BBC Spotlight: Independent councillor Claire Wright on NHS crisis

“The debate was aired on the programme here

from 12.25 and then after the programme it was streamed live to Facebook. Over 300 comments were received from people watching and the debate was shared over 50 times.”

BBC Radio Devon: EDA Leader Cathy Gardner on NHS crisis

NHS in crisis. The “huge amount of money washing around in the NHS” is not going on patient care, says Leader of EDA , Cathy Gardner, in live panel debate on Radio Devon.

Listen to the figures she quotes, and other arguments here:

Exmouth seafront extended planning documents – EDA Independent Councillor Megan Armstrong responds

Below is the response of Independent Exmouth councillor Megan Armstrong to the extended planning permission submission for Exmouth seafront by EDDC:


Tourism stays and spend plummet in East Devon

“East Devon visitor numbers have declined sharply and the nature of tourism is changing.

Overnight stays
2003 800,000
2013 475,000

2003 £153 million
2013 £98 million

Great Britain Tourism Survey 2014”

Click to access 180117-joint-overview-scrutiny-agenda-combined.pdf

Could this have anything to do with the large swathes of countryside in 2003 now being large swathes of concrete jungle in 2013?

EDDC budget projection showed £2 million deficit by 2020

“Members have been presented with the MTFP estimates showing a budget deficit in the order of £1.9m by 2021/22; however £0.792m of this has now been addressed in producing a balanced budget for 2017/18. The position indicates a gap between what the Council is spending and the resources it will have available to it.”

Is the £0.792 partly the missing Section 106 payments overlooked over the last few years?

Click to access 180117-joint-overview-scrutiny-agenda-combined.pdf

EDDC recreates the “Economic Development Manager” post

Last occupied by Nigel Harrison, who was controversially closely involved (with EDDC’s money and many, many blessings) with the equally controversial East Devon Business Forum, run by disgraced ex-councillor Graham Brown. Mr Harrison slipped quietly away during the ensuing fall-out.

So why do we need a new one?

“To ensure that the district has sufficient dedicated economy staffing resource in its team to promote local economic growth and productivity, increase the development of employment land and business premises (including EDDC owned and operated units), respond to local business support requests, improve the District’s investment profile and enable East Devon to maximise its return on the shared investment opportunities that Greater Exeter, Innovation Exeter, Growth Deal and the future Enterprise Zone offer.”

Click to access 180117-joint-overview-scrutiny-agenda-combined.pdf

“The King is dead, long live the king” as they say!

Perhaps CEO Williams, Deputy CEO Cohen and Leader Diviani will have learned some lessons … then again, perhaps not.

Greater Exeter: only 5 EDDC councillors get decision-making powers -and its another forum!

“A joint informal advisory reference forum is set up consisting of 5 councillors each from Devon, East Devon, Exeter, Mid Devon and Teignbridge to consider and make comments on draft plan proposals before they are formally considered by each council.”

AND it links seamlessly into Local Enterprise Partnership plans … none of which have been put out for public consultation:

“Role of the joint plan and relationship with other plans

o Setting out the overall scope of the plan and how it can support other related strategies such as the Local Enterprise Partnership’s policies and the results of the devolution discussions. How it relates to the existing and proposed new local plans prepared by each council and with Neighbourhood Plans. Duty to cooperate discussions.”

AND it is all-encompassing:

Plan Strategy
o Description of the overall strategy which best meets vision and the challenges facing the area. Covering the big ticket themes of where and how many homes and jobs are needed, how key environmental assets will be protected and enhanced and the need for new and improved infrastructure.

Strategic Settlements and area strategy and functions

o The implications of the vision and strategy for each of the main settlements and the
plan area as a whole. Setting out the key planning functions and role of these.  Strategic Development Proposals
o The strategic development sites allocated in this plan to meet the strategy and other area’s needs. Implications for the remaining district/city level local plans’ allocations.

