“Boom in council ‘stealth’ taxes for waste removal and funeral services”

“Families have been hit by a huge rise in local “stealth” taxes over the past decade as councils introduce garden and bulky waste removal charges and raise the cost of funeral services, pest control and even public lavatories.

Analysis by The Times of council accounts shows that revenue from environmental, regulatory and planning charges has increased by almost 50 per cent to £2.3 billion since 2009.

Last year, revenue from these charges increased by more than two and a half times the rate of inflation as councils scrambled to raise cash after ten years of austerity. This means every home in England is now paying an average of more than £100 a year in council charges on top of their average council tax bill of £1,671.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

EDDC Deputy CEO made redundant …

Well, well, well – Cohen, who came to EDDC with such glowing references is now surplus to requirements! How convenient – all the blame and all the questions about everything that has gone on under his watch can leave with him … and scrutiny is avoided because he won’t be there to answer any questions …

questions such as:

Queen’s Drive fiasco
Axminster Masterplan chaos
High Street decline inaction
Knowle sale
Blackdown House procurement issues …

add your own thoughts to this partial list …

Here’s the CEO’s “explanation” for the departure:

“Dear Cllrs,
As you are aware we are in the process of preparing the budget for 2020/21 and facing the difficult decisions that will be required.

As part of these preparations, I have had to give consideration to the reduction in workload for the Deputy Chief Executive Officer now that our office moves have taken place and the fact that this role is now effectively redundant.

For this reason, it has been agreed that Richard Cohen will leave the organisation on 31 March 2020. This has been the subject of consultation with the Leader and relevant portfolio holders.

We are currently also consulting with Richard’s direct reports [sic] and will soon be confirming details of changes to reporting lines and roles and responsibilities in the management team.

I am sure you will join me in thanking Richard for all he has achieved during his time at the Council and wishing him the very best for the future.

Yours sincerely,
Mark”

Just remember: a redundant role cannot usually be filled for between 1 and 2 years … so how long before Williams declares himself overworked and in need of better remuneration … but again remember that for a while we shared him 50/50 with South Somerset – till they paid us to take him back early!

“Land values funding row set to throw Axminster masterplan and relief road plans into chaos”

As reported by Owl a week ago:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/11/29/axminster-master-plan-back-to-the-drawing-board-but-dont-upset-the-developers/

“A row over land values is set to scupper a masterplan that would see more than 800 new homes and the long-awaited relief road for Axminster built.

The Axminster North East Urban Extension masterplan for 850 homes was adopted in January, and also includes employment land, open spaces and community facilities.

It also included the £16.7m north-south relief road that aims to end the severe congestion, pollution and HGVs having to travel on the existing road that runs through the centre of the town.

East Devon District Council had successfully bid for a £10m Homes England Housing Infrastructure Funding (HIF) grant that would be used to help fund the delivery of the crucial new relief road, only for the government agency to change their mind and turn the grant into a loan. …

Outlining the situation in his report, Mr Freeman says that the land owners have been contacted but are unwilling to reduce their expectations.

The Crown Estate who own their land outright advised that the value attributed to their land is fixed by what they actually paid and cannot therefore be renegotiated, he said, adding the land owners whose land is optioned to Persimmon Homes were not willing to entertain this option, stating that if they could not realise their expected values they would simply continue to farm the land and await a more attractive offer in the future. …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/land-values-funding-row-set-3608294

Council chiefs (including ours) make LOTS of extra money out of elections

We have never known how much EDDC’s CEO Mark Williams has received, or how he has spent his budgets. It seems that there is no barrier to telling us.

Over to you Mr Ingham…. transparency … remember?

A council chief has received nearly £150,000 in four years for being a returning officer on top of his salary, prompting calls for a review of how public officials are paid to oversee elections.

Tom Riordan, Leeds city council’s chief executive, has been paid £147,921.66 in fees since 2015 on top of his £182,085 salary, even though much of the election work was carried out during his normal office hours.

For this month’s general election he is entitled to a further £28,424, making the total fees almost a year’s salary since the 2015 general election.

The council defended the payments and said Riordan could have received even more had he not passed on to his deputies £12,754.33 for this year’s European election.

Council bosses across the country have benefited from a glut of polls in recent years, including three general elections, the EU referendum and the European election. Riordan does not receive a fee for local elections, though many chief executives do.

At Sunderland city council, which traditionally wins the race to declare the first general election result, chiefs have received a total of £140,746 since 2015. The payments, received by four holders of the post, include fees for two police and crime commissioner (PCC) elections and local elections as well as the national and European polls.

The current Sunderland chief executive, Patrick Melia, who has a salary of £180,000, received an extra £50,168 this year for local elections, a PCC vote and the European poll. He stands to get a further £10,008 for next week’s election.

Glasgow city council said Annemarie O’Donnell, its chief executive, had received £122,444.42 since 2015. She is entitled to £21,267 for next week. Her annual salary is £176,855.

