East Devon District Council: “we know best” permeates the council like “the writing in a stick of seaside rock”!

25 Feb

Some cracking letters in this week’s Sidmouth Herald, following the EDDC Development Management Committee where majority party councillors sat in total and unusual telepathic silence except when called upon to vote with the committee Chairman (Mark Williamson (Exmouth, Littleham) whilst the one lone independent (Ben Ingham) attempted to debate the lack of 5 year land supply.  The same meeting where members not on the DMC and none of the approximately 150 members of the public were allowed to speak by order of  the Chairman.  Highlights of the letters below.

From Roger Giles, Independent Councillor, Ottery St Mary:  “….. EDDC “debated” the problem at a Knowle meeting packed with 150 people.  Actually the “debate” took place between Councillor Ben Ingham (Independent) and the chairman, Mark Williamson (Conservative).  Most other members of the planning committee said nothing” …..

“….. [EDDC] denied us the right to speak on a critically important issue on behalf of the people we represent.  That was a quite deplorable and profoundly undemocratic decision.  For the council leader Paul Diviani subsequently to praise the chairman for refusing to allow us to peak shows that there is something very deeply wrong with the Conservative leadership of EDDC”.

From Richard Thurlow, Sidmouth: ….. “It is apparent to all of us who deal with them that the culture of “we know best and what is good for you” permeates EDDC, like the writing in a stick of seaside rock.  It emanates from the top and seeps downwards.  Ignoring the public and the bullying of councillors who raise quite legitimate concerns is the order of the day.

This is compounded by the “Cabinet” style of Local Government management in East Devon, which empowers a few prominent councillors of the dominant party top run their fiefdoms without effective scrutiny.  There in effect two degrees of councillors, the dominant cabinet members, and the rest who, in reality, have very little to say.

Senior EDDC officers and councillors seem to think that the council is run for their benefit, not those who pay their salaries and expenses.  They believe that public criticism and comments are irrelevant.  Any requests for openness and information are met with obfuscation.

We are told that they have an excellent set of benchmarks and star ratings to validate their performance; but so had the NHS.  No wonder there is such mistrust of elected politicians and officers.

All we can plan and hope for is that a number of public-minded people will step forward for the next elections, win and change the culture of EDDC.  But by then it may be too late to prevent the destruction of our Devon countryside.”

From Tony Green, Sidmouth:  “….. The council leader was impressed by the “quality of the debate”.  He was probably the only one!  The rest of us saw a docile majority of the committee sit silently until they voted when the chairman decreed.  They meekly “endorsed” a motion that will allow developers to build houses pretty much anywhere in East Devon.

As usual a pall of suspicion hung over the proceedings.  Independent Councillor Ben Ingham reported allegations that Tory members of the committee had been “whipped” to support the motion at a private Conservative group meeting.  Party Whip, Phil Twiss, who apparently was “incandescent” claimed that he had never whipped anyone in his life.  Which left some observers wondering what is the point of Councillor Twiss.

At least Cllr Diviani was right when he said, “there will be criticism over the democratic deficit” evident at the meeting.  In fact, dissatisfaction with EDDC is no longer confined to criticism.  The founding of the non-party-political East Devon Alliance on February 16 possibly marks the first step towards a much-needed spring clean at the Knowle.”

One Response to “East Devon District Council: “we know best” permeates the council like “the writing in a stick of seaside rock”!”


  1. How EDDC’s ‘democratic deficit’ persists | Save Our Sidmouth - March 2, 2014

    […] The Leader himself has noticed this “democratic deficit” at EDDC. See https://sidmouthindependentnews.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/east-devon-district-council-we-know-best-per… […]

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