EDDC: the resigned/sacked councillor saga continues…

Owl says: Of course, none of this would be happening if Leader Ingram had been prepared to work with the other independent group – East Devon Alliance (of which he had previously been leader – after being an independent independent – after being a Tory!).

AND it re-ignites the argument: who actually runs the council: councillors or officers? In theory, officers advise, councillors decide …..

“Cllr Paul Millar, who represents the Exmouth Halsdon ward, quit the Independent Group who are in control of East Devon District Council

A blistering attack on East Devon District Council’s management has been launched by a councillor who resigned from group running the council.

Cllr Paul Millar, who represents the Exmouth Halsdon ward, quit the Independent Group on Monday night.

In an email announcing his departure from the group, Cllr Millar said he found working with the Senior Management Team and trying to have any influence over his transformation portfolio to be impossible, that he had no confidence in the senior management, and that the Independent Group has little desire to change anything really at all.

His resignation from the group means that they are no longer the largest party on the council, with both them and the Conservatives having 19 seats each.

In a response, Cllr Ben Ingham, leader of the council, said that he thanked Cllr Millar for his contribution but that the ‘personal and unfounded comments’ do not help advance understanding of the work carried out by East Devon District Council’s officers and councillors.

It is understood that Cllr Millar had been removed from his transformation portfolio role by Cllr Ingham prior to his resignation from the group.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Millar confirmed that he would remain a member of the council and would sit as an Independent not aligned to any group.

He said that he has found local casework immensely fulfilling and this will enable him to concentrate on that and he joked that his contributions to the cabinet wouldn’t be missed as his ideas seemed to be ignored and they didn’t give him anything to do.

In his resignation statement, Cllr Millar said: “Since being elected I have sadly found working with the Senior Management Team and trying to have any influence over my portfolio to be impossible. I was not once asked my view on any matter of policy or given information with which to make any real decision.

“I raised this on a number of occasions, and was sent an email by the Monitoring Officer telling me it is ‘impractical’ for councillors to make even a ‘small fraction’ of decisions.

“Although I’m very new, as a democrat I found this despairing and disappointing as I believe elected representatives are best placed to make decisions in the public interest. We take the blame when things go wrong, so we should have more control, as we’re the ones on the ground.”

Cllr Millar was absent from last Thursday’s overview and scrutiny committee meeting where the service plan objectives for 2019/20 where being evaluated due to illness, but had he attended, he said: “I would’ve struggled to explain what I’d done at the as I’ve not been given any opportunity to make a single major decision. I can only conclude this has been a deliberate action taken by the officer lead for my former portfolio.”

He added that he has no confidence in the current Senior Management and he would like to work with colleagues to at some point submit a motion of no confidence against the Senior Management Team.

He said: “I have become convinced by my short experience and conversations with others across parties that cultural change at the top is required if East Devon District Council is ever to provide a better service, win greater trust among our residents and to have fewer decisions made behind closed doors by officers who are unelected, unaccountable and often I believe show an arrogant contempt towards councillors.”

And he questioned whether the current administration in charge of the council was sustainable for much longer, and his departure means that the Independent Group, which was made up of 20 individual Independent councillors, is no longer the largest group, with the Conservatives also have 19.

He said: “My departure means the ‘Independent Group’ no longer has any majority and as a result to my mind no longer has any mandate to continue as the current administration.

“I will be voting against the Council Plan as I believe it is mostly a load of wishy-washy nonsense written entirely by senior officers, some of whom view our residents merely as “customers” to have money sucked out of, and underestimate the intelligence and ability of elected representatives. In its current form the plan gives the council and the current administration no clear direction of travel.

“Worst of all, I’ve been disappointed that the Independent Group has little desire to change anything really at all. I’ve never been part of a more autocratically-minded institution in my life, and my old Students’ Union was pretty bad.

“The leader and deputy leader have consistently bowed to the SMT (senior management team) in the name of ‘continuity’. It’s been so frustrating and there’s no active feeling that SMT want to work with councillors.”

Cllr Ingham, in response, said he was grateful for the work Cllr Millar had carried out and wished him well for the future.

He added: “It is very unfortunate when individuals resort to personal and unfounded comments. Such attacks do not help us advance understanding of the work carried out by East Devon District Council’s officers and councillors and their respective roles and responsibilities as detailed in the council’s constitution. Rather, they confuse, contribute to rumours and create more harm.”

“However, I am confident that the council offered Cllr Millar a high level of support and assistance to help him try to adjust to the demands of being a Portfolio holder, and I thank him for his contribution.

“On behalf of the council I am very grateful for the work that Cllr Millar has carried out since his election and appointment to the cabinet and wish him well for the future. Looking forwards, though, it is business as usual for East Devon.”

It is understood that Cllr Ingham had sacked Cllr Millar from his role as he failed to take the ‘many chances’ given to ‘show respect to officers and each other at all times’.

