Explanation needed for failure to fulfil election pledge

One of my priorities since the pandemic has been to protect independent local businesses. Strides forward have included persuading a senior Council officer sceptical of a perceived impact on crime to allow pubs and cafes to expand into The Strand. This has been a huge success, and has made The Strand a wonderful place to spend time this summer.

Paul Millar www.exmouthjournal.co.uk

However, there is further investment required in other areas. The Magnolia Centre remains an eyesore and a monument to the very worst of 1970s planning and architecture. Money is needed to buy back this land from the overseas pension fund that owns it, so the area can be improved for the benefit of the community and the businesses which struggle on. I was pleased to see Labour’s new national policy to scrap the business rates system, in that I’ve recently had a case of the unfair tax crippling a much-loved local business in that area.

Meanwhile, Exmouth still awaits the money that Conservative MP Simon Jupp announced he had ‘secured’ from now sacked Cabinet Minister Robert Jenrick for Exmouth from the ‘Future High Streets Fund’ during the 2019 General Election campaign. Being Mr Jupp’s single and flagship election pledge, it is disgraceful that it has been broken without explaining to his constituents the reasons.

In fact, local Councillors only discovered that the pledge might possibly have been broken through a report in the national press, after the Council had attempted to contact Messrs Jupp and Jenrick on the matter without success. Seeking clarity, in March this year, the Minister for Local Government and Regional Growth Luke Hall MP kindly replied to a letter I’d written to him in which he confirmed the press reports were true: the Future High Streets Fund had closed without Exmouth receiving a single penny or being given the opportunity to even bid. I am reminded of the old proverb to be wary of strangers bearing gifts.

East Devon District Council under a more active-minded administration takes advantage of all major grant opportunities that come our way. Bidding for the new Levelling Up fund, I was proud that my idea to ensure better cycling provision including an E-bike hire scheme near the Imperial Road car park and Jurassic Coast cycle trail was part of our bid, which also includes the long-awaited Dinan Way extension. It’s now being assessed by Jenrick’s replacement, Michael Gove. I am told we stand a chance! But that will never stop the fact a previous major election pledge has been broken.

When I ran in 2019, I saw my pledges written on my leaflet as my duty to simply get done. One of them was to bring the neglected Warren View Sports Ground back into use for our local sports clubs. I committed myself to a great deal of work behind the scenes, to first understand the history, and then convince a Council Leader from Colyton unfamiliar with the history of the site (but thankfully a man who likes football) to agree to instruct officers, during a pandemic, to direct stretched resources into the ground going out to tender. Happily this resulted in Exmouth Town Football Club being granted a long lease at an affordable rent. I’ll write more about the exciting ‘Project Warren View’ in this column next time.

For now, I’ll end with a reflection of my two and a half years as a Councillor and prior to that, three and a half years as an MP’s advisor in Parliament. Committed elected representatives, and all political parties have them, are persistent in following up on pledges and ensuring they are good on their word to their constituents. Those who fail to honour their pledges, for whatever reason, should at the very least be required to explain why what they said during an election campaign didn’t become a reality in elected office. It would help defeat the myth that all politicians are compulsive liars.

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