Remind yourself, when you read this article, that Councillor Moulding said the following about consultation when Axminster Hospital’s beds were threatened:
“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 of 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…
Whereas here, he seems to have totally forgotten what he said:
Business leaders have spoken of their disappointment and “frustration” that the pleas of thousands of local companies to give evidence in a pending broadband inquiry have not yet been acknowledged.
Members of Devon County Council’s scrutiny committee are due to hold a meeting to discuss handling of the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) superfast broadband programme next week.
Officials initially decided to invite only those close to the programme to give evidence – which sparked a campaign by residents and businesses to include external witnesses.
Organisations representing 19,500 firms across the two counties issued an open letter to the committee, urging it to reconsider its decision. But the newly published agenda for the meeting reveals arrangements currently remain the same.
Graham Long, chairman of the Broadband for Rural Devon and Somerset action group, said the inquiry threatened to become a “whitewash” if only those involved in the roll-out scheme are allowed to speak.
“Rural businesses and residents cannot plan their future with the uncertainty that now exists around their broadband service, and the scrutiny committee should hear from the organisations that have added their names to the open letter,” he said.
“The failure to secure a phase two contract means that Devon and Somerset are now the only English counties without a programme to provide a minimum of 95% superfast coverage.
“This is now an urgent issue and the digital apartheid that exists between the towns and cities where fast broadband is ubiquitous and rural areas where it is almost non-existent cannot be allowed to continue.”
The committee scheduled a “special” meeting for September 3 following the collapse of negotiations between CDS and BT for delivery of phase two of the Government’s superfast scheme.
The only individuals listed to give evidence on the formal agenda are representatives of BDUK, CDS and BT, members of the council, local MPs and the broadband provider Airband.
The open letter, submitted to last week, warns councillors this approach “will not produce a fair examination of the programme” and calls for affected businesses and residents to be heard. Signatories include the Devon and Somerset branches of the Federation of Small Businesses, the NFU, the Country Land and Business Association and the Blackdown Hills Business Association.
Development manager for Devon FSB, Sue Wilkinson, described the situation as “frustrating”. “It’s disappointing for our members and all businesses in Devon and Somerset that chance for us to have a fair hearing and to make our very valid points has been lost,” she said.
The chairman of the committee, Conservative councillor Andrew Moulding was unavailable to comment yesterday. However, vice chairman and Liberal Democrat councillor Gordon Hook said he believed residents should be free to “question and probe” the issue.
A council spokesman said a decision on whether or not to take representations from the public would be made when coun. Moulding was available.