Cllr Millar’s resignation leaves the Independent Group and the Conservatives both holding 19 seats on the council. The East Devon Alliance hold 11, the Liberal Democrats eight, the Green Party two, and one Independent.

A meeting of Conservatives members will take place next week to discuss what, if any, moves they plan to make to try and regain control of the council.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/councillor-quits-independent-group-launches-3313607

Who decided to sack “Independent Group” councillor?

LATE CORRECTION: Greens are independent of the Independent Group but Ollie David accepted the role as Lead Member for Environmental Health and the other Green councillor accepted the role of Lead Member for Health and Wellbeing.

How does a group of Independent Councillors sack an independent councillor?

We know how parties and alliances do or might sack a member councillor – they would have a committee meeting of elected members, make a decision and communicate it to other members and the councillor concerned.

But the “Independent Group” appears to have simply decided it was a group and elected itself a leader in the first week of the new council. As it then had the most seats, its Leader got to be Leader of the new council. Green Party councillors also joined the Independent Group (can you be even be Independent and Green Party?). It did not follow up with a committee or internal executive as far as we know, the Leader simply chose Cabinet and other roles for councillors – some of whom were Tories (eg Head of Development Management Committee) and one of whom was an East Devon Alliance member (Dan Ledger – Procurement).

So, did the Leader unilaterally decide to sack Councillor Paul Millar from the Independent Group, or were all of its members involved in the decision or just a small number of them? If so, were Tory councillors and Green councillors also involved in the decision (it seems unlikely the EDA councillor would have been consulted)?

Who initiated the call for the sacking? Were officers involved and, if so, how and why? Will the Monitoring be involved? Was the Monitoring Officer involved? Was the inexperienced, young councillor offered advice or extra training in his new role?

So many questions!

Who will get ditched councillor’s seat on “Queen’s Drive Exmouth Community Interest Company”?

Currently, directors are:

Ben [Correction: Sam] Hawkins – EDDC Independent Group councillor (Cranbrook)
Paul Millar – fired/resigned Independent Group councillor
Glen Woodcock – Grenadier
Grenadier Exmouth (whatever that means)

Source:
https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/11017649/officers

It will be REALLY interesting to see who gets the challice! In the gift of Leader Ingham? Depends as Tories and Independent group currently level pegging!

More revelations: EDDC Leader now says he sacked councillor BEFORE he resigned!

This omnishambles story gets more complucated by the minute!

“An Exmouth district councillor who quit the Independent party and attacked the district council’s senior management was sacked from Cabinet, an email has revealed.

In correspondence seen by the Journal, district council leader Ben Ingham said he had already removed Cllr Millar from his role as transformation portfolio holder with ‘immediate effect’ the day before his resignation was announced.

Cllr Millar sent an email to colleagues in which he directed criticism at East Devon District Council’s senior management team.

In an email exchange, Cllr Ingham said: “It was necessary to do this [remove Cllr Millar from post] for a number of reasons over a sustained period.”

Cllr Ingham said he was forced to sack Cllr Millar as he failed to take the ‘many chances’ given to him to ‘show respect to our officers and each other at all times’.

Cllr Ingham said: “This left me with no other choice.

“As a result he has chosen to leave our group.

“The Independent Group placed much faith and hope in Paul Millar.

“We consider it a great shame he was not able to work with us and our outstanding officers. We will adjust accordingly.”

Speaking today, Cllr Millar said: “I was trying to make a contribution but I don’t feel as though I was given any opportunity to do that.

“There have been a few occasions where I have clashed with senior officers.

“It is going to take me a while to learn the ropes. To become a new councillor and be put on the Cabinet, starting straight away while having a full time job, is always going to be a challenge.

“It would have been nice to meet the senior officers to be briefed on important decisions.

“I don’t feel as though I could make important decisions. I am going to carry on as a councillor and try and learn as much as I can and do the best job I think I can locally.”

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/cllr-millar-sacked-before-resignation-1-6262548

Former “Independent Group” councillor expands on reasons for resignation

Just one thing missing from Councillor Ingham’s justification below – why did he choose a brand new councillor to be an important portfolio holder?

Answer: because he utterly refused to co-operate with other independent councillors – many of them experienced – because they belonged to the group he formerly led (East Devon Alliance), preferring to appoint Conservative councillors or ex-councillors (he had also been a Conservative!) from the “ancien regime”, which led this blog to call the group “TiggerTories”.

As you sow, so shall you reap.

“East Devon District Council is in political deadlock after the dramatic resignation of one of the ruling independent group’s councillors.

Former Independent Group councillor Paul Millar, who represents Exmouth Halsdon, resigned today, accusing the district council leadership team of keeping him in the dark on important policy issues.

The council is now deadlocked with 19 Independent councillors and 19 Conservative councillors.

Despite this the council’s leader, councillor Ben Ingham, has said that, ‘it is business as usual for East Devon’.

Nub News contacted Paul Millar and asked him to explain his reasons for resigning, he said: “My experience was that in my four months in the Cabinet I wasn’t asked what I thought about anything, I wasn’t briefed, given options with which to make informed decisions, and attempts to have any influence over my portfolio proved to be impossible.

