An interesting exchange of correspondence with EDDC’s Chief Executive regarding the EDBF Task and Finish Forum

20 Feb

Below, with no comment, is an ongoing correspondence between a local resident and the Chief Executive of East Devon District Council regarding the status of the East Devon Business Forum Task and Finish Forum.  This  correspondence is in the public domain and is published with the permission of the resident concerned.

The next  meeting of the TAFF will be at 6 pm on Tuesday 12 March 2013 in the Council Chamber at Knowle.

 

 30 January 2013 from the resident to Mark Williams, CEO, EDDC

Dear Mr Williams

In light of the fact you announced on the first meeting of the Business TAFF that it would be illegal for the TAFF to investigate an inappropriate relationship between EDDC and EDBF with regard to matters of planning, as the TAFF is part of EDDC and therefore not independent, I assume you also agree that the role of the monitoring officer Denise Lyons is inappropriate as she is paid by EDDC and therefore not independent and also the ‘independent person’ recruited by EDDC is also a complete waste of money. Denise Lyons explained the role of the ‘Independent person’ to me thus in an earlier email:

I consult with our Independent Person who has years of experience in considering Code of Conduct issues and complaints. She was recruited recently as it is a new role introduced by the Localism Act. The recruitment panel included myself, the previous independent Chair of the Standards Committee and the Chairman of the Council. In terms of payment for her time, there is a fixed fee for meetings and I have asked her to record the time she spends outside of formal meetings so we can discuss any further appropriate payment. She has given hours of her time for very little repayment and I am very grateful to her for her public spirited approach and her skills.

How much more inappropriate could it be for the Independent Person to be investigating the person who appointed her (and their colleagues) and agrees her expenses, and indeed for the Monitoring Officer to investigate the colleagues she works with on a day to day basis?

Also I note that you are now talking about giving the TAFF ‘advice’ at that first meeting about it being inappropriate to investigate the involvment between certain members of EDDC and EDBF on matters of planning, whereas in fact on the first night of the TAFF meeting it is recorded that you said the TAFF could not investigate this as it would be ILLEGAL to do so. I believe it was because you were quite clear that it was illegal that your advice was ‘accepted’ by the TAFF chair. Furthermore I wonder why you waited until the first meeting to make this announcement rather than to state this when the TAFF was first suggested?

Can you explain exactly why it is illegal? Or is it that you are simply short of time?

You also stated at that first meeting of the TAFF that any members of the public naming particular members of EDDC who had behaved inppropriately should be very careful as they could be open to prosecution. I think you will find this flies directly in the face of the Localism Act and I think it far more likely that any person deliberately covering up inappropriate behaviour and actions of members of EDDC could be acting illegally?

I would appreciate your response to the above points because it seems to be there is a set of rules for one scenario and a completely different set of rules for another.

It would be useful to have the above clarified before the next meeting of the business TAFF.

Yours sincerely

13 February 2013 From Mark Williams to the correspondent

Dear

I have been forwarded this e-mail by my colleague, Mrs Lyon.

The reason you have not received a reply from me is that I never received your e-mail. If you look at the address you used, you mis-spelt my name. Had you spelt it correctly, and I received it, I can assure you I would have replied promptly.

You don’t say whether you were at the first meeting of the TAFF on the 11th December, (noting that your e-mail was sent on the 30th January at 23:10), but I was very careful in the advice that I gave the meeting. Several members of the public who were present have made incorrect statements/comments about what they thought I said. It is for this reason that I would refer you to the minutes of the meeting for clarity on the advice that I gave. As to when I gave my advice; the decision of the Scrutiny Committee was to set up a TAFF and it was for the TAFF to finalise its terms of reference. I therefore gave my advice at the most appropriate occasion.

The role of the Monitoring Officer is a statutory one so I do not understand the point you are seeking to make. Similar comments apply to the requirement for an ‘Independent Person’. I also note that Mrs Lyon has replied to you on this point.

In terms of the requests you made to Mrs Lyon: my time between EDDC and SSDC is divided ‘equally’ and my annual leave is as per the national terms and conditions for Chief Executives, details of which are available elsewhere on line.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Williams

CEO

EDDC

13 February 2013 from the resident to the Chief Executive EDDC

Dear Mr Williams

Firstly please accept my apologies that you did not receive my first email and thus for therefore suggesting that you had ignored it.  Thank you too for responding now.

I was indeed at the first meeting of the TAFF and recorded myself exactly what was said.  I was puzzled at the time that you did not elaborate in exactly how it was illegal for the TAFF to investigate the influence EDBF have had on planning and had been meaning to ask this at the next TAFF meeting which was postponed due to snow.

The minutes of the first Business TAFF meeting would of course have been agreed at the meeting that was postponed due to snow and anything that was ambiguous could have been clarified and corrected and I assume that will still happen at the next TAFF as part of the usual protocol.

