East Devon Alliance county councillor Martin Shaw adds his thoughts about TiggerTories

From his blog “Seaton and Colyton Matters”:

“I was unfortunately unable for personal reasons to attend last night’s annual meeting of EDDC, but many Independent supporters who were there have expressed considerable disappointment. I have however close knowledge of the situation and offer the following comments.

Mandate for change

On May 2nd, after 45 years of increasingly dysfunctional rule by the Conservatives at East Devon District Council, the local electorate reduced their number to just 19 of the 60 councillors. Instead voters elected a majority of 31 Independents, including 11 members of the East Devon Alliance (EDA), 8 Liberal Democrats, and 2 Greens.

A clear mandate was given by local people. Big gains by Independents – both EDA and others – Liberal Democrats and Greens all represented their desire for change. The best administration would have been a coalition of some of these groups, which could have formed a progressive majority of up to 40 seats out of 60.

A new ‘Independent Group’ excludes the East Devon Alliance

Before the elections, all Independent councillors including EDA members were part of the Independent Group, led by Ben Ingham. EDA expected this to continue and looked forward to working with other Independents to form a progressive new administration, possibly in cooperation with the Liberal Democrats and Greens.

However on the day after the elections, Ben formed a new Independent Group, which EDA councillors were not invited to join. He was elected leader and Susie Bond deputy leader. As a result of this exclusion, EDA councillors formed their own group but continued to work for an alliance of EDA with the Ingham-led Independent Group.

The Independent Group relies on the discredited Tories

Since the new Independent Group with 20 members is the largest group on EDDC, they had the right to take the initiative in forming an administration. In this light the EDA leader, Paul Arnott, was happy to second Ingham’s nomination as Leader of the Council.

However there was no justification for the Independent Group, with only one-third of all councillors, to form an exclusively Independent Group cabinet. Even the outgoing Conservative administration, which had an overall majority, was more inclusive, including some non-Conservatives in the Cabinet.

In both the Axe Valley and the Sid Valley, the East Devon Alliance had routed the Conservatives, but in Ben’s selection of his new Cabinet and chairs of key committees, he could find no place for EDA Independents from these areas. The east of East Devon is once again drastically under-represented in the EDDC leadership.

Rewarding the discredited Tory party

Clearly there were personal issues here – Ben had left EDA after being voted out as leader in 2017 – but we had still collaborated in the old Independent Group. Nothing can justify Ben’s apparent decision now to rely more on the defeated Tories than on his fellow Independents.

The Conservatives are the official opposition, entitling them to the Chair of the Scrutiny Committee. But the Independent Group have also allowed them to take the key positions of Chair of the Council and Chair of the Development Management Committee. In contrast they offered EDA only the position of Vice-Chair of the Council. In addition they appear to have voted members of the discredited Tories on to other bodies, at the expense of EDA and Lib Dem candidates.

At the very moment when the electorate voted for change, and the Conservative Party has lost all credibility nationally as well as locally, the EDDC Independent Group seems to have breathed life back into this exhausted party and allowed it to keep several important positions, while turning its back on the other advocates of change.

A way forward

The East Devon Alliance believes that many members of the Independent Group share our desire for change at EDDC. They must surely realise that yesterday was a highly embarrassing false start.

Despite the way that group has chosen to form its administration, I know the EDA group will support them, as the Lib Dems have also said they will, when they propose positive policies for the benefit of East Devon, as well as seeking their support for our own proposals.

In particular, I welcome the fact that when questioned by Paul Arnott, Ben Ingham yesterday repeated his long-held position that EDDC should consider the option of a more collaborative Committee system, rather than the all powerful Leader-with-CEO and small Cabinet model which he has inherited, which leaves most councillors with little real input into major decisions (as I know from the County Council).

In any case, EDA councillors will have healthy proportionate representation on key committees such as Planning, Strategic Planning, Scrutiny, Audit & Governance and Overview, and I am certain that this will give them many opportunities to change the district council in a collaborative and positive way.

We must now hope that despite yesterday, both groups of Independents together with the Lib Dems and Greens can do some real work for local communities in the new Council. “

A false start at EDDC sees new ‘Independent Group’ relying on the discredited Tories rather than the East Devon Alliance, Lib Dems and Greens who local communities voted for in order to achieve change. And the Axe Valley is left out in the cold again.

