Councillors should not be concerning themselves with Asset Management, says officer

“Donna Best, Principal Estates Surveyor explained the reason behind the Asset Management Forum (AMF) and that most Local Asset Management Forums only consisted of officers and had little if any Councillor representation”

Click to access 030915-amf.pdf


Has it taken her six years to come up with this and an explanation of what she thinks the Asset Management Forum is FOR? And why now, one wonders? Too much of a spotlight on it and a wish to go back to the shadows perhaps – no councillors means no agendas or minutes ..,

EDDC forced to publish formerly secret Asset Management Group agendas and minutes

Re-posted from

“After a lot of pressure from opposition Councillors and from Freedom of Information requests, EDDC has now published all the Agendas and Minutes of their Asset Management Forum. There are some redactions.

The documents can be found here:

Just to remind you that it was at these meetings that the development of Exmouth seafront was discussed and also the proposals for beach huts were developed.”

The risks of outsourcing risks

Internal auditors urge public sector boards to get assurance on risks of outsourcing

Public sector boards should not approve strategically important outsourcing projects “without first getting full assurance from their internal audit teams that the potential risks have been properly considered and effective controls are in place”, the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors has said.

In a report the Institute warned that failure to foresee and manage outsourcing risks could result in service failures, delays in the implementation of new projects, significant additional costs and reputational damage.

Such outcomes could undermine the cost savings and other benefits that outsourcing is intended to deliver, it added.
The Institute also argued that getting outsourcing right was increasingly important as it becomes more widespread among organisations seeking to cut costs and increase efficiency by buying-in specialist services.

It predicted that the increase in outsourcing by the public sector between 2010 and 2014 would continue with the pressure on public spending.

Dr Ian Peters, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors, said: “Outsourcing the service does not outsource the risk. Organisations may think they have thrown the risk ‘over the fence’ but this is absolutely not the case.

“Internal audit can support boards in relation to outsourced services. There should be an appetite at board and senior management level for assurance that the risks of outsourcing are being managed so that the organisation’s achievement of its strategic objectives is not compromised.”

Cabinet agenda papers for 7 October 2015 highlights

Cabinet papers for 7 October 2015 are here:

Warning: they took a long time to load. This snippet from the papers, on the new joint IT company might explain why, though it must be stressed that the majority of this presentation is gung-ho positive:

Page 22 of Cabinet papers:
Nasty such surprises so far… [regarding the IT amalgamation]:

“- Civic Centre datacentre powersupply not available

– Oakwood data centre noise, power, floor strength…

– Resignation of Teignbridge Street name and numbering person

– Virgin Networks delays inconnecting sites

– Microsoft licence complexity results in extra costs

– Effort required to keep existing systems going

– Changes to accounting rules “

and one slightly worrying point, given the recent publicity about massive fraud at Exeter City Council:

Services signing off IT invoices without discussion – missed opportunities for negotiation”

and a rather worrying minute from the Scrutiny Committee which appears to suggest that the costs of running last year’s (somewhat bungled) elections are to be kept out of the public domain, where they belong:

Election funding financial statement

The Committee had previously received a financial statement as requested, following a report by the Chief Executive to the July meeting on the local elections in May.

Councillor Ranger re-iterated her point that when election scenarios are rare, in this case with all three elections, it was important to fully review the process, which included the costs.

The Democratic Services Officer advised the committee of the continued work on the preparation of the detailed accounts. She recommended that, once complete, the accounts could be viewed by any Member and, if there was still concern, explore further through the scrutiny channels if the Committee agree to pursue this.

Councillor Ranger asked if the prepared accounts could show the cost of reprinting the postal ballot issue and report this figure back to the Committee.”

and an interesting statistic on page 67:

The ” annual” canvassing of electors produced a 52.06% return of printed forms, 6.01% return for telephone canvassing, 8.4% online and 3.24% by text.

That seems to knock the ide of only telephone canvassing on the head.

And finally the last page (68) of 9 “happy clappy” bullet points contains no less than 5 of them extol the virtues of the constantly loss-making Thelma Hulbert Gallery, including a donation of £2,500 from Councillor Diviani’s Locality Budget to improve its gardens well, you will need to have somewhere to eat your sandwiches when you are at the new EDDC HQ on the industrial estate!

