Ministers object to houses that No 10 wants to push through

Boris Johnson is on a collision course with the Tory party faithful. 

Ministers including Priti Patel and Gavin Williamson helped to scupper plans for hundreds of homes in their constituencies despite a government drive to increase housebuilding.

George Grylls

In summer the government announced radical reforms to the planning system and Boris Johnson appeared to blame a culture of nimbyism for low rates of construction, describing “newt-counting delays” as “a massive drag on the prosperity of this country”. An algorithm will determine where 300,000 homes a year are built.

However within weeks of the white paper on planning being released, ministers were objecting to developments in their own constituencies.

In August Ms Patel, the home secretary, said that the “right decision” had been made after a scheme for 255 homes in her Essex seat of Witham was rejected. She had lobbied against the plans and told her local paper that the village of Tiptree had already experienced “substantial housing growth”.

Later that month, Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, wrote to Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, asking him to intervene in a plan to build 83 homes on a cricket field in Preston. A decision on the application is yet to be made.

Last year Mr Wallace tried to prevent planning permission for 127 homes in Goosnargh, in Lancashire.

The government white paper argues that the planning system benefits people who are “older, better off and white”. Downing Street wants to streamline public consultations so that locals cannot raise so many objections to applications. But Christopher Pincher, the housing minister who is leading the reforms, expressed concern about plans for 800 homes in his Midlands constituency this year.

He wrote to his district council in January, saying that without community support and investment in infrastructure, it would be “unsustainable and inappropriate” to build more houses in Fazeley in his Tamworth constituency. In 2018 he objected — in vain — to a scheme to build on fields at Arkall Farm with 1,000 homes.

One Conservative MP said: “Ministers are in a bind. They — understandably — have collective leadership and so can’t speak out against individual policies, yet I suspect many are becoming concerned that the housing algorithm and related plans will prove, divisive, unpopular and damaging.”

The formula that allocates where homes will be built will concentrate development on London as well as swathes of the countryside. Meanwhile cities including Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool will all see their housebuilding shrink.

One rural constituency that will escape much of the construction boom is South Staffordshire, the seat of Gavin Williamson, the education secretary. In November last year he celebrated the withdrawal of an application for 50 homes with a further outline for up to 200 homes on fields in his constituency. He said that the homes were “neither wanted nor needed” by the villages of Great Wyrley and Cheslyn Hay.

Last week it emerged that Michael Gove had attended an online residents’ meeting that was objecting to the construction of 44 homes in his constituency of Surrey Heath. According to The Sunday Times, Mr Gove wrote to Mr Jenrick, saying that the proposal would “alter the village character of Bagshot for the worse”.

One senior Tory backbencher told The Times that ministers were using rights to object that they wanted to remove from millions of people. “Their own actions show the government needs to go back to the drawing board on planning reform,” they said.

A government spokesman said: “Members of parliament who are ministers rightly represent and champion their constituents’ views. It will always be the case that issues like the environment and the effect on local amenity should be taken into account alongside the need for more homes.

“Our proposals to overhaul the planning system include placing more effective community engagement at the beginning of the process, so that local people have more say over development in their area, not less.”

Boris Johnson is on a collision course with the Tory party faithful. His manifesto commitment to build 300,000 homes a year has demanded a radical shake-up to the planning system (George Grylls writes).

While some of the more modest reforms have won his party’s support, there remains widespread fury about two proposals: the reduction in residents’ ability to object to planning applications and, most of all, a nationally set algorithm that determines where homes will be built.

The algorithm was introduced at the height of the A-level debacle. Backbenchers were initially slow to realise the consequences but they are up to speed now. Diggers and cement lorries will descend on London and the Tory shires. Northern cities with their predominantly Labour MPs are spared.

Excluding the capital, Conservative seats will have to accommodate an additional 54,000 homes each year, while Labour constituencies beyond the capital will be asked to build 3,000 fewer.

Ministers reason that they need to build houses where people want to live.

By increasing the supply in desirable areas, prices will fall and the dream of home ownership will be extended to a younger generation currently locked out of the market.

There is significant opposition, though. A Whatsapp group entitled “Housing Algorithm Concerns” has about 80 members. Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt are among those who have already spoken out against the reforms.

