Independents gaining more and more council seats countrywide

Labour and Conservatives lising to Independents – even in their heartlands and, in one case, on a single issue problem. Take elections held yesterday:

Wollaton West (Nottingham): Labour GAIN from Conservative.
* Farnworth (Bolton): Farnworth & Kearsley First GAIN from Labour.
* Oakham South East (Rutland): Independent GAIN from Conservative.
Rochester West (Medway): Labour GAIN from Conservative.
Northchurch (Dacorum): Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative
Droylsden East (Tameside): Labour HOLD
* Petersfield Bell Hill (East Hampshire): Independent GAIN from Conservative
Little Parndon & Hare Street (Harlow): Labour HOLD

* = Independent victories

DCC Independents say use reserves for essential services

From Claire Wright’s blog. What sensible Independents we have and 50% of them (Claire Wright and Martin Shaw) are from East Devon!

“The additional £5m that Devon County Council is squirrelling away in reserves this year, should be spent on vital services, say the Independent Group, ahead of Thursday’s budget meeting.

This Thursday (15 February) will see the council set its budget and put back an extra £5m in the Business Rate Risk Management Reserve, in case of unexpected financial difficulty.

Devon’s four-strong Independent group of councillors – Frank Biederman, Claire Wright, Martin Shaw and Jacqi Hodgson (Green Party) are opposing this move and proposing instead that it is spent on funding vital services that are set to be lost.

The group’s proposal is:

– no health visitor posts are cut (30 posts are proposed to be lost)
– no foster carer loses any income (there are proposals to reduce the income to some foster carers)
– there are no cuts to the schools counselling programme (there is no money for this)
– dangerous pavements in the county’s towns and villages are repaired (this is an ongoing problem and people are falling and hurting themselves)

Frank Biederman, Leader of the Independent Group said: “We’re frustrated at further government cuts, which means higher council tax, again, for far fewer services, again.”

Claire Wright, Deputy Leader of the Independent Group, who seconded the motion, added: Devon’s council tax has soared by almost 20 per cent in just seven years. That’s £250 for an average band D property.

“This year it is set to rise by a further almost five per cent. It’s quite wrong and it is adding huge pressures to those people on low incomes.

“I put the blame on the Conservative government and those MPs in Devon who yet again have voted in favour of unacceptable cuts that damage people’s lives.”

“It’s a predictable disgrace. We are asking Devon County Council to write an open letter to all Devon MPs, expressing disappointment to those who let down the people of this county yet again.

“The government finds money to fund the projects it wants to but unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to support the provision of public services.”

Devon County Council’s government grant has been cut by £155m (76 per cent) since austerity began in 2010.

A further £20m is set to be cut from this year’s county council budget.

Jacqi Hodgson said: “We need to encourage people into fostering, at a time when record numbers of children are coming into the service. Not reduce pay. We know the use of private homes is not in the best interests of children and are much more costly.”

She added: “Frontline services cannot be sustained with persistent chipping away at budgets; any available monies should be spent on keeping them viable, not squirrelled away.”

Cllr Martin Shaw said: “Average earnings for a full-time male employee increased by 0 per cent – nothing – in the last year, while inflation is at 3 per cent, i.e. a decline in real income of 3 per cent. That’s the context in which massive council tax rises are being proposed.”

“Ignoring our pavements is not good for local businesses and has a tremendous cost to the person and the public purse when slips, trips and falls happen.”

The full motion is below:

A – That this council does not put a further £5millions into reserves, at the same time as asking hard pressed, low paid Devon residents to pay more council tax for fewer services than ever before.

B – that part of the five millions is used to maintain the level of pay for all Devon’s Foster Parents, so no one sees a drop in their income.

C – That part of the five millions is used to maintain numbers of Health Visitors so that no posts are made redundant.

D – that part of the five millions is used to maintain the schools counselling services, currently likely to be lost via the public health budget

E – that this council writes an open letter to Devon MPs expressing deep disappointment with those who voted in favour of cuts to Devon’s council core funding

F – that any remaining monies as part of the £5millions, is transferred to repairing pavements in our city, town and village centres.