Strategic Policies

o Homes – setting the strategic targets for the objectively assessed need for housing,
and considering the need for specific types of housing (including affordable, student,
custom build and accessible homes).
o Economy – considering forecast economic performance and how the plan can
guide/improve. This is likely to include consideration of particular economic sectors (and in particular the evolving role of the knowledge economy and innovation), the protection of key economic assets across the whole plan area.
o City and Town Centres – giving the overall approach to the need and best locations for retail, leisure and other “main town centre uses” taking account of the existing “hierarchy” of town and city centres in the area.
o Environment – policies concerning issues including climate change, air quality, flooding, protection of European sites, other strategic landscape and biodiversity matters and heritage protection.
o Community infrastructure – policies and proposals for the provision of community facilities and infrastructure, including information, smart systems and broadband.
o Quality of development – improving the design of new development, including consideration of density and space standards.
 Implementation, delivery and monitoring – proposals to ensure that policies and proposals happen on the ground and how their success will be measured.”

AND ordinary councillors (including Tories) will be frozen out of decision-making:

It is recognised that it might be difficult for the wider council membership to input into a joint plan through the normal committee/council channels.

It is therefore proposed that member input is provided for in two additional ways.

Firstly, it is proposed that a joint informal advisory reference forum is set up, consisting of 5 councillors from each of the five authorities (total 25 members). There would be an expectation that the councillors from each authority would be politically balanced. This joint forum would consider plan drafts and comment upon them before they are finalised and presented to the meetings of the individual councils. Secondly, officers will run member briefings before each formal committee cycle to allow all councillors to review and comment upon draft plan contents and proposals. This would help to ensure that councillors’ views can be considered before proposals are finalised.

Members should note that there is a separate proposal to set up a Greater Exeter Growth and Development Board as a formal joint committee to consider economic and other related matters across the area. This has been agreed in principle by Exeter and Teignbridge and will be considered by East Devon and Mid Devon (note that Devon County have confirmed their wish not to be involved in such a joint committee at this stage, although this does not undermine their commitment to the GESP). It is envisaged that the member steering group referred to above would have a role reporting on plan progress and strategy to the joint committee. This does not affect the recommendation referred to above to prepare the GESP under Section 28.”

Click to access 170117-combined-strategic-planning-agenda-compressed.pdf

“Tribunal tells district to publish report into conduct of former parish council chair”

Floodgates opened … ? As it, presumably, also applies to former district councillors too, there may be some sleepless nights here for some of them!

A tribunal has ordered North Norfolk District Council to publish a draft report into the conduct of the former chair of a parish council.

The district had argued that disclosure of the report would have been unfair as it related to the chair’s personal data.

A dispute among residents had broken out in the parish of Hickling in 2014 over whether the Hickling Playing Field or Recreational Ground Charity needed to change its constitution to increase the degree of protection from development given to a historic barn.

‘C’, then chair of Hickling Parish Council, was quoted in a local newspaper as saying the charity had shown no desire to negotiate a new constitution and “they don’t want to make changes to the constitution to protect the village asset and it’s very sad”.

A resident then complained to North Norfolk’s monitoring officer that C had made factually inaccurate comments and deliberately misled readers, amounting to a breach or breaches of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.

North Norfolk’s monitoring officer appointed an external solicitor to investigate the complaint. She submitted a draft final report for North Norfolk’s standards committee after C had ceased to be a councillor, the chair having lost her seat in the election of May 2015.

The monitoring officer decided that there was “no public benefit” in taking the matter further because C was no longer a serving councillor.

When another resident requested a copy of the draft report, North Norfolk refused – relying on s. 40(2) FOIA – on the grounds that the draft contained personal data about C who no longer held a public position.

The dispute then reached the Information Commissioner’s Office, which accepted C would have had a legitimate expectation that the details of the investigation would remain confidential, North Norfolk’s policy was that draft standards investigation reports were not shared with persons who were not parties to the complaint, and the prejudice to C’s interests outweighed any legitimate public interest in disclosure.

The complainant then appealed to the Information Rights Tribunal, which said in Janet Dedman v IC EA/2016/0142 that there was no doubt that the report contained the personal data of C and that there was no practical possibility of editing it so as to avoid the disclosure of such data.

However, the tribunal added: “There is plainly a strong public interest in the disclosure of findings as to the conduct of the chair of a parish council when performing her public duties.