Only 4% of lobbyists covered by government rules

Corporate lobbyists who peddle the interests of big business remain shrouded from public scrutiny as lax lobbying regulation increases the risk of corruption in Britain, a scathing new report warns.

Following detailed analysis of figures from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Transparency International UK (TI UK) found the UK’s lobbying register is “entirely unfit for purpose.”

The think tank, which seeks to fight corruption in all its forms, says the British public is “left in the dark” as unaccountable architects of public-policy mold Britain’s political landscape.”

More Cranbrook teething troubles

Again, from the council Facebook page:

“Hi. Please could you advise me of whom I would need to speak with, to discuss the possibility of getting a suitable disabled parking space allocated in the car park beside St Martin’s School? As a disabled person with very poor mobility and a high risk of falls, I am at my wits end trying to do the school run with my toddler in tow and failing to find a safe, suitable place to park where I can easily access the school. Also, please can you advise who I need to speak with about the fact that I regularly fail to be able to park in the allocated disabled spaces in the main Younghayes Centre car park when shopping due to contractors vans (without a displayed Blue Badge) being parked in them?! Thank you.”

“Can Cranbrook please have some rubbish bins? Since the shop opened… there has been an increase in litter, especially around the parks. Some of us hope that if there were more places to responsibly dispose of litter there would be less of it left lying around. The entrances to the parks and dotted along the main local route would seem like good places.”

“Apologies if this has been suggested before but are there any plans …for any bus shelters in Cranbrook? It’s not much fun sitting on the bus and getting to work soaked through, especially as winter is fast approaching some shelter would certainly be welcomed.”

Cranbrook Town Council has its hands full

From its Facebook page – good luck dealing with the developers on these issues:

Town Council representatives from the Amenities Committee held the latest of their now regular meetings with representatives of the Growth Point Team, The Consortium / Developers and other key partners on 27th September.

The purpose of the meeting was to work through all the outstanding issues on phase one and to apply the lessons from Phase 1 to Phase 2 and ongoing development of the town.
Getting all of the partners together in one regular meeting has become very effective in moving issues forward and these meetings will continue as a regular feature as part of the process of ensuring that everything possible is being done to make Cranbrook a success.

The meeting is chaired by Cllr Kim Bloxham, who, with Darren Summerfield of the Growth Point Team, has put together a detailed list of all known outstanding issues. Those attending work through the list, item by item, identifying solutions and those responsible for delivery.

Some of the subjects discussed include:

• Realignment of some roads, parking, garage sizes, street lamp locations, street signage and street furniture;
• Utility issues including broadband, mobile phone signal and automatic meter reading;
• Streetscene issues including adoption, litter, and weeding;
• Landscaping issues including trees, hedgerow management, verges and fly tipping.
• Play areas;
• The Country Park;
• Allotments;
• Younghayes Centre;
• Train Station;
• MLR Upgrade;
• Working with Housing Associations;
• Public Transport
The work of this meeting is reported back to the full Town Council at its regular monthly meeting.

The members of the Amenities Committee make regular inspections of the Town’s facilities but also welcome members of the community being their eyes and ears. Please report any concerns on the Town Council Facebook page.

The cloning of Exmouth seafront begins

Many would say that the Carriage Cafe is the sort of thing many re-invented seafronts would compete for. and indeed Lappa Valley in Cornwall, to which it will locate, agrees.

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw on south-west politics

” ..Ben Bradshaw, one the Labour Party’s few MPs in the south of England, is convinced the only route back to power is to win back people who are “not die hard Tories”.

Many Jeremy Corbyn backers believe rather than appealing to “soft” Conservatives, the party can regain office by winning back disillusioned Labour supporters, Green Party voters and millions of people who don’t vote.

But Mr Bradshaw, Culture Secretary under Gordon Brown, argues “miraculously persuading persistent non-voters to vote is not based on any political or psephological evidence”.

The Exeter, Devon MP will tomorrow host a fringe event at the Labour party conference in Brighton called Southern Discomfort, underlining how the party cannot ignore the south of England.

He will say Labour is “suffering from worse Southern Discomfort” than at “any time in our recent history”, and only “fantastic organisation” in places like Oxford East and Exeter have helped avoid a deficit as heavy as 1983.

