Indie councillor wastes no time holding EDDC Leader to account**

And some very interesting answers he gets too (and the questions of other councillors are also pertinent):

To answer questions asked by Members of the Council pursuant to Procedure Rules No. 9.2 and 9.5

** Apologies for the deletion of this post earlier today due to technical problems with the attachment.

Independent councillor gets policy on car parking charges changed

“A motion put forward by councillor Paul Millar, to add car parking strategy to the list of policy areas which need the approval of full council, was approved on Wednesday (October 23).

Previously, final decisions on parking were made by the cabinet, which is made up of councillors from the ruling party.

As a result of Cllr Millar’s motion, cabinet can make recommendations to full council which will have the final say.

In its last meeting, cabinet decided to launch a consultation process on proposals to increase the hourly rate in East Devon car parks from £1 to £1.20.

The decision has been called in by the district council’s scrutiny committee which was due to hold an extraordinary meeting on Thursday (October 24).

A task and finish forum has also been set up to look at the issue.”

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/east-devon-full-council-given-car-parking-strategy-decision-1-6339334

“Senior role in East Devon’s ruling cabinet has been axed”

So, the “transformation” role in Ben Ingham’s TiggerTory cabinet has been abolished by said leader.

How convenient – no more pesky questions about the Leader’s pre-election promise to move from a Cabinet system to a committee system, more representative of the diverse groups that now exist.

Councillor Millar, understandably, believed “transformation” meant changes to the way officers AND councillors would work. Instead it seems Leader Ingham sees “transformation” as applying to more commercialisation of council services and more revenue-boosting asset-sweating or selling. In other words, a continuation of the previous Tory policies – local government as business rather than public service.

More BOGOF (buy one, get one free) than transformation!

“… No reason for the decision of the leader of the council to not replace the portfolio holder position is stated in the papers ahead of the meeting. …

Instead, the cabinet collectively will take on responsibility for delivery of the Council Plan and the associated strategies of Fit for Purpose, Careful Choices and Commercialisation of Services.

The report says that Cllr Jess Bailey, Corporate Services Portfolio holder, will take on responsibility for Digital by Design and Systems Thinking, while Cllr Geoff Pook, Asset Management Portfolio holder, will now be responsible for Commercialisation of Assets rather than Revenue Generation.

… Next Wednesday’s meeting will also see changes made to committee membership as a result of the political balance of the council changes following Cllr Millar’s resignation from the Independent Group.

The council now consists of 19 members in the Independent Group, 19 Conservatives, 11 from the East Devon Alliance, eight Liberal Democrats, two Green Party members, and one Independent, Cllr Millar.

Sitting as an Independent, he is entitled to two seats across all the committees, and the full council is recommended to approve a proposal that would see the ruling Independent Group lose a seat on both the Overview Committee and the Licensing and Enforcement Committee.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/senior-role-east-devons-ruling-3442021

What it’s like to be a REAL independent councillor

Newton (Abbot) Says No won council seats in Teignbridge with its concerns about over-development of the town. This is what it has been like for them since May:

“Ever since NSN started we’ve been lied about, misinformed against and threatened with the Police. When we started the website emails started arriving from those we’d featured on the ’rogues gallery’ page threatening police action. The Police didn’t take any. When that didn’t work, Christophers and co went to the Mid Devon Advertiser and got a front-page story about how awful we are. It won us the election.

In the run-up to that election, the then College Ward Councillor Ann Jones posted comments on the NSN Facebook page saying what she thought of us. I replied that she could say what she liked but she’d soon be out of office. She wrote “Is that a threat?” I wasn’t sure what sort of threat she thought it was. The threat of democracy? Anyway she called the police. The Police ignored her.

Throughout our election campaign we had the Police attaché to the election calling us up, sounding increasingly weary, because he had to. We couldn’t put up a single poster without someone claiming that it broke the rules of the electoral commission. Was any action against us ever taken? Of course not.