“That is especially the case where a complaint has been made that she misled a newspaper and its readers, including her local parishioners, as to important matters relating to a controversial local issue. There is a danger that the withholding of a report may encourage the suspicion that its findings are adverse to the subject, whether or not that is, in fact, the case.”

It was hard to see how or in what substantial respects, the report’s findings of fact or its final conclusions could properly have been altered by the standards committee, had it been submitted to them, the tribunal said.

The tribunal said the Information Commissioner’s decision notice had treated a draft report, ipso facto, as a quite different creature from a final report without apparent consideration of the practical differences that might have existed in this case.

“Of course, if the draft awaited further assessment by a fact finder or a senior solicitor, the difference might be substantial. Here, we assess that it would have been minimal. Given that there never will be a final report that is a significant finding.”

It meanwhile suggested that the public interest in disclosure was “affected minimally, if at all,” by C losing her seat.

The public is entitled to know whether a serious complaint as to the conduct of an elected representative was found to be justified, regardless of her status when the report is disclosed,” the tribunal said.

“Such transparency is essential to the maintenance of proper standards in public life, whether or not the subject of the complaint remains in office.”
It pointed out that were this not so “a delinquent public officer, faced with a draft report containing serious criticism of his/her conduct, could simply prevent disclosure by timely resignation”.

The tribunal said there was a realistic possibility that C would again seek election to the parish council or another public authority in the future.

“That being so, the electorate should be apprised of the findings of the draft report, whether favourable or adverse to C. In seeking election in the future, she should neither be prejudiced by unjustified suspicions as to her past conduct nor, as the case may be, protected from disclosure of a past breach or breaches of the Code of Conduct.”

The tribunal found that the public, especially the local community, had a powerful legitimate interest in disclosure of the requested information and that C could have no reasonable expectation that it would not be disclosed in the circumstances that arose.

“That it was a draft report and marked “confidential” when received was no obstacle to disclosure nor was the fact that C was no longer in office. For the purposes of Condition 6(1) of DPA Schedule 2, Mrs. Dedman had a legitimate interest in knowing the findings of the draft report which could only be satisfied by its disclosure,” the tribunal said.

“For the reasons already discussed, disclosure was not unwarranted by reason of prejudice to C’s rights, freedoms or legitimate interests. If there was such prejudice, it was clearly justified in this case, given the public role undertaken by C and what she might reasonably expect as to publicity for the findings of such a report.”

The tribunal concluded that accordingly disclosure was not unfair and North Norfok was not entitled to rely on the s.40(2) exemption.

North Norfolk had no comment on the ruling.

Swire’s expenses

“The amount claimed in expenses by East Devon MP [Sir]* Hugo Swire during the last financial year has been revealed.

The data, published by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), shows the amount claimed between April 2015 and March 2016.

The figures show that [Sir] Hugo claimed £164,381.75 – the fifth highest amount claimed out of the nine MPs who were sitting in Devon for the whole of the period in question.

This was made up of £140,905.27 spent on staffing, £8,506.29 spent on accommodation, £8,013.09 spent on travel, and £6,957.10 spent on office costs.

[Sir] Hugo declined to comment on the figures.”

*[Owl] refuses to recognise crony titles.

All this money spent for US – well, when he’s not so very busy chairing the Conservative Middle East Council and swanning around the middle east with our arms salesmen (more expenses) or relaxing in his mid-Devon second home.

But good to know his staff (including his wife) are being well remunerated.

And, post-Brexit, East Devon can surely look forward to many special trade deals with Saudi Arabia (though they are probably unlikely to be Fairtrade deals!).

Perhaps he could help us buy some cheap sand for our coastal defences.

And maybe Sidmouth could twin with Jeddah (though the ladies of Sidmouth might have to stop driving and have male guardians).

NHS: Claire Wright in live debate on BBC Spotlight tonight 6.30 pm

Claire Wright, DCC Independent Councillor who has fought the local health service cuts for many years, will be taking part in a live debate on BBC Spotlight this evening between 6.30 and 7pm, following the meeting today at DCC which discussed the CCG’s plans to make massive cuts to services all over the county.