Mid Devon’s Liberal Democrats have attacked the “infighting” which has left the district council in a “shambolic situation” without a functioning cabinet.
Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk
Four Conservative councillors left their cabinet posts last week in a row over the council’s controversial property development company 3 Rivers. They supported a new business plan for the company but Mid Devon’s leader, Independent councillor Bob Deed, does not.
A scrutiny meeting on Monday [13 February] heard Cllr Deed say he had “fired” the quartet. However, Tory group leader Clive Eginton, who had been council deputy leader, claims they resigned.
It means the decision-making cabinet does not currently have enough members to legally function. A special meeting of the committee due to take place on Tuesday [14 February] was cancelled as a result.
Cllr Deed says he will look to appoint replacement cabinet members in the coming days, but Cllr Eginton has submitted a motion to next week’s full council meeting calling for his removal as council leader with “immediate effect.”
The opposition Lib Dem group, which also had councillors serve in the cabinet alongside Cllr Deed until he sacked them over a separate issue in 2020, say they are “concerned that local residents are being forgotten” over the dispute.
Cllr Luke Taylor (Lib Dem, Bradninch) said: “This infighting between local Conservative councillors and council leader Deed is taking us further away from finding solutions to the real problems for the council of the questionable 3Rivers Development experiment.
“Conservative councillors seem hell bent on investing more taxpayers’ money on this vanity project. The Liberal Democrats believe external expertise needs to be brought in to review the company and to find a solution that does not leave the local council taxpayers ‘picking up the tab’.
“At the same time as the Conservatives are trying to sink more money into this property company, the council is announcing absurd increases in parking charges, some over 100 per cent, that will cripple our High Streets. It’s simply not good enough.
“Drastic change is urgently needed within Mid Devon District Council. Local residents need to be the priority, they cannot be the ones to suffer from this shambolic situation.”
A full council meeting is expected to consider the 3 Rivers business plan again next week after the scrutiny committee voted not to support it in its current form.
Mid Devon is under no overall control with no party having enough seats to command a majority. Elections will be held in May.
Cllr Eginton has been approached for comment but had not responded at the time of publication.