Cabinet today, Thursday, 18th June, 2020, 5.00 pm – Opening more Toilets

Virtual Meeting – Cabinet Thursday, 18th June, 2020, 5.00 pm

Matters for Decision

Reinstating StreetScene seasonal resource and additional budget to allow improved public toilet opening

Recommendation – That Cabinet:

1. Note the use of the StreetScene agency budget of £62k to enable StreetScene Operations to meet statutory responsibilities in relation to street cleansing and maintain an Outstanding Environment.

2. Review Options A-Ci for opening public toilets further (which would require additional budget ranging from £53,282 – £124,325 for 9 months until March 2021) and decide whether to pursue one of the options and to make a recommendation to Council for the additional funding, or virement from other budgets.

3. Approve an extensive communications effort to explain why this restricted opening and over budget resource is required and approach the Town & Parish Council’s benefitting, seeking a contribution to the costs.

4. Approve a long term review of public toilet stock taking account of the ‘new normal’, requiring consideration of financial sustainability and Covid-19 secure building adaptations and investment within the stock with a report to be brought back to Cabinet for consideration.

Why five acts to “change the guard” at EDDC? – Owl reveals the Doomsday Scenario

The Agenda pack for next Wednesday’s Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) contains recommendations for changes to the constitution “To ensure that the Council’s governance framework reflects the changes to the political balance within the Council and to enable certain of the appointments that would have happened at Annual Council to be agreed for the remainder of the civic year.”

It appears from the constitution that: “the business at EGMs should be ‘limited to a single item in the form of a motion…’. So when the previous Conservative Council Chairman, Cllr. Stuart Hughes decided [pace Paul F] to cancel the Annual Meeting he created the perfect Doomsday Scenario in which a change of regime could only take place one vote and one EGM a time, potentially hobbling the Council to eternity- the Doomsday Scenario.

His intention was to retain the status quo to provide the “Conservative” experience and stability to guide East Devon through the pandemic- it has just caused a massive distraction and an unnecessary waste of time and effort.

Did he intend to create quite such chaos? Who knows, but Owl doesn’t believe that he was acting alone. It was not done in the best interests of the people of East Devon.

Now that separate meetings have established that the Council does indeed want to change its Chairman and Leader by significant majorities, wiser heads have prevailed. The way is clear to hold an EGM to change the constitution and then go on to make the remaining changes in one go. 

UK housebuilders will need government support, says Berkeley

The Development Lobby in action – Owl keeps drawing attention to how developers occupy, and have occupied for years, key positions in the local Local Enterprise Partnerships and the newly emerging promotional organisations such as “The Great South West” (and one or two that have fallen by the way).

Mark Sweney 

Berkeley has said the housebuilding and construction industry will need government support, including a simplification of the planning process, if it is to play a leading role in helping the British economy recover from the coronavirus.

Rob Perrins, the chief executive of the FTSE 100 housebuilder, said the government would need to intervene to kickstart growth.

“Housebuilding and construction can play a vital role in the broader economic recovery following Covid-19,” Perrins said as Berkeley announced its full-year results on Wednesday.

“This will require government support, similar to that seen following the 2008-09 financial crisis, including: the reversal of the property tax increases seen since 2014, a reduction in the bureaucracy and cost of planning, and direct investment into affordable housing.”

UK housebuilders have benefited from government support in recent years because of the help-to-buy scheme, which subsidised the acquisition of new-build homes and boosted profits at companies such as Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey.

While many firms in the sector have tapped the government’s wage support and loan schemes in recent months, Berkeley said it had not had to turn to the government’s furlough programme or its Covid corporate financing facility.

Berkeley said on Wednesday it would stick to its plan of providing £280m a year to shareholders until 2025, with the next £140m payment still on track for September. However, a planned return of £455m of surplus capital has been deferred for up to two years because of the pandemic.

The company, which operates mainly in London, Birmingham and the south-east of England, said in the year to the end of April it built almost 3,000 homes, including about 10% of London’s new private and affordable homes. Berkeley said it supported about 32,000 jobs, directly and indirectly.

It reported a 35% fall in pre-tax profits in the year to the end of April, from £775m to £503m. The company said it had been on track to meet its profit guidance of £550m before the lockdown but revised that down to £475m at the end of March. 

“Berkeley therefore surpassed its initial expectation in this regard,” the company said. It maintained its target of an average annual profit of £500m through to 2025.

“We now anticipate profit delivery in the coming year to be weighted towards the second half in an approximate one-third to two-thirds ratio,” the company said. “This does assume no further significant disruption from a second wave of Covid-19 or a disorderly end to the Brexit transition period.”

Production capacity dropped about 40% as the UK went into lockdown and is now back up to about 80%. Sales in April and May were 50% below normal market conditions.


Act V – Agenda pack for Wed 24 June reveals fundamental change

The Development Management Committee will revert to its original title of Planning Committee. A few words but highly significant (though Owl has been reporting that “three homes” Jenrick is plotting to reduce further local authority planning controls).

Eileen Wragg (deputy Leader) and Sarah Chamberlain have been nominated as Planning Chair/Vice Chair. Both are LibDem members of the Democratic Alliance and Eileen is a very experienced councillor.

Next to the cabinet, the real power in the council lies in the business conducted by a handful of committees. So who chairs these and the balance of parties within them is critically important. It was Ben Ingham’s generosity to the Conservatives in appointments to the (then) Development Management Committee and Strategic Planning Committee that allowed him to govern with Conservative support, indeed with their “admiration”, but without having to have them in the Cabinet.

Dan Ledger and Olly Davey have been nominated as Chair/Vice Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee. Dan come from the EDA wing of the Democratic Alliance (and must one of the younger members of the council), Olly is a Green.

Independent Progressives not only have a number of Cabinet posts but also feature in committee posts.

Cranbrook Voice also have a “voice”.

Colin Brown, Conservative, has been nominated as Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, theirs by right as the official Opposition party (and Owl expects to see a renewed enthusiasm for scrutiny from the previously dismissive Tories). Val Ranger, Council Vice Chairman, has been nominated as Vice Chair.

Owl is preparing a more detailed briefing on how power has shifted within EDDC’s committees and highlight other changes. Unfortunately, the tables in the agenda pack don’t easily copy and paste onto a web page, there is also a need to annotate and simplify these to show post holder affiliations within the now quite complex power structure in the Council. So more to come.


Owl’s Verdict: the new administration has hit the ground running and signalling real change.