“In my first week, an email was sent out to colleagues “on my behalf” without me having the opportunity to sign it off or influence its contents. This really upset me because it suggested to colleagues I had formed a particular view on a subject that I hadn’t.

“Being new to local government, I would have appreciated more support and, ultimately, I came to the sad conclusion that some in the Senior Management Team simply don’t trust Councillors to make the decisions the people elected us to make.

He added: “I do respect that others may view things in a different way, but I guess I just wanted to be honest and I’ve been humbled by the number of colleagues across parties who’ve agreed with my sentiments.”

Councillor Ben Ingham, leader of East Devon District Council, has responded to councillor Millar’s resignation stating, ‘it is business as usual for East Devon. He said: “It is very unfortunate when individuals resort to personal and unfounded comments. Such attacks do not help us advance understanding of the work carried out by East Devon District Council’s officers and councillors and their respective roles and responsibilities as detailed in the Council’s Constitution. Rather, they confuse, contribute to rumours and create more harm.

“However, I am confident that the council offered councillor Millar a high level of support and assistance to help him try to adjust to the demands of being a portfolio holder, and I thank him for his contribution. On behalf of the council I am very grateful for the work that councillor Millar has carried out since his election and appointment to the Cabinet and wish him well for the future. Looking forwards, though, it is business as usual for East Devon.”

Nub News was contacted by East Devon councillor and chairman of the East Devon Conservative Association, Bruce de Saram, he had this to say: “Clearly Paul Millar doesn’t yet fully grasp the difference between strategic and operational roles on a council, which I find puzzling, given his previous role as an advisor to a Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson; you might have thought he would understand something of the democratic process and the slow pace of it at times.

“There is huge democratic input and the officers at EDDC do an excellent job on behalf of all residents of East Devon in what is a very challenging work environment. It is hugely unfair and inappropriate to criticise them when they have no right of reply; councillor Millar needs to understand that ‘changing the world’ takes more than three months.”

However in conclusion Councillor de Saram sincerely wished Councillor Millar well and said he looks forward to seeing him at future meetings as a “genuine independent”.

https://exmouth.nub.news/n/district-council-deadlocked-after-dramatic-resignation

“Exmouth councillor’s resignation from ‘sinking ship’ Independent group ‘inevitable’ says Conservative chairman”

Councillor Millar was councillor for “transformation” and was investigating the change to the committee system that Independent Group Leader Boris (whoops, sorry Ben) Ingham had been all in favour of – until he became council leader.

“Councillor Bruce de Saram said ‘others are likely to follow’ after Cllr Paul Miilar sensationally resigned from the Independent group, effectively cancelling out its majority at district council.

In an email seen by the Journal, Cllr Millar criticised senior management at East Devon District Council (EDDC) for not consulting him on policy decisions.

Cllr De Saram said that criticism of senior management is ‘hugely unfair and inappropriate’ when they have no right of reply.

When approached by the Journal, Cllr Millar said his comments were based on his own personal experience of the few months he was on the district council cabinet.

Cllr De Saram said: “Councillor Paul Millar is the first senior member of the administration to jump ship before it sinks, whilst blaming others for his decision with others likely to follow.

“Clearly Paul Millar doesn’t yet fully grasp the difference between strategic and operational roles on a council, which I find puzzling, given his previous role as an advisor to a Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson.

“You might have thought he would understand something of the democratic process and the slow pace of it at times.

“There is huge democratic input and the officers at EDDC do an excellent job on behalf of all residents of East Devon in what is a very challenging work environment.

“Councillor Millar needs to understand that ‘changing the world’ takes more than three months.”

Cllr De Saram went on to say he looks forward to seeing Cllr Millar at future meetings as a ‘genuine independent’.

Cllr Millar’s resignation now means the council is deadlocked at 19 Independents and Conservative members apiece.

The Conservative members are set to hold a meeting next week where they will discuss the party’s next move.

Cllr Andrew Moulding, leader of the Conservatives at EDDC, said: “It is too early to say what we will do.

“This could be the start of more people moving away from the Independent group.”

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/east-devon-conservatives-react-as-councillor-quits-independent-group-1-6262323

Exmouth Journal: misleading headline

The headline is:

“Exmouth seafront regeneration talks to no longer be held in secret”

HOWEVER, as the article goes on to say:

following concerns over the ‘secretive’ nature of the new group, East Devon District Council’s cabinet agreed that while the group would meet in private until January 1, the situation would then be reviewed as to if it could be opened up to the public.”

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/exmouth-regeneration-groups-talks-no-longer-secret-1-6258682

Not the same thing by any stretch of the imagination.

Still, Tory Exmouth town and district councillor Bruce de Sarum is now a member of the group and he has promised us all complete transparency:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/09/07/tory-party-gangs-up-on-the-independent-group-in-exmouth-about-transparency-and-open-ness/

so it’s all fine – isn’t it!