But he will continue:

“In most of those constituencies where we needed to beat the Tories we went backwards and the challenge is now greater than it was after 1983. We should also not assume things can’t get worse.

“As Lewis Baston has pointed out in his recent analysis for Progress, the South is moving north – in that employment and demographic patterns that are common in the south are becoming more common across the country and if the Tories push through their boundary changes, relatively more seats will be created in southern England outside London.

“It is vital we have a clear headed understanding of why we lost the election based on the evidence, rather than emotion or conjecture.”

He will point out the Fabian Society, ex-Labour policy chief John Cruddas and the TUC have all done “in depth analysis” and “their conclusions are clear and the same”.

“We lost because we suffered from massive deficits on economic trust and leadership. This is what the new leadership must address.

“Four of the five voters Labour must win back in England and Wales to have any chance of forming the next Government voted Conservative on May 7th.

“These are not die hard Tories, but people who have voted Labour in recent history. Our Party and our new leadership must appeal to them.”

He adds the claim that Labour can win “by picking up a few more voters from the Greens on the left and miraculously persuading persistent non voters to vote is not based on any political or psephological evidence. Nor is it supported by our experience”.

He goes on:

“Anyone who has done any campaigning knows that the problem with non voters is – they don’t vote. Great ground campaigning can motivate a small number to on the margins, but most non voters have never voted and never will.

“To base an electoral strategy in them is wishful thinking. Far more productive and the only way for Labour to win is to persuade people who do vote to vote for us. That’s the challenge facing the new leadership. It’s not rocket science. We’ve shown in places like Exeter and Hove how it’s done. Let’s get on and do it.”

Source: Huffington Post UK

Why politics needs to change!

“Charlotte Johnson Wahl, the artist and mother of Boris Johnson, says: …

… “I’ve never voted Tory in my life. My parents were very socialist – rich socialists with three cars and two houses, but they were socialists in the days when that happened.”

source: Huffington Post UK reporting Radio Times article

Government has no idea how many homes have been built on public land

An influential committee of MPs has strongly criticised the Government for failing to collect information on the actual number of houses built or under construction under its high-profile public sector land disposal programme.

The Department of Communities and Local Government has previously claimed that by the end of March 2015, the Government had disposed of land with capacity for an estimated 109,950 homes, across 942 sites.

The biggest contributors were the Ministry of Defence (around 39,000 homes), the Homes and Communities Agency (around 21,000, on behalf of the DCLG) and the Department of Health (around 15,000).

But in a report, Disposal of public land for new homes, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the DCLG was unable to demonstrate whether the programme had succeeded in addressing the housing shortage or achieving value for money.

The Department had also not ascertained the proceeds from land sold, or whether the parcels of land were sold at market value, the MPs said.

“Instead, it chose to focus only on a notional number for ‘potential’ capacity for building houses on the land sold by individual departments in order to determine ‘success’,” the PAC said.

The committee noted that the DCLG had also counted towards the programme’s target the capacity of land sold before the programme had even started.

“It did not collect basic information necessary to oversee the programme effectively and, where it did collect programme-level data, there were omissions and inconsistencies, the report said.

A different (Labour) way of financing social housing?

Under the plans, contained in a report produced for a think-tank, the new homes could pay for themselves within a generation through savings to housing benefit.

The report said the housing benefit bill has grown quicker under the Conservatives than under Labour administrations.

On current trends, the housing benefit bill is set to hit £45 billion in today’s prices by 2045, more than the UK currently spends on defence, the report said.

The report said the programme of affordable public homes to buy and rent could pay for itself in 26 years purely through lower housing benefit payments, returning a “profit” to the Exchequer of £5.8 billion over 30 years.

“Corruption is rife in the EU” – and in our own back yard

Following the jailing of a corrupt Exeter City Council housing section employee for a scam that netted him nearly half a million pounds:

here is a report on how this takes place all over Europe – is enough being done to ensure this is not happening even close than Exeter City Council?:

“By Dean Carroll

Citizen trust in governments and public bodies is desperately low because relationships between politicians and business leaders “take place in the dark”, according to campaign group Transparency International. Reacting to the European Commission’s first ever continent-wide anti-corruption report, which had identified serious shortcomings in the efforts of European Union member states, TI suggested that “no country gets a clean bill of health”.

