Archive | February, 2013

Do councillors really understand what they are doing?

27 Feb

My eye was drawn to a comment by Mike Howe (presumably EDDC Councillor Mike Howe) and a reply to it on the blog of Independent EDDC Councillor Claire Wright where she writes about the disgrace that was the Development Management Committee meeting earlier this month, where ruling party members said almost nothing in the debate on the mess that is our 5 year land supply (or rather not our 5 year land supply) and where councillors not on the committee and members of the public (numbering around 150 – or 3 if you are counting EDDC-style!) were banned from speaking.

The comment is:

3. At 10:11 pm on 26th Feb Mike Howe wrote:

I do need to point out that no decision was made on that day only to note the more liberal planning polices that the planning inspectorate and so we as councillors need to be aware of when making our decisions. Otherwise the council and then the council tax payers of East Devon will be footing the Bill.

followed by another comment:

4. At 10:53 am on 27th Feb Sandra Semple wrote:

Sorry, Mike, when you “endorse” something as you did, you have made a decision.  Had you gone with “note” as Claire suggested you would not have made a decision.  And now it’t too late to change your minds, the damage is well and truly done.

Just to be sure, I looked up the definition of the word “endorse”:

1. To write one’s signature on the back of (a check, for example) as evidence of the legal transfer of its ownership, especially in return for the cash or credit indicated on its face.
2. To place (one’s signature), as on a contract, to indicate approval of its contents or terms.
3. To acknowledge (receipt of payment) by signing a bill, draft, or other instrument.
4. To give approval of or support to, especially by public statement; sanction: endorse a political candidate.
Seems clear enough to me:  the committee made a decision.

 

Job of the week: assisting the EDDC Economic Development Manager, Nigel Harrison

27 Feb

Facilities Support Officer, East Devon Business Centre, Honiton.  But hurry, you have only until 8 March 2013 to apply.  Details of the job HERE.  It pays well:  £16,054 – 17,161 pro-rata for 3 days a week.

And what sort of person will Mr Harrison be needing?:

Calm and friendly in your approach, you will ensure that the East Devon Business Centre runs smoothly, assisting the Economic Development Manager in progressing the delivery of the Economy Service Plan. You will assist the Facilities Manager in the daily operations of the Centre, welcoming visitors and processing bookings for the Centre’s facilities, to name just a few of your admin duties. With customer service as your first priority, you will confidently handle enquiries, whether over the phone or in person.
and, although, of course no decision has been made, the advertisement ends with:
It is proposed that the main Council Offices may relocate from Sidmouth to Honiton in early 2015.

Making local councils more transparent and accountable to local people

26 Feb

Below is information on the Department of Communities and Local Government website about transparency and accountability of councils to local people.  Each of the bullet points has a link to the appropriate documentation.

Public accountability of local government is covered in several Acts:

 

Reporting of council meetings and issues of confidentiality

26 Feb

For those of you who love this sort of thing, Evershed’s solicitors have provided a handy Briefing Note to explain The Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 which came into force on 10 September 2012.

Briefly, it deals with what information can and cannot be kept confidential from the public and the red tape that has to accompany any decision made in that respect.

It has some interesting section and, it has to be said, some not so interesting sections! e.g.

 .…. Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, has said that every decision a council takes has a major impact on the lives of local people, so it is crucial that whenever it takes a significant decision about local budgets that affect local communities, whether it is in a full council meeting or in an unheard of sub-committee, it has got to be taken in the full glare of all the press and any of the public. …..