Some blame the algorithm on Dominic Cummings and Jack Airey, his housing policy chief. MPs mutter that neither are card-carrying members of the party.

No 10 cannot afford to leave the impression that there is one rule for ministers and another rule for MPs. If Mr Johnson is to succeed, he will need to manage his party carefully. Goodwill is in increasingly short supply after a summer of U-turns and with a winter of Covid restrictions on the horizon.

Eat Out to Help Out increased coronavirus infection rates, study finds

The government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme drove up Covid-19 infections while offering only short-lived economic benefits, a study suggests.

Rhys Blakely, Science Correspondent 

The research concludes that the £500 million scheme, championed by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, led to a significant rise in new cases in August and early September, contributing to the pandemic’s second wave.

The scheme “may have indirect economic and public health costs that vastly outstrip its short-term economic benefits”, a paper from the economics department of Warwick University says.

The Eat Out to Help Out initiative was designed to boost the economy after the national lockdown. It allowed pubs and restaurants to offer heavily discounted meals on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August.

The research found that areas with higher take-up of the scheme saw an increase in new virus infection clusters within a week of it starting. There was a deceleration in new infections within a fortnight of it ending.

Between 8 per cent and 17 per cent of new infection clusters that emerged in August and early September could be attributed to Eat Out to Help Out, Dr Thiemo Fetzer, of the University of Warwick, the paper’s lead author, calculated.

As the scheme ended, visits to restaurants declined, indicating, Dr Fetzer said, that its positive economic impact was short-lived. “Eat Out to Help Out may in the end have been a false economy: one that subsidised the spread of the pandemic into autumn and contributed to the start of the second wave,” he said.

He added: “Epidemiologists have long shown that restaurants are high-risk places for infections to take place. Here’s a scheme that encouraged a lot of people to visit restaurants in very concentrated periods of time. Some restaurants were seeing 100 per cent more business compared to usual on these days.”

Epidemiologists and economists had cautioned against the initiative in the summer, he said. “They warned that it would subsidise infections . . . Obviously, there will be deaths linked to the scheme as well — this was perfectly predictable.”

He added: “Alternative policy measures, such as extending the furlough scheme, increasing statutory sick pay and supporting low-income households through expanding free school meals may well prove to be far more cost-effective than demand-stimulating measures that encourage economic activities which actively cause Covid-19 to spread.”

To demonstrate a causal connection between Eat Out to Help Out and increased infections Dr Fetzer looked at data on rainfall and people’s movements.

He found that higher rainfall around lunch and dinner time during the scheme’s period of operation led to both a drop in visits to restaurants and subsequently lower new infection rates, compared to areas that had good weather.

Rainfall during lunch and dinner hours did not drastically affect time spent in other locations. Dr Fetzer said: “This strongly suggests that the link between Eat Out to Help Out and new Covid-19 infections is causal: when people were not dining out as part of the scheme there were fewer new cases of the virus.”

A Treasury spokesman told Sky News: “We do not recognise these figures . . . Many other European counterparts have experienced an uptick in cases — irrespective of whether similar measures for the hospitality industry have been introduced.”

The total value of meals for which the discount was claimed was about £1 billion. Boris Johnson admitted earlier this month that Eat Out to Help Out may have contributed to a rise in Covid cases. “In so far as that scheme may have helped to spread the virus then obviously we need to counteract that with the discipline and the measures that we’re proposing,” he told the BBC.

Coronavirus: Army sent to start ‘moonshot’ tests

Soldiers will be deployed to carry out a mass coronavirus testing programme in six northern towns as part of Boris Johnson’s “moonshot” to avoid a second national lockdown.

[Could the political pressure be on to reach headline targets by arbitrary deadlines? And where have all the consultants gone? – Owl]

Steven Swinford, Deputy Politcal Editor 

The saliva-based tests will be offered to people whether they have Covid-19 symptoms or not. They will receive the results in half an hour.

Mr Johnson is understood to want to hit the target of a million coronavirus tests a day by the end of the year. Ministers are believed to be on target to meet a promise to reach capacity of 500,000 tests a day by tomorrow, but that could be doubled within two months.

The government’s determination to move forward with its mass-testing plan could mean more than five million people a week in England being sent a 30-minute saliva test. The kits are designed to detect active infection, where people have virus particles in their system.

