DCC Scrutiny Committee “frustrating” for Seaton and Honiton community hospitals says Seaton DCC councillor

Posted by Martin Shaw, DCC Independent East Devon Alliance councillor for Seaton:

“The Health Scrutiny Committee meeting at County Hall yesterday was incredibly frustrating for the 60 or so supporters of Seaton, Honiton and Okehampton hospitals who attended. It resolved nothing and there will be another meeting before the end of July to consider the matter again (I will tell you when the date is fixed).

You can watch the meeting at https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/288543.

The speakers in the public participation at the beginning were good, much better than most of the committee discussion. My speech is at 0.34.50. You may have seen that we also made a good splash on regional TV.

There WAS progress, I think, in pinning down the irrationality of the decision to close Seaton’s beds. Speeches supporting Seaton were made by Martin Pigott, Vice-Chair of Seaton Town Council, Mike McAlpine, Chair of the committee for the Axe Valley Health Hub, Cllr Ian Hall of Axminster, as well as myself.

The issue was picked up on the committee, especially by Cllr Hilary Ackland, who twice challenged Dr Sonja Manton of the CCG on the issue. Manton declined to answer Ackland’s specific question.

I feel we can build on this at the re-run meeting. We also have an opportunity to challenge the CCG (who are answering questions from councillors) at EDDC’s Scrutiny Committee on Thursday at 6pm. EDDC doesn’t have any power but I think we should keep up the pressure on the CCG. I have put down to speak. If anyone else can do it – email Debbie Meakin dmeakin@eastdevon.gov.uk.

Would anyone who can come to this meeting – whether to speak or not – let me know (cllrmartinshaw@gmail.com)?

Thanks to all who came and who sent emails (they really had an effect).

A frustrating day, but further chances on Thursday and in July to challenge the CCG

Sarah Randall-Johnson postpones decision on community hospital bed closures

Apparently, she and other Tory councillors decided her committee didn’t have time to study the CCG’s response to their earlier meeting and the CCG needs more time too.

Stitch-up?

What do you think?

Awaiting more news from independent EDDC councillors Claire Wright (on the committee) and Martin Shaw (newly elected East Devon Alliance DCC councillor).

Swire: poor winner

For clarity, Owl has NEVER attacked Mr Swire’s family but HAS called into question his employment of his wife as his parliamentary assistant on a salary of £35,000 per year.

The employment of family members is also frowned upon by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which plans to stop this practice forthwith:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/15/mps-will-banne-hiring-family-members-publics-expense-ipsa-says/

DevonLive reports:

“East Devon constituents have responded after the district’s MP Hugo Swire took to twitter to complain of the ‘vile’ abuse he and his family had received on social media during the campaign. Hugo Swire was re-elected to Parliament as East Devon’s MP on Thursday after securing 29,306 votes – 4,000 more than he received when he was victorious in 2015.

Independent challenger Claire Wright came second with 21,270 votes as she cut his majority from 12,000 to 8,000.

But no sooner had Mr Swire, who has been the MP for the area since 2001, had his victory confirmed, he launched an attack on Ms Wright and her supporters, claiming he had been “lied to and libelled” by her “vile” fans on social media in an interview with the BBC.

He also accused both The East Devon Alliance and East Devon Watch of being ‘vile’

He also took to twitter and after announcing he was deeply honoured to be re-elected as the MP, said he was taking time out from twitter to drain the swamp of vile comments from Claire Wright’s not so charming followers.

Mr Swire told the BBC that his camp “fight it very straight”.

“We don’t answer back and perhaps we made a mistake not doing that on social media,” he said.

“I and my family have been lied to and actually very often libelled in a constant stream of abuse on Twitter and on some websites.

“There’s something called East Devon Watch which is again tied in with the East Devon Alliance – they’re all the same sort of people and frankly it’s time to call them out now. It’s no good them hiding behind their nice little smiles and pretending they are independent. These are not, they are vile, some of these people.”

Claire Wright has said that she and her team where not behind any of the ‘vile’ abuse that he received during the campaign.

