Archive | June, 2013

EDDC Councillors Gifts and Hospitality

30 Jun

Information on the gifts and hospitality accepted by EDDC Councillors can be found

here

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/members_gifts_hospitality_received.htm

Interesting.

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How to film a council meeting when they would rather you didn’t: a masterclass

28 Jun

For an hilarious post of the experience of one hapless voter who tried – and succeeded check:

HERE

and taken up by

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-23087105

New edition of “The Good Councillors Guide”

28 Jun

Essential reading for good and bad councillors everywhere

HERE

Eric Pickles’ department fined for unauthorised overdraft

28 Jun

Story HERE.

….. “The finding may be an embarrassment for Mr Pickles, who has regularly lectured local councils on the need to get their finances under control.” …..

….. “In a further setback, the NAO found that the department’s local government capital expenditure limit of £80,000 had been exceeded by almost £1.2m as a result of overspending by two of its arm’s-length bodies – the Valuation Tribunal Service and the Commission of Local Administration in England.” …..

…..  Chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee Margaret Hodge described the failure of the department to control its finances as “a shocking example of incompetence”.

She said: “This is an unacceptable abuse and waste of public money that could have been avoided with the right financial oversight. …..

How many public servants jobs would that have saved?

Offices to flats? That will be £80 please and no affordables or S106

27 Jun

An article in today’s Evening Standard says that, from 1 June this year, developers can turn offices into homes without obtaining planning permission.  All it will take is a “prior approval” notice that will cost £80.  There will be no requirement for S106 payments or affordable housing provision and anyone affected has 56 days to object but after that the work will be allowed to start if the local authority decides that objections are not sustainable.

Any block of offices can be converted as long as it is not listed, not on a floodplain and not used to store explosives!  Normally planning permission would take about 18 months but it is anticipated that it will take only 8 weeks under this system.  All work must be completed by May 2016.

But what about the infrastructure that might need to go with the change – contribution to education, new roads, doctor and dentist facilities for example – tough, there is no obligation to provide any.

A303 to be dualled through the Blackdown Hills? Surely not!

27 Jun

Story HERE

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said:

Any Honourable Member, from the Prime Minister down, who lives in Cornwall, or has driven there for their holidays will want to see a better A303.”
 
The technical document, published to coincide with the speech, says: “Government will tackle some of the most notorious and long-standing road hot spots in the country. 
 
“Roads which are widely recognised as being in a need of a solution to alleviate  congestion and tackle enduring problems that have been avoided by successive governments. “The Government will identify and fund solutions, initially through feasibility studies, to look at  problems and identify potential schemes on the A303 to the south west …..”.

Original plans were tabled that ensured that the road would not pass through the Blackdown Hills and that a fairly long detour around them was favoured.  However, everything is now up for grabs again.

And our council which puts economic development above everything else in every other part of the district will no doubt be happy to see a dual carriageway road through the Blackdown Hills if this is what is decided – won’t it!

Economic development above all, including boring green fields and AONBs…. says Mr Boles.

A pecuniary conundrum

26 Jun

The post below is NOT a legal opinion, simply for discussion.

The document HERE is the latest guidance published by the government in April 2013 on councillors’ personal and pecuniary interests.  It contains a couple of interesting paragraphs.

Firstly it says:

2 The independent person

Section 28(7) of the Act requires local authorities to appoint at least one independent person to advise the council before it makes a decision on an allegation. There are restrictions on who can be appointed as the independent member; in general the independent person cannot be a councillor, officer or their relative or close friend.10 Former members of standards committees can be appointed as the independent person until 30 June 2013 as part of transitional arrangements to the new regime.

How can Councillor Salter of Newton Poppleford have been reported to police (possibly by another councillor) unless EDDC’s Independent Person has ruled on the allegation?  As far as we are aware, this has not happened.

Secondly, there is a paragraph that  makes it clear what a pecuniary interest covers:

Pecuniary interests cover the member’s ’employment, office, trade, profession or vocation’, any ‘sponsorship’ of the member, including contributions towards their election expenses, any ‘contracts’ between the member and the authority, any ‘land’ the member has an interest in and lies within the area of the authority, any ‘licences’ the member holds to occupy land in the area, any ‘corporate tenancies’, and certain ‘securities’ the member may hold.

This could (and should) be interpreted as  meaning land OWNED or CONTROLLED by the councillor.  This is obvious because when councillors list their interests on the document required by the local authority they include their homes and any other property they own within the district of which they are part.  THEY DO NOT INCLUDE LAND SURROUNDING THEIR PROPERTIES AND RECEIVE NO GUIDANCE THAT THEY SHOULD DO SO.

Have you seen an instance of any councillor in any council in the country registering a pecuniary interest in land AROUND the property they own but not actually owned by them?  If so, every councillor would have to list every piece of land, however small, bordering every property that he or she owns in a district.  This is not done.

An interesting conundrum!