Same old, same old … with one or two exceptions

Well, the bad news is that Paul Hayward and Marianne Rixson (East Devon Alliance)were unsuccessful in Axminster and Sidmouth but good news is Claire Wright (Ottery, Independent) was re-elected with her usual stonking majority and Martin Shaw (EDA) pipped nearest rival Helen Parr to the post in Seaton.

For Devon four years of mainly same old, same old but with the added twist of massive cuts, privatisation and bec closures in the health service, the decimation of environmental controls and increase in air pollution and an education system cut well beyond the bone.

Add our expensive Local Enterprise Partnership and Brexit to this mix and the air could get really toxic!

EDDC uses purdah rules to avoid tricky questions on police criminal inquiry into Colyton Village Plan.

The Western Morning News has today covered in detail the situation in Colyton where police investigations are ongoing into aspects of its Village Plan.

When asked questions by the newspaper on this – via its CEO Mark Williams – EDDC hid behind rules covering “purdah” before local and general elections, when council officers must maintain political neutrality and avoid politically contentious subjects and instead went on the offensive against the EDDC Councillor (Cathy Gardner) who brought it into the open, querying where Councillor Cathy Gardner had got her information from, saying it had been known to only three senior officers.

He added that those three officers did not intend to comment until after local county elections on Thursday this week – and (possibly) even not until after the General Election, if anyone involved were to indicate that they wished to stand for Parliament. He said:

“…The council cannot comment on how Councillor Gardner became aware of the police investigation. The Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer were surprised she raised this at a public meeting”.


First, because the act of drawing attention to Councillor Gardner breaks his own rule! He is not willing to discuss if any councillor is involved in criminal proceedings in Colyton but IS prepared to discuss Councillor Gardner’s action in drawing attention to it.

Secondly, purdah can be overridden if it is in the public interest as this surely is.

Thirdly, had she not raised this matter at a public meeting – where was she expected to raise it? In private? Far, far too much of THAT going in at EDDC!

Purdah is NOT law, it is advice. Or, as the Local Government Association puts it, Civil Servants ARE (REPEAT ARE) ALLOWED TO:

Use a politician who is involved in an election when the council is required to respond in particular circumstances, such as in an emergency situation or where there is a genuine need for a member-level response to an important event beyond the council’s control. Normally this would be the civic mayor (as opposed to the elected mayor in those areas with elected mayors) or chairman (that is, someone holding a politically neutral role). If the issue is so serious, it is worth considering asking the council’s group leaders to agree to a response which would involve all of them.”

Owl contends that this IS such a circumstance.

County elections: only 8 seats need to change hands to change the political majority

As EDA candidate Paul Hayward points out on his Facebook page:

Over the last 8 years, across the whole of Devon, decisions have been made by a majority group with no effective opposition. Result. Cuts, cuts and more cuts.

But in 2017, it only takes 7 seats to change and a new era of cooperation, debate and compromise can begin at Devon County Council.

Services can be protected. Fair funding can be applied. National party politics can be taken out of local government.

On May 4th, please choose to mark Independent, East Devon Alliance on your voting slip.”

You want change, you have to vote for it.

Election irony

Does anyone else find it ironic that Tory candidates are saying that they will “fight for” local hospitals, fairer funding for schools and our precious environment when it is THEIR party that brought the CCG’s that are already cutting beds by stealth, the unfair school funding and which wants to loosen environmental regulations as soon as possible to enable more building on green fields and who are trying to stop frightening air pollution figures being published?

The Tory battle cry seems to be:

“What do we want?”
“No bed cuts, fairer funding for schools and a healthy environment!”
“When do we want it?”
“Er, whenever Mrs May says we can have it, pretty please?”
“When will it be?
“Brexit means Brexit!”

Have fun with that one – and if you vote for the Tories in Devon just hope you, your children and grandchildren can afford a private education and health care and never need to go to an NHS A and E or GP – or breathe the air in our towns, cities and countryside – tall order!

We need a credible opposition at DCC to fight for us. Claire Wright has done a magnificent job fighting for our schools, our hospitals and our environment at DCC – but could do even more with an army of like-minded councillors alongside her whose battle cry would be:

“What do we want?”
“Our fair share in a clean, green Devon”
“When do we want it?”
“When our voters empower us to get it”
“When will it be”?
“When you vote Independent on 4 May!”

Sidmouth husting cancelled … so what would we have liked to see debated?

