Reply from EDDC Leader Ben Ingham on previous post

Councillor Ben Ingham, Leader of EDDC and the Independent Grouphas responded to the article below. He responded in red print, which Owl cannot reproduce, so his comnents are in BOLD and a

LARGER FONT

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,

(8 from Exmouth & Budleigh area – west)

11 mostly western-based Independent East Devon Alliance)

(Central and eastern)

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.

36 would have been a workable maximum. Some were mutually exclusive.

What we now know happened is that eastern-based Independents (Leader Ben Ingham, Exmouth) refused to work with East Devon Alliance.

The EDA wanted to implement a Leadership Board of 6 at the annual meeting 22nd May, which was considered by the Independents as unnecessary, unworkable and definitely unconstitutional.

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.

The Lib Dems refused to join the cabinet or take up any part if the administration. They turned down Lead positions as well.

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.

The Tories are not in our Cabinet whatsoever. They hold the Chair because we felt we needed an experienced Chair to make sure Full Council is run properly. This is a civic appointment only.

a Cabinet post to Ian Thomas, one of the jobs representing EDDC at Greater Exeter Strategic Plan meetings to Tory Philip Skinner.

that is not a GESP appointment. His influence iinsignificant (sic) or he would not be there.

and several other posts to other Tory councillors.

The outside bodies and panels are as they describe, not within the core team of the council

Owl has no idea what the two Green (Exmouth-based) councillors think of this arrangement.

They too were invited to join the cabinet or take Chairs/vice chairs. They declined everything until they are better acquainted with the Council’s functions, which is understandable.

Despite this, CEO Mark Williams presumably decided that there were NOT 31 Independents, but two kinds of totally different Independents (Independent Group, EDA).

Very foolishly, it was EDA who created the second group, without any consultation. Their leader insisted this was necessary to get the correct seat allocation. For the four previous years we were one group. EDA opted out with no discussion, therefore making the Tories the biggest group! The Independent group of 15 immediately worked to stop this by inviting the other 5 to join them, there was no choice. Otherwise the Tories would have challenged for leadership of EDDC as the largest group!

and declared Tories as the “official opposition” –

Fortunately the Independents did increase to 20, and stopped that happening, no thanks to the EDA!

in spite of them holding Cabinet and other posts.

No Tories in Cabinet

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 main opposition select the Chair of Scrutiny, just like we selected Roger Giles 4 years ago

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.

Your opinion, no evidence

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

Your opinion, no evidence

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.

Unfortunately the EDA leadership ruled EDA out by insisting on a leadership board and splitting the Independent Group in two. We were left on our own. The new 5 Independents would not work with the EDA.

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!!!

And you were a die-hard socialist, but claim now to be an independent? All things must pass.

Pitiful and shameful.

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.

Teignbridge: “Husband and wife given £200,000 ‘golden handshake’ when they left council”

“Husband and wife duo Neil and Sue Aggett left their posts at Teignbridge in 2018 and details revealed in the statement of accounts that have now been published on the council’s website reveal the pair received more than £200,000 as compensation for the loss of their employment

Two senior council officers who left Teignbridge District Council via voluntary redundancy as part of a major management reshuffle were given a more than £200,000 ‘golden handshake’, it can be revealed.

Husband and wife duo Neil and Sue Aggett left their posts at the council in 2018 after a combined nearly 60 years of service.

Mrs Aggett, who earned more than £80,000 a year, was the business lead for environment, health and wellbeing. She had spent more than 22 years working at the council.

Mr Aggett, who was the monitoring officer and democratic services manager for the council, had worked for the council for 37 years.

Details revealed in the statement of accounts that have now been published on the council’s website reveal the pair received more than £200,000 as compensation for the loss of their employment.

Mrs Aggett, as council director, was paid £123,586 as compensation for the loss of her employment, plus £8,468 as salary for the work she did between April 1 and April 30 when her employment ceased, and £1,236 in pension contributions, for a total of £133,298.

Mr Aggett, as monitoring officer, was paid £81,288 as compensation for the loss of his employment, plus £16,281 as salary for the work he did between April 1 and June 30 when his employment ceased, and £2,377 in pension contributions, for a total of £100,273.

Questions had previously been asked of the council as to the details of their pay-offs, including by Cllr Liam Mullone, leader of the Newton Says No group of councillors, when he called for full public disclosure regarding the reported large payments made to the pair at May’s annual council meeting.

In response, Cllr Alan Connett, the new portfolio holder for corporate resources, said that he could not reveal the details at that stage as the information in relation to exit packages for employees was exempt from disclosure and could not be revealed at that stage due to the agreements signed as part of their departures.

He added though that the details of the exit packages would be provided in the annual accounts under the Accounts and Audit Regulations, which has now taken place.

Cllr Connett at the council meeting also added: “We will be looking at whether in future we can adopt an open approach in Teignbridge and were we to have future instances of to achieving efficiencies via redundancies, we would want there to be public knowledge of those payments upfront.”

He added that if in future they had to say goodbye to more staff in the interest of efficiency and to save money, it would only be done is there would be a long term saving made and that they would try and be open and transparent about payments.

Phil Shears, the council’s managing director, had said last year that he was restructuring the management of the council which in the long term would save money, which would in turn ‘benefit local tax payers by keeping tax increases low.

He took over as the managing director of the council at the start of 2018 following the departure of former CEO Nicola Bulbeck.

She was given a £264,000 pay-off when she left her role after an 11-year stint in June 2017 including an award of £173,000 as ‘compensation for loss of employment’.

Her leaving package was initially kept secret from the public and the council turned down a Freedom of Information request to release the figures, but was revealed in the 2017/18 statement of accounts.

Mr Shears’s salary when he was appointed was in the range between £94,656 – £105,168 – a 25 per cent reduction on the £141,972 remuneration in the 2015/16 financial year that Ms Bulbeck was paid.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/husband-wife-given-200000-golden-2972079

“Campaign to keep Brighton General Hospital land public”

“CAMPAIGNERS fighting to keep Brighton General Hospital land in public ownership are calling for more people to get involved.

About 100 people heard NHS campaigners, councillors and two MPs at a public meeting speak about the using the site for low-cost social housing.

Plans to redevelop the former Victorian workhouse at the top of Elm Grove are under discussion.

A new community health hub is proposed for the current ambulance station site, with a GP surgery and pharmacy, along with existing services for mental health, podiatry and early parenting. Health chiefs have said the cost of the project could be funded by selling the rest of the site for housing.

When Brighton and Hove City Council’s health and wellbeing board was given a briefing in November last year, one suggestion was the site be used to build homes for health workers.

An online petition, calling for meaningful public consultation about the future of the site, as well as asking for community beds and homes for social rent has more than 1,300 signatures.

Green councillor David Gibson said the site was a public asset in a city with “horrendous” housing problems. He added the Greens and Labour councillors and activists from the Brighton Housing Coalition, Sussex Defend The NHS and the Save Whitehawk Hill group had come together to shift the agenda to social housing.

Cllr Gibson said: “Privatisation and inequality have gone together. This country has become one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.

“You get better outcomes if you narrow inequality. If you want to narrow inequality, you need public provision, public support and public services which are decent.”

He said the council’s chief executive Geoff Raw would be meeting the board of the Brighton General landowner, Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, to discuss options.

The campaign is pushing for the site to be taken into council ownership.

Carolyn Pickering, of Sussex Defend The NHS, reminded the audience the NHS freed people from the fear of choosing which child to spend their savings on if one became ill. She said: “The land is still part of the NHS. The NHS belongs to us and the land belongs to us so they should not be allowed to sell it.”

Council leader Nancy Platts said: “We will be inviting all interested parties into meetings about the Brighton General site and this includes the Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust as well as those campaigning about the future use of the site.”

https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/17673627.campaign-to-keep-brighton-general-hospital-land-public/

Sign up to help REALLY scrutinise EDDC (or any other council’s) spending last financial year

“Today Bureau Local launches an exciting pilot project for a new kind of collaboration – and we need your help!

During a set period each year the public has the right to inspect the accounts and related documents of every local authority in the UK. The power is supposed to make local government, and other public bodies, more accountable. In reality, most people are unaware of their rights and fewer still are making use of them.

This is where you come in!

We are looking for people to take part in a trial crowdsourced local democracy project, where network members sign up to make use of this law to scrutinise the finances of their local authority throughout June (in England, times vary in other parts of the UK).

We hope you will help us find more information about the property consultants advising local councils on their investments. But you will also be able to use the guide we have created to look at and get copies of other documents that interest you too.

We hope the information we obtain will lead to local and national stories. But we also plan to submit our findings to the government, as we have done previously during our ongoing investigation into council finances, and to take what we learn from this pilot and hopefully turn it into a yearly event.

Read our guide to this project

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1RhOWI7FT82xC9Cdgi4an1KZ5rfT78S93NVy69FqVPBQ/mobilebasic

and the law it is based on. Then you can sign up using this spreadsheet:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Xbbq3rgu1MfF11ckbVa37pJdFN43V5hCbx6EV_8YnIs/htmlview

Once you have done that let our reporter

garethdavies@tbij.com

know and he will add you to the newly created channel on our Slack.

Also, if you would like to take part in this project or would like to know more, we will be holding an open newsroom in the #newsroom channel of our Slack between 1pm and 2pm on Thursday 6 June.”

https://mailchi.mp/tbij/our-latest-story-is-out-we-announce-a-local-democracy-project-and-a-new-open-newsroom-series-last-chance-to-be-our-new-community-organiser?

“Peer who never spoke in Lords last year claims £50,000 expenses””

“A Labour peer claimed almost £50,000 in attendance and travel expenses covering every single day the House of Lords was sitting last year, despite never speaking or asking any written questions, a Guardian investigation reveals.

The former trade union general secretary David Brookman was among dozens of other lords and baronesses who never took part in a single debate, while almost a third of the 800 peers barely participated in parliamentary business over a 12-month period despite costing almost £3.2m in allowances.

The details have emerged from a new analysis of public data that will raise fresh questions about the size and effectiveness of the Lords, and the funds that can be claimed by those who fail to regularly contribute.

The findings show:

Eighty-eight peers – about one in nine – never spoke, held a government post or participated in a committee at all.

Forty-six peers did not register a single vote, including on Brexit, sit on a committee or hold a post. One peer claimed £25,000 without voting, while another claimed £41,000 but only voted once.

More than 270 peers claimed more than £40,000 in allowances, with two claiming more than £70,000.

The former Lords speaker Frances D’Souza, a long-term advocate of reform, said the findings corroborated “what everyone suspects is going on”, and that a minority of peers risked discrediting the hard work of their colleagues.

“There’s clearly a need to reduce numbers,” Lady D’Souza said, adding that the research “clearly shows there are people who are attending the House of Lords who are not contributing, and therefore they are simply redundant”.

The Guardian’s analysis covers the attendance, participation and allowances claims of 785 lords serving for a full year between 2017 and 2018. They comprise 244 Conservatives, 196 Labour and 97 Liberal Democrats, as well as 248 crossbench peers and various others.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/30/labour-peer-never-spoke-house-of-lords-claims-50000-expenses?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Those optimistic “growth” figures from our LEP look even more unlikely

“Calling an organisation the “UK 2070 Commission” is not without its risks. Who cares what happens that far out?

But that, in a sense, is the point. The commission, set up to investigate Britain’s “marked regional inequalities”, publishes its first report today. And, as its chairman Lord Kerslake puts it: “If you want to understand what happens in economics, you need to look 50 years back and 50 years out.” Indeed, as the commission notes: “The reference to 2070 is an explicit recognition that the timescales for successful city and regional development are often very long, in contrast to the short-termism of political cycles.”

A Brexit-addled government nicely illustrates that — not that it’ll have been any surprise to Lord Kerslake, the ex-head of the home civil service. And in these distracted times, the report is doubly welcome. It kills the myth that inequality is not on the rise and helps to explain Brexit — or at least the disparity between Remainer London and the Brexiteer regions.

The report finds London “de-coupling from the rest of the UK”. And to nobody’s benefit. Research from Sheffield University professor Philip McCann finds the “UK is interregionally more unequal” than 28 of the 30 advanced OECD countries, the exceptions being Ireland and Slovakia.

Productivity in the capital is 50 per cent higher than the rest of the UK. Indeed, similar growth between 1992 and 2015 from cities outside London would have added at least “£120 billion to the national economy”. And, on present trends, half of the UK’s future jobs growth will be in London and the South East, which accounts for only 37 per cent of the population.

The effects show up everywhere. Healthy life expectancy in the UK’s poorest regions is “19 years lower”. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found in 2016 that dealing with the effects of poverty costs the UK £78 billion a year. And, even then, poor is a relative term. The children’s commissioner for England found that “a child who is poor enough for free school meals in Hackney, one of London’s poorest boroughs, is still three times more likely to go on to university than an equally poor child in Hartlepool”.

No one wins from such imbalances. People and businesses in the North “miss out on the benefits of growth” — forcing more spending on benefits. But those in “overheating” London and the South East find “increasing pressures on living costs and resources”, so reducing “quality of life”. That forces spending on pricey infrastructure, exacerbating the imbalances. Hence Crossrail, a phase-one HS2 skewed to the capital and an environmentally damaging third Heathrow runway.

So, what to do? Well, here the commission suggests a mix of regional devolution and German-style national planning. It points to the eye-popping €1.5 trillion spent post-unification to help to bring east Germany up to speed with the west. For Britain, it proposes an extra £10 billion spend annually for the next 25 years: a fabulous sum equating to 0.5 per cent of GDP. Lord Kerslake says it’s for government to decide whether it would come from borrowings, tax or such things as levies on uplifts in property values.

Yet he reckons “higher regional growth rates would over time offset this cost”. He emphasises, too, that this is just an initial report, seeking feedback. And don’t the divisions over Brexit underline that Britain needs to do something? Waiting until 2070 isn’t an option.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)