“Devon MP Hugo Swire will not stand in the next General Election”

Owl says: FRIT! FRIT! FRIT!

“The Member of Parliament for East Devon says he will not stand in the next general election.

Conservative MP Hugo Swire, who was first elected in 2000, insists that he will continue to support Prime Minister Boris Johnson but says he will not be standing for re-election.

Announcing his decision via social media this evening, he said: “At a meeting earlier this evening of the Executive if the East Devon Conservative Association I announced that I would not be standing for re-election as the Member of Parliament.

“It was my original intention to stand down in 2022, when the next general election was scheduled to be held.”

He continued: “I served in a number of different roles in opposition, including in the shadow cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. In Government I was first appointed as Minister of State in the Northern Ireland Office and then Minister of State in the Foreign Commonwealth Office.

“Whilst I was honoured to have been appointed to these roles, my greatest privilege has been to serve my constituents, regardless of their political allegiance, I am truly grateful for consistently returning me at elections and will continue to serve them to the best of my ability until an election is called.”

Reaffirming his support to Mr Johnson, he added: “We live in challenging political times, but I remain convinced that to bring the country back together we need to deliver on Brexit and I shall continue to support the Prime Minster and the Government in their endeavours.”

The announcement prompted quick reaction from the prospective parliamentary candidates (PPC) for East Devon.

Eleanor Rylance, for the Liberal Democrats, said: “Conservative chaos continues.”

And independent PPC Clair Wright simply posted a ghost emoji after Mr Swire shared his announcement on Twitter.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/devon-mp-hugo-swire-not-3314246

EDDC: political power … could be radically rejigged …

Currently:

Conservatives: 19
Green Party: 2
Independent Group: 19
Independent 1
Independent East Devon Alliance: 11
Liberal Democrats: 8

IF East Devon Alliance, Independent, Green and Lib Dems
formed a coalition they would number 22.

It would then be:
Conservatives 19
The Independent Group 19
Coalition Group 22

The coalition would be the biggest group ……….. and could, if they so wished, bring in a committee system …….

EDDC: the resigned/sacked councillor saga continues…

Owl says: Of course, none of this would be happening if Leader Ingram had been prepared to work with the other independent group – East Devon Alliance (of which he had previously been leader – after being an independent independent – after being a Tory!).

AND it re-ignites the argument: who actually runs the council: councillors or officers? In theory, officers advise, councillors decide …..

“Cllr Paul Millar, who represents the Exmouth Halsdon ward, quit the Independent Group who are in control of East Devon District Council

A blistering attack on East Devon District Council’s management has been launched by a councillor who resigned from group running the council.

Cllr Paul Millar, who represents the Exmouth Halsdon ward, quit the Independent Group on Monday night.

In an email announcing his departure from the group, Cllr Millar said he found working with the Senior Management Team and trying to have any influence over his transformation portfolio to be impossible, that he had no confidence in the senior management, and that the Independent Group has little desire to change anything really at all.

His resignation from the group means that they are no longer the largest party on the council, with both them and the Conservatives having 19 seats each.

In a response, Cllr Ben Ingham, leader of the council, said that he thanked Cllr Millar for his contribution but that the ‘personal and unfounded comments’ do not help advance understanding of the work carried out by East Devon District Council’s officers and councillors.

It is understood that Cllr Millar had been removed from his transformation portfolio role by Cllr Ingham prior to his resignation from the group.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Millar confirmed that he would remain a member of the council and would sit as an Independent not aligned to any group.

He said that he has found local casework immensely fulfilling and this will enable him to concentrate on that and he joked that his contributions to the cabinet wouldn’t be missed as his ideas seemed to be ignored and they didn’t give him anything to do.

In his resignation statement, Cllr Millar said: “Since being elected I have sadly found working with the Senior Management Team and trying to have any influence over my portfolio to be impossible. I was not once asked my view on any matter of policy or given information with which to make any real decision.

“I raised this on a number of occasions, and was sent an email by the Monitoring Officer telling me it is ‘impractical’ for councillors to make even a ‘small fraction’ of decisions.

“Although I’m very new, as a democrat I found this despairing and disappointing as I believe elected representatives are best placed to make decisions in the public interest. We take the blame when things go wrong, so we should have more control, as we’re the ones on the ground.”

Cllr Millar was absent from last Thursday’s overview and scrutiny committee meeting where the service plan objectives for 2019/20 where being evaluated due to illness, but had he attended, he said: “I would’ve struggled to explain what I’d done at the as I’ve not been given any opportunity to make a single major decision. I can only conclude this has been a deliberate action taken by the officer lead for my former portfolio.”

He added that he has no confidence in the current Senior Management and he would like to work with colleagues to at some point submit a motion of no confidence against the Senior Management Team.

He said: “I have become convinced by my short experience and conversations with others across parties that cultural change at the top is required if East Devon District Council is ever to provide a better service, win greater trust among our residents and to have fewer decisions made behind closed doors by officers who are unelected, unaccountable and often I believe show an arrogant contempt towards councillors.”

And he questioned whether the current administration in charge of the council was sustainable for much longer, and his departure means that the Independent Group, which was made up of 20 individual Independent councillors, is no longer the largest group, with the Conservatives also have 19.

He said: “My departure means the ‘Independent Group’ no longer has any majority and as a result to my mind no longer has any mandate to continue as the current administration.

