced upon them: we cannot trust them to change themselves.
A most extraordinary letter from Hugo Swire on today’s Express and Echo website:
Really we have just one observation: should someone who gets this hysterical about democracy at work really be allowed to be in Parliament?
It’s time for cool heads and measured actions – seems to us we will get that from Claire Wright but NOT from Hugo Swire!
Sent by a correspondent:
Couple of good pieces in the online Echo today which hopefully will transfer to the print version tomorrow.
First a report on the Telegraph blog:
And second a report on the News Statesman Hilary Mantel support:
See this exchange between Cllr Susie Bond (Ind) and EDDC Leader Paul Diviani (Con). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEZN2L_v6Js
EDW footnote: The Council had agreed to conduct an independent inquiry once the police investigation into ex-Councillor Graham Brown (following the Telegraph’s ‘Councillor for Hire’ sting, March 2013) had ended. Cllr Bond (who took the Feniton and Buckerell seat with 87% of the vote, after Graham Brown’s resignation from it), asks if the Council will conduct its own investigation, as decided.
The Leader’s response (with backup from Chair Graham Godbeer (Con) , heard in the background saying Cllr Bond was not asking a question ) is fairly typical of what has been regularly observed by the public at Council meetings.
Who will take the decision whether to appeal the appeal for disclosurof Knowle relocation documents?
The Chief Executive (Williams) and Deputy Chief Executive (Cohen) along with ? who else must have taken the original decision to suppress the reports discussed in secret meetings when they were requested by Mr Woodward,
This decision to suppress the reports, to our knowledge was never brought to any public council committee. Who took the decision to suppress?
Eventually, the Information commissioner said that (redacted) reports should be published.
The ” council” then decided to appeal this decision. Who made that decision and why? Who reviewed it and agreed with it? How many councillors knew what was happening? Who thought up the idea of saying reports could not be published because the consultant was “an embedded employee” of the council?
The Deputy Chief Executive (Cohen) was chosen to present the justification for suppression and appeal at the court case in August 2014. The council’s solicitor (Lennox Gordon) presumably must have been asked for advice (though at the Court case they had engaged an outside barrister to present the case). The Chief Executive and ? who else must have then sanctioned this course of action. It was, to our knowledge, never brought to any public council committee. Who else knew about this?
At the Court case, Deputy Chief Executive Cohen admitted that at least one report from the outside consultant (Pratten) had been changed by him – Cohen – before being given to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The Overview and Scrutiny Committee were not aware of this at the time and (as far as we know) still do not know what was changed or why. Who else (if anyone) was involved in the decision to change the document before it went to them? Have members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee since seen the original? Would it have changed their views if they did not see it and have not since seen it?
Are there more reports (changed, not changed) other than those under review that they and other councillors should have seen prior to making an informed decision about relocation either to Skypark or Honiton/Exmouth and then sale of Knowle that might have affected their decision?
After the Court case in August 2014 it appears that EDDC dragged its heels in providing the judge with documents and insisted that some of them were illegible. However, subsequently, legible copies were found and submitted as late as March 2015. Who insisted that only illegible copies were available? Who knew that there were legible copies available and why were they delayed? Why the long delay?
Now that the court has heavily criticised all those involved, the decision can again be appealed, at probably even greater cost than the last appeal. We do not yet know the full cost of the last appeal except that it is more than £11,000 PLUS officer time, as EDDC never apportions cost of officer time to its work.
So, who takes the decision to appeal the appeal? The same people who suppressed the documents? The person/people who altered at least one document before it went to a committee? The people who said that some documents were illegible when they were not? The people criticised by the court for being “unhelpful and discourteous?
Who is left who has not been involved in this sorry saga who can be trusted to find out the answers and make decisions now? If we return the “same old” how can we be sure this will not be brushed under a carpet so precariously balanced on all that is now underneath it?
Brave independent councillors kept bringing this subject up time and time again only to be told to stop tilting at windmills. What is here is definitely not windmills.
Only a vote for Independents tomorrow can ensure that the carpet is lifted so that we can all see what has been swept underneath it all these years.
Including, of course, some searching questions about the seven year delay to a Local Plan which has left us at the mercy of rapacious developers.
The future is in your hands tomorrow.
Now we have had time to digest the findings of the judge in Information Commissioner and Jeremy Woodward (and many, many thanks are due to Jeremy and his occasional stand-in Richard Thurlow for doggedly pursuing this) there are SO many questions to be asked, some of which current commentators have already suggested. Now, where will the buck stop and who is going to answer questions ?
First and foremost we must be concerned with the damning evidence. In Tower Hamlets, when the Commissioners arrived to take it over, the first thing they did was sequester ALL documents and correspondence though it is believed that some were already missing. Is it possible that some of OUR evidence is vulnerable to deletion and shredding? We hope not but we cannot be sure. However, traces will abound everywhere and sometimes what is missing throws even more light on what is going on.
At best what has occured is incompetence and, at worst, deceit – as a correspondent says – which is it?
The questions people are posing:
1. The different versions of documents and their legibility. The Judge in the case is STILL not sure he has original documents or all documents. He says that for months EDDC said that they could not provide legible copies of documents and yet, at the last moment, some turned up. However, the judge also says that he is not entirely sure they saw ALL the documents they were meant to see – he refers to document 5A when he appears not to have been given document 5, for example.
2. At the hearing Richard Cohen admitted that he did not give an original version of a document to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee but an “amended” one. Where is the original copy of THIS document and would it have changed what that committee decided?
3. Why did EDDC officers and top councillors keep delaying the process. Were they hopeful that this could be kept under wraps until after the election tomorrow. They almost managed it if this was the case.
4. How and why were the decisions to prevaricate made and by whom: was it CEO/Cohen/Diviani or a larger (or smaller) group?
5. How will those in (4) above manage to keep this from the NEXT Overview and Scrutiny Committee?
6. Who decides what goes to an Overview and Scrutiny Committee? Those in (4) above! And will it go to the Standards Committee? (Answer here: almost certainly not if the same people remain in power).
7. What is now the position of Knowle sale?
8. Who takes these decisions – officers and then the councillors are led by the nose, or councillors and then officers are led by the nose or a combination of councillors AND officers and then everyone else is led by the nose? We know from Councillor Peter Sullivan that, as a Conservative councillor, he was not allowed to see documents. Who was in the “golden circle”?
9. Why did NO-ONE blow the whistle when they realised what was happening? Why was it left to brave Independent councillors, bloggers and – most important – local resident Jeremy Woodward, to uncover this very dirty, dirty linen?