So it begins – the East Devon district election season

We have to wait a little longer to hear the first cuckoo of the spring, but pending that a leaflet from the East Devon Conservatives has plopped through our letterboxes. And so it begins – the district election season.

(But not yet through Owl’s letterbox: “The Chestnuts”, middle of the hundred acre wood.)

Leader of East Devon District Council, Paul Arnott writes for this title.

It features a curious star line-up. Simon Jupp, the MP for East Devon is the star, even though he is not the MP for huge chunks of the East Devon District. The East Devon Conservative leader Philip Skinner, who has conducted the majority of his zoom meetings from his study in Bystock Court, Exmouth, is photographed “at his desk in Talaton”.

There is also mention of the supposedly apolitical figure looking after Police matters, Alison Hernandez, described as police and crime “commissionaires”. This took me back to the days of Commissionaires in scarlet braided uniforms outside cinemas. Will she soon appear with epaulets and medals at one of the local police stations where, just before the election, she is “re-opening” front desks to drop-in cases? Readers with even the shortest memories recall that it was under Conservative district, county and parliamentary rule that the front desks were closed in the first place.

The leaflet then makes Mr Jupp the hero for finding funding from the Department for Education to assist the flood-prone Tipton St John Primary School. Yet this battle goes back a decade and was first fought at County by the well-respected Independent Claire Wright, the cause taken on by her successor, also Independent, Jess Bailey (a much-valued colleague at District too).

First, the Conservatives claim they opposed increases in car park charges. This is simply untrue. At the key Overview and Scrutiny (O&S) Committee where the increases were agreed, two venerable but retiring Conservative councillors from Budleigh Salterton happily voted with a proposal which had in fact came from a Labour councillor.

It was only when less principled Tory chums decided they could make mischief with this later on – i.e., now, at election time – that they were ordered to vote another way at Full Council. This was a pity. Both men acknowledged that the Tories had ducked car park charges for more than a decade. They both knew that the cost to residents in key seaside tourist locations of cleaning the streets, emptying the bins and so on, especially in the staycation boom we have seen in the last three years, is immense – way more than inland car parks.

To mitigate that, charges have increased, and to nobody’s surprise the car parks have remained jam-packed. For a tourist family to park all day cannot cost more than £8, and the free market said yes.

To make sure this did not affect local people we offered very reasonable yearly permits, £2 winter parking etc., which have been well-taken up.

Finally, no car park charges will rise for at least a year. We have taken measures to take them out of the political arena where they languished in Conservative chaos for 45 years.

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