Political savvy reshuffle leaves Cllr Eileen Wragg Chair of Planning – Details of Plan B emerge

Details of Paul Arnott’s response to the constitutional change banning cabinet members sitting on either the Planning or Licencing Committees are beginning to emerge without fanfare, having been ratified under delegated authority of the Monitoring Officer.

If the Tories thought that by this device they had got rid of Cllr Eileen Wragg, who has the experience to know who might be hiding skeletons in their cupboard, as Chair of Planning, they are mistaken. 

Cllr Eileen Wragg has stood firm by the Majority Group’s  intention that she take the critical role of Chair of Planning. To achieve this under the motion passed at the recent EGM, she has sacrificed her position in the Cabinet and the Deputy Leader role. A rare example of selfless integrity.

Owl understands that Eileen remains Deputy Leader of the Democratic Alliance and will attend Cabinet.

Her place as Deputy leader of the Council has been taken by Cllr Paul Hayward who will retmain Portfolio Holder Economy and Assets (and tourism).

Cllr John Loudon (EDA) has stepped up to the Cabinet as the new Portfolio Holder of Policy Co-ordination and Regional Engagement.

His previous role of assistant Portfolio Holder, Finance, is taken by Cllr Fabian King (LibDem)

Now that they are in Opposition, Owl has been amused to see the Conservatives become so concerned over potential conflicts of interest. Worth rehearsing, for new readers of the East Devon Watch, some of the more celebrated cases that didn’t seem to bother them at the time.

The late Cllr. Graham Brown scandal when he was caught on camera by a Telegraph sting “If I can’t get planning, nobody will,” …..”I don’t come cheap,” 

Then there was the East Devon Business Forum (EDBF), funded by the council but “Independent of it”. The EDBF overwhelmingly represented businesses with a strong interest in planning and development, and landowners and developers played a big role in the Forum since 2007. (See here for details).  Unsurprisingly, the thrust of EDBF lobbying was to persuade the council to relax planning controls for big developers and to decrease the protection for greenfield and AONB areas. After all, as the Forum commented in 2011, only 1% of East Devon was developed! 

Then in 2017, “Build, build, build” Helen Parr, the vice-chairman of East Devon District Council came under investigation over an allegation she influenced plans to develop her area while failing to declare an interest.

But only now have the Conservatives felt the need to worry, and in this case on entirely hypothetical grounds. Will they now be permanent converts to the dangers of “conflict of interest”?