But, Paul Arnott, chairman of the East Devon Alliance said he had no idea what Mr Swire, a former foreign minister, was on about, and said he was a ‘graceless winner’.

Mr Arnott said: “The poor man clearly needed a good night’s sleep. We”ve all heard of bad losers but graceless winners are a rarer species. We can”t pick the bones out of his troubled blurt but as Chairman of the East Devon Alliance I can say that he hasn’t the slightest clue what he is bleating about.”

East Devon Watch – represented by an anonymous Owl, runs a blog which claims to ‘shine a light into the darkest corners of East Devon’. It also responded to Mr Swire’s comments.

They posted: “East Devon Watch has never made any secret of supporting (but not being part of or supported by) East Devon Alliance. EDW has never hidden behind a nice little smile – there is nothing to smile about with the politics of East Devon. Indeed, crying would be more appropriate!

“There is no pretending to be independent – EDW is indeed indepdent and proud of it.

“EDW will continue to hold the politics and politicians of East Devon to the light and looks forward to doing so for many, many years.”

As of Sunday morning, 43 people had replied to his tweet. Of them, only two had come out in support of Mr Swire while the other 41 were a mixture of personal abuse, voters appalled at how the area’s MP views his constituents, and comments saying that he does not engage with his constituents.

@UmLittlePlums said: “We are still your constituents and you’d do well to remind yourself of that. The result aside, you are deeply unpopular.”

Kelly Hammond said: “You really need to stop insulting the very people you have been elected to represent. May not have voted for you, but you’re still their MP.”

Linda Bowen said: “Wow… seriously? There’s a reason these CONSTITUENTS didn’t vote for you. Perhaps you should ask yourself why rather than insult them.”

Francis Clark said: “Probably no worse than the bile spewed by the Tory rags. The right wing press lies constantly. Why no opprobrium from you then?”

Joe Hellier-Brown said: “Just wanted to congratulate you for at least having the decency to OPENLY slate the people you represent. Fair play!”

Claire Whiter said: “Don’t worry we’ll be watching you now. Don’t think you can get away with being useless any more.”

He did get some comments in support, with Michael Smith saying: Sorry to hear this. Campaigns should be fought on all fronts but always with respect. Didn’t vote for you but congratulations,” while Liam Chick said: “Well done Hugo. East-Devon is now stable.”

In a panel interview the Exeter University politics expert Professor Jason Reifler said that a robust discourse was part of the British political system.

“Politics is not for the faint-hearted, and if you are going to get into it, particularly in the national system, you have to weather some attacks,” he said.

“It’s never good to go after someone’s family or say something about a candidate but those things do happen. Far more distressing are attacks on the democratic process. People don’t like sore losers, they also don’t like sore winners, this would be a good opportunity to show the stereotypical British stiff upper lip.”

Former Lib Dem Devon County Councillor Des Hannon said: “I think attacks on people’s families are absolutely out whichever way they go, that’s just not acceptable but anything that’s at Hugo, frankly he pretty much incited himself by his attacks on Claire Wright and also as part of an absolutely entrenched establishment in East Devon which has assumed it has a right to rule permanently there with no flexibility and Claire is feeding off that – the more he protests this the better it will be for her.”

http://www.devonlive.com/east-devon-responds-after-hugo-swire-said-vile-claire-wright-fans-libelled-him-on-twitter/story-30383472-detail/story.html

EDDC and East Devon Alliance cited in Guardian postal vote cock-ups article

… In East Devon postal votes were sent out to voters without an official security mark. The acting returning officer for the East Devon constituency, Mark Williams, issued a statement earlier this week reassuring postal voters that if they had not yet returned their postal votes they should still do so. “We have taken all the necessary steps to ensure the postal votes are valid and will be counted,” William said.