It appears only two of Sidmouth’s DCC candidates were prepared to attend tonight’s husting, which has now been cancelled at short notice – Stuart Hughes (Conservative ex- Monster Raving Loony) and Marianne Rixson (Independent East Devon Alliance).

Such a pity as there are burning questions for the Sidmouth and Sidford candidates, and the incumbent in particular, such as:

Asking Councillor Hughes why he seems to value photo-opportunities and silly songs

over action (for example, Alma Bridge…talk for years…no action)

The state of our roads in Sidmouth and Devon – Councillor Hughes having been in charge of them at DCC for years.

His worrying lack of preparedness about said highways when he should have known the information about them that should have stopped Sidford Industrial Estate ever getting into the local plan – information Sidmouth Councillor Rixson uncovered and used to help to stop it. A story of too little too late.

Councillor Hughes also needs to clarify his views on the NHS. While Sidmouth retains beds in this round of cuts, no-one can predict the future and the hospital will certainly come under pressure with extra patients from Axminster, Honiton and Seaton.

Unfortunately, a vote for Councillor Hughes is a vote for cuts – NHS and just about everything else including social care and education – big DCC responsibilities.

Councillor Rixson, and the local community, stopped the industrial estate. Councillor Rixson is an indefatigable supporter of our NHS and sees the issues way beyond the narrow confines of whipped party politics.

Councillor Rixson is the ONLY credible contender to beat Councillor Hughes, given the results from the 2015 election and to help beat any future cuts in the pipeline.

No wonder other candidates didn’t plan on turning up!

Will Colyton village plan revelations and local health issues affect DCC election choice?

Three major developments may affect how people choose to vote in Devon County Council elections next week.

First, and most tantalising, is the ongoing serious allegation that there seems to be a police investigation ongoing into Colyton’s EDDC villages plan, see here:

This project is somewhat similar to the Neighbourhool Plan project which also hit controversy right from the start, as reported by Owl:

Seven volunteers resigned from the project, their letter stating:

… This is the community’s plan, not the parish council’s or a few of the individuals who seem to control it. The entire community has the final say in what goes into it. We urge all residents of the parish to ensure that the plan is truly representative of everyone’s collective aspirations for the parish in the coming years. Our concern is that a few could perhaps dictate how the communities are shaped, which would be disastrous for the parish as a whole. …

Colyton voters might be advised to perhaps go for a DCC councillor from outside the parish this time round.

Second is, of course, the closure of Axminster Hospital in-patient beds to the north and scheduled closure of Honiton’s in-patient beds to the west and Seaton’s to the south. DCC candidate Mrs Parr (Conservative) is on record as having been persuaded by CCG plans to close these beds. Jim Knight, who having been passed over for selection is standing as an “Independent” Conservative (whatever that is – how do voters differentiate it from UKIP these days?) is between a rock and a hard place on this one too?

DCC has the major committee for holding health authorities to account and Independent Claire Wright is doing a sterling job of fighting for us, but she desperately needs the help of others prepared to fight with her.

So, who is left?

Well, that’s the third issue.

Let’s dismiss tha Labour candidate – who had to be parachuted in from Exeter who no-one (including Labour activists) seems to know anything about!

Let’s also dismiss Peter Burrows (Lib Dem) – who declined to face voters at a recent hustings (but apparently crept into the back of the room towards the end). Who uses family connections to the health service to boost himself, rather than his own actions, which are surprisingly thin on the ground. Also Burrows has recently become notorious as a censor on the 1500-strong Facebook group, ‘It’s Seaton Devon Thank You Very Much’, of which he is administrator. After deleting posts by Shaw and others about the hospital beds, he even removed Shaw – and various other people with no connection to his campaign – from the group, provoking a considerable backlash.

With this controversy around Burrows’ role, Knight could come in ahead of him and see Burrows struggling to come third as in 2013.

This leaves the field wide open for the only other contender – Martin Shaw, Independent East Devon Alliance. Shaw has been vociferous in his support of retaining beds at Seaton Hospital, instrumental in organising a legal opinion to fight closures and has proved to be something of a tiger in his role on the town council’s planning committee.

Will voters feel minded to dismiss the “same olds” of the past and vote for someone untainted by past choices and misdemeanors?

Let us hope so.

All three EDA candidates for Devon County Council have You Tube links

Marianne Rixson – Sidmouth and Sidbury

Paul Hayward (Axminster) and Martin Shaw (Seaton and Colyton):

and all three have signed the pledge to make NHS protection a top priority: