“The way in which East Devon District Council is run could be changing” [HURRAH!]

Owl promises to stop using the phrase TiggerTories (the close working relationship between current and past Tories and The Independent Group led by Ben Ingham and which excludes the East Devon Alliance and Lib Dens) if this ever happens!!!

And note that officers are already suggesting “hybrid systems” – gosh, they MUST be scared that a committee system will weaken their powers!

“A review into the governance arrangements of East Devon District Council is set to take place.

The leader of the council, Cllr Ben Ingham, had promised to fully consider alternative arrangements to the current leader and cabinet system as a condition of the support from the East Devon Alliance when they seconded his nomination to become leader at the annual council meeting in May.

Wednesday night’s cabinet meeting saw them unanimously agree that the overview committee should carry out that review.

Cllr Paul Arnott, leader of the East Devon Alliance, told Wednesday’s meeting it was a very welcome development.

He said: “This idea didn’t come from me but came from Ben who in 2015 made it a principal of his manifesto when he was the East Devon Alliance leader to abolish the cabinet and bring in the committee system. The proposals are potentially excellent but the devil is in the detail.”

“When the governance arrangements changed it was with the quid pro quo that the scrutiny function worked. But the scrutiny function has been a eunuch function in East Devon as many suggestions and motions have been refused or ignored by officers. In my view, the cabinet system is not working because scrutiny is not working.”

He said there were two winkles of the recommendation that concerned him though, as one was that the report from overview would come back to the cabinet, so it would be like ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’. He was also worried about the ‘due course’ wording as any decision on governance changes can only be made at the annual council meeting.

Cllr Paul Millar, portfolio holder for transformation, said that it was important that the recommendations did come back in time for the next annual council in May 2020. He added: “This review needs to be done fairly and to establish the rationale for change and if the preferred solution will deliver a satisfactory outcome and, if so, at what cost would it do so.”

The report of Henry Gordon Lennox, Strategic Lead Governance & Licensing & Monitoring Officer, said that if the council did agree to change to either an elected Mayor and Cabinet system, or committee structure, then they would be forced to stick with the change for the next five years.

His report added that there are also hybrid options where elements of the cabinet and committee system could be combined that the council could adopt, but it is the view of officers that it is for Members to determine why the necessity for change and to establish what the objective of the governance arrangements should be.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/way-east-devon-district-council-3082739

CAMPAIGN GROUP STEPS UP PRESSURE FOR REFORMS AT MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL

Just to remind everyone, when he was Leader of East Devon Alliance in 2013, Independent Group Leader Ben Ingham was an enthusiastic supporter of a change from the Cabinet system to a committee system. Since becoming Leader of EDDC in May he has been conspicuously silent on this matter:

 

 

Press Release:
8th July 2019

The Campaign for Local Democracy in Mid Devon was formed at the beginning of April this year, as campaigns for election to Mid Devon District Council were beginning.

The campaign arose from increasing concerns amongst the Mid Devon electorate about the lack of involvement of many District councillors in decision making and the ability of the Cabinet to ignore the wishes of large numbers of councillors. In particular, the decision of three members of the Cabinet to proceed with the sale to a private purchaser of the historic council building and council chamber in Crediton, against the expressed wishes of the majority of the 42 councillors, created uproar in the Crediton area. This resonated with concerns felt elsewhere in the district and led to the formation of the campaign group at a meeting in Tiverton.

With the all-up election pending, the group decided to wrote to all candidates advising them of their wish to see a more open and democratic system introduced and asking for their support.

The Green and Lib Dem candidates indicated their support, as did a number of Independent candidates.

The election resulted in the Conservative group losing overall control and subsequently deciding not to participate in a balanced Cabinet.

Whatever the outcome of the elections, the campaign group also decided that they would allow the new Council time to settle in before expecting to hear whether they were willing to introduce the necessary changes to governance.

As it is now two months since the election of the new Council, leading members of the group have now written to the Council Leader, Clr Bob Deed, on behalf of the campaign group asking what consideration they are giving to the need for these reforms.

In the letter, Mid Devon Alderman David Nation says that if the necessary reforms are not to be implemented, the group would wish to make an early start on seeking the support of the Mid Devon electorate for them. He clearly has in mind a public petition to require the Council to hold a referendum on switching from the present Cabinet structure to the previous Committee structure, where more councillors are involved in decision making and the decisions of full Council are supreme.

