Lib Dems object to Local Enterprise Partnership CEO 26% payrise but there is nothing they or we can do about it

“The row over a £24,000 pay rise for the boss of a publicly funded enterprise partnership has deepened, with opposition councillors calling for Devon County Council to quit the body “until common sense prevails”.

It comes after the board of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership approved a 26 per cent pay rise for its chief executive on Tuesday, January 17.

It means Chris Garcia, who is employed through Somerset County Council, will earn £115,000 a year for his role helping to promote economic growth in Devon and Somerset.

Unison’s Devon County branch secretary, Steve Ryles, branded the pay rise “absolutely disgraceful” at a time when pay increases for council workers have been capped at one per cent.

Now Devon’s Liberal Democrat councillors have submitted a motion calling on the county council to use whatever means it can to stop the pay rise being implemented.

Cllr Alan Connett, shadow leader of the council, said: “At a time of ever tightening pressure on the public purse and yet more cuts in council services in the region, it is our view that the 26 per cent pay rise sends the wrong message to people when they face rising council tax bills and, for some, cuts in council tax benefit schemes which help the poorest.

“As a matter of genuine urgency, the board of the Local Enterprise Partnership should reconsider the pay rise it has awarded.”

The motion, proposed by Councillor Connett and seconded by Councillor Brian Greenslade, states: “At a time of huge reductions in Government funding for local councils forcing cuts in health, education, care for older people and children, Devon County Council is offended by the reported 26 per cent pay rise for the chief executive of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership.

“We call upon the council to take urgent steps to stop the annual pay rise of £24,271 and if it cannot do that, to withdraw from membership of the partnership until common sense prevails with regard to top management pay increases.”

Businesses, universities and local authorities are represented on the LEP board, including East Devon District Council and Devon County Council.

Asked how the proposal came about, the spokeswoman said: “The recommendation was made jointly by the chairs of the LEP board and of the LEP Finance & Resources Committee, in the interests of enabling the LEP to continue its momentum of success towards delivering its strategic economic plan.”

The LEP is chaired by Steve Hindley, chairman of Exeter-based construction firm Midas Group.

Before Tuesday’s board meeting in Tiverton, Devon County Council leader John Hart said: “As a local authority subject to significant government cuts, I cannot support a pay rise of 25 per cent for any high-level official.

“It is clear the CEO does a good job and the LEP has brought many millions of pounds into the Devon economy. But there has to be recognition of the tight financial times in which we live.”

A county council spokesman said on Wednesday the authority would be making no further comment on the matter.

The motion will be considered at the council’s budget and council tax setting meeting on Thursday, February 16.”

A spokeswoman for the LEP said it would not be releasing a breakdown of how board members voted on the CEO’s pay

Somerset County Council (lead authority for LEP scrutiny) has its own problems!

“Somerset Liberal Democrats’ Press Release, 26 September 2016:

Tories sit by whilst County Council faces Bankruptcy.

“The County Council’s finances are in a dire situation.”

Today, 26th September, the Conservative Cabinet running Somerset County Council have been discussing the possibility of declaring the Authority bankrupt. In the Revenue Outturn report the County Finance Director has informed the Cabinet that he may have to invoke Section 114 – which will mean that they have to bring in immediate savings to rectify the dire financial situation. The Government would also be advised that the County Council may not be able to pay all its bills! …

…“They have made Somerset County Council into a commissioning council, which has outsourced over £1 billion of contracts, with no real political control over the costs or the outcomes. The Tories have tied us into contracts for services we longer need. Indeed, far too many contracts, which gives the Council no flexibility on finance at all.”

“The Conservative Cabinet have had no long term thinking nor have they acted strategically, but have introduced damaging cuts in a salami slicing way, that have badly damaged valuable and useful services, causing the death of the Council by a thousand cuts. …

… “The Section 151 Officer [see also post below] has raised the spectre of Section 114 and the need for the Cabinet to now make further drastic cuts. And they are doing nothing to increase income generation within the Council, nor are they developing our good services into winning services across the South West.”

And this is the council watching over our LEP!

LEP “minutes” of 17 January 2017: interesting highlights

[The elephant in the room – the CEO’s 26% payrise – does not appear to be mentioned but it might be item 8 – see below]


“To commence the open recruitment process in January 2017 for up to 7 new private sector board directors following the anticipated retirement of a number of directors in 2017 in accordance to the process agreed in July’s Board meeting.”

How open?


“Within this protocol [simply called “Amber Protocols, no other information], there is one project which have failed to satisfy their conditions of funding approval / funding agreement. They will be written to and given two weeks to remedy their position.”

Which organisation?


“The LEP will approach SCC 151 officer to review how surplus funds can be used productively.”

HOWEVER at least in March 2016 it appears that Somerset County Council had opted to break the rules about this Section 151 Officer:

“Full Council on two occasions (most recently November 2015) has considered the implications of the Local Authority (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 which amend the statutory protection provisions for the posts of Chief Executive, Section 151 Officer and Monitoring Officer. On both occasions the Council agreed to leave the existing constitutional provisions unchanged because of concerns over the requirements of the regulations. In deciding not to make any changes the Council recognised that this carried a risk as the Council’s arrangements would be non-compliant until such time as alternative provisions were agreed. Acting on the advice of the Somerset Monitoring Officers Group (SMOG) all 6 councils in Somerset have agreed to remain non-compliant with the regulations pending hoped for clarity from the Government in relation to the requirements. This has not been forthcoming so SMOG has designed and is recommending a local solution that meets the known requirements of the regulations and avoids those elements of the regulations that are causing concern.”


