One of the reasons so many Independent councillors were elected was because they were not Tories! People had become sick of the way the district had been run for the last 45 years and demanded change. Part of that change was to see exactly what Tories had been up to in those 45 years when transparency was in short supply.
So, on 3 May, we were presented with:
31 Independents (20 mostly eastern-based/central-based Independents, 11 mostly western-based Independent East Devon Alliance)
8 Lib Dems
An alliance of Independents, Lib Dems and Greens would have produced 41 non-Tories – easily outnumbering 19 Tories.
What we now know happened is that eastern-based Independents (Leader Ben Ingham, Exmouth) refused to work with East Devon Alliance. We assume that Lib Dems (who agreed to work with an Independent majority, but not form a coalition with them), were similarly excluded by Mr Ingham from working with his group.
Instead, Mr Ingham chose to work with the 19 Tories, an ex-Tory (former Tory Leader Ian Thomas) and several so-called Independent councillors whose late-onset Independent roots had never been obvious or put to the test. He gave the job of Chairman of the Council to Stuart Hughes, a Cabinet post to Ian Thomas, one of the jobs representing EDDC at Greater Exeter Strategic Plan meetings to Tory Philip Skinner and several other posts to other Tory councillors. Owl has no idea what the two Green (Exmouth-based) councillors think of this arrangement.
Despite this, CEO Mark Williams presumably decided that there were NOT 31 Independents, but two kinds of totally different Independents (Independent Group, EDA) and declared Tories as the “official opposition” – in spite of them holding Cabinet and other posts. Is this constitutionally correct? How does one decide? One asks the CEO – dead end there, then!
This has led to a Tory (“official opposition”) Alan Dent, being the head of the Scrutiny Committee – the only committee that now has wide investigative powers. The Chair of this committee can say Yes or No to requests for scrutiny of any subject – his word is the only word on what goes on an agenda (as long as the CEO agrees, of course).
So, is there any chance of the Scrutiny Committee holding the previous Tory administration to account? No, zero, zilch, nada in Owl’s view.
So those Tory bodies – lying quietly tucked away for the last 45 years are almost certain to continue enjoying their slumbers.
And all because some Independents can’t or won’t work with other Independents and local Lib Dems are keeping themselves well apart where, in other areas, coalitions of Independents, Greens and Lib Dems is promising real change in formerly true-blue districts.
What is so ironic about this whole story is that, in his political career, Ben Ingham has been a Tory councillor, an Independent Councillor and Leader of the East Devon Alliance!!!
Pitiful and shameful.