.….Local authorities may also find it appropriate to consider whether they should review the approach they take to the use of social media in the context of their meetings and decisions.  In the past, the attitude taken towards activities such as tweeting and blogging has varied between local authorities.  Local authorities are already required, by section 100A(6) of the Local Government Act 1972 to afford reasonable facilities to “duly accredited representatives of newspapers” to enable them to report on meetings that are open to the public.  The new regulations go further in respect of executive meetings that are open to the public, requiring that “any person attending the meeting for the purpose of reporting the proceedings is, so far as is practicable, to be afforded reasonable facilities for taking their report”.  The Department for Communities and Local Government indicated in the notes to editors contained in its press notice about the regulations that it expects this to make it easier for new social media reporting of council executive meetings thereby opening proceedings up to internet bloggers, tweeting and hyperlocal news forums.  Eric Pickles commented that every kind of modern journalist can go through the doors of town hall transparency, be it from the daily reporter, the hyper-local news website or the armchair activist and concerned citizen blogger.  There is therefore a clear indication that the Government does not expect local authorities to prevent or restrict the use of social media to report their public meetings.

 

What is a Party Whip?

26 Feb

From our old friend Wikipedia:

A whip is an official in a political party whose primary purpose is to ensure party discipline in a legislature. Whips are a party’s “enforcers”, who typically offer inducements and threaten punishments for party members to ensure that they vote according to the official party policy. A whip’s role is also to ensure that the elected representatives of their party are in attendance when important votes are taken. The usage comes from the hunting term “whipping in”, i.e. preventing hounds from wandering away from the pack.

Thank goodness Phil Twiss, Conservative Whip at EDDC, has never used it!

What can you do in 15 minutes?

26 Feb

Normally, at council meetings, a period of 15 minutes is allowed for electors to question those on the committee concerned.  This was cancelled by the Chairman at the last Development Management Committee meeting discussing the 5 year land supply.  Not only did he refuse to allow questions from the 150 people in the audience, he also refused to allow councillors not on the DMC to comment.

Research on the internet seems to show that most councils allow 30 minutes for public questions.  We get from 0-15 minutes at a time when we have more questions than ever before.  Seems a bit stingy doesn’t it?

A missing agenda item for the full council meeting

26 Feb

Surely there is a missing item on the agenda for the full council meeting tomorrow?

Were we not promised that at the next full council meeting the decision to allow those attending council meetings to record the proceedings?

As it is not on the agenda, it will not now be put forward to full council until after the elections to Devon County Council.

Thank you

26 Feb

Thank you to the increasing number of people who are contacting us with information and suggestions for topics or research  – we value your help and assistance.

Mutiny in the ranks?

25 Feb

Message sent in to SIN today, by Peeler:
Rumour has it that some prominent local Tories are underwhelmed by the Great Leader’s recent performance.
Some thought  it was it less than inspired for PD to rush to congratulate  chairman Mark Williamson’s  ‘masterly’ performance in gagging independent councillors and some very influential members of the public at the December 5th Planning Committee meeting. Media coverage of this fiasco is described as “unfortunate”.
And another reliable source says there is growing true blue concern at apparent “economies with the truth” in the Leader’s statements. One of many examples they give is his comment to the press in October 2012 that there were “severe obstacles” to improving access to Sidmouth’s   Alexandria Road industrial estate. Only two months previously, the unelected member for Yarty was at a site meeting where a County highways man had declared  it posed “no problem” .
Beware the Ides of March!

A future agenda item for the East Devon Business Forum? “South West has highest proportion of bosses rated “bad or despicable” in the whole country”.

25 Feb

Another little nugget of information that you may have missed in the Sidmouth Herald:

“The South West has the highest proportion of badly-behaved bosses and the lowest proportion of well-behaved bosses, according to a new survey.

Amost 20 per cent of managers in the region were rated “bad (IBP)  or despicable”, compared to only eight per cent in London the South East.  Management consultancy Inspiring Business Performance spoke to 1,000 workers to get their views, who said inappropriate behaviour included the use of bad language, bullying, lying and breaching confidentiality.

John Telfer from IBP said “While not every boss here is bad, there are clearly a fair amount of rotten apples as well as people that need more help to be a good boss”.

Sounds like a good topic for the next agenda of the East Devon Business Forum!