Sidmothians balk at contributing £3 m to flood defences: EDDC accused of “fiddling while Rome burned”

Local people and businesses in a coastal Devon town are being asked to help pay towards the cost of a new £9m flood defence scheme.

Sidmouth’s eastern cliffs, which protect the town from flooding, are vulnerable and eroding at the rate of about a metre a year.

East Devon District Council is asking locals and businesses to contribute £3m towards the project.

But many locals do not see why they should pay, and are accusing the council of having wasted time and money over the last decade, “fiddling while Rome burns”.

[EDDC response:]

“East Devon District Council is completely committed to this project. We have already invested over £500,000 of our own money into the research, investigations and all the other necessary work that is done. If we can find another £3m, we can then unlock funding just under £6m from Defra, who are the primary agency concerned with flood protection.”
Tom Wright
Environment Porfolio, East Devon District Council

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-43712628

When Northampton County Council went “bankrupt” – Inspectors’ comments on scrutiny an “how others see you”

…”The way that NCC went about its scrutiny function brought very strong words from the inspectors. They noted that a number of councillors told them that they had been refused information. They cite a specific example which I extract below:

Perhaps the clearest demonstration of this unnecessary secrecy during the inspection took place at the Cabinet meeting on 13th February 2018.

3.80 Agenda item 11 was titled Capital Asset Exploitation. This was in fact a proposal to sell and lease back the recently completed HQ building at One Angel Square. This disposal is a potential £50m in value so it would be reasonable to expect a full options appraisal and some clear professional valuation advice as to the likely quantum of proceeds and the ways in which a disposal might be handled to best achieve a best value result. It is likely that much of this information would be exempt information so that there would be a confidential paper appended to the agenda. If that information was not available then it could only be on the basis that it was not being relied on in taking a decision.

3.81 At the meeting a number of questions were raised on these very matters and Cabinet members stated that they were privy to confidential information which supported their recommendation but that it was not available to other members.

3.82 Even if there was a concern about the publishing of confidential information most authorities have protocols and practices which make it possible for key information to be shared and protect the authority. To refuse it outright is just wrong.

Again, during an inspection, it appears that a decision for members to take was incorrectly presented without the necessary evidence.

Lesson 6 – How others see you

A key measure of governance is how well does an authority deal with complaints. During the Inspection the Inspectors commented that most unusually the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman contacted them. He said that NCC was one of the most difficult authorities to engage with both in time to respond and also in terms of approach to complaints handling learning from mistakes and remedying injustice [32].

Here again the point emerges that services may well be worse than they superficially appear, but there could come a time when the council is on the ropes and at that point others come forward and say what they really think. It is always sensible to treat concerns by the Ombudsman as meriting a chief statutory officers’ agenda spot.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=34806%3Alocalism-best-value-inspections-and-northamptonshire-county-council&catid=59&Itemid=27

Note: this puts Owl in mind of this what judge said when the Information Commissioner v East Devon District Council Knowle confidential information case was decided in court:

“Correspondence on behalf of the council, rather than ensuring the tribunal was assisted in its function, was at times discourteous and unhelpful, including the statement that we had the most legible copies [of the disputed information] possible. A statement which was clearly inaccurate as, subsequently, we have been provided with perfectly legible documents.”

http://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/election/heads-should-roll-as-judge-criticises-eddc-1-4075293

EDDC Leader-in-waiting gets his first headache

The new EDDC Leader lives on the Lyme Regis border with Uplyme in East Devon on his patch.

THE Sidmouth Road park and ride planning application has resulted in an acrimonious dispute between Lyme Regis and Uplyme councils.

Uplyme parish councillors have accused their Lyme Regis counterparts of “misrepresenting” what has happened in the run-up to a planning application being submitted for continued use of land off Sidmouth Road as a park and ride. …

… Speaking at a recent meeting, Lyme Regis councillor Steve Miller said that they had been working “extremely closely” with East Devon District Council, which had actually requested that another temporary application be submitted to allow time for the full traffic survey to be carried out.

He expressed disappointment that Uplyme Parish Council had recommended refusal of the application following advice from East Devon district councillor Ian Thomas, who has argued that Lyme Regis has “made no material progress” since previous applications for temporary use of the side and has “failed to address the requirements” set out by the district council.

Councillor Miller also said that the town council had been in consultation with all relevant parties but had not met with Councillor Thomas recently, as he had been unable to attend a number of suggested meetings. …”

http://lyme-online.co.uk/news/lyme-regis/lyme-regis-and-uplyme-councils-in-dispute-over-park-and-ride/

EDDC street trading policy backfires

From “Positive Development for Everyone in Seaton” Facebook page:

“Seaton Markets in 2018 have been CANCELLED.

In view of the recent discussions and correspondence between the Market Organisers and Licensing Officers of East Devon District Council, both the Seaton Branch of the Royal British Legion and Seaton Lions Club have decided with regret, that they cannot proceed with organising Seaton Charity Street Markets in 2018.

These were going to take place on Bank Holiday Monday 7th May, Bank Holiday Monday 28th May and Sunday 15th July. Seaton Carnival Committee have yet to meet to discuss their proposed street market.

This of course will be a financial loss to the charities of between £400 and £800 per market. We have also had the expense of paying DCC Highways a road closure fee of £75 per market.

There will also be a financial loss to Seaton. We estimate that visitors on a market day spend at least £25,000 throughout the town. They patronise the pubs, cafes, coffee shops, ice cream sellers, fish and chip shops, souvenir shops, tramway and Jurassic Centre. This money will not now be spent locally to Seaton, perhaps not even in East Devon.

