Sheffield holds referendum on return to committee system of local government

Owl says: Current EDDC Leader Ben Ingham promised to return EDDC to the fairer committee system when he was Leader of East Devon Alliance (that was after he had been a Tory and an Independent and prior to working with Tories rather than East Devon Alliance after the May 2019 elections).

Then, all went quiet. He has entrusted a review to one of his councillors with no mention of what, if anything, he intends to do when it is completed.

Petiton time?

Activists in Sheffield have used provisions of the Localism Act 2011 to require the city council to hold a referendum on ending the cabinet system and reverting to committees.

The It’s Our City group said it had collected 26,419 signatures – in excess of the 5% of electors required for a petition subject to be put to a referendum after verification of the signatures.

Two members of Sheffield’s cabinet have resigned so that they can support the campaign to return to the committee system, as have four councillors who held the roles of ‘cabinet assistant’.

It’s Our City said the cabinet system meant that only 10 of the city’s 84 councillors had a real role in making decisions.

The group called for: “A committee-based system, which is more democratic, and where all our councillors would have a meaningful say in making decisions.

“Some people might remember that the current system was brought in to make councils less bureaucratic and more streamlined and do away the with lengthy process of arriving to decisions. We are not arguing for a return to the old system – we want to see a new model that takes the best bits of both worlds peppered with a hefty dose of public engagement.”

Former cabinet member for finance, resources and governance Olivia Blake said: “My preference was to resolve the debate on the council’s governance structure without the need for a referendum but now that it is almost certain to be held, it is time to take a public position on where we go next.

“I will take the side of the people. I will back the committee system. It is a starting point for a wider debate on how to rejuvenate our democracy, and it is important that Labour voices contribute to this debate.

“I have added my name to the It’s Our City petition and will make further statements in the coming days about the role I intend to play in the upcoming referendum.”

The council confirmed the petition had been received and said signatures would be checked.

Previous referendums to mandate a return to the committee system have been held successfully at Fylde Borough Council and the former West Dorset District Council.”

 

The “new” EDDC “independent” vision

From a disillusioned correspondent:

“The “new” East Devon District Council has submitted their plan covering the next four years. Like the previous tory council it is interesting what has been left out. We are left reading between the lines.

EDDC is to “immediately start preparatory work on the next East Devon Local Plan” but no mention of the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan and of course the former will have to conform to the latter. We must also remember EDDC will be represented by Philip Skinner (conservative) and Susie Bond (independent). Councillor Skinner represented the council when EDDC was prepared to take the lion’s share of the housing for the GESP growth area. I hope that he may have changed his mind but I very much doubt it. This new council must come clean on its strategy. It is of the greatest importance and influence on all our lives.

I applaud the aspiration to provide “300 new affordable homes per annum including an increase of Council housing stock” but once again there is no clue how this is to be achieved. To put these 300 affordables into perspective. The average annual dwelling completions in East Devon between 2007 and 2017 were 469 of which 108 (23%) were delivered by Housing Associations and the Council. (Some of the residual 360 may have been bought through the “Help to Buy” scheme but the majority would have been “market housing”). The annual average housing target in the local plan is 950. To get 300 affordables the Council will have to up its game with developers and increase its affordable delivery achievement to 32% of target or increase its annual housing delivery to a whopping 1,304 a year. However you look at it, 300 affordables a year is nearly three times the historic delivery rate.

At the election I voted Independent in the expectation that we would have transparent, evidence based policy making and not one which plucks numbers out of the air.”

Thought for the day

“… In twenty years’ time, I dream all East Devon’s towns will be sustainable in their own right, offering jobs and careers across the district that, as schoolchildren, we did not dare to imagine possible.

I firmly believe we can do 
this.

If we talk, listen and think together, we can start a very exciting journey, creating a better life for future generations. …”

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/east-devon-district-council-leader-column-1-6230688

Hhhmmmmm ……

“TiggerTories” outline their plans for the next 4 years (not unlike the plans for the last 40 years!)

Owl says: virtually identical to Tory “aspirations” for the last 4 years – or even the last 40 years!

And no mention of an overhaul of governance or a change to the committee system.

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/what-east-devons-independent-administration-3239119

Note the “independent leadership” includes the Independent Group and selected Tories, but only one East Devon Alliance member in a minor role – as Leader Ingham prefers to work with Tories rather than other independents.

EDDC “Independent” Leader firmly nails his colours (blue?) to his CEOs mast

 

Owl sees no “misunderstanding”.

Another “TiggerTory” policy?

And what does Mr Marchant, the person accused of being “misunderstood” – and Ford’s QC who perpetuated the “misunderstanding” several times at the public inquiry – think about this?

And where’s Councillor Hughes’s explanation for not sharing information about the meeting with other councillors, particularly those on the Development Management Committee – or did he share it with only a select few of his colleagues?

Remember, the Development Management Committee is a STATUTORY committee with rules and regulations … and it must NOT be subjected to party whipping or interference, nor must they “avoid undue contact with interested parties”.

https://www.local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/planning-committee-manage-1cd.pdf

EDDC, Tiggers, EDA and global heating crisis – names to be named

East Devon aims to be carbon neutral by 2040 following motion from 20-year-old (Lib Dem) councillor:

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/east-devon-aims-carbon-neutral-3138282?

Straightforward? Er, no – several councillors (Tory and Independent Group) refused to back this because they said it was too ambitious.

Councillors voted by 30 votes to 23 to agree to adopt a 2040 target for the council to be carbon neutral by.

East Devon Alliance were councillors happy to back the young Lib Dem who brought the motion to council. So who didn’t?

As explained by EDA Councillor Paul Arnott in his unique style:

Anyone hearing Devon flannel merchant and Tory grotesque Geoffrey Cox talking through his fundament on Any Questions with unreassuring ease about climate change may see why I had to back this. Superb speeches from 3 20 year old East Devonians at our full council last week and a motion from Luke, the splendid 19 year old Liberal, said it all.

Needless to say, all Tories, and Cabinet loyalists voted against. I called for a recorded vote. When the names of those who voted for are published with the minutes, that, in my opinion, is the group likely to deliver real change as demanded by the electorate in May.”

Some councillors showing a lot more independence and a lot less Group …

EDDC Tories appear in Private Eye’s “Rotten Boroughs” column

From the blog of DCC EDA Independent Councillor Martin Shaw:

Private Eye goes to town on EDDC Tories’ handout to developers of the Knowle

Oh dear – and now “The Independent Group” led by EDDC Leader Ben Ingham has chosen to cosy up to Tories, rather than East Devon Alliance independents, whom he has frozen out.

With current Councillor Ingham having the been a member of all 3 groups and Leader of 2 of them (former Tory, former Leader of East Devon Alliance and current leader of ‘The Independent Group’) he really has to decide which side of the fence and his cohort are on!

Or maybe he has already decided – given that he appointed a Tory as Chairman of the Development Management Committee, who then used his casting vote to push through a controversial planning applucation in Axminster, opposed by Axminster EDA councillors on safety and pollution grounds:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/07/19/eddc-tory-dmc-chairman-uses-his-casting-vote-in-controversial-planning-application/

Reality check needed for some of his colleagues, perhaps?