Overweening Public Servants?

17 Jul

Isn’t  it about time that leading officers of EDDC reminded themselves that they exist to advise and carry out the wishes of our elected representatives, and to serve the public?

Recent actions suggest that some of them have an inflated view of their role. Disturbing examples include:

  • The Chief Executive trying to limit what the Scrutiny Committee – a vital watchdog for the public interest- can consider.
  • A legal officer misleadingly suggesting that a councillor might have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest – merely  because he lives near a proposed development to which he objected.
  • A deputy chief executive writing a letter to a newspaper critical of council taxpayers who objected to an unpopular development, and then making a formal complaint against a councillor who criticised him.
  • A deputy chief executive telling a member of the public not to take a complaint about conflicts of interest in planning to the Ombudsman
  • A senior planning officer failing to pass on vital information from official  consultees to members of the Development Management Committee considering a contentious planning application.

Interestingly, officer interventions often seem to be in favour of development and critical of opposition to it.

Perhaps this is to be expected of career administrators who are just passing through East Devon, who can’t be expected to have any emotional attachment to this unique part of England and its priceless natural assets. We shouldn’t be surprised in tough times that hard-headed accountants should be intent on ‘sweating assets’ and not give a damn about ‘heritage’.

But what about our councillors who are supposed to direct their officers? Too often it’s the officers who appear to make ‘political’ decisions.

 For example, in the Local Plan in Sidmouth, it seems to have been officers who took the initiative in allocating  a 12-acre industrial site for the AONB in Sidford, and proposing  the Parkland and Arboretum for  building in the ‘omnishambolic’ Knowle Outline Planning Application.

It’s time for councillors to get a grip!

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