Frank Biederman added: “We hope Councillors from across the chamber support these amendments, we all have to stand together for the people of Devon, it is clear Rural counties like Devon are the poor relation, when it comes to government funding.”

Claire Wright wins debate at Exeter University – majority of students voting on her side!

From Claire Wright’s blog:

“Exeter University students attending a debate on Friday (2 Feb) voted overwhelmingly that they had no confidence in the government.

I was arguing the case for, with law student, Kyle Spencer, a member of the Conservative Party, who has become disillusioned with the government over Brexit and Theresa May’s leadership.

Arguing that people SHOULD have confidence in the government were former Exeter Conservative candidate in last year’s general election, barrister, James Taghdissian with his debating partner, Matthew Broughton, also a member of the Conservative Party.

Matthew reminded me more than a little of a young Jacob Rees Mogg….

There was a considerable amount of eloquent posturing between the two students, but fortunately, no reports of any scuffles in the bar afterwards …. !

My second political debate at the university, it was great fun, I really enjoyed it … and it was even better that we won so decisively (not that I am in the least bit competitive of course).”

Who fights for the NHS in East Devon? Your Independent councillors!

At today’s Save Our Hospital Services demo in Exeter today. East Devon Alliance and Claire Wright make their mark but not an East Devon Tory (including our two East Devon MPs) to be seen!

East Devon Alliance DCC Councillor Martin Shaw

East Devon Alliance EDDC Councillor Cathy Gardner

DCC Independent Councillor Claire Wright

East Devon Alliance Councillors Marianne Rixson with East Devon Alliance Councillor Cathy Gardner

One of the many interviews the independent councillors did on the day.

“Hundreds protest NHS crisis in Exeter as councillor warns: ‘Only Derriford and RD&E will be left’ “

Brilliant coverage of today’s NHS demo in Exeter including interviews with EDDC East Devon Alliance councillor Cathy Gardner, DCC East Devon Alliance councillor Martin Shaw and DCC Independent Councillor Claire Wright making excellent points about the destruction of our NHS.

Greendale Business Park lose legal case for Planning Approval

Press release from Councillor Geoff Jung, East Devon Alliance Independent, Raleigh Ward:

”In a recent Planning Application, the owners of Greendale Business Park claimed that because an agricultural field has been used for open industrial storage for more than ten years they were entitled to continue that use under a little used clause in the Town and Country Planning Act, known as a “Certificate of Lawfulness”.

However, the Act stipulates it is not the length of use, but the length of a “breach in planning control”. As Laing Utilities occupied this area in association with the laying of the gas pipeline between 2006 and July 2009 and Utility companies are permitted to occupy and use locations as depots for the construction of pipelines or cables the use up to July 2009 could not be claimed to be a breach in planning control.

East Devon District Council as the (LPA) Local Planning Authority had to take legal advice and concluded that the company had not been able to demonstrate that there has been a “Breach of Planning Control for 10 years” and therefore the Application 17/2441/CPE has been refused.
Company can Appeal

The applicant however is entitled to appeal to the Secretary of State within six months of the notification of the refusal.

Enforcement Notice

The Report by East Devon District Council recommends that an Enforcement Notice is served requiring the owners to:

1. Permanently cease the use of the area shown on the plan for the storage of items not connected with agriculture and remove any such items
2. Permanently remove the perimeter and internal fencing and all hardstanding
3. Permanently remove the concrete, hardcore and drainage used to construct the
4. Permanently remove all debris and paraphernalia from the area outlined in Red and return this site to an agricultural field clear of such items.

Location of are to be returned to agricultural use outlined in red above.

Greendale Extension East

This Planning Refusal comes only a month after another case at Greendale Business Park had an Enforcement Appeal upheld by the Secretary of State. This was after a Planning Appeal Inspector agreed with the Local Authority and again required the site to be removed of all industrial activities and returned to agricultural use. (Planning Application 15/2592/MOUT).

The Owners of Greendale have now appealed to the High Court for a Judicial Review on this Enforcement Appeal.

Retrospective Planning Applications.

