Whose fault is it the Local Plan took so long? Sidmouth says EDDC’s Mark Williams!!!

Not the false start made by the first Local Development Framework group, which spent 2-plus years visiting sites of favoured developers.

Not the East Devon Business Forum and its Chairman disgraced ex-councillor Graham Brown which attempted to get an iron grip on it.

Not the officers and councillors who employed consultant after consultant until they found one they agreed with.

Not the same officers and councillors who had their drafts thrown out twice by the Planning Inspector.


Sidmouth delayed the Local Plan! and Mark William’s loses it!

At a heated meeting of EDDC councillors tonight to approve the Local Plan, CEO Mark Williams lost control of himself in a big way.

In response to a fairly conciliatory speech from resident Richard Eley, on behalf of Save our Sidmouth, a furious Williams lambasted Sidmouth for delaying the Local Plan and increasing the number of houses in it!

“But for Sidmouth we would have had a local plan three years ago,” he ranted, adding that “the end result of all your objections is that we’ve ended up in the local plan with more houses than originally proposed.” (Gasps of astonishment from the public and cries of “rubbish” and “nonsense”.)

A few minutes later he rounded on Richard Eley again accusing him of “churlishly” calling the Inspector “idiotic”. Eley sprang to his feet and angrily denied he had used that word about the inspector, and demanded an apology – supported by more cries of “scandal” and “apologise” from the public.

He insisted on reading the offending part of his speech again which proved his point that the i-word was never used. In fact, he described the decision to include land at Sidford for a business park as “stupid”.

After more moments of mayhem and shouting from the public, a reluctant apology was extracted from the CEO.

Many observers were left wondering if Mr Williams might not need a long rest –as in retirement on a generous pension………

David Cameron still unhappy with his constituency council’s cuts and demands they “look again”

Prime minister David Cameron has once again advised the Conservative leaders of his local council to “look again” at its budget proposals after the council’s leader announced £69m of planned savings for this Parliament.

In a letter sent to Oxfordshire County Council, in response to its cabinet’s warning of the “devastating impact” of cuts, the prime minister said he understood it will be challenging to make further needed savings – but urged it to reconsider its plans.

“Oxfordshire and other councils must continue to reform the way they work to become more efficient, both in back-office functions and in front-line service delivery,” he said in a statement today.

“The recent Spending Review… made it possible for councils to sell property assets and use the capital to invest in transforming local services – and ensure further savings.”

Earlier this week, the council’s leader, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, was “desperately sorry” to announce that cuts to the county would have to go even further than imagined, with these options once considered just a worst-case scenario that councillors believed would not be needed.

“The clear message from our budget consultation in the autumn was that making proposed savings would have a real impact on people and communities,” he said. “We will be doing everything we can to help communities manage their impact. It should be remembered that this is our sixth consecutive year of having to make cuts and by 2020 we will have completed a decade of savings.”

The letter from the prime minister follows similar correspondence in November, after which Cameron was accused of breaching the ministerial code by offering special help to his Witney constituency in the face of looming cuts.

The exchange triggered a wave of criticism of ministerial hypocrisy at the time, as well as accusations that the prime minister failed to understand the impact of his own government’s cuts.

This was further exacerbated when Hudspeth sent a letter to Cameron detailing, in a six-page analysis, accurate figures showing the depth of the county council’s financial plight, despite reductions in back office expenditure.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail this morning, Cllr Hudspeth said the county council’s deep cuts were a result of the government’s “difficult decisions to reduce the national deficit”, an aim which it had always been clear about.

“There is no row. We are two men trying to do very difficult jobs in a difficult situation,” he said. “The county council is using its reserves, selling its property assets and working on co-location with other authorities to become more efficient, so to be quit honest Mr Cameron and I are both saying similar things.”

Overall, Oxfordshire has been forced to bring savings originally proposed for future years back into 2016-17, as well as slash spending in certain areas in a one-off basis, including library services and training budgets. It also warned that there will be more cuts to come after the council assesses whether there are different ways of working, with a lot of debate still expected in the coming months.


“Build on flood plains despite the risks, say government advisers”

“Homes and businesses should continue to be built on flood plains across the UK, despite the increasing risks this would involve for future residents, according to the government’s advisors on climate change.

Lord Krebs, the government’s statutory advisor on adapting to the effects of global warming, told an influential committee of MPs on Wednesday that although recent flooding has caused houses and other buildings built on flood plains to be inundated, property could continue to be constructed on flood plains. He made it clear that in cases of such construction, the attendant risks and the possible devastation would have to be made clear to households, local government and developers. ….”


But again we ask: what if subsequent development renders your property prone to flooding when it wasn’t before?

And who decides whether a site is flood prone or not? And how do later owners get to know?

Devolution: major decision due to be made by EDDC tomorrow

From the Save our Sidmouth blog:

“Key decisions about this region’s future, at EDDC special meeting at Knowle (Thursday, 28th January, 6.30pm).

