EDDC has second-highest number of complaints about councillors and staff in Devon

North Devon Council recorded the most complaints at 87, with Exeter City Council recording the least with just two.


“Westminster councillor resigns after receiving nearly 900 gifts and hospitality packages in six years”

Owl says: what is happening to Westminster council’s Monitoring Officer, Leader and Standards Committee? Nothing, so far.

And NO-ONE should be Chair of a Planning Committee for SEVENTEEN years!

“The deputy leader of Westminster city council has stepped down after it was revealed he had received nearly 900 gifts and hospitality packages over six years.

Robert Davis, a Tory councillor, was the chair of the borough’s planning committee until last year.

He has stepped aside as deputy leader and cabinet member for business, culture and heritage as an independent QC investigates his conduct.

Councillor Robert Davis has referred himself to the City Council’s monitoring officer and has decided to stand aside as Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Business, Culture and Heritage while the investigation is undertaken,” said Nickie Allen, the leader of Westminster City Council.

“Our residents need reassurance that the planning process is not only impartial, but is seen to be impartial,” she said, adding she had “asked the council’s chief executive to look at all aspects of the decision-making process to ensure planning is, and is seen as, an independent and impartial process.”

The Guardian revealed Mr Davis had received gifts and hospitality invitations 893 times over the last six years, which frequently came from property developers who were seeking planning permission.

Gifts and hospitality packages worth more than £25 must be declared and some of the items and invitations received by Mr Davis exceeded the figure.

The Cambridge graduate is the longest serving member of the council, having been elected in 1982. He was voted Conservative councillor of the year in 2014 and given an MBE in 2015 for his service to local and government planning.

“I think it’s important to recognise Robert Davis remains a candidate for the May election,” Adam Hug, leader of the Labour Group, told The Independent. “He remains a councillor.

“This move has been described as standing aside, with a clear view that if no legal wrongdoing is found he may return to his post. As he remains a candidate it is clear that the Tories believe what is known and not disputed is acceptable for them.”

He added: “Westminster Tories knew this was going on, did nothing for decades, and it is clear that unless legal wrongdoing is found, he may return to his post.”

In a statement, Mr Davis said: “Due to the ongoing interest and wrongful assertions regarding my time as chairman of planning I have decided to step aside from my roles as deputy leader and cabinet member for business, culture and heritage whilst the council investigates.

“In 17 years as chairman of planning committees which granted hundreds of applications and resulted in the council receiving substantial sums for affordable housing, public realm and other public amenity, I have at all times acted with the independence and probity required by my role.

“My desire to rigorously declare all meetings and hospitably, regardless of its nature, underpins this transparency and independence. It is trite to confirm that within these 17 years, I have got to know many of the developers and associated professionals who work in the city and help to develop Westminster into one of the most important economic centres in the country and home to over 280,000 people. Any suggestion or implication that I have done anything other than to further the interests of the city and its residents are baseless and strenuously denied.”


Labour MP calls for investigation into Swire’s Conservative Middle East Council

Image: Saudi Crown Prince’s UK visit PR

Swire retains a massive interest in the Middle East via his chairmanship of the Conservative Middle East Council. He visits many Middle East Countries and is often around at the same time as British arms companies, and hosts many visits and seminars as well as hosting Middle Eastern potentates and politicians in the UK. We have reported on the group’s controversial funders (see below). Now a Labour MP has called for an inquiry into the group. He is particularly concerned about UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia being used in their war with Yemen:

Swire still can’t let go of his old Foreign Office job and The Maldives

One has to feel sorry for poor old Swire. Once upon a time he swanned round the Middle East as a Foreign Office Minister. Now, he STILL swans around the area as Chairman of the Cobservative Middle East Council (salary £2,000 per month plus expenses) with its ties to somewhat controversial donors:


Swire succeeded in getting a special adjournment debate about the country in which he took an inordinate amount of interest when he was a Minister of State at the Foreign Office. And during this debate he spoke very knowledgeably about its tourism situation:

“The Maldives economy remains a tourism driven economy in that it contributes more than 25% of the country’s GDP. While the tourism sector supplies more than 70% of the foreign exchange earnings to the country, one third of the Government revenue is generated from this sector. Tourism is also known as the leading employment generator in the country. In 2016, tourism contributed 36.4% to the Government revenue. But as a result of the current situation, the Maldives is facing financial ruin, with the tourism industry estimated to be losing $20 million a day since the start of the state of emergency. If the trend continues, it will lead to unemployment and dissatisfaction, to my way of thinking both active recruiting sergeants for radicalisation, and with our tourists spread out over 115 square miles in 105 resorts it is almost impossible to guarantee their safety.”

But it seems that the current Minister of State at the Foreign Office is rather fed up of his predecessor’s continuing interference in his area:

“I am grateful to my right hon. Friend Sir Hugo Swire for securing this debate. During his time as one of my predecessors in the office I currently hold, he was tireless in his efforts to improve the political and human rights situation for all the people of the Maldives. I pay great tribute to him for his continued commitment to this cause and share his disappointment and alarm at the recent deterioration in the political outlook in the Maldives”


The human cost of austerity cuts

“One in ten councils faces running out of money in the next three years after exhausting its reserves to pay the dramatically rising cost of social care, the government’s financial watchdog has concluded.

The National Audit Office (NAO) warned that many councils were on the verge of insolvency having had their central government funding cut by almost 50 per cent in eight years. It found that authorities’ financial positions had “worsened markedly” since they were last audited in 2014, with two thirds of councils with social care responsibilities dipping into their reserves last year. The report also revealed that government cuts had led councils to:

• Reduce the number of households having their bins collected each week by 33 per cent since 2011;

• Cut the number of food hygiene checks on cafés and restaurants by 40.9 per cent;

• Make savings of £1.6 billion by closing Sure Start centres and services for young people.

In addition, bus route subsidies have been cut by 48 per cent, 10 per cent of libraries have been shut and 67 per cent fewer health and safety enforcement notices are being handed out.

The NAO found that despite these cuts, councils were still unable to balance their books because of the increased demand for social care combined with cost pressures such as the new national minimum wage. It said that the estimated number of people aged over 65 in need of care had increased by 14.3 per cent. Social care accounts for 54.4 per cent of local authorities’ total service spending, up from 45.3 per cent in 2010-11.

As a result, 66 per cent of local authorities with social care responsibilities drew on their reserves last year. The NAO said that at the current rate of deficit 10 per cent of councils would have exhausted their reserves by 2020.

Last month Northamptonshire county council had to impose strict in-year spending controls after effectively going bankrupt. The Timesrevealed that Surrey, Britain’s richest county, is facing a £100 million cash crisis. Councils are not legally allowed to run up deficits and so they would be forced to cut services to ensure they remained solvent. Many of the councils affected are in solid Conservative areas. Surrey, for example, is a county represented at Westminster by seven government ministers.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said that while the government had given local councils several “short-term cash injections” this funding had only been available for adult social care and uncertainty remained over the long-term financial plan for the sector.

Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Commons public accounts committee, said funding cuts had led to “stark choices” about which services local authorities continue to provide. “Many councils are raiding their rainy day funds to pay for social care, and we have seen Northamptonshire reach the brink of financial failure,” she said.

A government spokesman said councils needs and resources were being reviewed and a real-terms increase had been provided over the next two years.”

Source: Times (pay wall)