Paul Arnott, chairman of the East Devon Alliance, expressed his dismay at the situation, calling for the new government “to centrally digitise the issuing of ballot papers and remove the potential for fraud in all levels of elections”. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/08/plymouth-blames-loss-of-1500-postal-voting-packs-on-computer-problem

EDA could, of course, also have mentioned:

the lost 6,000 voters of 2015:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2014/07/07/the-missing-6000-voters-eddc-named-and-s/

which led to Electoral Officer EDDC CEO being summoned to Parliament to not-very-satisfactorily explain himself:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2014/11/15/the-missing-6000-voters-and-the-award-for-best-lame-excuse-goes-to-mark-williams/

AND the other mistakes that took place in 2015:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/06/02/east-devon-alliance-hit-out-at-unforgivable-mistake-over-postal-voting-cock-up/

EDDC Scrutiny Committee – we await your input!

“East Devon Alliance hit out at ‘unforgivable mistake’ over postal voting ‘cock-up’ “

Calls have been made for East Devon District Council’s returning officer to resign from his post after a total of 9,000 postal votes were sent out without the correct security mark.

The Acting Returning Officer for the East Devon Constituency, Mark Williams, issued a statement earlier this week to reassure postal voters who have not yet returned their postal votes after the postal votes after packs that were issued on May 25 contained voting slips that did not have an official security mark visible on the front of the ballot paper.

A total of 9,000 postal voters were affected by the mistake, which has been put down to ‘human error’ and people are being reassured that little damage has been done.

But the chairman of the East Devon Alliance has said they are appalled that Mark Williams is even in his post to be able to commit this unforgivable mistake after the ‘disaster’ of the 2015 elections, in which Parliamentary, District and Town council elections were all held on the same day.

The Electoral Commission have been informed of the postal voting error.

A statement issued by Mr Williams said: “It has come to my attention that the postal vote packs we issued on 25th May contained voting slips that did not have an official security mark visible on the front of the ballot paper. This has affected a total of 9,000 postal voters.

“I want to reassure those postal voters affected that if they have not yet returned their postal votes they should still do so. We have taken all the necessary steps to ensure the postal votes are valid and will be counted. I apologise for the error but want to reassure postal voters that they should still complete their postal voting statements and return their postal voting envelopes back to me for validating as part of the normal postal voting process.

“To be valid, a postal vote has to be accompanied by a valid postal voting statement containing the voters date of birth and signature. After these are checked, the envelope containing the postal voting slip is opened and the slip is put into a sealed ballot box where it is kept safe until the formal count. My postal vote opening teams will ensure that all validly completed postal votes are double checked so that they will go forward to the count along with all the other votes that will be cast on polling day itself.”

But the ‘cock-up’ has left Paul Arnott, chairman of the East Devon Alliance, furious, and said that he would have more confidence in a village raffle than in Mr Williams running the forthcoming election.

Mr Arnott said: “The East Devon Alliance is appalled that Mark Williams is even in his post to be able to commit this unforgivable mistake. In 2015, after the debacle of the elections for town, district and Parliament, we wrote a measured report, in which our concerns included his prematurely calling results at his chaotic count for district elections with no reference to candidates or agents even when majorities were easily within the need for a recount.

“As a result we are not confident that two current serving councillors were duly elected. He had no control over who was at the count itself, and we know about the 2015 disaster with the postal vote. All our concerns in 2015 were mirrored by a report from the Electoral Commission.

“As a result, I was successful this year in demanding that the County Solicitor’s office and the Electoral Commission observed the County election last month. Under this level of scrutiny the conduct of the 2017 county election was unrecognisable from the disgrace of 2015.

“Now we are witnessing the final tragedy for democracy in East Devon because Mr Williams remains in position to make what must be his final mistake.

“How is the electorate meant to trust that he forgot to check before sending out no fewer than 9,000 postal votes that they did not bear any proper markings? It’s his job to check them and to have a commissioning relationship with the printers.

“How did these ballot papers, which frankly any of us could have run off from a home printer, ever get to be created? This must be the last election he ever runs and we will be issuing a report on this and take it to the highest level. The dog has eaten his homework for the last time.

“Meanwhile the only honourable act for Mr Williams himself is to resign from all future electoral activities, including voter registration, his laxity in which was condemned by a committee in Parliament. I never thought I would live to be a 55-year-old citizen of one of the most beautiful parts of the world and be unable to assure my children that they are able to trust the electoral processes here anymore than in some underfunded and unfortunate part of the developing world.”