One of the first pilots will be in Redcar, where 36,000 people will be offered tests. Jacob Young, the local Conservative MP, said on Facebook that the army “wouldn’t be knocking on people’s doors”.

He said: “This is a voluntary scheme that will better identify who has Covid-19 in our community, help them to self-isolate, and therefore reduce the spread. Mass testing is the quickest way we will see restrictions reduced and so I think it is a good thing for Redcar.”

Several versions of the test appear to have passed government standards, although experts warned yesterday that they were likely to fall short of the sensitivity of the standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that have formed the backbone of the test-and-trace system.

“The biggest issue is the sensitivity,” Lawrence Young, professor of molecular oncology at Warwick Medical School, said. “For people in the acute phase of infection, who are symptomatic, they seem to be adequate. But there’s a big question mark over whether these tests would actually detect asymptomatic infection. And we all believe that that’s a major source of the spread.”

Testing data suggests that the saliva tests can identify up to 96 per cent of positive results.

Dossier alleges Cummings may have perverted course of justice in account of lockdown trip

Police and the Crown Prosecution Service have been handed a 225-page dossier urging them to investigate Dominic Cummings for allegedly perverting the course of justice, in relation to a statement about his journeys to the north-east of England at the height of the pandemic.

Matthew Weaver 

The former regional chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal said Cummings’ claims during a press conference in Downing Street’s rose garden on 25 May affected the course of justice as they were made as Durham police’s investigation into his behaviour was already under way.

Afzal’s lawyers gave extensive details of the allegation in the dossier sent on Friday to Durham police, the Metropolitan police and Max Hill, the director of public prosecutions, and his staff at the CPS.

They claimed the legal test for such a prosecution had been met. The dossier also accuses Cummings and his wife, Mary Wakefield, of multiple alleged offences under the coronavirus regulations for leaving their primary home in London and their second home in Durham without, it says, a reasonable excuse.

The most serious allegation in the documents is the claim that Cummings perverted the course of justice in his account of his journey to Barnard Castle on 12 April and his denial of a claim that he made a second lockdown trip to Durham. If such a charge were proven, Cummings could face a prison sentence.

In a statement, Afzal’s lawyers said: “The alleged offence of perverting the course of justice arises from Mr Cummings’ statement in the rose garden … Mr Cummings made public assertions about his conduct at Barnard Castle on 12 April and his actions on the weekend of 17-19 April that appear to be wholly inconsistent with accounts of his conduct at that time obtained from eyewitnesses.”

 Dominic Cummings says he drove to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight – video

Cummings admitted in his statement that he had travelled to Durham and Barnard Castle, as revealed by the Guardian and the Daily Mirror. He said he had acted legally and travelled to Durham to self-isolate after his wife became sick with suspected Covid, and a day before he also fell ill.

He claimed he had phone data to prove he was not in Durham on 19 April as one Guardian source had claimed. When three other people made similar claims, Downing Street said it considered the matter closed and refused to release the evidence that Cummings said proved he was in London.

Two of the people, Dave and Clare Edwards, gave statements to Durham police officers on 25 May as the prime minister’s chief aide was giving his press conference, claiming that they saw a man whom they believed to be Cummings on 19 April in Durham’s Houghall woods.

The submissions from Afzal’s lawyers said Cummings’ account appeared to have influenced a three-day investigation by Durham police into his lockdown journeys.

The force made no finding on his decision to leave London because its investigation was confined to County Durham. It concluded that the journey to Barnard Castle on Wakefield’s birthday amounted to a “minor” breach of the rules “because there was no apparent breach of social distancing”, and it found there was “insufficient evidence” that he made a second trip.

Afzal’s lawyers said new statements from witnesses called these conclusions into question.

At least three people have reported seeing Cummings in Barnard Castle, including Robin Lees, a retired chemistry teacher, who alerted the Guardian and the police to seeing Cummings and his family getting into a car on a road on the southern side of the Tees on 12 April.

Cummings said he stayed by the Tees for 10 to 15 minutes and strayed no more than 15 metres from his car. But Rosalind Evans, a retired council worker, told the Guardian and the police that she saw someone she believed to be Cummings in the town centre on 12 April.