“8. Board Paper for Special Board Meeting of Directors:

“The LEP Board agree to the recommendations in the paper.”


Click to access LEP-Board-Agenda-17-Jan-2017-V-5-1.pdf

That 26% payrise for LEP CEO

“The LEP did not say who had voted for the increase, but the WMN understands that all but one council representative had opposed the rise.”


We know that councillors from Devon County Council and Somerset County Council were against the payrise.

Assuming that the DCC and SCC representatives voted against, that leaves Paul Diviani (EDDC), Gordon Oliver (Torquay) and Ian Bowyer (Plymouth).

Which one voted for it. We will never know, because we are not allowed to know. It wasn’t even designated on the agenda:

Click to access LEP-Board-Agenda-17-Jan-2017-V-5-1.pdf

or in the minutes:

Click to access LEP-Board-Agenda-17-Jan-2017-V-5-1.pdf

You want to see Board papers (as you would for council meetings) well, take a look here:

You want to know what they spend? This is the information they direct you to here:

Good luck!

Massive social housing cuts predicted

To be replaced no doubt by unaffordable affordable housing – where housing benefit will go directly to landlords.

“More than 120,000 socially rented homes will be lost in the next four years, according to a forecast published today by the Chartered Institute for Housing.

The CIH’s projection follows the release of figures from the government last week, showing that over 120,000 homes available at social rent have already been lost between 2012 and 2016.

If the forecast is accurate, it would mean a loss of almost 250,000 socially rented homes – 6% of social housing stock – between 2012 and 2020.

According to the CIH projections, 72,000 of the social rent losses between 2017 and 2020 will be from local authority housing, and a further 50,000 will be from housing associations.

The organisation expects the housing to be lost through demolitions, the sale of high-value homes, sales through the Right to Buy scheme, and conversions of properties from social rent to more expensive “affordable” rent. The projected number of new social rent builds from 2017 to 2020 is 14,000 in total. …”

This is what happens when you get an elected Mayor

“TORBAY mayor Gordon Oliver has pledged to continue funding a £40,000-a-year ‘American office’ despite the fact it has failed to attract any investment to the Bay.

As other vital budgets are being cut, councillors branded the £120,000 already spent as ‘a waste of money’.

Mayor Oliver said he wanted to re-establish the American office in the light of Donald Trump’s recent election victory.

The aim of the ‘our man in America’ initiative, launched by Torbay Council and Torbay Development Agency was to encourage ‘Silicon Valley’-style businesses in the US to consider Torbay both for trade connections and as an ideal location for a foothold in the European market. But at the recent Torbay Council policy group meeting — where scrutiny members made recommendations on the mayor’s proposed budget — there were calls not to repeat the £40,000-a-year funding.

And it was revealed the American office has so far failed to attract any funding.

The contract for the USA lead generation has now expired and members said it should not be renewed. Cllr Chris Lewis, scrutiny board chairman, said while they did not want the budget for the ‘vital’ work done by Torbay Development Agency on economic regeneration reduced, it should still look to make savings.

But at the Torbay Business Forum business breakfast, mayor Oliver said he hoped to re-establish an office in the United States, particularly in the light of Donald Trump’s election as president.

“I am hoping the TDA and the council will support it though some of my colleagues are not very supportive. “But I had a letter from the Prime Minister saying she supports my bid to have a link with the United States as it is so important for the future of the national economy and for here as well.”

A council spokesman said: “Torbay Council does not have and has never been in possession of an American office. A contract was procured by the TDA on behalf of Torbay Council with the England Development Agency to generate leads for new direct investment from North American businesses.

“However, this contract expired in July this year and hasn’t been extended or re-procured.”

“Creative group” or “group of creatives” – what’s the difference!

Recall that Councillor Skinner has said that he has never met “The Ecmouth Creative Group”, then read this Freedom of Information response:

“Thank you for your request for information. Please find the response to your query below.

What criteria does the Exmouth Regeneration Board (ERB) use when selecting potential community groups to communicate with?
The ERB does not formally communicate with community groups and does not therefore apply any specific criteria. The notes of ERB meetings are published and the various members of the ERB including both District and Town Councils communicate with a wide range of Exmouth community groups as required.


Why was the Exmouth Creative Group assigned a brief to design a vision for Exmouth?
Cllr Skinner met in December with some Exmouth local businesses in his capacity as Chair of the Exmouth Regeneration Board and Portfolio Holder for Economy. It was an informal meeting to talk about Exmouth matters and to share views with a group of local businesses who would describe themselves as ‘creative’.

When was the decision made to as the Exmouth Creative Group to design a vision for Exmouth, who was involved in making this decision and whose idea was it in the first instance?
This decision was not taken by the ERB or by any representative of EDDC and no information is held in relation to this question.

How did EDDC and the Exmouth Regeneration Board in particular approach the Exmouth Community Group and who did this?
As above, Cllr Skinner met with some local businesses.

Given that the Exmouth Creative Group is unknown within Exmouth, please explain why the many well known community groups have been overlooked in favour of the Exmouth Creative Group for this task?
The Council engages with all manner of local groups in Exmouth and elsewhere in a variety of ways.

Please provide the names of those in attendance and dates of any meetings between any officers or councillors of EDDC with the Exmouth Creative Group or any representative of the Exmouth Creative Group.
The meeting was an informal one and the Council does not have an attendance list.

I hope this information is helpful but if you feel dissatisfied with the way we have responded, please contact our Monitoring Officer, Henry Gordon Lennox, to request an internal review at [email address]

You may also approach the Information Commissioner for advice at”