EDDC had record income from parking at time Leader wanted to increase charges

Motorists all over East Devon are paying for refuse collection, council tax payers throughout East Devon will pay extra if there is no hotel in Exmouth … where will it end?

“The 2018/19 figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show a record return for the council since comparable records began in 2008/9.

A consultation has been carried out, by the council, on plans to raise hourly parking charges from £1 to £1.20. The leader of the council, Ben Ingham, has said any increases will not come into force until 2021.

A spokesman for East Devon District Council said: “East Devon District Council owns 57 car parks that currently contribute around £2.4million which is used to provide a range of essential council services including, for example, our recycling and refuse collection contract. …”

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/record-high-parking-profits-for-district-council-1-6395226

EDDC spending £3.5 million in Exmouth: Tory gets the spotlight, Independent has reservations … dog, tail and wagging again?

Here’s Tory Skinner waxing lyrical about £1.5 million for Exmouth College (though Tigger Nick Hookway has concerns):

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/cil-money-for-community-college-expansion-1-6344922

and here’s news of cash for the completion of a road in Dinham Way – with Skinner again seeming to have the biggest voice and Hookway again expressing reservations:

https://www.radioexe.co.uk/news-and-features/local-news/exmouth-projects-backed/

Tail … dog … wagging … again?

And so near general election time.

And when will other towns and villages get their shares of Community Infrastructure Levy goes into one big pot rather than being locality-based like Section 106?

“Leader says in hindsight, notes should have been taken when CEO met developers”

Owl says: Well, duh! And just how long has EDDC’s CEO been in the job? Where was his “hindsight”?.

And our “Leader” is now fully au-fait with the language if the previous majority party as far as giving non-answers is concerned!

Everything changes, nothing changes …

“At last Wednesday’s full council meeting, Cllr John Loudoun, asked questions around the keeping of notes from meetings that officers of the council are involved in.

Notes of meetings when senior council officers meet with developers over planning issues should be made in future, councillors have been told.

It follows an instance where East Devon District Council’s chief executive allegedly told developers to appeal his own council’s refusal of planning permission for the Sidford Business Park.

Paragraphs 13 and 14 of the Richard Kimblin QC final closing arguments at a planning inquiry held this said: “After the 2016 application was refused, there was a meeting with Councillor Stuart 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.”

The claims, made both in writing and verbally, were unchallenged by East Devon District Council during the inquiry, but afterwards, an East Devon District Council spokesman said that Mr Williams did not advise the appellant of anything but the applicant chose to interpret the comments he did make as encouraging an appeal, and the comments were made in a ‘situation where a degree of hyperbole and exaggeration is not unusual’.

At last Wednesday’s full council meeting, Cllr John Loudoun, asked questions around the keeping of notes from meetings that officers of the council are involved in.

He said: “Sometimes officers from this Council, beyond those directly responsible for local planning matters, meet and/or discuss with developers their planning applications. Sometimes these meetings take place to discuss applications that this Council has failed to support.

“Does the leader of the council agree with me that when such meetings and/or discussions take place, it is most imperative that they are held in ways that give residents faith that the Officers are transparent and accountable in these matters?

“Does the leader agree with me that it would be appropriate that at such meetings, or in such discussions, there should be more than one Officer present, such as a legal adviser and/or planning officer? Do you agree that any meetings or discussion with developers when they relate to planning should have a formal record kept of what was discussed and agreed, and why?”

In response, Cllr Ben Ingham, leader of the council, said: “The circumstances surrounding any meeting will determine whether it is necessary for them to be held in any particular way. I have the upmost faith that our officers would appreciate the need to act in a way that ensures nothing untoward occurs.

“But in hindsight, it is probably a very good advice and many members and officers of the council may say in future they will.”

It was of a number of questions raised at the meeting relating to concerns about the processes of the council which followed what some councillors called the ‘shambles’ of the previous full council meeting which left councillors unclear as to what they were voting for.

Cllr Loudoun added: “At the last Full Council meeting there was lengthy debate around a motion. A Member at one point interjected and proposed ‘that the question now be put’ and the chairman put this point of order to the meeting.

“Many members did not fully appreciate the implications of voting for or against this point of order and when passed by a show of hands, there appeared to be confusion amongst some Members as to what had just been agreed. When the chairman invited the meeting to vote on the motion on the agenda paper, some Members appeared not to understand what was happening and what they were now being asked to vote on.

