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.

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!

And more about that Newton Poppleford meeting … muddled minds …

26 Jun

Thanks to several correspondents for nuggets of information below about the meeting of Newton Poppleford Parish Council on Monday – your contributions to sidmouthindependentnews@gmail.com gratefully received.

Some highlights:

It was claimed that Clinton Devon’s Planning Statement contained inaccurate statements such as ’The scheme has the explicit support of the Newton Poppleford and Harpford Parish Council..’ and  resulted from ‘lengthy discussions with the local community’. The parish council voted to make a complaint to EDDC about these two statements.  ….. Parish Clerk, Mr Atkins, (who is also a Councillor at EDDC and on the Planning Committee), instead of making a complaint to East Devon District Council about this appears to have instead contacted Clinton Devon Estates agents and asked them to change their wording. …..  Reports from the meeting allege that Mr Atkin’s said ‘I got in a muddle in my mind..’

Clinton Devon appears to have submitted an ‘amended’ Planning Statement for their revised Application which still contains these inaccurate statements.

In papers divulged to the parish council, Clinton Devon’s agents appeared to know about the complaint about Councillor Salter, which it is said (but not confirmed) was made by one of the other Parish Councillors, a week before the Councillor himself knew.

It was also brought to the public’s attention that the Parish Plan was put together after the Clerk had identified, in the SHLAA process, a site for a community hall and surgery. Though it was not strictly speaking in his remit to allocate sites for specific purposes at this stage. [ A parish clerk’s job is to advise councillors of their alternatives and then follow their instructions after they have discussed the matter and made their decision, whether he or she agrees with their decision or not, as long as that decision is not illegal].

Praise was given via a letter for a recent article in the Sidmouth Herald by a resident which called for democracy in Newton Poppleford and this received warm applause from the floor.

A speaker who said his former job was a principle planning officer for East Devon for 25 years, spoke in favour of the application. He was a volunteer driver who took people to Ottery for appointments, and said a surgery in Newton Poppleford would free up appointments and accommodation in the Ottery surgery.  He said suggestions that Sidmouth people would register were spurious as they were on the Sidmouth register and  Sidmouth were not taking any more, but Ottery were.  A later speaker pointed out that the surgery was shown as having four consulting rooms which seemed a lot for just Newton Poppleford and surrounding villages [It should be noted that people can register with any surgery they want if it has spaces and can leave their current surgeries without needing to give a reason so there would be nothing to stop people from Sidmouth registering with the new surgery if they wished and there were places].

Disappointment was raised about the lack of professionalism concerning Parish Council minutes and failure of the PC to make the minutes available for the public viewing, even for the previous planning meeting concerning King Alfred Way on 13th May.

Another month, another chaotic planning meeting at Newton Poppleford

25 Jun

“It’s chaos,” commented chairman Cllr Sanders at about 10.30pm, on Monday24 June, at Newton Poppleford village hall.

The troubled  parish council’s latest meeting was considering a revised controversial planning application from Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) to build 40 houses (and a doctor’s surgery) on the AONB beyond King Alfred’s Way. Two houses and a village hall site had been removed from the original proposal supported by the parish clerk and certain councillors.
This one too was thrown out after a period of farcical confusion with two rival motions to reject the application!
Extraordinarily, the planning discussion was tacked on to the end of a full council meeting and only started at 10.20 pm. A tired, but determined public (standing room only) stuck it out with a clear majority against the project.
EDDC Councillor Potter surprisingly nailed his colours to the mast despite being a member of the Development Management Committee.  He said  that a new estate of 40 houses would “enhance the village” and would have no effect on the AONB.  Local residents wouldn’t agree,  as the site is elevated and the new buildings would be visible from the north for miles around
Former  EDDC planning officer ,Barry Easter, who appears to  know the Parish Clerk well, spoke passionately in favour of the new fully equipped surgery promised by CDE, and was supported by a letter received yesterday from a senior partner in the Coleridge practice. This enthusiastic advocacy was almost immediately undermined by County Councillor Christine Channon who had just attended a commissioning groups meeting, and had a different impression of the level of support for a new surgery.
Members of the public asked how  the CDE application had become the “preferred option” of certain councillors and wondered why other potential developers had not been informed that a village hall site and doctor’s surgery were essential criteria.  They raised concerns about increased traffic  that 40 new houses and an enlarged doctor’s surgery would cause.
Then it was the  councillors’ turn. Cllr Salter argued  that the application should not be discussed at all, as CDE had included an “inaccurate” statement  of “explicit council support” in their first application. (This was the subject of a complaint to EDDC Planning Department which was being considered.) He was overruled.
Several councillors objected to the application as excessive, when the Local Plan recommended only 50 houses in total for the village by 2026.
Cllr Coles repeated his support for  the original application, and then dramatically proposed that the council vote against the current one because the village hall had been removed. A rival motion from other councillors argued  that it should be rejected because there were too many houses.
Confusion! The chairman talked about voting for the motion against the application! In the end, I think(!), they voted 5 to 4 to reject the application because it did not include a village hall site, and contained an excessive number of houses!
All this at times farcical activity took place against a background of serious allegations, by an as yet unnamed person, that Cllr Salter  voted illegally on a planning matter after declaring a  Disclosable Pecuniary Interest (DPI)
As a result he is now the subject of police enquiries . He strongly denies having or declaring a DPI.
At the beginning of the meeting Cllr Salter asked the parish clerk,   about  a letter, dated 24th May, which he (Mr Atkins)  had received  from the developer’s agent. Why had the letter referred to Councillor Salter having been reported to the police, when Cllr Salter  himself knew nothing about this until six days later?
No answer was forthcoming.

Councillor denies wrongdoing after police questioning

25 Jun

Story here

One question: if it is only going to take 6-8 weeks for the police to resolve this matter and it took only 7-10 days for them to contact the Newton Poppleford councillor after the complaint was made, how long will it take to resolve the other issue of a district and town councillor for Feniton still before the police – the original story for that issue having been broken on 10 March 2013 – story here–  some 16 weeks ago.

We must hope that the police are getting full co-operation from those involved.