A third person, Alan Gowland, told the Sunday Times and later the Guardian that he saw someone he believed to be Cummings on a path by a weir on the other side of the Tees from Lees’ sighting.

Afzal’s dossier includes eight annexes of new statements from witnesses in Barnard Castle and Durham. The Met and the CPS have previously refused Afzal’s request to investigate the allegations against Cummings.

Afzal, whose brother Umar died from coronavirus when he was self-isolating at home on 8 April when Cummings was in Durham, said he wanted to get to the truth.

“The picture painted by the witnesses that have come forward appears clear and coherent and is inconsistent in important parts with the version given by Mr Cummings,” he said. “I believe the CPS’s public interest test is also met, given the impact that this has had on general compliance with Covid regulations.”

A No 10 spokesperson said: “The prime minister has said he believes Mr Cummings behaved reasonably and he considers the matter closed. Durham Constabulary have made clear they are not taking any further action against Mr Cummings and that by locating himself at his father’s premises he did not breach the regulations.”

Cummings and Wakefield have been approached for comment.

Labour demands probe into leaked documents showing lucrative Covid contracts ‘were awarded to VIPs’

Ministers accused ‘putting the profit of their friends and donors above NHS workers who urgently needed PPE’ – from apple news

Labour is demanding an investigation into leaked documents appearing to show that lucrative Covid-19 contracts were awarded to “VIPs”, bypassing normal processes.

Ministers are already under fire for a succession of deals quietly struck with firms run by Conservative friends for personal protective equipment (PPE) at the height of the pandemic.

Now the Good Law Project – which has launched a court case – has unearthed the documents allegedly exposing special procurement channels, including for “Cabinet Office contacts”.

It says they show the department was “feeding its contacts into the procurement process” and that value for money was only raised “if prices were more than 25 per cent above the average”.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, accused ministers of “putting the profit of their friends and donors above NHS workers who urgently needed PPE at the height of the crisis”.


Lucrative coronavirus contracts handed to Tory ‘friends’ – Labour

“The deeper you delve into this Tory government’s Covid outsourcing, the more disturbing it gets,” she said.

“Not only were some of these ‘VIPs’ paid over the odds – in one case for unusable PPE – they were awarded these contracts at the height of the crisis when our NHS workers needed urgent, high quality PPE.”

The Good Law Project alleges that companies were able to “make enormous margins” of up to 45 per cent “on contracts sometimes worth hundreds of millions of pounds”.

It is highlighting contracts to three companies, all with connections to Conservative figures, worth more than £500m in total.

Ms Reeves added: “Labour has previously called for an investigation from the National Audit Office into this government’s strange procurement decisions. It is vital this new evidence is included.”

The NAO is already looking into deals worth more than £830m which were awarded to at least 12 different companies, earlier in the year.


Controversy surrounds a £32m contract handed to a pest control company called PestFix to source surgical gowns, although it had listed net assets of only £18,000.

Public First was given £840,000 to assess the effectiveness of the government’s coronavirus advice, although it was also listed as being to prepare for completing Brexit.

The company is co-owned by James Frayne, who was employed by Michael Gove when he was education secretary, alongside Dominic Cummings – now the prime minister’s chief aide.

Critics protested that the work was not advertised, there was no competition and that no official notice of the award was published. 

A government spokesperson said: “We have been working tirelessly to deliver PPE to protect our health and social care staff throughout the pandemic, with more than 4.4 billion items delivered so far and 32 billion items ordered to provide a continuous supply to the frontline over the coming months.

“Proper due diligence is carried out for all government contracts and we take these checks extremely seriously.”

Council called on to provide free school meals over Christmas

Devon County Council will be asked to ensure all eligible children receive free school meal vouchers for the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

Daniel Clark 

The council this week said it will continue to work with district councils to ensure hardship support is available to vulnerable children and families across the county this winter and pledged extra funding to ensure no child goes hungry.

But Liberal Democrats group leader Cllr Alan Connett had said the announcement was ‘smoke and mirrors’ but certainly no food for hungry children and that the Conservatives running the council were playing politics with hungry children this half-term and for the holidays to come.

