Quite a list of achievements for barely eight months in power.
State of the district council address – what we’ve done since taking over
A view from East Devon Council leader Paul Amott, as published in the Exmouth Journal this week.
I am indebted to former Conservative District Councillor Ann Liverton of Sidmouth for the structure of this week’s column.
Last week in the Sidmouth Herald she stated that all she wished to hear from me was matters of interest to the people of East Devon.
Perhaps mistakenly, I felt I had been doing that. My understanding of an ‘outstanding columnist’ was of someone who tried to write as best they could of relevant matters without merely rehashing press releases.
That would be an “outstanding propagandist”.
However, mindful of one’s duty to all readers, I will depart from my normal style for a week and provide Mrs Liverton with some ongoing highlights of the work of the administration I have been leading since June.
1) We have begun the Local Plan review, the consultation for which went live this week.
2) We have left the democratically-deficient GESP and as promised are engaging with the other districts under our duty to co-operate, no longer risking losing control of major developments to an upper-tier.
3) We have established a portfolio to ensure that Climate and Environmental issues will be of central concern and are funding a new officer to co-ordinate this.
4) We have entirely reconfigured the committee managing Exmouth seafront, with new officer roles to support this. We have deleted the “temporary car park” from the seafront and are making sure attractions are there for the summer.
5) With good anticipation of the financial problems which are now with us, we set up the new LED Monitoring Panel to cover its current financial crisis and the future relationship when the contract is due for renewal in the next year.
6) We commissioned external auditors to write a report regarding S106 and CIL, where members with direct experience briefed the auditor, as well as officers. This was a critical cultural change.
7) We have been unprecedentedly active in seeking to understand the Council’s Assets – previously opaque – some of which historically have passed to others well below their actual value. With courtesy and diligence, we are seeking information from officers and a more transparent approach is now emerging.
8) We resisted the “line of least resistance” urged by some to the issue of Cranbrook Town Centre and – over the course of three meetings and complex negotiations – a much better deal has been secured.
9) We have overseen and fully participated in the management, analysis and distribution of Covid funds from the government – a complex, evolving and time-consuming matter for officers and members alike.
10) We have overseen and managed the massive Covid challenges surrounding loos, play areas, licensing, public spaces, waste and recycling, seafront safety, and how to conduct public events safely, including decisions to allow or cancel them. All of this has been very time and decision intensive and our working relationship with officers has been exemplary; they deserve praise for coping so well in the crisis.
11) We have exercised hands-on management of the deficit created by Covid to ensure a secure financial base for the council itself.
12) We have ensured a major communications exercise about Covid-19 to keep East Devon informed and have engaged with food banks and local support groups across the district. We have also supported the Poverty Working Panel’s emerging work in line with our agenda to tackle poverty across the district.
13) In a process from September to January, we considered the mental health of both members and officers recognising the stresses to both – and will now appoint an officer to take initiatives on this
14) To recognise the importance of all these elements to our economy and well-being, last week we appointed a new Cabinet member for Leisure, Sport & Tourism.
15) Regionally, we have mounted a vigorous defence of the District Council against the threat of abolition, including from the two MPs, and for the time being, have prevailed.
[Owl recalls that Sasha Swire gave the Livertons a rather unfortunate sobriquet to describe how they were always popping up and down at meetings]