East Devon Business Forum – some perplexing questions

1 Dec

Taken from EDBF web pages:

OBJECTS [what they actually mean here is objectives!]

1.  To act as a forum in which business organisations, employers and the District Council can meet on a regular basis and agree, so far as possible, a common approach and policy on matters relating to the economy, prosperity and well-being of East Devon.

2 . To facilitate the communication of views and opinions between the business community and the District Council (and any other relevant local government and public bodies) and through an effective partnership with local government to promote the prosperity of the District.

3.  Specifically, to advise on the preparation, adoption and performance of an Economic Development Strategy for East Devon and the Council’s annual service plan for Economic Development;

SIN comments:  No problem with (1) – that’s what all Business Forums should be doing.  However, with (2) it is remarkable how little time EDBF has spent reaching OUTWARDS to other local government and public bodies compared to how much time it has spent INWARDS simply meeting with the District Council.  And as regards (3) – has anyone SEEN an Economic Development Strategy for East Devon?    There was a very, very short, 4 paragraph aspirational document up to 2009  (half an A4 page maximum)  Unfortunately, this is not a web document but Google “East Devon Economic Strategy” and it will come up .  It was supposed to be “emerging” according to EDBF minutes in November 2011.  Graham Godbeer suggested five  bullet points (again half a page of A4) for another aspirational economic development in February 2012 but, since then there has been no mention of it at all.

Eight years = one half-page of bullet points for an East Devon Economic Strategy – not a good track record is it?

 MEMBERSHIP [SIN highlighting]

4.1      The members of the Forum shall be as follows:-    Association of East Devon Chambers of Commerce – 3 members,  East Devon branch of the Federation of Small Businesses – 1 member, East Devon branch of the National Farmers Union – 1 member, Blackdown Hills Business Association – 1 member, East Devon District Council – 3 members including the Leader of the Council and the Economy Portfolio Holder and one other member.

When matters are decided by a vote of Forum, only those members present shall be entitled to vote.  No member of the Forum shall be entitled to nominate a proxy.

Additionally, membership of the Forum shall include a representative of any medium or large employer in the District, excluding the public sector (as an approximate guide, an East Devon business with 5 or more employees).

So, what if there is a (hypothetical, as outsiders have no idea how accreditation is managed) situation of someone attending meetings who is not an accredited member of one of these organisations mentioned above – with a mandate to speak on that organisation’s behalf, formally agreed and minuted by its members?  Just simply someone who happens to have paid a  subscription to one of the organisations but has received no formal authority to speak on its behalf – who may not even attend many of its meetings or perhaps none at all?   Or not belonging to an organisation with 5 or more employees?   How is the representative of the Federation of Small Businesses to EDBF chosen for example – by the Federation or by EDBF?  What credentials do they need to have to speak on behalf of that organisation?  Do they have a formal meeting (minuted, of course) where the member of the EDBF is chosen and then that member presents his or credentials to speak on behalf of that group?  Or does an EDBF member approach someone and say: “Are you a member of the Federation of Small Businesses?  You are, excellent!  Then you will be its representative at our meetings”.  Do they ask to see formal accreditation regularly to check that the person is still the proper person to attend?

Well, we know what happens for organisations that have fewer than 5 employees (well, some organisations, well one organisation)  EDDC Councillor Bob Buxton attends as a representative of Honiton Development Trust but, as it has no employees and is not in the list of members of the forum he has no vote but attends as a fully participating observer (although EDBF does not seem to vote it “reaches a concensus” so we do not know who agrees with certain propositions and who does not, as no vote is recorded for later public scrutiny).    Contrast this with members of other similar organisations (for example, Save Our Sidmouth) which represents 4 organisations in Sidmouth some of which have a formal constitution and some of which have more than 5 employees but who are allowed only to attend at the beginning of an EDBF meeting to speak on a specific item but cannot remain and participate.   What is special about Honiton Development Trust that it has these special privileges which do not appear in EDBF’s constitution and which are not extended to similar organisations in other towns?

We look forward to the EDDC Task and Finish Forum to answer some of these puzzling questions for us.

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One Response to “East Devon Business Forum – some perplexing questions”

  1. Medusa December 1, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    But can we trust EDDC to put its own house in order? Let’s hope that Councillors Troman and Hughes can ensure that. They will have to show us that we can trust them to do right by us.

    For too long EDDC has had its head in the sand, in some cases possibly deliberately- we need courageous people to stand up to the people who got us into this mess. And then we need them to keep doing it.

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