Deputy managing director of Transparency International Miklos Marschall said: “Trust in Europe’s leaders is falling because relations between business and the public sector take place in the dark, leaving citizens with questions about whose interests are being taken care of. To bridge the gap between politics and people, there must be greater transparency in public life and more public officials held to account for their actions.”

Cross-border corruption was highlighted as a threat to the single market in the report assessing all 28 EU member states. It was estimated that corruption was costing the public purse at least €120bn a year. The document was first scheduled for publication in June of last year but has since been hit by one delay after another. It paints a bleak picture of public sector administration with potential conflicts of interest leading to possible systemic skullduggery in areas including the awarding of public contracts, bribery, parliamentary ethics and political party financing.

“We welcome this report as an important step in the EU’s collective effort to scale up its anti-corruption efforts,” said Marschall. “It is a stark warning against complacency about corruption in any EU country.”

In 2013, France, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Spain all experienced well-documented cases of high-level criminal allegations ranging from fraud and money-laundering to abuses of party finances. Sweden, however, was celebrated as the best performer in the report. But European Commisisoner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström admitted: “Corruption is a phenomenon which is difficult to tackle. At the same time, it is a problem we cannot afford to ignore. One in 12 Europeans has experienced or witnessed corruption in the last 12 months and four out of 10 European companies consider corruption to be an obstacle for doing business within the EU.

“The level of corruption varies from one member state to another. But the report also shows that corruption affects all EU member states. One thing is very clear: there is no corruption-free zone in Europe. We hope that the process we are starting today will spur the political will and the necessary commitment at all levels to address corruption more effectively across Europe. The price of not acting is simply too high.”

In Croatia, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece between 6 per cent and 29 per cent of respondents surveyed by the commission said they had been asked for a bribe in the last 12 months. A large volume of bribes also occurred in Poland, Slovakia and Hungary – according to the official statistics.

Despite the discovery that maladministration was rife, the EU’s anti-fraud agency OLAF retained an annual budget of just €23.5m. Europol has estimated that 3,000 organised crime groups also have tentacles spreading across a number of areas – possibly even within public authorities. The BBC reported that Bulgaria, Romania and Italy were “particular hotspots for organised crime gangs in the EU but white-collar crimes like bribery and value added tax fraud plague many EU countries”.

“Exmouth Splat?” – report of yesterday’s public meeting

Conservative-led East Devon District Council (EDDC) was branded as undemocratic, secretive and devious at a packed meeting in Exmouth yesterday.

Campaign group Save Exmouth Seafront (SES) called the public meeting in the town’s All Saints Church Hall to fight EDDC’s latest grandiose plans for the redevelopment of Queen’s Drive.

Independent Exmouth councillor Megan Armstrong, SES Acting Chair Louise MacAllister, and SES researcher Tim Todd described the background to the project, known originally as “Exmouth Splash” and a lively, sometimes angry, audience expressed strong opposition to it.

Interesting revelations emerged:

· It was claimed that leading EDDC councillors and officers have a clear agenda to sell Exmouth’s assets to help fill the gaping hole in their revenue caused by Government cuts [and their expensive move from Sidmouth? ed].

· The plans for Exmouth have been hatched in secret meetings where minutes are not taken, the public are excluded, and councillors sworn to secrecy.

· EDDC’s “extensive” consultation is a sham – based on 518 replies to a 2011 publication, and comments from 14 pupils at Exmouth College!

· SES’ own recent survey confirms strong support for keeping the traditional charm of Exmouth seafront and the popular local businesses established there for many years.

· These modest local businesses have been “sabotaged” by EDDC with 12-month leases making investment and expansion difficult so they can be replaced by big outside speculative developers.

· Extensive residential and retail development including a cinema and expensive “attractions” will reduce children’s play areas from over 14000 square metres to about 3000.

· A new Water Sports Centre is planned at the most dangerous point of the beach, and entails a diversion of Queen’s Drive costing one and a half million pounds.

The meeting ended with the SES desks swamped by volunteers eager to help the campaign to reclaim the future of their town from bureaucrats and speculators who have no respect for what makes a place unique, special and loved.