Has your MP signed today’s letter to George Osborne?

Critics say rural broadband in Devon is in dire straits, partly because EDDC failed to work together with DCC to get maximum funding.

Now more than 100 MPs concerned about lack of broadband investment in their own areas have written to George Osborne, as detailed in this extract from the Broadband for Rural Devon and Somerset (B4RDS) Facebook page:

‘Over 100 MP’s of all parties have today taken an open letter to George Osborne calling for him to invest in fixed and mobile broadband. This is before next Wednesday’s announcement of the Autumn spending cuts. If your MP hasn’t signed you should ask him/her why not.’

Link to the letter, and names of MP’s who’ve signed, is here:


“Broadband a question of haves and havenots”, Councillor Twiss told EDDC Scrutiny.

Report sent to East Devon Watch:

‘More ‘best practice’ was evident at EDDC Scrutiny Committee at Knowle yesterday evening (12/11/2015). From the start, Chair Roger Giles (Independent, Ottery St Mary) insisted that presentations should be brief and not include the reading out of information that had been circulated to councillors in advance. Using questions and answers was a more useful tool for this committee , he advised.
This proved correct straightaway, in the close examination of Devon’s broadband provision. Five stakeholders had been called to speak and answer questions. They were Andrew Moulding, Chair of Devon County Council’s (DCC) Place Scrutiny Committee and Deputy Leader of East Devon District Council (EDDC); Cllr Phil Twiss, EDDC Corporate Services portfolio holder; Paul Coles, BT Regional Manager, South West ; Phil Roberts, Programme Manager for superfast broadband delivery, Connecting Devon & Somerset (CDS) ; and Graham Long, Upottery Parish Councillor, with 20 years’ experience with Hewlett Packard, for whom he ran the EU support network.

Questions included one sent, in her absence, from Cllr Susie Bond (Independent, Feniton & Buckerell), asking why the broadband situation in parts of her constituency was “appalling”. Particularly intense questioning came from Cllrs Marianne Rixson (Independent, Sidmouth Sidford Ward ) , and Val Ranger (Independent, Newton Poppleford & Harpford),who had clearly done their homework, both closely referring to the document submitted by CDS, and finding some apparent inaccuracies (e.g. Could the audit done by EDDC’s internal auditors, SWAP, properly be described as ‘independent’?). Cllr Ranger wondered why, of 26 interested parties in 2014, only two had submitted a formal tender.
Phil Roberts (CDS) reported that CDS had decided not to sign a second contact with BT, and that there would now be a different approach to tendering . For the next phase, CDS were currently looking at other providers , as well as talking to BT, he said.

Much of the time, Cllrs Moulding and Twiss looked uncomfortably out of their depth, not least when it emerged that EDDC and DCC had not worked together to obtain maximum funding, thereby missing out on millions of pounds.

Graham Long, “astonished to find how slow broadband is in Devon”, explained that “Fibre is best for reliability, speed and bandwidth. But fibre-to-cabinet works as an urbancentric solution. It doesn’t work in rural areas”. Cllr Ben Ingham (Independent, Woodbury & Lympstone) told the Committee, “I’m really flabbergasted that BT are picking the poor relation of technology”.

The broadband issue is certain to continue. Next Monday DCC’s Place Scrutiny Committee will hear CDS feedback on its recommendations (14h00, County Hall, Exeter). More questions and answers are no doubt being prepared!’

Tories of East Devon – You just don’t get it, do you?

Wednesday 3rd June

The motion to delay the Knowle Sale by 6 months was placed before Full Council by Cllr Cathy Gardner and Cllr Matt Booth.  They both presented very reasoned cases for the delay and were conciliatory in their approach.  They stressed Transparency to the residents of East Devon and in particular Sidmouth.  They did not oppose the move merely asked for more time to allow greater consultation to ensure that the Council made the right decision.

The reaction was set by Cllr Williamson who insisted that as the decision had already been validated by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (with a set of “independent” auditors) there was no need to delay – in fact he maintained that there was a need for greater speed.  Other speakers opposing the motion spoke of the need to move and how inappropriate the current building was.

Tories – you just don’t get it!  It is recognised that the current buildings are not fit for purpose AND SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE – but what that is and how due process is applied is the central issue in this motion.

Previous Committees and Councils sanctioned a move to Sky Park – not a mention of that! Then a sudden concept of two premises – why the change?