Now Labour group leader Cllr Rob Hannaford has put forward a motion to December’s full council meeting that would see the council resolve to use some of the allocated hardship funding to ensure that all eligible children in the Devon County Council area of responsibility receive free school meal vouchers for the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

Cllr Hannaford said: “I hope that this motion will clarify that we need leadership on this key issue from the county council directly. We will obviously work closely with our district colleagues and others, but at the end of day we are the education authority.

“The government has totally misread the mood of the country on this problem, and it has now become a symbolic issue that has starkly highlighted again the widespread poverty and hardship that continues to blight our nation through the plight of hungry children.”

The motion will be debated at the December 3 full council meeting, as will a petition started by East Devon councillor Joe Whibley, if 6,000 signatures are reached by November 24.

Cllr Whibley said: “The Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford MBE’s campaign to extend free school meal vouchers to children in need throughout the school holidays was unsuccessful in parliament yet several local councils have decided to take on that cost and responsibility, as have local businesses and charities. This petition seeks to urge Devon County Council to do the same thing, and look to cover its costs by lobbying central government to cover the subsequent onward costs.

“No child deserves to go hungry, and we must ensure we do all we can to help local children get fed regularly, term time or not.”

The Government had earlier this week referred to the £63 million that was allocated to local councils and suggested this was for free school meals.

But Cllr John Hart, leader of Devon County Council said: “This money was distributed in June and was intended to ensure that no one – children or adults – who was badly affected by the pandemic should go hungry. That money has already been spent in Devon in supporting the most vulnerable.

“I am now writing to the Government to outline that due to our financial position we are limited in our ability to provide this support beyond the spring. We therefore urgently call on the Government to properly fund support for all vulnerable people in Devon affected by the financial impacts of the pandemic.

“I want to pay tribute to the local communities, shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants across Devon that are doing their bit in their locality to provide food for children over this half-term.

“We have already allocated £1.7 million this year through a shared hardship fund to ensure that the most needy children and families in Devon do not go hungry.

“I have also instructed that the county council holds a further £100,000 in reserve for additional hardship funding this winter.”

Government won’t cut 300,000 housing target – Robert Jenrick

The government “will listen” to views on where new homes should be built but won’t cut its target to build 300,000 homes a year, Robert Jenrick has said.

[Well, we’ll certainly need a target this high if everyone “levels-up” to the standards of “three homes” Jenrick]

Engage – go through the motions – tick

Listen – your views are important to us – tick

Consultation – process complete – tick

Followed by ignoring everything the public says – business as usual!

BBC News 

The housing secretary said he wanted to encourage more building in the Midlands and the North rather than London.

Several Tory MPs have expressed concern that the government’s plan could mean more homes in rural areas and undermine the government’s “levelling-up” agenda.

Mr Jenrick also set out plans to tackle homelessness over the winter.

Asked about the government’s housing plans for England, Mr Jenrick said he wanted homes to be built in every part of the country, including in those areas where it is expensive to live.

He said local councils would be given a rough estimate of how many homes needed to be built in their community.

Local councils should then come forward with potential sites for new buildings – taking into account constraints such as areas protected by the green belt, he said.

“Obviously we will listen to views express in the consultation or whether there are different ways to achieve that, ” he said.

“But are we going to move away from our objective to build more homes? Absolutely not.

“We should be a government that is setting out to build more homes because we’ve got to help next generation onto the housing ladder and the most vulnerable people in society to get homes.

A consultation on the government’s plans – including a new formula for assessing housing need – is due to close at 23:45 BST on Thursday.

The proposals have been attacked by some of the government’s own MPs including former Prime Minister Theresa May.

She described the plans as “ill-conceived” and “mechanistic”.

And Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely said the algorithm would “hollow out our cities, urbanise our suburbs and suburbanise the countryside”.

The plans have also been criticised by the director of the National Trust. Speaking to the Times, Hilary McGrady said she had “significant concerns” and said it “must not lead to concrete deserts devoid of green space, lacking corridors for nature and sustainable travel”.

2px presentational grey line
Analysis box by Alex Forsyth, political correspondent

There is both nervousness and anger among the Tory MPs who oppose these planning reforms.

Nervousness that the government could press on with its new system for determining the number of new homes needed in each area as soon as next month, and anger at the prospect of their concerns being ignored.

The housing secretary was non-committal, saying only that the government would listen to views.

The policy here is crucial; the housing crisis is acute and new homes are needed in the right place at the right price. But the politics matters too.

