Archive | November, 2012

This week’s secret EDDC meetings

30 Nov

Ten meetings advertised in The Knowledge this week – 5 secret, 1 cancelled, 4 open to the public.

Who wears what hat, when and why?

30 Nov

The following is an intriguing comments has been placed today on the blog of Councillor Claire Wright under the heading of the post “Business forum aims to influence chief exec over investigation” by a Mr Damien Mills who wrote:

I notice that the latest minutes of the East Devon Business Forum [EDBF] continue to list Graham Brown as a representative of the National Farmers’ Union [NFU].  Curious as to how Mr Brown had received this mandate, as well as the mechanisms in place to ensure he routinely voices the concerns of his fellow NFU members, I contacted the NFU for clarification.  Suffice to say, thus far, almost a month on from my initial inquiry, it has been unable to provide an answer to either of these apparently straight-forward questions.

If, as one might now assume, Mr Brown has no mandate from the NFU then how is can it be that for at least the past eight years – see link here– he has been listed as representing this organisation on the EDBF?!

Moreover, if Mr Brown isn’t, after all, representing the NFU then who, exactly, is he speaking for at the EDBF?!

Councillor Brown, never backwards at coming forwards, will no doubt put this matter straight.

What the Leveson inquiry can teach us in East Devon – Part 2

30 Nov

Quote from the Leveson inquiry in today’s Guardian regarding the relationship between politicians and the press – substitute as you see appropriate.

“For 35 years and probably much longer, politicians have got too close to the press in a way which has not been in the public interest.  This has involved putting themselves in positions where they were vulnerable to unaccountable influences, overlooking chances to address public concern about press conduct and seeking to control, if not manipulate, information in return for favourable treatment.

There is, of course, no evidence at all of explicit, covert deals between senior politicians and newspaper proprietors or editors … these very powerful relationships are more subtle than that.  But there can be no doubt, Leveson says, that there have been exchanges of inflence that raise legitimate questions.  On the subject of Rupert Murdoch’s dealings with Prime Ministers, Leveson said he had found no evidence of express deals with politicians but added in a rather waspish paragraph: Sometimes the very greatest power is exercised without having to ask … Just as Mr Murdoch’s editors knew the basic ground rules, so did politicians.  In their discussions with him, whether directly or by proxy, politicians knew the prize was personal and political support of his mass circulation newspapers.

The report recommends greater transparency about dealings with the press.”

What can we learn from the Leveson inquiry?

29 Nov

Adapted from the Politics Home website – with SIN amendments!

Leveson [EDDC] reveals need to shine a light on corporate lobbying.  Responding to this afternoon’s publication of the Leveson ? report [the forthcoming TAFF] and its [potential] recommendations for statutory press regulation [regulation of groups which lobby EDDC] Unlock Democracy director Peter Facey [many East Devon residents] said:
“The Leveson Inquiry  [TAFF] painted [could paint] a picture of scandals upon scandals, shedding light not just on the failings of the current system of media [EDDC/EDBF] self-regulation, but on the extent to which major media corporations [EDBF] invest their time and money secretly [overtly but with secret meetings] lobbying politicians [EDDC councillors]. Without the inquiry [input of local electors] the scurrilous relationship between Jeremy Hunt, David Cameron and NewsCorp [the cosy relationship between EDDC and EDBF] would have never come to light.
“But it shouldn’t take special inquiries [TAFFs] to open up secret lobbying [potentially harmful lobbying] to public scrutiny. We desperately need a statutory lobbying register [for all groups which lobby local authorities] to ensure we have a better idea of what is going on at the time it is happening rather than years after the event.
“Leveson (the TAFF] has shown [hopefully will show] us that the present means of media [local authority] self-regulation are woefully inadequate. We welcome Lord Leveson’s  [the TAFFs future recommendations]call for the freedom of the press [the opportunity for everyone to lobby transparently on a level playing field] to be enshrined in UK law; how this can work in practice in tandem with a statutory underpinning of media regulation [local authority rules] is a matter of further debate. The pressure is on the media [EDDC] to prove that that individual rights [its electors’ rights] will not be ignored under self-regulation [the current system] – not just over the next few months, but long after the furore has died down.”