It was only after the last meeting was cancelled due to snow that I read that it was reported you had given the ‘advice’ that the TAFF should not investigate matters of planning; quite different from it being illegal, and hence my email to you for clarification.

The point I made about Denise Lyons and your Independent person, albeit statutory or not, is that they are charged with monitoring their colleagues.  You stated at the Business TAFF that it could not investigate the EDBF and its influence as it is funded by EDDC as  the TAFF could not be considered impartial. I don’t see how this is any different to Denise Lyons and the Independent Person ‘monitoring’ the behaviour and actions of members and officers. Although I do agree that it must be very difficult to be impartial when complaints are made about ones close colleagues.

I know the Scrutiny Committee agreed that the TAFF should be set up and would agree its own terms of reference; you have now clarified that it is not illegal to consider matters of planning should the TAFF think it appropriate.

I know that you already had additional annual leave to the national terms and conditions as you were on extended leave over the summer so I was curious about this. Your life must indeed be very hectic.

I appreciate the time you have taken to respond and for clarifying the points I raised and hope you will accepty my sincere apologies with regard to my first email.

Yours sincerely

14 February 2013 From the Chief Executive EDDC to the resident

Dear 

Thank you for this further e-mail.

I would comment on one matter. I would suggest you interpreted rather than recorded what I said particularly with regard to the word ‘illegal’. That is a term I associate with the criminal law, (it is ‘illegal’ to steal a car) rather then the work that Councillors involve themselves in.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Williams

CEO

 

14 February 2013 from the resident to the Chief Executive, EDDC

Subject: Re: Remit of the Business TAFF – UNCLASSIFIED:

Thank you for clarifying the difference, I think I read ‘unlawful’ as ‘illegal’ from my shorthand notes.

Can you confirm it is neither of these?

Yours sincerely

15 February 2013 from the Chief Executive to the resident

 Dear

Thank you for this e-mail. I very much doubt there is an issue of illegality but I do have some concerns about potential unlawfulness. This is from the point of view of administrative law if the TAFF were to do all what the SOS/Lobby Groups are campaigning for – hence the issues I referred to as per the minutes of the meeting.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Williams

CEO

EDDC

17 February 2013 from the resident to the Chief Executive, EDDC

 Dear Mr Williams

Thank you again.

Could you direct me to the administrative lay where this is written and which you have presumably consulted?

I think to see this law in writing this is the best way to confirm that it is  unlawful for the TAFF to do as the Scrutiny Committee have asked.

Yours sincerely

18 February 2013 from the Chief Executive EDDC to the resident

Dear

Thank you for this e-mail. The best place to start is probably ‘Cross on Local Government Law’.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Williams

CEO

EDDC

18 February 2013 from the resident to the Chief Executive EDDC

Dear Mr Williams

Excellent, would there be a copy of this at the council offices as the December 2012 version at £485 is slightly out of my price bracket?

Yours sincerely

18 February 2013 from the Chief Executive EDDC to the resident

Dear

Have you tried the library service? It wouldn’t be normal practice for the Council to lend out its property.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Williams

CEO

EDDC

19 February 2013 from the resident to the Chief Executive EDDC

 Dear Mr Williams

I realise we have now come full circle.

As you have the reference books and have presumably already looked this up and know the page numbers etc, please could quote the text that states that it is unlawful for the Business Taff to investigate matters of planning as the Scrutiny committee requested.

I have read the yet to be agreed minutes in which you state that in your opinion it would be unlawful but as a member of the public I would like to see the text you refer to.

Alternatively I can come to the Knowle offices on Thursday lunchtime if you can leave a photocopy or indeed the original text in the reception for me to read over.

Yours sincerely

20 February 2013 from Chief Executive EDDC to the resident

 

Dear

Thank you for this e-mail. The purpose in referring you to ‘Cross’ was as a starter/entry point into administrative law. Unfortunately its not simply a case of copying specific page numbers – rather the start of what I (at least) consider to be a fascinating and involved area of law.

My advice is as recorded and whilst I acknowledge that those who want to attack the Council have disagreed with it, it was accepted by the TAFF and I propose to leave the matter there.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Williams

CEO

EDDC

20 February 2013 From the resident to the Chief Executive EDDC:

Dear Mr Williams

I am very disappointed by your lack of response.

The TAFF only accepted what you said at the last meeting on the basis that it was unlawful for them to do so. You did not state that you were advising them that you were unsure whether it was lawful or not and that you needed to consult Cross.

You had them on the back foot as no one else had a copy of this to hand. I don”t believe it is unlawful.

The DCLG said yesterday that as CEO of EDDC you are a servant of the people and therefore answerable to them.

Your response shows a complete disregard to those who are paying your salary and whose best interests you are supposed to be working for. It is little wonder there is no trust in your decision making.

Yours sincerely

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