So here we are again. A shadowy cabal of Liberal Democrat councillors are putting together a committee to investigate Newton Says No and its ‘online activities’ (apparently). And they’re involving (scary organ music) … the Police! Yes! More of your taxpayer-funded police man hours will be drawn away from preventing burglary, stabbings and suicide and devoted to staring uncomprehendingly at our Facebook page, sipping tea and shrugging.

So what are these threatening missives, that curdle the blood and damn us as the gang of terrorists we are? They are two comments on my Facebook page, made by people I’ve never met. The first was in response to a satirical piece I wrote about a meeting on how to develop Wolborough Hill, at which I commented that there, awful as it was, there was a lot of nice cake. I took a picture of the cake. someone called Edith said that she hoped they choke on their cake.

The second, which I REALLY had to search for, was made by someone called Emily and says “Whoever came up with this effing plan should be shot”.

Notice how Emily even took care to write the word ‘effing’, so concerned was she about causing any offence to anyone who might read it. She then goes on to say that she would rather we do a march than withhold council tax because, not unreasonably, she doesn’t want to get into too much trouble.
That’s the class of thuggishness and villainy we’re dealing with here.These are two of the people we’re apparently working up into a pitchfork mob.

Captain Hook says it’s nothing to do with him. We believe him because, as much as he may dislike us, Gordon is a man of some principle and would not have the discourtesy to go to the press without telling us. According to Ross at the MDA it is ‘a group of Lib Dems, possibly on behalf of council officers’.

Now I know what a threatening comment is, and if I saw one it wouldn’t last two seconds on my page. But these are just people calmly expressing anger and frustration. Frustration with the people who sit in offices planning the ruination of their environment and of this corner of a despoiled, burning planet. Why shouldn’t they? The inability of these people to deal maturely with the fact that somebody, somewhere, doesn’t like them is I suppose part of this age of professional victimhood. But there’s a darker side to all this.

They want the police to make us take down any criticism, no matter how minor. Not just our own words but comments by anyone who contributes to our pages. They will want us to delete anything that expresses anger at the council and its officers, for fear of getting in trouble. They want us cut off from the caucus of people who voted for us and for whom we promised to work.

They want to make it impossible for us to criticise this council, because that will be SO much easier than actually listening to people. So much easier than steering the bulldozers away from a site of special scientific interest with an ancient water course and critically endangered species. And as ever, nobody wants to feel threatened by consensus. So they pretend it’s a different kind of threat; a threat that will win some sympathy. They pretend its a threat against the person, which they implicate us in. It’s diabolical.

We imagine that this complaint will be fobbed off like all the other attempts to use the police to intimidate us. It would be nice if someone could be arrested for wasting police time. But maybe – depending on who is ‘friendly’ with who, and who might be in the Masons – we will get the machinery of the State cracking down on us like a sledgehammer on a piece of very nice, clingfilmed cake.

Whatever happens, we’ll carry on. And we’ll tell you exactly what we’re doing, and what we’ve said, as we always have – rather than sneak around in the shadows feeding nothing-stories to the press. You know, like people with something to hide might do.”

Source: Say No to Newton Facebook page

EDDC resigned/sacked councillor attempts to change constitution over parking price rises

Nice to see the non-Independent Group councillors of different parties and no party flexing their collective muscle!

“Councillor Paul Millar has tabled a motion for the next full council meeting, calling for car park strategy to be added to the list of 12 areas of policy the full council has the final say over – taking decisions out of the cabinet’s hands.

The cabinet, made up of nine councillors from the ruling Independent Group, has agreed to put parking charge changes out to a public consultation.

The proposals include raising the hourly rate in some East Devon car parks from £1 to £1.20 and introducing pay-and-display to previously free car parks.

According to the council’s constitution, cabinet can make decisions on parking changes without consulting full council.

Cllr Millar’s motion, which has been ratified by the chief executive, would force cabinet to make a recommendation to full council instead.

In an email seen by this title, Cllr Millar writes: “I believe this amendment is a vital safeguard to ensure the leader does not rush ahead with a consultation on a policy the vast majority of members do not support.

