Today at 6.00pm, “Changing of the Guard” at East Devon District Council – Act IV (of V) 

(Or how the Conservatives with only one third of the Council seats tried to retain power for ever and ever. A comic tragedy in five parts.)

Act IV: In which Councillors will elect a Chairman and Vice-Chaiman of the Council and the Conservatives may make a spectacle of themselves again. (We already have had to endure a meeting to call a meeting, and a meeting crashing into chaos when Conservative Cllr. Tom Wright swore so badly, YouTube cut the live streaming service)

Owl hopes that this election can be conducted with a degree of respect and dignity whether contested or not. Watch live or streamed here.

Recapitulation (More detail here)

The local election in May 2019 removed a Conservative majority of 9 and left them with 19 seats in a council of 60 members.

Cllr. Ben Ingham, Leader of the opposition prior to the election, with 19 other Independents formed an arrangement, compact, understanding or coalition with the Conservatives to form an administration. Eschewing any arrangement with the other Independents.

Despite this arrangement, the Conservatives were deemed to be the official Opposition, holding chairmanship of the Scrutiny Committee. 

By January 2020 two Independent Councillors had left Ben Inghams Group leaving him with 18 members to the Conservatives 19, essentially becoming  their puppet. 

In March 2020 members of the Green, Independent East Devon Alliance and Liberal Democrat parties and an Independent combined to form a new group with the title the Democratic Alliance numbering 23. At this point they replaced the Conservatives as the Opposition.

In May 2020 eight more Independent Councillors had left Ben Ingham. One joined the Democratic Alliance the remaining seven formed the Independent Progressive group. The Independent Progressives then signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Democratic Alliance to work together. At this point the Democratic Alliance and Independent Progressives held an absolute majority of 31.

On 18 May Cllr Ben Ingham sacked his cabinet and resigned as leader.

On 29 May Cllr Paul Arnott was elected Leader of the Council

On 1 June Cllr Stuart Hughes resigned as Chairman

On 4 June Cllr Ben Ingham, who campaigned as an Independent, recruited others to join him to form the Independent Group administration, joined the Conservatives.

Somewhere along the line the Conservative Council Chairman Cllr. Stuart Hughes decided to cancel the Annual Meeting. On election the new Leader, Cllr Paul Arnott, said: “ He took the opportunity provided by a change in legislation by the government to prematurely cancel the annual council meeting, and this decision has predictably created five meetings at a time of crisis to do the same business.

“I have no doubt that he hoped for an outcome where he simply stayed in the chair for a second year, described by his leader last week as ‘the regular term’, wrong constitutionally and undesirable politically.

“He claims to have filled the chair as a ‘civic’ role, but this sweeping statement on his way out parrots Tory press releases.

Constitutionally, The Annual Meeting is the most appropriate point for a change of administration as all posts are re-affirmed or changed as a matter of course. 

Act V (to follow) One more meeting is still needed to decide committee places, forum and panel memberships etc .

Dramatis Personae in their political groupings can be found here of a cast of 60

Democratic Alliance +  31 [including the 7 Independent Progressives]

Conservatives                20

The Independents           5    [Remaining members of Ben Ingham’s original group]

Cranbrook Voice             3

Independent                    1


Extraordinary Virtual Meeting of the Council of the District of East Devon

 on Monday, 8th June, 2020 at 6.00 pm

1 Public speaking Information on public speaking is available online 

2 Apologies

3 Declarations of interest 

4 Motion: To elect a Chairman and Vice-Chaiman of the Council Following the decision of Council at the Extraordinary meeting of Council held on 28 May 2020, the Council shall elect a Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Council for the remainder of the civic year.

This meeting is being recorded by EDDC for subsequent publication on the Council’s website and will be streamed live to the Council’s Youtube Channel at 

In the event of unsuccessful streaming to Youtube, the meeting will be streamed live to the Council’s Facebook page at

One thought on “Today at 6.00pm, “Changing of the Guard” at East Devon District Council – Act IV (of V) 

  1. Interesting vote just now. Meeting started with 4 councillors missing, 3 Conservative & 1 Independent. Chair announced 13 apologies all Conservative Councillors. The vote for Chair was 38 for, 0 against & 5 abstentions all Conservative. The vote for Vice-Chair was 39 for, 0 against & 4 abstentions all Conservative.

    So the Conservatives have once again shown their true colours when it comes to democracy. Toys out of pram springs to mind.


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