EDDC Lib Dem councillor asks: “When is an Independent really independent?”

Opinion piece from EDDC Lib Dem Councillor Eileen Wragg. Though Owl feels obliged to add that she was flexible enough herself as a Lib Dem to be a member of the overwhelmingly Tory council cabinet last time around!

“We are living in uncertain times, with politics in turmoil, unrest at home and abroad. We seem to have lost direction and are desperately in need of leadership.

For some years now, I have believed that the party political system has been failing, the public despairing that they are not being listened to by those in positions of power.

Recent local elections gave voters the opportunity to express their frustrations and disquiet, which resulted in the Conservatives being ousted from power at East Devon District Council (EDDC), after 45 years, and at Exmouth Town Council after twelve years.

Having attended the first full council meeting at EDDC, I found the situation bizarre.

The Independents now form the largest group on that council.

I cannot get my head around how an Independent can become part of a group.

To me it is a contradiction; either you are an Independent or you’re not.

I tried to reason this view with the chief executive there, and he told me that it was due to political balance.

My beliefs became further compounded when, at that first meeting, the Independents, who sat together at the front of the council chamber, appeared to vote in unison in making appointments to the various committees.

The electorate who voted in May’s elections were mostly disillusioned with how local government had been operating, and there was definitely a strong protest made.

But what do we have now?

An intake of new councillors, who, unless they are known to voters, many of us don’t know what they stand for.

The next four years will be interesting, during which time the new councils will be able to prove their worth.”

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/east-devon-wragg-independent-council-opinion-1-6127634

East Devon District Council: will the Tory bodies ever be exhumed?

One of the reasons so many Independent councillors were elected was because they were not Tories! People had become sick of the way the district had been run for the last 45 years and demanded change. Part of that change was to see exactly what Tories had been up to in those 45 years when transparency was in short supply.

So, on 3 May, we were presented with:

31 Independents (20 mostly eastern-based/central-based Independents, 11 mostly western-based Independent East Devon Alliance)
19 Tories
8 Lib Dems
2 Greens

An alliance of Independents, Lib Dems and Greens would have produced 41 non-Tories – easily outnumbering 19 Tories.

What we now know happened is that eastern-based Independents (Leader Ben Ingham, Exmouth) refused to work with East Devon Alliance. We assume that Lib Dems (who agreed to work with an Independent majority, but not form a coalition with them), were similarly excluded by Mr Ingham from working with his group.

Instead, Mr Ingham chose to work with the 19 Tories, an ex-Tory (former Tory Leader Ian Thomas) and several so-called Independent councillors whose late-onset Independent roots had never been obvious or put to the test. He gave the job of Chairman of the Council to Stuart Hughes, a Cabinet post to Ian Thomas, one of the jobs representing EDDC at Greater Exeter Strategic Plan meetings to Tory Philip Skinner and several other posts to other Tory councillors. Owl has no idea what the two Green (Exmouth-based) councillors think of this arrangement.

Despite this, CEO Mark Williams presumably decided that there were NOT 31 Independents, but two kinds of totally different Independents (Independent Group, EDA) and declared Tories as the “official opposition” – in spite of them holding Cabinet and other posts. Is this constitutionally correct? How does one decide? One asks the CEO – dead end there, then!

This has led to a Tory (“official opposition”) Alan Dent, being the head of the Scrutiny Committee – the only committee that now has wide investigative powers. The Chair of this committee can say Yes or No to requests for scrutiny of any subject – his word is the only word on what goes on an agenda (as long as the CEO agrees, of course).

So, is there any chance of the Scrutiny Committee holding the previous Tory administration to account? No, zero, zilch, nada in Owl’s view.

So those Tory bodies – lying quietly tucked away for the last 45 years are almost certain to continue enjoying their slumbers.

And all because some Independents can’t or won’t work with other Independents and local Lib Dems are keeping themselves well apart where, in other areas, coalitions of Independents, Greens and Lib Dems is promising real change in formerly true-blue districts.

What is so ironic about this whole story is that, in his political career, Ben Ingham has been a Tory councillor, an Independent Councillor and Leader of the East Devon Alliance!!!

Pitiful and shameful.

Lib Dems and Indies unite against Tories – in Torbay, not East Devon

Here in East Devon it seems the larger group of Independents is working with Tories and very recently ex-Tories (called TiggerTories by Owl), leaving the smaller Lib Dem and East Devon Alliance Independents groups out in the cold. Not what most non-Tory voters were expecting. … or wanting.

“The new political leadership of Torbay Council has announced plans to invest £100m in the local economy.

The authority’s Liberal Democrat leader Steve Darling revealed the initiative to drive economic growth in a video posted on social media.

He said they had told council officers to develop business plans for £100m worth of investments.

The strategy was a key election pledge by the Liberal Democrats, who saw a big rise in support at the election in May.

The party’s councillors have joined with the Independents in a formal alliance to take control of the authority, leaving the Tories in opposition. …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/new-council-leaders-announce-100m-2949176

New “Lead Members” (aka Champions) for new council includes 8 Conservatives

More Tories get posts:

Ian Hall
Andrew Moulding
Tom Wright
Mike Allen
Chris Pepper
Maddy Chapman
Bruce de Saram
Helen Parr

One East Devon Alliance – Dan Ledger
One Kib Dem: Steve Gazzard
Two Greens – Olly Davey, Tony Woodward

 

Correction! WEDNESDAY crunch day for Indies at EDDC … and us

Elections for various posts will take place at the Annual Council meeting on WEDNESDAY (Blackdown House, Honiton, 6pm) where Leader, Chairman etc will be revealed.

Then the interesting bit.

How representative will the new cabinet be of different types of independents?

Jobs for the boys/girls or best man/woman for the job?

Will Greens or Lib Dems get a seat at the table?

Will it be loaded geographically to one side of East Devon or spread out equally?

Who will lead the influential Development Management Committee?

Who will represent EDDC at Greater Exeter Strategic Plan meetings?

Who will the MINORITY Conservative leader be?

Who will chair the Scrutiny Committee?

So many questions!

What’s the future for the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan? Highly debatable … unless …

Exeter – minor changes on 2 May (new Green Councillor, first Independendent councillor) but Labour still in control

Mid Devon – now no overall control (Lib Dems, Indies and Greens outnumber Tories)

Teignbridge – Lib Dems won control

East Devon – now no overall control (Indies, Lib Dems and Greens outnumber Tories)

Oh dear, looks like GESP may have to go back to the drawing board …

UNLESS the previous (unelected) councillors controlling it (Diviani for East Devon) and their bossy officers stitched it up before the falls from grace …

Torbay independents and Lib Dems join forces …

Owl still a bit mystified why East Devon Lib Dems want to go it alone … they would surely be a force for good countering the effect of pseudo-independents…

The Liberal Democrats and Independents have joined forces to take control of Torbay Council.

It follows the elections two weeks ago where no party won enough seats for outright control.

The Conservatives are the largest party, but now the Lib Dems with 13 seats and Independents with eight are linking up.

They say they have shared values and will work together on their priorities of housing, helping deprived areas and regeneration.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-48185493