“It would be a waste exercise, and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“I believe we must ensure that democracy is served.”

In response, East Devon leader Ben Ingham said: “With most notice of motions, unless I have put them forward or supported submission, I like to hear the debate in full before deciding.

“In the past, I have found keeping a motion simple is best.

“We shall see.”

Following the cabinet’s decision to launch a consultation, the proposals were called in by EDDC’s scrutiny committee which decided to set up a forum to consider car parking tariffs in East Devon.

Cllr Millar, an Independent councillor who is no longer part of the ruling Independent Group, is concerned that cabinet will press ahead with the consultation before the parking forum reports back with its findings.

The motion to change the constitution, set to be discussed at the full council meeting on Wednesday, October 23, has received cross party support having been seconded by Liberal Democrat Eileen Wragg.

Two other Lib Dem councillors and one Conservative have backed the motion.

Eight of the Independent East Devon Alliance councillors, including leader Paul Arnott, are listed as supporters.”

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/east-devon-constitution-amendment-tabled-1-6314614

“East Devon leader responds after call for him to resign”

Might more councillors who rushed into “The Independent Group” which Ben Ingham was so very keen to lead, be regretting their choice? If so, interesting times. As Owl has already pointed out, if all other non-Tory and non-TIG councillors came together (Independent, East Devon Alliance, Green and Lub Dem) they would be the majority group …

“East Devon leader Ben Ingham said he will not be ‘stepping aside’ after a former cabinet member called for him to resign.

Writing for this title, Councillor Paul Millar said Cllr Ingham has ‘failed to deliver a workable policy let alone the change people were asking for’.

In response, Cllr Ingham said he will not be stepping down ‘just yet’ and the ruling Independent Group are focused on delivering on its policies ‘including a balanced budget for next year’.

Cllr Millar said: “I call on Ben to do the right thing and step aside to allow someone more in touch with the reality of people’s lives to lead the council.”

In response, Cllr Ingham said: “I won’t be stepping aside just yet.

“There is so much to do and the Independent Group is eager to put our priorities into action.

“This includes preparing a balanced budget for next year.”

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/ben-ingham-response-to-resignation-call-1-6311778

John Loudon (EDDC Sidmouth Rural councillor on Sidford Business Park planning application

From the blog of John Loudon, East Devon Alliance councillor for Sidmouth Rural.

The Sidford Business Park, Chief Executive, Council Leader & Private Eye
The planning applications to build the Business Park in Sidford have received a great deal of local attention and significant opposition, and I was pleased to be able to recently give evidence at the Inquiry in opposition to the proposed development. I believe that it is the wrong thing in the wrong place. Unfortunately, the Planning Inspector who adjudicated at the Inquiry disagreed and has now given the go ahead for the Business Park.

We are where we are because there have been two planning applications submitted by Tim and Mike Ford, in the name of OG Holdings Retirement Benefits Scheme, to build this Business Park. The first of these applications was submitted in 2016 and rejected by East Devon District Council. The second was then submitted in 2018 and was again rejected by the District Council.

In listening to the evidence at the Inquiry I, and many others, were taken aback to learn a claim arising from the evidence given by a key witness for the Fords, their agent Joseph Marchant, which was repeated by their QC and which wasn’t challenged by the Council.

The claim was set out at paragraph 6.0.1 in Mr Marchant’s written evidence “Subsequent to the refusal of the 2016 application, an approach was made to Members (Councillors) including Councillor Hughes and the CEO (Chief Executive) of EDDC, Mark Williams”.

This is continued in paragraph 6.0.2 of Mr Marchant’s written evidence “We were advised by Mark Williams…. that in his opinion, the applicant (the Fords) may make more advance in progress towards delivery through appealing (the Council’s decision to refuse the 2016 planning application) rather than resubmission”.