Comedy of Errors…(Act Three)

29 Nov

….with very serious implications.

 PLEASE NOTE:  Plans for Knowle WON’T  be on the agenda at next Tuesday’s meeting (2pm 4 Dec ), after all. 

Decision on the planning application to demolish EDDC’s Knowle HQ and build 50 dwellings and a 60-bed care home on the site and gardens, has been postponed yet again. EDDC’s Development Management (Planning) Committee  now won’t be debating Knowle’s fate until  8th January, 2013. The reason for the delay? An error in the Economic Impact Assessment Report..

Could this second postponement, due to dodgy data, be anything to do with the unseemly haste with which this project is being pushed through by Cllr Diviani and his acolytes?

SOS has highlighted multiple errors on the Officer’s Report to councillors. So it’s  back to the drawing board time.

Any volunteers to do a Taxpayers’  Economic Impact Assessment of this continuing fiasco?

( see www.saveoursidmouth.com for more info, including yet-another-deadline for your objections (17 December) when the revised plans have been revised. Date thoughtfully set for between now and Christmas….. )

White van delayed at SidFord floodplain .

29 Nov

Testing the water, for the workforce?

Nearby houses are flooded again this week, as they were in July. Will their problems be eased by the 12 acre employment site planned for these fields?

Thanks to Carol for this picture. More at www.saveoursidmouth.com , category ‘Sidford Fields- AONB or business park?’

The duties and responsibilities of local authority officers

28 Nov

Taken verbatim from a District Auditor’s report on Portsmouth City Council when a  project it promised council tax payers would be “cost neutral” (construction of the Portsmouth Spinnaker building) actually cost them more than £5 million including legal fees (SIN underlining and italics):

A member of a local authority occupies a position of trust. He/she is one of those individuals entrusted by Parliament and the electorate with making decisions, and with deploying resources, contributed by others, to their best effect. As a person holding such a position of public trust, a member of a local authority has an obligation to act lawfully, carefully, reasonably and with a due regard to the interests of those required to fund the authority’s activities. That trust imposes a duty on a member to ensure that, so far as he/she reasonably can, the local authority of which he/she is an elected member acts reasonably and complies with the law.

21. Other than in those cases where arrangements have been made for an officer to discharge a local authority’s functions or where he/she has specific statutory tasks to perform, the job of an officer is to give advice to members and to the local authority, its executives, its committees and sub-committees and to other officers. It is also to carry out the local authority’s work under the direction and control of the authority, its executive, its committees and sub-committees and any other person to whom authority in that respect may have been properly delegated. Senior officers occupy a position of trust.

22. As was said in paragraph 6.135 of the “Report on the Conduct of Local Authority Business”, in their capacity as advisers, officers “are responsible for ensuring that the council and its committees are informed of the facts, the law and all other relevant considerations before they make decisions. They are also responsible for proposing, and advising on, policy options.” Officers called upon to provide information, to advise or to help formulate advice, owe a duty to discharge those responsibilities with reasonable care. This is a duty which they owe to the local authority as a whole, not to any political group which may for the time being constitute a majority. Failure to discharge this duty, for example by withholding or misrepresenting material information, is misconduct. It would be misconduct for an officer to remain silent or otherwise inactive if a failure to report or otherwise disclose information may prejudice the authority in whose interests he/she is required to act.

23. It is not part of the responsibility of any officer to do that which a majority or any other group of members or any individual member may prefer the local authority to do (save where that preference has been lawfully adopted as the policy of the local authority at a properly convened meeting or pursuant to the exercise of delegated authority) or to frame any information or advice that the officer may provide to members to facilitate the achievement of any such preference. He/she is not the servant or agent of such a group of members or of an individual member. An officer’s duty to provide information and advice is to be exercised impartially, independently of any member’s preference and in the interests of the local authority whose servant he/she is. An officer fails in his/her duty if he/she acts otherwise.

24. This is the background against which I have judged the conduct of members and officers in reaching my conclusions in this report.