What council in “no overall control” REALLY means

The full article has a very useful table at the end and includes a note that East Devon Alliance wants to change to a committee system.

“With the two main parties losing hundreds of council seats, and the Lib Dems, Greens and Independents gaining across England in May’s local elections, the number of councils where no single party had a majority increased in 2019. In the first of two articles, Chris Game details how this has shaped governing outcomes for English councils ­– and demonstrates why reporting political coalitions in local government matters. …”

England’s local elections 2019: council outcomes from ‘no overall control’ results

EDA Councillor helps out Exmouth with acceptable compromise on Queen’s Drive

Officers sought to get permission to use land it owns at Queen’s Drive, which previously housed recreation facilities, as a temporary overflow car park for 3 years. Exmouth councillors were appalled but could see no option but to agree. Colyton EDA Councillor proposed that the land should be so designated for 14 months only until September 2020.

Compromise achieved and agreed.

Lesson learned? Hhhmmm … let’s wait and see.

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/queen-s-drive-seafront-car-park-plan-approved-1-6152147

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”

East Devon Alliance Councillor Paul Arnott gets good review for “Windrush” book

“… Paul Arnott’s book shows that this trip from the Caribbean to Britain was by no means the only significant voyage it made. Originally known as the Monte Rosa, the German ship started life in Hamburg in 1931, and wasn’t rechristened until a year after being captured by the British as a war prize at Kiel in 1945. The designation of SS Empire Windrush was “optimistic as the British Empire referred to was shrinking by the month”.

Arnott paints a rich portrait of life on board the cruiser in its heyday, where passengers were fed pancakes with cranberry sauce and sardellenwurst – pork sausage meat to which anchovies had been added, (“to the British palate this might seem a surprise choice”). The ship took Germans, many of them Nazi-leaning, who decided to escape the Depression for a new life in South America, thereby helping create, in Argentina, one of the most fascist regimes outside Europe. In the 1930s, membership of the Nazi party was obligatory for merchant seamen, so on arrival in Buenos Aires men would raise their right arms in salute. It brought the German ambassador to Argentina in 1933 who disembarked wearing full SS uniform, announced that he came bearing personal salutations from Adolf Hitler, and led the waiting crowds in singing Deutschland über Alles. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jun/28/windrush-ship-through-time-paul-arnott?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

EDDC Lib Dem councillor asks: “When is an Independent really independent?”

Opinion piece from EDDC Lib Dem Councillor Eileen Wragg. Though Owl feels obliged to add that she was flexible enough herself as a Lib Dem to be a member of the overwhelmingly Tory council cabinet last time around!

“We are living in uncertain times, with politics in turmoil, unrest at home and abroad. We seem to have lost direction and are desperately in need of leadership.

For some years now, I have believed that the party political system has been failing, the public despairing that they are not being listened to by those in positions of power.

Recent local elections gave voters the opportunity to express their frustrations and disquiet, which resulted in the Conservatives being ousted from power at East Devon District Council (EDDC), after 45 years, and at Exmouth Town Council after twelve years.

Having attended the first full council meeting at EDDC, I found the situation bizarre.

The Independents now form the largest group on that council.

I cannot get my head around how an Independent can become part of a group.

To me it is a contradiction; either you are an Independent or you’re not.

I tried to reason this view with the chief executive there, and he told me that it was due to political balance.

My beliefs became further compounded when, at that first meeting, the Independents, who sat together at the front of the council chamber, appeared to vote in unison in making appointments to the various committees.

The electorate who voted in May’s elections were mostly disillusioned with how local government had been operating, and there was definitely a strong protest made.

But what do we have now?

An intake of new councillors, who, unless they are known to voters, many of us don’t know what they stand for.

The next four years will be interesting, during which time the new councils will be able to prove their worth.”

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/east-devon-wragg-independent-council-opinion-1-6127634

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.