A spokesman for East Devon District Council said that the mistake was ‘simply the result of human error for which we apologise’.

They added: “A total of 9,000 postal votes were involved but as we have outlined in our statement the issue has been remedied. We want to reassure those postal voters affected that if they have not yet returned their postal votes they should still do so as we have taken all the necessary steps to ensure the postal votes are valid and will be counted.”

A spokesman for the Electoral Commission said: “The Electoral Commission is aware of the issue surrounding postal ballot papers in East Devon which were issued without an official mark. We were contacted by the Acting Returning Officer and provided advice, and steps have been taken to ensure that these ballot papers will still be counted and nobody will be disenfranchised in the UK Parliamentary General Election.”

Following the 2015 elections, the East Devon Alliance raised concerns with Mark Williams about some aspects of the election that required immediate corrective action as part of their response to the East Devon District Council request for comments on the 2015 elections.

THE FULL RESPONSE THEY PROVIDED WAS

Comment 1 about issues during voting: Mark Williams (as the District RO) would not take responsibility for ensuring that EDA candidates and agents across the District could have access to apply seals to boxes and packages as they were taken from Polling Places and, after verification and separation of the national election papers, were transported to the Knowle for final counting. For all District election concerns about issues outside the East Devon constituency, MW referred the EDA to the RO’s for the other constituencies within East Devon District.

This led to a number of unsatisfactory standards in the District elections, specifically:

1.The ballot boxes used in that part of the East Devon District in the Tiverton and Honiton Constituency were not rigid boxes (flexible cloth), so an elector could reach to touch previously cast ballot papers. At least one of these ballot boxes was damaged so that previously cast ballot papers were in full view.
2.None of the flexible cloth boxes could be sealed with the EDA seals, which were purchased following MW’s email illustrating what was a suitable seal. This caused great confusion and distress to candidates and polling officers alike.
3.The EDDC District election unused ballot papers and other information from the Central Devon Constituency RO were returned in an unsealed clear plastic bag.
4.When the ballot first opened at 7am Colyton Polling Place did not allow for privacy in voting. At first, only open tables were provided.
5.Conservative election advertisements for the District were placed within the premises of Polling Places in Otterhead. There was disagreement and delay between the East Devon RO (MW) and the Tiverton & Honiton RO as to who should take action to deal with this.
6.The Presiding Officer in Feniton illegally prevented a number of voters from casting their District vote. MW blamed the illegal behaviour of this PO on poor training by the Tiverton & Honiton RO.
7.Polling Places in Seaton had hour-long queues of voters. Who was responsible for predicting the popularity of voting in this town?
8.A Liberal Democrat candidate was allowed to hand out an electioneering leaflet (it said “Vote Liberal” and had the candidate’s imprint on it) inside the Polling Place at Axminster. This was reported by EDA to the Presiding Officer but no action was taken to prevent it happening.
We believe that the RO for the District elections should have responsibility for ensuring the safe and secret transport of information from the casting of electors’ District votes to their receipt at the final count location (Knowle). We also believe that the RO for District elections should have overall responsibility for the satisfactory conduct of the whole District ballot.

Comment 2 about Candidates’ and Agents’ experiences at the District election count.

Whilst we acknowledge the difficulty of running three elections on the same day, we believe that there was sufficient notice and central government funding so that the organisation could have been much more effective. At our meeting on March 4th we signalled our concern about this, and were concerned that MW refused to consider providing separate ballot boxes for the district and parish elections. This mechanism would have done much to ensure the visible integrity of the counting process

“Bearing in mind that most of the EDA candidates had no previous experience as a candidate, we believe that more help should have been forthcoming from MW to ensure that their legal rights as candidates were not inhibited.