Both cases were the result of the owners of Greendale constructing concrete roads and yards together with security fencing, drainage, lighting and industrial buildings prior to planning permission being obtained. This is known as Retrospective Planning Permission

Village Plan

The Woodbury Salterton Residents Association, a group of residents in the small rural village next to the business park have campaigned for more clarity and a clear understanding on a defined area where Industrial use and employment is permitted and what is classed as “open countryside.”

For 5 years the team of local people have worked tirelessly, working with local Parish Councils, District Councillors and the Planning Authorities to put a halt on the unplanned unlawful development at the Business Park.

The Local Development Plan approved in January 2016 gave some guidance and clarity and the recent unsuccessful application on Hogsbrook Hill and the extension East of the main Business Park are the result of following the guidance and principles laid down in the Local Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework.

However, the local plan stated that a further planning document will follow on from the Local Plan known as the “Villages Plan” giving further guidance and clarity to the 14 largest villages in East Devon and the business parks of Greendale and Hill Barton.

This document is very nearly to the stage of adoption, with 2 public consultations and a public hearing by the Planning Inspectorate.

The final draft was submitted in December for a final public consultation with the final date for people to have a say the 2nd February.

East Devon Alliance Independent Councillor Geoff Jung, who is the Councillor for Raleigh Ward which includes the village of Woodbury Salterton and Greendale Business Park says:

“I have worked with the Planning Policy Department officers and all other Councillors at East Devon District Council and attended every Council meeting when the Village Plan has been debated and attended the public hearings. This has been to ensure that the Village Plan and especially the guidance and controls on these 2 Business Parks went through correctly and democratically.

The Planning Inspector’s proposals for the Business Parks will provide the owners of the business parks, residents and the planning authority absolute certainty of where development will be permitted and where planning will be refused.

However, at the very last Council meeting in December an amendment to remove all mention of the business parks in the Villages Plan was proposed – this was rejected but is still supported by some District Councillors. Any changes to the Inspector’s recommendation would add ambiguity and loopholes to the planning process. I would encourage all interested parties to contact the local planning with their views by the 2nd Feb.

These views will be sent on to the inspector.

The following Hyperlink takes you to the EDDC Villages Plan Page
EDDC Villages Plan Consultation:

I would like to thank the Planning Inspector Mrs Beverley Doward BSc BTP MRTPI and the East Devon team in the Planning Policy Department for a Villages Plan that will help many communities in East Devon.”

Independent EDA Councillor Shaw continues the fight for our local NHS

Thank goodness for (truly) independent councillors!


Devon County Council’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee will ask both the NEW Devon and South Devon & Torbay Clinical Commissioning Groups, which commission services in community hospitals, and NHS Property Services, which now owns the hospitals, to its next meeting on 25 January to report on the future of the hospitals now that most of them have lost their in-patient beds.

The Scrutiny Committee decided to request the discussion at its meeting yesterday (21st) after concerns were raised by Cllr Martin Shaw, who represents Seaton and areas close to Honiton, both places where hospital beds closed this summer. Cllr Shaw is pressing for the contributions to community hospitals made by local communities and Leagues of Friends to be taken into account in planning their futures, and had presented a paper on the subject to the Committee’s September meeting.

Cllr Shaw raised particular concerns over the high rents to be charged by NHS Property Services, the fact that the CCG is committed to paying for space only until the end of the current financial year, and that the CCG has specifically said that existing outpatient services are not guaranteed to continue.

‘Many services can be delivered in community hospitals’, Cllr Shaw emphasised after the meeting. “We should be talking about increasing not reducing the provision close to where patients live. If most services are concentrated in the RD&E, patients will continue to face long journeys into Exeter. With deteriorating public transport many will have to drive in and contribute to the city’s ever-growing congestion. We need joined-up planning at Devon and local levels to make the best use of the hospitals, which are community assets whoever is the legal owner.’

The motion to invite the NHS organisations was proposed by Cllr Claire Wright (Independent) and seconded by Cllr Nick Way (Liberal Democrat).

Martin Shaw
Independent East Devon Alliance County Councillor for Seaton & Colyton”