Decisions made at tomorrow’s Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) are key to the future of East Devon, and the wider (‘Heart of the South West’) region.
Everyone living, working or visiting here, will be impacted by the District Council’s Local Plan, and by EDDC’s involvement in Devolution.

The Heart of the South West, HotSW, (Devolution) strategy is powered by the not-yet-built Hinckley Point nuclear power station, part-funded (one third) by China (Please see link to breaking news, on blog link below*.) The Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) of big businesses will be working in tandem with local authorities. Thursday’s meeting may approve delegated powers for Leader Paul Diviani, to represent EDDC for the Devolution bid to Government.
The meeting begins with public question time (maximum of 3 minutes per question).”


The blog has links to background papers.

” Unproductive oldies”? Yes, says EDDC Chief executive, No says Bank of England

At a recent council meeting, EDDC Chief Exec , Mark Williams, referring to the age profile of some East Devon communities, apparently described older people as “unproductive”.

Perhaps he should chat to the Bank of England chief economist quoted here:

“… The British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) has asked 5,500 households across the UK about the nature and scale of their volunteering activities. If extrapolated, the data suggests volunteering in the UK might amount to as much as 4.4 billion hours per year equating to 1.7 hours per week for every UK adult aged over 16 years.

The survey found volunteering to be more prevalent among older people. Data published by NCVO in June 2015 found levels of ‘formal volunteering’ declined at the start of the recession, increased during the recovery and is now stable.” …


Hinckley Point nuclear power station – decision delayed by French investor

Our LEP is heavily betting on this project to boost “growth” – do they have a strategy for this delay?


And maybe don’t (yet) go to one of the LEP seminars about all the wonderful things it is supposed to be bringing to us all.

Devon and Cornwall Police ask for more money from council taxes

“Police in Devon and Cornwall hope to raise an extra £1.8 million from council taxpayers next year after a cut in their government grant.

Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg is to ask homeowners in Devon and Cornwall to pay an extra 1.99 per cent on the slice of the tax which goes to support the police.

This amounts to an extra 6.5p a week for a typical Band D homeowner, or £3.37 a year.

Mr Hogg said the money was needed to ensure that policing resources can be maintained in the region.

He will ask his scrutiny body, the Police and Crime Panel, to agree the 1.99 per cent increase for 2016-17 when it meets next Friday. 5 February …”


Mayor offers referendum for change to committees

Voters in North Tyneside will be asked this May if they want the council to continue to be run by an elected mayor or move to a committee system.
The local authority adopted the elected mayor model of governance from May 2002, after a public referendum the previous November.
The current elected mayor, Norma Redfearn, had previously promised to give the electorate the opportunity to decide on the form of local governance they want.

North Tyneside’s full council last week (21 January) backed the proposal to hold a referendum on 5 May. This is the same day as local council and Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

Voters will be given two choices: to stay with the current elected mayor and cabinet model or to change to a committee system (with a leader).
Should voters back a change, then this will take effect at the end of Redfearn’s term of office in May 2017. If the outcome is to support the current system the next mayoral election will take place on 4 May 2017.
North Tyneside has recently held a consultation and also conducted a web-based discussion with a residents’ panel, staff and business partners.
Redfearn said: “Before I was elected in May 2013, residents asked me to hold a referendum and I promised I would take it forward. This referendum will give the voters of North Tyneside the opportunity to choose how they want their council to be governed from May next year.”


Rural Services Network attacks government rural funding cuts

Remember that ALL MPs in the far south west, rural and urban, except Ben Bradshaw in Exeter, are Conservatives.

“THE Rural Services Network has told the government it must listen to MPs on the vital issue of rural funding.

The network issued the warning after MPs slammed a proposed financial settlement for local authorities as unfair.

The Rural Fair Share cross-party group of MPs and the Rural Services Network are both calling for £130m to be redistributed to rural councils. This is the amount campaigners say the government still owes rural local authorities after it agreed to alter its funding formula in 2012 and give greater weighting to sparsity.

Government ministers have proposed a much lower settlement. Campaigners say it unfair that urban residents receive 45% more in central government grant than their rural counterparts – despite paying £81 less in council tax per head of population.

The impact of the balance is exacerbated because it costs more to deliver public services in rural areas.

Network Chief executive Graham Biggs said already cash-strapped local rural councils would face the prospect of being forced to increase council tax much more than urban councils. Even then, they would still have to undertake swingeing service cuts, he said.

“The government must think again on this issue of fundamental unfairness.”
Proposed changes to the funding formula had been applied unevenly and at the last minute by the government, said Mr Biggs. Without any forewarning, they would have the effect of further penalising rural areas, he added.
The government has announced plans to increase the Rural Services Grant work for the most rural areas by an extra £20m in 2016-17. But Mr Biggs said a promised extra £50m by 2019/20 over and above the £15.5m paid in 2015/16 was “back-end loaded”.

The government had implied there was £20m extra funding in 2016/17 when, in fact it amounted to just a £4.5m increase to £20m compared to 2015/16.”