“Specifically:

1.There was no general briefing for candidates and their agents about the procedure that would be followed at the count
2.There was no check of who was allowed into the count. As a result, the room was very overcrowded and observers were inhibited from carrying out their function of observing the counting agents.
3.It is a requirement for the RO to provide facilities for Party agents to check that their seals on ballot boxes are unbroken. The arrangements for this were inadequate because the EDA agent was kept out of the area where the boxes were brought prior to opening them.
4.It is a requirement for the RO to share the verification results with candidates and/or their agents prior to proceeding to the count. This is the relevant statement in the EC instructions for ROs: “Any agent may make a copy of this, and indeed you should make available copies of this for the agents present once verification has been completed”. This was not done with EDA candidates/agents.
5.It is a requirement that the RO should share with candidates and agents the reasons why he has decided to reject various ballot papers. This is the relevant instruction from the EC booklet on dealing with doubtful ballot papers: “When undertaking the adjudication of ballot papers it is important to ensure that the process is carried out in full view of all candidates and agents present at the count”. This was not done with EDA candidates/agents.
6.The multi-member Ward ballot papers were sorted in different ways by different counting agents. There was no standard way of doing it. Observers watched as some agents were trying to sort ballot papers into piles based on all the possible permutations of voting. At this point the agents were very tired, so this was an enormous task for them and led to many challenges from observers. We recommend that a simpler standardised approach be taken to pre-sorting the ballot papers that requires decisions between at most three or four different piles on each sort.
7.The multi-member Wards were counted using the “grass skirt” method.

[For an explanation of the “grass skirt method” see here

Only one person was involved in preparing and counting the grass skirt, which is the most complex of the vote permutations, whereas other, simpler counts were always checked by at least one other person. The grass skirt was used extensively in the counts for some of the closest Ward results in the District.
8.It is a requirement for the RO to share the count results with candidates and/or their agents prior to announcing the result for their Ward. This is so that candidates can request a recount if the result is close. This is the relevant instruction in the EC instructions for ROs: “7.34 Once satisfied, you must advise candidates and election agents of the provisional result and you should seek their agreement on the announcement of the result. You should make clear that the candidates and agents are entitled to request a recount”. This was not done with EDA candidates/agents.
9.Many of the declared results for the District Council do not have a complete statement about the reasons for rejection of ballot papers as required by law. Given that candidates and agents were not made privy to the reasons for rejecting individual ballot papers during the count, this gives some cause for concern.
We understand that previous East Devon District elections have not been hugely competitive and this may have led to some casual practices in verification and counting of votes. However, publicity and debate prior to the 2015 elections should have led the RO to expect a high turnout and close results. Because of this we believe that the RO should have taken particular care to ensure that election law and the spirit of election law were more carefully followed.

A report from Elizabeth Gorst, the Electoral Commission representative for the 2015 elections, said:

Feedback for the attention of Mark Williams, Returning Officer:

1)You explained to me that postal vote identifiers were not checked for postal votes delivered to the count. You should ensure that you make provision to check 100% of postal vote identifiers, even for postal ballot papers being delivered last-minute to the count. A 100% check is now a legal requirement.
2)Some less experienced candidates and agents were not clear on the processes being followed to count the multi member wards – separation of block votes, grass skirts etc. At one point this resulted in a heated exchange between an observer and a non-supervisory member of count staff as to whether there was a better way to count the votes! We would recommend that you provide a written guide to attendees in advance of the event of the processes that will take place.
3)Some count staff themselves did not appear to be clear about the processes they had to follow and particularly in respect of the multi member count. For example I noted staff at the start of the count who were not familiar with extraction of block votes or the use of grass skirts and were initially looking puzzled/confused about the processes they were being asked to undertake. This in turn impacts on the confidence of observers. Additionally, as I raised with you, during verification there was a mixture of face up and face down verification being carried out. We would recommend that you review your provision of training to count staff. Also that written instructions are provided in advance of the event to all count staff.
4)You announced the start of each local government ward count (no PA system in place). It is also helpful if the ward name on the empty ballot box is positioned in such a way as to be visible to observers throughout the count. The same advice applies to verification.
5)When the ballot papers have been removed from a ballot box at verification or count stage, the empty box should be shown to agents and observers so that they can be satisfied that it is indeed empty.
6)A PA system should be in operation to ensure that all attendees at the count can clearly hear announcements
7)We recommend that you review your processes for stacking and signposting ballot papers on the individual counting tables. As an observer it was difficult to see what the various piles of ballot tables on the paper related to. Staff were also confused by moments about what ballot paper should go where. Sorting trays with labels would improve transparency and auditability.
8)We recommend that you develop a suite of paperwork for count staff and supervisors for recording counted votes. I noticed staff on count tables relying on A4 pads of paper to add up the total number of votes for each candidate.
9)Count staff seemed to be missing other stationery items – personal mobiles phones were being used as calculators and I noted staff working on grass skirts having to share pencils.
10) Because of space constraints there was at times insufficient room on the tables for ballot papers. Completed grass skirts and other items were having to be stored on the floor beneath the tables. Wider tables would have alleviated this to some degree, but we would recommend that the detail of the count processes you will undertake are considered at an early stage as part of the selection and layout of your venue.
11) I was not clear that candidates and agents were being consulted on provisional results before proceeding to a declaration. Our advice to Returning Officers is that ‘you should advise candidates and election agents of the provisional result and seek their agreement on the announcement of the result…… This process should be undertaken within the framework of maximum openness and transparency….. so that all candidates and agents can have confidence in the processes and the provisional result provided.
12) I was also not clear on the process for adjudication of doubtful ballot papers. Because there was no distinct tray on the counting tables for doubtful papers (see point 6), it wasn’t easy to see the audit trail of those papers and how they were being adjudicated on and who was carrying this out. I also couldn’t see that agents were being given the opportunity to review rejected ballot papers.
13) It may be that the points I mention in 11 and 12 were being undertaken, but because there was no PA system, I was unaware that candidates and agents were called by the Returning Officer to hear the provisional result and review the rejected ballot papers. Usually the candidates and agents are called over a PA system to receive the provisional results. This ensures that all those entitled to hear the provisional result are aware that the Returning Officer is ready with this information.
14) You mentioned to me the space constraints of the venue and your consideration of other venues. Certainly for the local government count, the number of observers present meant that it was impossible to move freely around the count tables and clearly observe the processes taking place. We would recommend that you consider venues other than the council offices for future counts – not only in terms of the number of observers, but also the number of count staff you require to conduct the count to your planned timescale.
15) Your actual count timings varied from the estimates you had announced. High turnout, three-way verification, the complexity of the multi-member local government counts, available staffing resource (determined by venue size) and the lesser ability of some count staff all impacted on this. You will have gathered some valuable experience on timing and we would recommend that for future elections you review the experience of 2015 and factors influencing the timing of the count in establishing your resource requirements. For future events, it could be worth making calculations of likely numbers of ballot papers to be processed and then producing a sample of mock ballot papers on which you carry out tests of your timings and processes
16) At the local government count on Friday morning, there was no control of admission to the count. Given that only certain individuals are permitted by law to attend the count, such controls need to be in place.

The news comes after it was revealed East Devon was chosen as one of eight UK constituencies to be monitored as part of an international mission to ensure elections are fair.

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) has announced that the constituency will be one of its target seats for the general election.

An Election Assessment Mission (EAM) will be conducted in the area from June 4 to 9 by Phillip Paulwell, an MP from Jamaica who will lead a team of Observers from the Commonwealth.

The Mission, which is being arranged by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK Branch (CPA UK) as it did in the 2015 and 2010 general elections, will also observe elections in seven other UK constituencies to oversee:

polling
counting
post-election complaints or appeals

The team will compromise of three parliamentarians and one election official from Tonga who will monitor Election Day procedures at polling stations, meet with candidates, returning officers, local officials, community groups and other relevant stakeholders in order to assess the conduct of the election.

http://www.devonlive.com/fury-of-east-devon-alliance-at-postal-vote-error/story-30368193-detail/story.html

Local politics: no change unless WE the voters change it

Another local blog (Facebook – Devon United) republished this article from East Devon Watch originally blogged 3 YEARS AGO

“What a GREAT time to be an Independent candidate!

Grassroots rebellion over arrogant leadership in Devon and Cornwall
By Western Morning News | Posted: October 05, 2014
By Phil Goodwin

Westcountry councils face a growing rebellion from a grassroots movement weary at being ruled by an out-of-touch and “arrogant” leadership, the Western Morning News on Sunday reports today.