Once the meeting had voted on the motion some Members were confused and it was only at this point that it was fully explained what had happened and the implications of their first vote, but by this point the votes had been cast and decisions made.

“The meeting ended with some Members expressing frustration and/or confusion about what the meeting had decided. Does the Leader recognise this set of events and if he does, what would he recommend this Council does to avoid a similar set of circumstances occurring in the future?”

In response, Cllr Ingham said: “It is not for me to say what other members may or may not have understood. I understood what was happening but members are always able to ask for confirmation on what is going on and I am sure the Chairman would, in such circumstances, ensure that clarity was given on the procedures from the officers present. We have may acted at a speed that was not appropriate for new members.”

Asked by Cllr Paul Millar on the potential merits of ensuring Members can make informed decisions when asked to vote in Council meetings, Cllr Ingham said that any council or committee makes mistakes, but as the new council learns, he hopes members and officers will make fewer mistakes when acting in a hurry.

Cllr Eleanor Rylance also questioned why a significant number of meetings had been scheduled to take place during the half-term break. As well as the full council meeting, a Strategic Planning Committee, an Audit and Governance Committee, and a Scrutiny Committee meeting took place last week.

She said: “In the spirit of inclusivity, how is it that this council is wilfully disadvantaging anyone with school aged children, caring responsibilities for school aged children, or those who work in schools or other educational establishments, by organising major meetings including this one during school half term? This is entirely avoidable. Please can the council set its timetable with school dates in mind in the future?”

In response, Cllr Ingham said: “Whilst it would clearly be difficult to plan a yearly meeting cycle to accommodate school holidays, particularly bearing in mind the length of the summer holiday and the potential impact on the business of the Council, it would be helpful to consider if changes could be made in future. “

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/leader-says-hindsight-notes-should-3475242

Planning, dogs and tails: another correspondent writes

“The East Devon electorate were, indeed, hoping for a significant change by voting for an Independent Council and, therefore, it is frustrating to read such controlling comments from the Tory Councillor Philip Skinner (he who was responsible for the extending mahogany table fiasco and who lives in the rural village of Talaton which is not one of the proposed GESP Clyst Villages) stating that  ‘this is a really exciting project and I hope people grasp it with the enthusiasm, that I have so we get the good things for the area that we live in’!

Who are the ‘we’ he is referring to? Perhaps, not the numerous residents of the 10 rural  village communities of Poltimore, Huxham, Clyst St Mary, Clyst St George, Ebford, West Hill, Woodbury, Woodbury Salterton, Exton and Farringdon who appear to be the prime targets for his exciting large scale development? Living in the small, rural idyll of Talaton, he should be aware that those who have also chosen to live in rural village communities may not wish them to mutate into sprawling suburbs of Exeter and, therefore, many may question Councillor Skinner’s motives?
Yes – we all have to be forward thinking – but aren’t these 10 villages the very essence of the intrinsic nature and indispensable quality of East Devon? Some may be persuaded that the proposed idyllic concept of happy, peaceful, picturesque environments labelled ‘Garden Villages’ would be pure nirvana – but, unfortunately, the vision in planning terms is not always what you get in reality! 
 
Sizeable growth in this North West Quadrant, without adequate road infrastructure improvements in the surrounding districts, already results in the regular gridlock of the entire highway network! ‘The cart before the horse’ approach of continuing large-scale commercial growth and adding more people to the equation before the provision of an appropriate, sustainable transport system is an unsatisfactory method for success.
 
There is no doubt that we must do better with designing new communities than we have in the past and East Devon District Council Planners  are fully aware that there are lessons to be learned from pursuing misguided judgements and courses of action by barking up the wrong tree!
Hopefully, the Independents are canines with character strength and principled, with adequate bite at the sharp end! Dogs can control their tails but often wagging lacks conscious thought!  Canine body language is so much more than just tail movements, so to achieve control, it is very important to pay attention to other factors. Furthermore, excessive tail wagging  can often be associated with fear, insecurity, social challenge or a warning that you may get bitten!

“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

“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

Exmouth resident supports young sacked/resigned councillor

From Exmouth Journal

“Dear Sir,

I was shocked at the so called “sacking” of Paul Millar. Here we have a young man interested in getting involved in local politics who should be supported not pilloried for his lack of experience.

