Some months ago, a meeting was fixed for last Friday morning from 10am-11am between me, as leader at East Devon District Council (EDDC) and our CEO, Neil Parish MP, and Simon Jupp MP.
Paul Arnott www.sidmouthherald.co.uk
A first-rate agenda on matters of concern for the people of East Devon had been produced from the council end, and all was set fair.
There was a poor start when Simon Jupp gave a very late, terse apology and didn’t show up.
Neil Parish, however, was there on Zoom and we had a good hour with a set of identified outcomes.
This is what he agreed he would help us with:
- Mr Parish was to endorse our bid to government under the Levelling Up fund for major works on Seaton seafront, industrial units in Seaton, and regeneration projects in Axminster.
- He said he would personally fight on for the missing £1.6 million his and Mr Jupp’s government promised they would help the council with two years ago if we kept LED running through the pandemic.
- He was going to work with us on the phosphate pollution into the River Axe which has led Natural England to say no more homes in Axminster can be built until that is mitigated. As a farmer, with all the problems of leaking slurry lagoons and fertiliser run offs from fields, he would have been a considerable figure in all this.
- We appealed to him to have a word with government about the huge strain put on a district council when it is suddenly asked to distribute energy rebate payments via the means of the council tax system.
- We asked, yet again, to help with a change to housing policy, especially what happens if we graft to create new social housing only for it to be privately purchased within a few years.
At 11am on Friday, I was left with the impression that he’d listened and would help as much as possible.
His mood was not that of a man who had any idea that he’d be the MP identified by his party just a few hours later as the House of Commons phone culprit.
Perhaps he thought there were other candidates, and certainly he did not fit the profile of the “frontbencher” who’d been rumoured.
As Leader of EDDC, however, there are consequences for you all I must share.
First, all those critical bullet points above are left nowhere now. In particular, for the Seaton and Axminster bids to be submitted they urgently needed a credible local MP’s signature.
What a waste of our council’s time, and quite probably what losses for the entire community.
Further, in the circumstances as they now stand, I will disclose what Mr Parish shared with me about us leaving Europe, about how hard he’d tried to dissuade his constituents from voting Leave, and what a total disaster it is now across all issues.
I appeal to Mr Parish here – you know your Conservative government has conned and deceived good people to vote for this mess.
In the spirit of clearing your conscience, as you did last weekend over the phone pornography, can we ask you to speak out on that too, please?
For while Conservatives remain silent on that it will fester like an exploitative image in a dark corner of what was once the greatest Parliament in history.
As for the effects of his departure now on local people, our administration will do all we can to offset them.
For your own political choices when the by-election comes, and indeed a general election, that is for you.
All I suggest is that you do what you can, vote how you can, to make sure that this toxic cloud of national Tory infamy is removed from the skies of our wonderful district forever.
That’s when you’ll find the true ‘sunlit uplands’, promised so fraudulently by Boris Johnson and his merry band of rogues and liars.