Ald. Nation said “We are hopeful that the new Council will share our concerns as so many of those now in control were sympathetic before the elections. If they cannot voluntarily agree the required changes, we are ready to canvass public support to force them to reform.”

Text of letter below:

Dear Councillor Deed

We hope that you are enjoying your new role and that options for changing the direction of travel of MDDC are beginning to emerge.

We are writing, of course, specifically about the concerns the Campaign for Local Democracy in Mid Devon have about the need to make decision making in the Council more open and democratic.

You may remember that at our inaugural meeting on 6 April, the election campaigns for the Mid Devon seats literally having just commenced, we decided to allow the new council time to settle in before expecting any statement about possible reforms.

As it is now two months since the new Council was elected, we are wondering if you are able to advise us whether this issue has yet been considered and if so, what the plan is to progress it.

In view of the changes at MDDC we are obviously hopeful that the Council will itself decide to implement the sort of reforms that meet our concerns but if not, we will wish to make an early start on seeking the support of the Mid Devon electorate for the necessary changes.

As we have discussed before, it is in everyone’s interest if that can be avoided, especially in terms of cost to the public purse.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes
Yours sincerely
David Nation Paul Tucker Judy Tucker”

EDDC Ceremonial roles … and naughty councillors

Leader Ben Ingham is on record as saying of his choice of Tory Stuart Hughes as Chairman of the council:

“The Tories are not in our Cabinet whatsoever. They hold the Chair because we felt we needed an experienced Chair to make sure Full Council is run properly. This is a civic appointment only.”

Apparently, there wasn’t a suitable independent (of either faction), including those who have already served for 4+ years in previous councils, that he felt would be able to take on the role of representing the council and chairing some of its meetings. So, it seems like a Catch 22 – you can’t get get the role if you don’t have experience – and you can’t get experience because it needs someone who already has experience, not even watching someone in the role for years and learning from it, so it seems the role might remain Tory forever!

But it ISN’T a purely ceremonial role – the Chairman of the Council also chairs the Standards Committee – the one that taps the wrists of naughty councillors.

Surely that isn’t a “ceremonial role”?

Or maybe now it is!

EDDC Tory chairman appointed by Independent Leader adores Boris …

Really, this council gets more and more strange! After the massive Independent surge in May when people voted to put old-guard Tories out power, we get a Tory chairman who promotes himself and his party in the local press going dotty about Boris! So, everywhere he goes as the Chairman on behalf of the Leader he will be extolling the virtues of a different party!

… Cllr Hughes said: “I am certainly backing him and told him so. I think he’s the only candidate who will pull and unite the Conservative Party.

“I’d just finished chairing my first meeting of PATROL Parking and Traffic Regulations Outside London. On the way out of the rear entrance of Church House near Westminster Abbey met Boris and his team just getting into his Range Rover. [Rear entrance … Boris having been criticised for avoiding the public and journalists]

“I was delighted he agreed to photo, and yes, feel privileged to have been one of the few to have had opportunity to speak to him prior to the BBC candidates’ hustings tonight.”

https://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/sidmouth-councillor-backs-boris-johnson-for-pm-1-6112478?

No Tories in new EDDC Cabinet? Depends what you mean by Tory

Ian Thomas, former Leader of East Devon Tories, said when he resigned from the party after nominations had closed. This is what he had to say by way of explanation:

… Cllr Thomas said: “With a heavy heart, I confirm my resignation from the Conservative Party on April 17, 2019.

“My decision was in no way related to the excellent case being presented by East Devon District Council Conservatives in the pre-election period. Theirs is an outstanding presentation based on the performance delivered by a capable and experienced Conservative led team.

“It rather reflects deep disappointment in the performance of the Party elsewhere. …”

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/ian-thomas-resigns-from-conservative-group-1-6017272

So, is he or is he not a LOCAL Tory?

Reply from EDDC Leader Ben Ingham on previous post

Councillor Ben Ingham, Leader of EDDC and the Independent Grouphas responded to the article below. He responded in red print, which Owl cannot reproduce, so his comnents are in BOLD and a

LARGER FONT

One of the reasons so many Independent councillors were elected was because they were not Tories! People had become sick of the way the district had been run for the last 45 years and demanded change. Part of that change was to see exactly what Tories had been up to in those 45 years when transparency was in short supply.