This claim was also clearly set out in paragraphs 13 and 14 of the Fords’ QC’s final closing arguments at the Inquiry “After the 2016 application was refused, there was a meeting with Councillor Hughes and the CEO of the Council”. “The CEO advised that the way to progress was to appeal. That is an extraordinary state of affairs”.

In my opinion all of this raised serious questions, not for the first time, about the links between the District Council and developers. It could be construed that the Chief Executive’s actions and advice undermined the authority and responsibilities of not only the Council’s planning officers, but also that of the elected Members, particularly those with responsibility for oversight and decision making on planning applications.

I therefore took this matter up with the Leader of the Council and in doing so I asked him a number of questions about how this meeting, involving the District Council’s Chief Executive and the developers, came about, what was discussed at it and who was present. After a bit of toing and froing I received answers to some of my questions, and as a result I believe that this is what happened –

After the 2016 planning application to build the Business Park was turned down by the District Council Tim Ford contacted the Chief Executive’s PA on Thursday 3 November 2016 seeking a meeting with the Chief Executive. This request appears to have been acted up very quickly as the meeting took place on Tuesday 8 November at 8.30 am in the Chief Executive’s office.

Present at the meeting were the Chief Executive, Mark Williams, Paul Diviani, the then Conservative Leader of the District Council, Councillor Stuart Hughes plus the developers Tim and Mike Ford and their agent Joseph Marchant, the one and the same person who’s witness statement led to this meeting being made public. The reason for the meeting is recorded as “To discuss the Sidford Business Park”.

The District Council is unable to confirm how long this meeting took. In addition, the District Council appears to have no formal, or informal, record of what was discussed or any decisions that were reached.

I find this situation concerning. It is amazing that within 4 working days of requesting a meeting that a developer can hold a meeting involving the Chief Executive and Leader of the Council, the two most senior people within the Council, to discuss a planning application that their Council had refused. I wonder how many members of the public can get that sort of high-level access so quickly?

I am concerned that at this meeting there was no planning officer, legal adviser nor the Council’s Monitoring Officer present. Surely, any discussion about a matter relating to a planning application should have the input of a planning officer. Wouldn’t the Council be best protected by having a legal adviser present? Surely, the Monitoring Officer, who is responsible for the probity of the Council, ought to be in attendance?

There was no record of the meeting’s discussions made on behalf of the Council. I cannot understand why this was so. Surely, it’s important that a record of such a meeting is made and then shared with the planning officers? Surely, a record of the meeting should have been placed with all the other related documents in the planning application file? It’s almost as if no one wanted the meeting to have been known about by anyone else, or otherwise why not keep a record of its discussions?

My role as a campaigner against the Business Park and as a District Councillor pursing this matter has been challenged by the District Council. The Business Park is within my Ward. Local residents within my Ward and within a neighbouring Ward at Sidford have expressed concern at the proposed Business Park and the involvement of the Chief Executive in this matter. It is therefore only right and proper that I have pursued this on their behalf.

Afterall, the Local Government Association’s Guidance for new Councillors 2019/20, which the District Council provided to me upon taking office in May, states at page 7, in the section headed “The Councillor’s role” that –

“A councillor’s primary role is to represent their ward or division and the people who live in it. Councillors provide a bridge between the community and the council. As well as being an advocate for your local residents and signposting them to the right people at the council, you will need to keep them informed about the issues that affect them”.

It goes on to explain that –

“As a local councillor, your residents will expect you to: … know your patch and be aware of any problems … represent their views at council meetings … lead local campaigns on their behalf”.

This guidance was reinforced to Councillors through the training that it provided in May 2019.

I don’t feel comfortable with some aspects of how the District Council has handled this planning application. I don’t feel comfortable about –

how quickly a developer was able to gain swift access to the most senior people in the Council.
that other key Officers weren’t present at the meeting.
that no record of the meeting was made by the Council.
I know for sure that many local residents remain uncomfortable too. As does Private Eye which has picked up on this story on 20 September.”

The Sidford Business Park, Chief Executive, Council Leader & Private Eye