The appeal to the Freedom of Information request was scathing of the Council – no acceptance of that or any explanation of what was so important within the papers that they could not be released – I doubt most Tory members had even read (or been able to read) them.

Reference to election results and other “facts” but no concept of the Perception of the public – they rightly feel marginalised.

Tories – you seem to have forgotten that you serve your community – these assets are not yours – they are not even EDDC’s – they are owned by the Council Tax Payers of East Devon – you merely act as temporary custodians in the passage of time.  You MUST consult with your Community – you have failed to do this as on other occasions.  You were given the opportunity last night to make a fresh start with Openness and Transparency – you rejected that offer with your customary arrogance.

The motion was defeated by a recorded vote – this may come back to bite you!



Tribunal’s decision, on Knowle ‘secret’ papers, featured on Radio Devon News.

An interview with Jeremy Woodward ,whose Freedom of Information (FOI)  request set in motion a chain of events which has led to the Tribunal’s decision yesterday against EDDC, can be heard here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02q2k4d#auto at 3mins 30secs. It was broadcast again an hour later, at about 1hour 3mins.

Immediately following the Tribunal’s report, another FOI request on the subject of EDDC’s office relocation was sent,this time by Chair of Save Our Sidmouth, Richard Thurlow. Details at this link:   http://futuresforumvgs.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/knowle-relocation-project-progress.html



“Is the Deputy Chief Executive fit for purpose?”, some are now asking

EDDC’s press release today (see our previous post) speaks of ‘lessons to be learned’ from the Tribunal’s scathing report, though it overlooks the fact that the criticism was “unanimous”, and not solely from the judge. There is no reference to the reportedly “discourteous” manner exhibited by EDDC , though the Council regrets  that the Tribunal found it at times “unhelpful”.

To compare this press release with the one posted earlier today from Save Our Sidmouth (which contains the the Tribunal’s devastating comments), go to these links:
and http://saveoursidmouth.com/2015/05/05/sos-press-release-on-tribunal-decision/

Hugo doesn’t get Hilary’s vote

Sent by a correspondent:

Couple of good pieces in the online Echo today which hopefully will transfer to the print version tomorrow.

First a report on the Telegraph blog:


And second a report on the News Statesman Hilary Mantel support:




A “discourteous” and “unhelpful” Council….Leader sets the tone

See this exchange between Cllr Susie Bond (Ind) and EDDC Leader Paul Diviani (Con).  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEZN2L_v6Js

EDW footnote: The Council had agreed to conduct an independent inquiry once the police investigation into ex-Councillor Graham Brown (following the Telegraph’s ‘Councillor for Hire’ sting, March 2013) had ended.  Cllr Bond (who took the Feniton and Buckerell seat with 87% of the vote, after Graham Brown’s resignation from it), asks if the Council will conduct its own investigation, as decided.

The Leader’s response (with backup from Chair Graham Godbeer (Con) , heard in the background saying Cllr Bond was not asking a question ) is fairly typical of what has been regularly observed by the public at Council meetings.

EDDC loses its appeal to keep Knowle relocation reports secret, with scathing commentary on Council’s behaviour!

The Judge’s report ends with this REMARKABLE paragraph:

‘ This Tribunal takes the unusual and unfortunate step of commenting on the conduct of the appeal itself.

We are unanimous in our view that this appeal has taken much longer than it should have done and the reason for this seems to be the failure on the part of the public authority, the appellant, to address itself with sufficient attention to the details of what information and documents it was sup- plying to the Commissioner and ultimately also to the Tribunal.

It was not until March 2015 that a fully legible copy of the disputed information was supplied and seemed to be complete. This is, in our collective experience, wholly exceptional and the time spent dealing with what we believe to be five different sets of disputed information is simply not a good use of the Tribunal’s time nor fair, in terms of delay, to the requester.

Correspondence on behalf of the Council, rather than ensuring the Tribunal was assisted in its function, was at times discourteous and unhelpful including the statement that we had the most legible copies possible. A statement, which was clearly inaccurate as subsequently, we have been provided with perfectly legible documents.

We believe this appeal could and should have been dealt with completely at the hearing in August 2014 and the decision promulgated six months ago had the Council discharged its responsibilities properly’.

A press release is due shortly, from Save our Sidmouth.