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

EDDC: political power … could be radically rejigged …

Currently:

Conservatives: 19
Green Party: 2
Independent Group: 19
Independent 1
Independent East Devon Alliance: 11
Liberal Democrats: 8

IF East Devon Alliance, Independent, Green and Lib Dems
formed a coalition they would number 22.

It would then be:
Conservatives 19
The Independent Group 19
Coalition Group 22

The coalition would be the biggest group ……….. and could, if they so wished, bring in a committee system …….

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!