The government has already burned political capital on its backbenches with the way it’s handled some aspects of the coronavirus crisis.

Pressing on with the proposed new system for local housing targets – as well as the wider planning reforms – will result in another backbench backlash.

Beyond that, there are local elections next year , and nervous Tories in the party’s heartlands fear any public anger at these plans will be felt at the ballot box.

Apology issued after emails accused CEO of being ‘arrogant, lazy, and pompous

Now the focus falls on the part played by “two fingers” Ben Ingham, a man, in Owl’s opinion, of questionable judgement.

[Also with “previous form”].

Daniel Clark and

An East Devon councillor has apologised to the council’s chief executive after a standards investigation concluded that language used in his emails breached the code of conduct.

Cllr Paul Millar was found to have on six occasions used language of a personal and derogatory nature which showed a failure to treat the Chief Executive with courtesy and respect.

The emails were sent back in January and February this year and followed comments that the chief executive Mark Williams had made in public at council meetings.

In the emails, Cllr Millar had said that Mr Williams ‘had a very long pattern of behaviour of briefing against councillors to the press and I believe it’s getting to a point where it has become no longer tolerable’, as well as saying ‘he is cold, arrogant, lazy, pompous, and highly disrespectful in remarks he makes in public about elected, backbench Members’.

Cllr Paul Millar
Cllr Paul Millar

Another added: “Your comments were ‘Councillor blaming’, you did it publicly and they reflect poorly on the Council – there’s no public ‘officer blaming here’ – only rightful disgust that you seek to brand us as having a parochial mindset when this is far from the truth.”

The text of Cllr Millar’s emails were published as part of the decision notice, but not the full chain of the emails whereby any additional context to them were given.

The standards committee found that Cllr Millar’s had breached the Code of Conduct in that he failed to treat others with courtesy and respect but complaints made by Cllr Ben Ingham that his actions were a pattern of bullying behaviour were dismissed, and that while Cllr Millar brought his office into disrepute, they did not bring the council into disrepute.

The hearing, which was held in private, heard that Cllr Millar, who at the time was an unaffiliated Independent, stated that he had been frustrated by the political situation and felt powerless to influence the Council’s actions.

Mark Williams, East Devon District Council's chief executive
Mark Williams, East Devon District Council’s chief executive

He explained the difficulty he had experienced while an independent councillor and that he felt unsupported and said felt the actions of the Chief Executive were unwarranted and that this had caused him to react as he did.

Having been found to have breached the code of conduct, Cllr Millar, who is now Democracy & Transparency Portfolio Holder, said he had apologised to Mr Williams.

He added: “I have submitted an apology to the CEO for any hurt caused by comments which I could have worded in a different way.

“I came into local government to act fully in the public interest at all times and stand up for all of the residents living in East Devon, particularly those who been dealt a bad hand in life and are unfairly suffering as a result of the pandemic. For as long as I am a Councillor, I will continue to do this.

“I still have questions about the investigation but I’m really keen now to move on and fully concentrate on helping people in my Ward and continue my progress in working with my amazing colleagues in the new administration in making the Council more open and transparent.”

The complaint made against the conduct of Cllr Millar was made by Cllr Ingham, who earlier in 2020 had been found to have breached the code of conduct by not treating Cllr Millar courtesy and respect.

A standards investigation into the then leader of the council’s conduct found that Cllr Ingham had shared confidential details around health matters to other councillors, as well as making a ‘two fingered gesture’ at Cllr Millar during a scrutiny committee meeting.

The complaint against Cllr Ingham was upheld by the council’s monitoring officer and he was required to give a written apology to Cllr Millar.

Cllr Ben Ingham
Cllr Ben Ingham (Image: Daniel Clark)

A Code of Conduct complaints update report which went to the Standards Committee earlier this month publicly revealed the details of the breach, and while Cllr Ingham was not named as the councillor, the Local Democracy Reporting Service has seen information to confirm he was the councillor.

The report also heard that an allegation that an unnamed councillor who booed a speech made at a meeting was resolved with agreement to informal mediation.

When asked if they wished to comment further on the findings or if Mr Williams wished to say anything, an East Devon District Council spokesman said: “We consider it would not be appropriate for any comment to be given.”