Although the Act of 1982 is still in force, EDDC interpretation of the requirements since October 2017 have changed. They have introduced a Street Trading Policy which prints out at 20 pages and covers everything possible, putting all of the responsibility onto the market organiser. The policy absolves EDDC of all responsibility. There is also a further 3 pages of another policy for the market organiser. Both of these policies hold the threat of prosecution if the organiser does not comply with the requirements.

The question is why would anyone want to organise a street market when they fully understand the responsibilities which are being passed onto them by EDDC.

EDDC have then combined this with a six page application form which has to be accompanied by an insurance policy, a letter giving permission to use this policy and a map which details exactly where every trader will go in the area being applied for 30 days BEFORE THE EVENT.

EDDC are also asking for proof of permission from the land owner. In the past was DCC Highways but now includes EDDC Street Scene.

To accompany this application EDDC are asking for each trader attending to complete a two page application form, submit photos of their stall and include insurance and hygiene certificate details. They have specified that the hygiene certificate should be level 3, this level applies to restaurants.

If you add all of this paperwork up, it now comes out at over 150 pieces of paperwork for an average street market. Last year we submitted a three page application form and insurance details, that was it.

We also now have to complete a six page application form from EDDC Street Scene which by the way doesn’t co ordinate with the Licensing application form. Street Scene are also asking for a £35.20 fee,so although EDDC Licensing are generously waiving the £20 license fee, it has been substantially increased in 2018 by another department.

The Seaton Charity Street Markets have been held four times a year for over 30 years. They are all organised by volunteers. EDDC increased regulation has turned the organising of a street market into a full time task fraught with extra responsibilities.

It feels as though EDDC have decided to shut down the street markets using over regulation to do so.”

DCC let down child with special needs – compensation and strengthening of procedures required

Unfortunately, DCC under pressure from government has had to cut back on alternative provision for children with special needs including those deemed medically unfit for mainstream school. They are meant to provide 25 hours alternative provision for such young people deemed medically unfit. A parent whose child did not receive alternative schooling took his case to the Local Government Ombudsman

The complaint x which is linked to below – illustrates that DCC has no central person dealing with this type of need, and also did not realise that it should be providing 25 hours of alternative provision.

There were multiple mistakes made in this sad case.

Actions required were:

For the Council to:

Apologise for the fault identified in this statement. It should do this within a month of my decision.

Pay Mr E £300 to reflect the time and trouble he was put to identifying the central point of contact and in finding the Council’s policy on children out of school.

A further £100 for his distress in the Council failing to consider his wish for F to be educated outside the home and £200 for the uncertainty of not knowing whether F could have had more contact with his peers.

I note the Council has not yet made the payment of £400 to reflect the delay in its complaints handling; it should make this a payment of £500 to reflect its delay in dealing with the third complaint. These payments should be made within three months of my decision.

Pay F £1,600 to reflect him receiving insufficient amounts of education until he was electively home educated. This payment should also be made within three months of my decision.

For the Council to consider amending its procedures to:
Check with schools that the people employed to support individual children with special educational needs, are appropriately trained;

Consider recommendations made in statutory guidance are acted upon as soon as possible or to explain why practice is not being changed;

Receive reports about children educated out of school to check they are receiving the full amount of education to which they are entitled.

Consider parental wishes when arranging alternative provision. Even if those wishes cannot be met, the Council should explain why.

Ensure procedures are robust enough to ensure the Council obtains documents promptly and sends out decision letters and drafts as soon as possible.

Ensure LADOs are appropriately trained to enable them to fulfil this role.

Ensure its complaints procedure is robust enough so that deadlines are adhered to.

These aspects should be considered within four months of the date of my decision.

https://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/education/alternative-provision/16-011-798#point1

How much do EDDC and DCC councillors get paid?

In answer to a query”

EDDC:
http://eastdevon.gov.uk/media/2349204/members-allowance-scheme-current.pdf

DCC:
Owl cannot find an up-to-date page showing DCC allowances – this one from 2014/15 is the most recent found:

https://new.devon.gov.uk/factsandfigures/data-table/?postId=councillor-allowances-and-expenses-2014-2015

EDDC HQ builder in trouble – “problems emerged two years ago”

Owl says: due diligence?

September 2017:

“Construction of East Devon District Council’s new headquarters in Honiton is progressing well with groundworks completed and the building foundations underway.

The council is expected to be working in the new premises by December 2018 and contractors, INTERSERVE Construction Ltd, are on schedule to complete on time. …”

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/news/2017/09/foundations-in-place-for-new-east-devon-district-council-hq-in-honitons-heathpark/

TODAY:

Outsourcer Interserve seeks vote for borrowing increase

INTERSERVE will call a meeting of shareholders to seek approval to increase its borrowing limits and prevent it breaching its banking covenants.

The construction and public services group says that it needs higher borrowing levels because of expected “significant balance sheet writedowns”, which it expects to report in full-year results delayed until the last day of this month, only two days after the meeting.

INTERSERVE is one of Britain’s biggest outsourcing companies, cleaning schools, hospitals, government offices and railway stations. It also operates facilities for the ministries of defence and justice. It has annual revenues of £3.2 billion and employs 80,000 people.

It has been feared that INTERSERVE could become another Carillion, a larger rival that went bust at the turn of the year after the failure of several building contracts. Interserve is on the government’s watch list, with Deloitte, the accounting firm, having been brought in to monitor the company. EY, another of the Big Four accountants, is advising Interserve and its lenders.

The business’s problems emerged two years ago after the failure of a venture to build energy-generating incinerators led to it having to pay out £195 million in compensation and penalties.

In a statement to the stock market, Interserve said that at its year-end, its net debt had risen to £513 million. …”

Source: Times (paywall)