In taking on the leadership of a team of Independents perhaps Ben Ingham an experienced Councillor and ex party member has not quite grasped that he is now the manager of individuals not a party gang that he can whip into order .

Leadership in this scenario requires nurturing your team. Working out their strengths and weaknesses and if you see people struggling, stepping in with support and encouragement.

Above all , as presented in the reports that I have read so far, he should not be taking the side of paid officials who are there to advise and deliver what the Councillors decide.

I get the impression that the current Senior Management team in EDDC that he lauds is so used to calling all the shots for years , that a new young broom presenting what they perceive as a challenge to the existing power structure needs to be flattened and crushed from the outset.

Anybody who has changed jobs and become a new boss will know that in the early stages of a new job, it’s always a battle of wills. You will be resented by the old guard who will look for ways to trip you up. That’s where a mentor would come in useful. Charm, persuasion and proving that you have a vision and work hard yourself will usually win through.

So far the new Independent group have badly misread why they were voted in.

People in Exmouth voted for change not continuity. What that means is real transparency, not lip service, being open to feedback and above all listening. The value of listening cannot be emphasised enough. Listen and act. If you find you cannot deliver what people are asking for, tell them why you can’t but offer what else you can do for them.

That’s what we voted for. We now need to see some evidence that the election promises made are not just empty words which the Town sadly has become all too used to from previous administrations.”

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 …….

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!

Former “Independent Group” councillor expands on reasons for resignation

Just one thing missing from Councillor Ingham’s justification below – why did he choose a brand new councillor to be an important portfolio holder?

Answer: because he utterly refused to co-operate with other independent councillors – many of them experienced – because they belonged to the group he formerly led (East Devon Alliance), preferring to appoint Conservative councillors or ex-councillors (he had also been a Conservative!) from the “ancien regime”, which led this blog to call the group “TiggerTories”.

As you sow, so shall you reap.

“East Devon District Council is in political deadlock after the dramatic resignation of one of the ruling independent group’s councillors.

Former Independent Group councillor Paul Millar, who represents Exmouth Halsdon, resigned today, accusing the district council leadership team of keeping him in the dark on important policy issues.

The council is now deadlocked with 19 Independent councillors and 19 Conservative councillors.

Despite this the council’s leader, councillor Ben Ingham, has said that, ‘it is business as usual for East Devon’.

Nub News contacted Paul Millar and asked him to explain his reasons for resigning, he said: “My experience was that in my four months in the Cabinet I wasn’t asked what I thought about anything, I wasn’t briefed, given options with which to make informed decisions, and attempts to have any influence over my portfolio proved to be impossible.

“In my first week, an email was sent out to colleagues “on my behalf” without me having the opportunity to sign it off or influence its contents. This really upset me because it suggested to colleagues I had formed a particular view on a subject that I hadn’t.

“Being new to local government, I would have appreciated more support and, ultimately, I came to the sad conclusion that some in the Senior Management Team simply don’t trust Councillors to make the decisions the people elected us to make.

He added: “I do respect that others may view things in a different way, but I guess I just wanted to be honest and I’ve been humbled by the number of colleagues across parties who’ve agreed with my sentiments.”

Councillor Ben Ingham, leader of East Devon District Council, has responded to councillor Millar’s resignation stating, ‘it is business as usual for East Devon. He said: “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 councillor 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 councillor 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.”

Nub News was contacted by East Devon councillor and chairman of the East Devon Conservative Association, Bruce de Saram, he had this to say: “Clearly Paul Millar doesn’t yet fully grasp the difference between strategic and operational roles on a council, which I find puzzling, given his previous role as an advisor to a Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson; you might have thought he would understand something of the democratic process and the slow pace of it at times.

“There is huge democratic input and the officers at EDDC do an excellent job on behalf of all residents of East Devon in what is a very challenging work environment. It is hugely unfair and inappropriate to criticise them when they have no right of reply; councillor Millar needs to understand that ‘changing the world’ takes more than three months.”

However in conclusion Councillor de Saram sincerely wished Councillor Millar well and said he looks forward to seeing him at future meetings as a “genuine independent”.

https://exmouth.nub.news/n/district-council-deadlocked-after-dramatic-resignation