O’Donnell’s total, which included a Scottish parliamentary election in 2016, was less than she was entitled to. She declined a fee for the last round of local council elections and an unspecified share of her fees was passed on to staff, charities and community groups.

According to parliamentary fee orders governing payments for returning officers, Manchester city council’s chief executive has been entitled to £94,578 for European and national polls since 2015, with £18,691 due for next week.

The council was unable to confirm whether the two officers who have held the chief executive position had received their full entitlement. Joanne Roney, who has held the role since 2017, has a salary of £205,671.

Newcastle city council confirmed that its chief executive, Pat Ritchie, had received £68,216 in fees on top of her salary, currently £183,891, since 2015. She does not receive payments for local elections but will receive £8,820 for the general election.

The payments were described as “totally unsustainable” by the TaxPayers’ Alliance. Cat Smith, who was Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister before parliament was dissolved, has called for a government review into the fee system.

Riordan is thought to be the best-paid returning officer in the country. Leeds is the second-largest local authority area. The largest, Birmingham, operates a pay policy that precludes chiefs from receiving returning officer fees. The entitlement is distributed to less senior staff carrying out election work.

The maximum payments available to returning officers — who are nearly always council chief executives — for national, European and crime commissioner polls are set in parliamentary statutory orders, with the sums calculated according to electorate size.

Most payments are the responsibility of the Cabinet Office, but local authorities take care of council election fees.

In January last year the Cabinet Office said the fees would be part of a wider review into election funding, which has yet to be concluded.

Leeds city council said: “Elections require those involved to work most evenings, weekends and bank holidays for a prolonged period.”

Source: Sunday Times (paywall)

Axminster ‘Master Plan’ – back to the drawing board but don’t upset the developers!

See pages 12-18 here:

https://democracy.eastdevon.gov.uk/documents/g1348/Public%20reports%20pack%2009th-Dec-2019%2010.00%20Strategic%20Planning%20Committee.pdf?T=10

What a mess! Houses but no road?

Recommendations:

“That Members:

1. Accept that it is not going to be possible to progress with the Housing Infrastructure Fund bid as things stand and that the offer is likely to be withdrawn unless Homes England change their position on land values

2. Re-engage the consultants for the Axminster Urban Extension Masterplan to:

a) review options to enable as much of the development in the masterplan to proceed accepting that this would be ahead of delivery of the relief road in its entirety
b) update the viability of the project to reflect the latest cost estimates and funding position
c) consider the re-phasing of the development in light of the failure of the HIF bid

3. Agree that a Housing Delivery Action Plan be produced to consider how to bolster the housing land supply position in the district and that this be considered by Strategic Planning Committee alongside a revised Axminster Masterplan.”

New hotel allowed on A3052 – convenient for Westpoint, Crealy and Greendale

Interesting that EDDC would have refused it but delayed too long so the decision was taken away from them.

“A new 130-bedroom hotel will be built on the site of a caravan and camping park just outside Exeter.

Hill Pond Caravan and Camping Park successfully appealed against the non-determination by East Devon District Council over their plans to build a new L-shaped hotel on the site of the existing park just off the A3052.

The site is adjacent to the Hill Barton Business Park, and is across the A3052 from Exeter City’s training ground and Crealy Adventure Park, and near to Westpoint.

Planning inspector Andrew Spencer-Peet in his report said that the economic benefits of the new hotel were evident, it would address the acknowledged current shortfall of holiday accommodation in the area, and the benefits of the proposal carry sufficient weight to justify allowing the appeal scheme. …” …

East Devon District Council had issued a report that said they would have resolved to refuse planning permission, had the decision not be taken away from them by the appeal against non-determination.

Issuing their ‘would have’ refused notice, council planners said there was an absence of robust evidence of need and demand for a hotel in the location and it hadn’t been demonstrated that there was such an un-met need for the hotel, there could be a departure from the local plan.

But Mr Spencer-Peet, announcing his decision last week, allowed the appeal, subject to 15 conditions being met.

https://www.devonlive.com/whats-on/whats-on-news/new-hotel-plans-approved-site-3583765

EDDC had record income from parking at time Leader wanted to increase charges

Motorists all over East Devon are paying for refuse collection, council tax payers throughout East Devon will pay extra if there is no hotel in Exmouth … where will it end?

“The 2018/19 figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show a record return for the council since comparable records began in 2008/9.

A consultation has been carried out, by the council, on plans to raise hourly parking charges from £1 to £1.20. The leader of the council, Ben Ingham, has said any increases will not come into force until 2021.

A spokesman for East Devon District Council said: “East Devon District Council owns 57 car parks that currently contribute around £2.4million which is used to provide a range of essential council services including, for example, our recycling and refuse collection contract. …”

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/record-high-parking-profits-for-district-council-1-6395226