Campaigns have sprung up across the region in opposition to a perceived centralisation of power which has left many voters feeling removed from the democratic process.

A revolt in Cornwall has seen parish councils form an alliance against the “emerging dictatorship” of the unitary “super council” and threaten to picket County Hall in protest. [Last week, Cornwall’s Lib Dems and Independents again formed a ruling coalition]

In Mid-Devon, a petition has been launched against the cabinet-style of government, where decision-making power is confined to a handful of senior Conservative figures. [Conservatives majority refused to make the change]

In East Devon a quasi-political pressure group has been formed to unify opposition after a series of controversial planning issues. Paul Arnott, chairman of the East Devon Alliance, said chief executives and unelected officers wield excessive influence and are answerable only to a powerful political elite. [EDA had its first county council success this month and Independents at EDDC now number 16].

“What we see now is a kind of corporate CEO mentality which is just not appropriate at a district council,” he added. “This not Wall Street – it is East Devon, and we are supposed to be following a localism agenda.

“The effect is setting a tone of unelected arrogance – we would like to see a return to the wise and kindly town clerk approach of days gone by.”

Labour’s Local Government Act of 2000 introduced modifications to the old committee system, including the cabinet and leader model, which is common throughout Devon and Cornwall. This allows the ruling party to populate the cabinet with its own members, regardless of the make-up of the council. [Still the case in East Devon]

In Mid-Devon, where the Conservatives hold a 57per cent majority of the 42 seats, the Liberal Democrats and Independents have no representation and all of the senior power is concentrated in nine Tory councillors. [Still the case in Mid Devon]

The same set-up can be seen at Devon County Council, where Tories hold 61per cent of the seats but all the cabinet posts, and at East Devon District Council, where a 71per cent majority holds 100per cent of the cabinet posts. [No change]

The Campaign for Democracy in Mid-Devon hopes to collect the 3,000 signatures required to force a referendum on the style of governance. [Didn’t happen]

Nick Way, a Lib Dem member at the authority, supports a return to the committee system. “I think it is more democratic, particularly for a small authority like us,” he said.

“The current system is almost like a dictatorship of the majority – at the end of the day they have a majority but a change would make it easier for their back-benchers to have more of a say and influence policy.”

Harvey Siggs, a Somerset county councillor and vice chairman of South West Councils, says he understands the frustration given the cuts but disagrees with claims of a democratic deficit.

“In Somerset we spend a lot of time trying not to be remote,” he added.

“A good cabinet does its absolute best to be as transparent as possible and we still have to be accountable to the full council.

“With the pace of life and all the things that need to be dealt with, I don’t think the committee system is fit for purpose.

“All too often the disaffected people are around planning. There are winners and losers but mostly, the losers don’t complain.”

[Somerset’s Leader, Conservative John Osman was deposed by a Lib Dem this month but Tories still have a stranglehold on the council]

In Cornwall, representatives of 15 parish councils packed a hall in Chacewater last week in a bid to rally all 213 town and parish councils to join a revolt against Cornwall Council. [unsuccessfully]

The gathering came in response to the infamous “Chacewater Letter” which branded the unitary authority an “emerging dictatorship”.

The letter, in July, criticised Cornwall Council’s lack of communication, its savings plans, planning policy, arms lengths organisations and highly paid officers.

At the highly charged meeting on Tuesday, fellow parish councillors agreed and declared change at Cornwall Council must happen.

More militant members called to draft in the local government ombudsman, for the formation of an alliance of parish councils and even for protests at the doors of County Hall.

Truro City councillor Armorel Carlyon, who chaired the meeting despite her own council not endorsing the criticism, told those gathered she could see the “democratically elected members being airbrushed out of the picture” by non-elected council officers.

Read more at http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Grassroots-rebellion-arrogant-leadership-Devon/story-23044099-detail/story.html

When posted: https://eastdevonwatch.org/2014/10/05/the-peasants-of-devon-are-revolting/