So, on 3 May, we were presented with:

31 Independents
(20 mostly eastern-based/central-based Independents,

(8 from Exmouth & Budleigh area – west)

11 mostly western-based Independent East Devon Alliance)

(Central and eastern)

19 Tories
8 Lib Dems
2 Greens

An alliance of Independents, Lib Dems and Greens would have produced 41 non-Tories – easily outnumbering 19 Tories.

36 would have been a workable maximum. Some were mutually exclusive.

What we now know happened is that eastern-based Independents (Leader Ben Ingham, Exmouth) refused to work with East Devon Alliance.

The EDA wanted to implement a Leadership Board of 6 at the annual meeting 22nd May, which was considered by the Independents as unnecessary, unworkable and definitely unconstitutional.

We assume that Lib Dems (who agreed to work with an Independent majority, but not form a coalition with them), were similarly excluded by Mr Ingham from working with his group.

The Lib Dems refused to join the cabinet or take up any part if the administration. They turned down Lead positions as well.

Instead, Mr Ingham chose to work with the 19 Tories, an ex-Tory (former Tory Leader Ian Thomas) and several so-called Independent councillors whose late-onset Independent roots had never been obvious or put to the test. He gave the job of Chairman of the Council to Stuart Hughes.

The Tories are not in our Cabinet whatsoever. They hold the Chair because we felt we needed an experienced Chair to make sure Full Council is run properly. This is a civic appointment only.

a Cabinet post to Ian Thomas, one of the jobs representing EDDC at Greater Exeter Strategic Plan meetings to Tory Philip Skinner.

that is not a GESP appointment. His influence iinsignificant (sic) or he would not be there.

and several other posts to other Tory councillors.

The outside bodies and panels are as they describe, not within the core team of the council

Owl has no idea what the two Green (Exmouth-based) councillors think of this arrangement.

They too were invited to join the cabinet or take Chairs/vice chairs. They declined everything until they are better acquainted with the Council’s functions, which is understandable.

Despite this, CEO Mark Williams presumably decided that there were NOT 31 Independents, but two kinds of totally different Independents (Independent Group, EDA).

Very foolishly, it was EDA who created the second group, without any consultation. Their leader insisted this was necessary to get the correct seat allocation. For the four previous years we were one group. EDA opted out with no discussion, therefore making the Tories the biggest group! The Independent group of 15 immediately worked to stop this by inviting the other 5 to join them, there was no choice. Otherwise the Tories would have challenged for leadership of EDDC as the largest group!

and declared Tories as the “official opposition” –

Fortunately the Independents did increase to 20, and stopped that happening, no thanks to the EDA!

in spite of them holding Cabinet and other posts.

No Tories in Cabinet

Is this constitutionally correct? How does one decide? One asks the CEO – dead end there, then!

This has led to a Tory (“official opposition”) Alan Dent, being the head of the Scrutiny Committee – the only committee that now has wide investigative powers.

The main opposition select the Chair of Scrutiny, just like we selected Roger Giles 4 years ago

The Chair of this committee can say Yes or No to requests for scrutiny of any subject – his word is the only word on what goes on an agenda (as long as the CEO agrees, of course).

So, is there any chance of the Scrutiny Committee holding the previous Tory administration to account? No, zero, zilch, nada in Owl’s view.

Your opinion, no evidence

So those Tory bodies – lying quietly tucked away for the last 45 years are almost certain to continue enjoying their slumbers.

Your opinion, no evidence

And all because some Independents can’t or won’t work with other Independents and local Lib Dems are keeping themselves well apart where, in other areas, coalitions of Independents, Greens and Lib Dems is promising real change in formerly true-blue districts.

Unfortunately the EDA leadership ruled EDA out by insisting on a leadership board and splitting the Independent Group in two. We were left on our own. The new 5 Independents would not work with the EDA.

What is so ironic about this whole story is that, in his political career, Ben Ingham has been a Tory councillor, an Independent Councillor and Leader of the East Devon Alliance!!!

And you were a die-hard socialist, but claim now to be an independent? All things must pass.

Pitiful and shameful.