East Devon Alliance leader speech to EDDC last night

Sorry it is all capitals,

“CHAIR

(THANK YOU FOR THIS YOUR CURTAIN CALL IN THE CHAIR. I AM SURE WE WILL ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE MANNER IN WHICH YOU HAVE CONDUCTED THIS ROLE FOR MANY YEARS TO COME)

TO ME THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE SERIOUS CANDIDATE TONIGHT. HE IS A MAN WHO HAS A UNIQUE RECORD ON THIS COUNCIL. BEN INGHAM STARTED OFF AS A CONSERVATIVE OF COURSE, THEN BECOMING AN INDEPENDENT, AND LATER STILL ASKING IF HE COULD LEAD THE EAST DEVON ALLIANCE INTO THE 2015 ELECTION, AND FINALLY AFTER THE EDA’S LEADERSHIP ELECTION IN 2017 RETURNED CATRHY GARDNER, HE RESOLVED TO BECOME AN INDEPENDENT 1NDEPENDENT ONCE MORE. OR INDEPEDNDENTS FOR EAST DEVON I THINK HIS FACEBOOK PAGE SAID THIS TIME.

THERE CAN BE NO DOUBT THAT NOBODY IN THE CHAMBER WANTS THE ROLE OF LEADER MORE THAN BEN, AND IT HAS BEEN CLEAR TO ME SINCE THE EVENING OF THE COUNT THAT NOTHING WOULD BE ABLE TO STOP HIM.

ULTIMATELY, JUST THIS MONDAY, THE INDEPENDENT EAST DEVON ALLIANCE WAS ABLE TO BE TOLD SOME OF HIS POLICY PROMISES. IN PARTICULAR WE WERE ATTRACTED BY STATEMENT 6.

I QUOTE:

“WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE TRANSFORMATION PORTFOLIO HOLDER AND CABINET COMPLETE THE PIECE OF WORK ALREADY COMMISSIONED LAST YEAR; A REVIEW OF THE ALTERNATOVE GOVERNANCE OPTIONS IDENTIFIED IN THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTHORITY GUIDANCE, WITHOUT PRE-CONCEIVED IDEAS. IN THE EVENT COUNCIL CONCLUDES THE COMMITTEE STRUCTIRE IS MORE SUITED TO OUR GOVERNANCE MODEL, THEN THE CONSULATION AND REFINEMMENT PROCESS IS WELL-DOCUMENTED.”

END QUOTE

THE EAST DEVON ALLIANCE OF INDEPENDENTS PROMISED EXPLICITLY TO SEEK REFORM OF THIS PLACE. I BELIEVE THAT THIS IS A KEY ISSUE FOR OUR LIBERAL DEMOCRAT COLLEAGUES TOO.

I HAVE PICKED THE BONES OUT THAT SIXTH PROMISE OF BEN, AND CONCLUDED THAT HE WILL NOT ULTIMATELY OPPOSE A MOVE TO THE COMMITTEE SYSTEM OR DRAG HIS FEET IN ANY UNJUSTIFIABLE BUREAUCRATIC DELAY – AND WITH THAT PROMISE SAFELY BANKED IN MY BACK POCKET I AM GENUINELY DELIGHTED TO NOMINATE A MAN I HAVE A LOT OF TIME FOR, BEN INGHAM.”

East Devon Alliance press statement:

“The Independent East Devon Alliance looks forward to the promise of change made by the new ruling Independent Group. We will act as a critical friend, serving the best interests of the people of East Devon.There are challenging times ahead and only by working together will the Council be able to deliver change for the better. We are pleased that the Leader of the Independent Group accepted our request to explore democratic reform and a move from Cabinet governance to the more democratic Committees system in which all councillors play an equal part.”

Paul Arnott, Leader Independent East Devon Alliance

Editor’s Note: The IEDA has 11 elected district councillors and sits as its own group within EDDC.”

Owl taken to task for TiggerTory name – confusion with “Change UK”?

Owl has had an email saying the name for the new administration (TiggerTories) could cause confusion with the small national party “Change UK” which has apparently attracted some similar naming.

Owl is sure no-one in East Devon will make such a link … there is no connection with Change UK and TiggerTories (the acronym of The Independent Group plus bedfellow true blue Tories) will likely be around much longer (four whole years) than Change UK.

So, TiggerTories it is …

Can you be the “official opposition” if one of your members chairs a committee at EDDC?

Owl is having difficulty understanding how Tories can be the “official opposition” if one of their members chairs a current influential committee (Mike Howe, Development Management).

If East devon Alliance, Lib Dems and Greens got together they would have one more member than Tories … not that this will happen, but just saying …

Surely you can’t oppose what you have just inserted yourselves into?

EDDC new Leader’s valedictory speech … deputy leader promises continuity

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/independents-take-control-east-devon-2898391

Read it if you must (it reminds Owl somewhat of a Leader’s speech from Paul Diviani in the past promising a “lean, green and seen administration)

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2015/03/30/from-the-archives-1-clean-green-and-seen-promise-east-devon-tories-in-2011/

but Councillor Susie Bond, deputy leader, put it most succinctly:

” … Our first priority is to provide continuity, ensuring the council functions better than ever. …”

So, continuity … not sure that’s what people voted for when the voted for members of the Independent Group.

Watch that space!