“I will be voting against the Council Plan as I believe it is mostly a load of wishy-washy nonsense written entirely by senior officers, some of whom view our residents merely as “customers” to have money sucked out of, and underestimate the intelligence and ability of elected representatives. In its current form the plan gives the council and the current administration no clear direction of travel.

“Worst of all, I’ve been disappointed that the Independent Group has little desire to change anything really at all. I’ve never been part of a more autocratically-minded institution in my life, and my old Students’ Union was pretty bad.

“The leader and deputy leader have consistently bowed to the SMT (senior management team) in the name of ‘continuity’. It’s been so frustrating and there’s no active feeling that SMT want to work with councillors.”

Cllr Ingham, in response, said he was grateful for the work Cllr Millar had carried out and wished him well for the future.

He added: “It is very unfortunate when individuals resort to personal and unfounded comments. Such attacks do not help us advance understanding of the work carried out by East Devon District Council’s officers and councillors and their respective roles and responsibilities as detailed in the council’s constitution. Rather, they confuse, contribute to rumours and create more harm.”

“However, I am confident that the council offered Cllr Millar a high level of support and assistance to help him try to adjust to the demands of being a Portfolio holder, and I thank him for his contribution.

“On behalf of the council I am very grateful for the work that Cllr Millar has carried out since his election and appointment to the cabinet and wish him well for the future. Looking forwards, though, it is business as usual for East Devon.”

It is understood that Cllr Ingham had sacked Cllr Millar from his role as he failed to take the ‘many chances’ given to ‘show respect to officers and each other at all times’.

Cllr Millar’s resignation leaves the Independent Group and the Conservatives both holding 19 seats on the council. The East Devon Alliance hold 11, the Liberal Democrats eight, the Green Party two, and one Independent.

A meeting of Conservatives members will take place next week to discuss what, if any, moves they plan to make to try and regain control of the council.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/councillor-quits-independent-group-launches-3313607

“£28m budget black hole forecast for Devon County Council”

“A report to Devon County Council’s (DCC) cabinet meeting tells councillors that the total projected budget overspend, four months into the 2019/20 financial year, is £4.3m.

However, Mary Davis the county’s treasurer, says this figure assumes a funding shortfall of £15.8m for special educational needs and disability (SEND) will not be dealt with this financial year.

It also assumes planned contributions to reserves of £8m are not made.

The report said that, without these adjustments, the projected overspend would be £28.1m.

Mrs Davis’ report added: “The Government has announced additional funding for SEND in 2020/21 but nothing as yet for the current year.

“It is suggested that the deficit is not dealt with at the end of this financial year but held on the balance sheet as a negative reserve.

“It is not a solution, but it is a mechanism that gives more time for a solution to be found.”

The cabinet are recommended to note the budget monitoring forecast position.

Councillor Alan Connett, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said the projected £28 million shortfall highlights that Devon is being ‘short-changed’ by this Government.

He added: “More children and adults need the council’s support.

“Our schools are being cheated.

“They get around £300 per child less than the national average, and our children with special educational needs are being let down.

“Those that need our help the most are being denied by a Government that could act, but won’t.”

The cabinet agenda report says DCC could receive an extra £11.7 million next year and £9.5 million in 2021/22 for education, following the Government’s spending review, and an extra £8.6 million to help support children with special needs next year.

County council leader, Cllr John Hart, said: “We have been campaigning with headteachers, governors and parents for fairer funding for Devon’s schools and the promise to ‘level up’ under-funded areas is one I very much welcome.

“It’s also encouraging to see Mr Javid (Chancellor for the Exchequer) announcing a three-year funding cycle for education as compared to the single year for other services.”

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/devon-county-council-budget-forecast-deficit-1-6264239

The dangers of anagrams and acronyms in these dangerous times!

Acronyms:

Story is civil servants – but nobody appears to have admitted to this being deliberate – named a process the “Community Rolling Action Plan”, knowing regulators’ love of acronyms. It is now called the CoRAP.

Anagrams:

YELLOWHAMMER
is an anagram of
ORWELL MAYHEM

“Devon and Somerset fire service ‘scraps’ £630k IT project”

burning money cartoon

“A cash-strapped fire service has scrapped an IT project that cost £631,000 but was branded “ill-conceived and overly complicated” by a union.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said it had to save £8.4m in the next three years and has planned to close eight fire stations.

The system was used to manage staff training needs and bosses said it was good value but no system was perfect.
But the Fire Brigades Union said it was a “waste of time and money”.

James Leslie, from the union, said the contract should never have been signed off and the money should have been used more wisely.

He said the programme was difficult to use, “never really took off and had been officially scrapped” and replaced with one that was “user-friendly”.

Mr Leslie said part of the programme was never released and as a result training went unrecorded and staff were struggling to find availability on courses.

However, the fire service disputed these claims.

The service said the programme was operational from 2016 until earlier this year but “due to a number of factors” it ended and a new system was developed.

Alex Hanson, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, said the project was “fundamental” in supporting firefighter training.
“No system is completely perfect,” he said. …

… In June, the fire service said it wanted to bring an outdated service into the 21st Century and announced the planned closure of eight stations – seven in Devon and one in Somerset.

The service said it had saved £12.2m over the past five years but still had to “make significant financial savings” because of reduced funding and rising costs.

However, the Home Office said the authority would have £75.6m to spend in 2019-2020 – an increase of £1.9m compared with 2018-2019.

Mr Hanson added the £631,000 was “one-off capital funding to develop a vital system for staff” and could not have been used for wages or savings.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-49593612