Archive | September, 2013

Many councils running out of burial space

30 Sep

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24283426

And at this point EDDC starts discussing raising charges for burials.

Does anyone know if Cranbrook includes a cemetary?

BRE 365 (3)

30 Sep

Of great importance with sustainable urban drainage is not only its construction but its ongoing maintenance and repair.  It needs to be established by nearby property owners exactly who will be responsible for ongoing maintenance and repair and what the insurance situation is if properties are damaged if such maintenance and repair is not carried out in a timely manner.

Also be aware that if structures are not far from adjoining properties, it may be necessary for the landowner to enter into a party wall agreement at least 2 months before construction can be commenced.

The government guide to party walls (which are not necessarily  adjoining walls, is here

https://www.gov.uk/party-wall-etc-act-1996-guidance

Of relevance here is paragraph 27 of the above document

27 What does the Act say if I want to excavate near neighbouring buildings?

If you plan to:

  • excavate, or excavate for and construct foundations for a new building or structure, within 3 metres of any part of a neighbouring owner’s building or structure, where any part of that work will go deeper than the neighbour’s foundations (see diagram 6); or
  • excavate, or excavate for and construct foundations for a new building or structure, within 6 metres of any part of a neighbouring owner’s building or structure, where any part of that work will meet a line drawn downwards at 45° in the direction of the excavation from the bottom of the neighbour’s foundations (see diagram 7)

    you must inform the Adjoining Owner or owners by serving a notice – see paragraphs 7 and 8.

King Alfred Way drainage (2)

29 Sep

For those of technical bent, there are many examples of BRE Digest 365 available on the internet, of which 3 random ones are shown below, each presenting it in slightly different ways.  I believe that BRE Digests are available to order from local libraries if further study is needed:

http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/bredigest365.pdf

http://www.capitasymonds.co.uk/pdf/06%20Soakaway%20Tests.pdf

http://www.broxbourne.gov.uk/PDF/BRE%20DIGEST%20365.PDF

The non-favoured east side of East Devon – strange goings on

28 Sep

News reaches us, for a change, from the unfavoured east side of our district (well, that bit of the east side that isn’t Axminster).

In Seaton it appears that the third town clerk in 2 years has resigned after only a few weeks in office.

In Colyton, it seems that the natives are getting restless about the pecuniary and other interests of some of their councillors (town and district).

Seems like this part of the world is due a bit of TLC!

What DO they know? And why are they not telling us?

28 Sep

A perusal of the whatdotheyknow website on which people can register their Freedom of information requests makes interesting reading for those queries unanswered for a VERY long time or refused.

Taking only the most recent three pages and only from July 2013:

A request on WEEE recycling made on 8 July – still awaiting classification

Calculation of cost of officer time from 20 May 2013 still awaiting clarification

List of community assets – long overdue.

Unredacted Minutes and Reports of Relocation Working Parties – refused.

Roles of officers in Relocation and Knowle OPA – long overdue (15 May 2013)

When has councillor Graham Brown declared an interest – refused.

Councillor Graham Brown correspondence – refused.

Bowling Centre Exmouth – refused.

Voting Records – refused.

Adopted assets of Exmouth Urban District Council – awaiting internal review since 6 March 2013

Employment Land at Pound Lane Exmouth – awaiting classification.

Exmouth Masterplann – long overdue and awaiting internal review.

Graham Brown – awaiting internal review

Now, it may be that bureaucratic mess has meant that some of these have been answered but have not made it into the system.  But equally this may be an accurate assessment of the situation.

Seems like a job for an EDDC officer to sort out – it gives the council a bad name if people access the whatdotheyknow site and see this sort of outstanding queries.

And those refused tell their own stories.

 

 

 

 

King Alfred Way, Newton Poppleford – a caveat to watch for

27 Sep

The Development Management Committee issued a caveat when approving the Clinton Devon planning application:

condition 9 being amended to read ‘Prior to the commencement of development a detailed scheme for dealing with surface water from the site shall be submitted for approval. The scheme shall take the form of a SUDS scheme that shall be designed to mimic greenfield run-off levels as discussed in the submitted FRA and to a standard to deal with a 1 in 100 year storm event. Percolation tests to the standards detailed in BRE digest 365 shall be carried out and submitted for approval as part of the scheme. The scheme shall thereafter be carried out in accordance with the approved details prior to first occupation of any of the proposed dwellings.’ 

If I lived near that site I would ensure that this caveat is followed to the letter, as if surface water drainage on this site is not appropriate, heaven help those below the highest dwelling!

The “not putting up council tax” myth

26 Sep

This is something EDDC constantly pushes: we must be a wonderful council because we have not put up council tax.  This myth has been exploded in today’s Times where it reports that one in three councils makes more money from parking charges, planning charges and other domestic charges than from council tax.

The Audit Commission says that councils raised £10.2 BILLION by charging for rubbish, pest control, funerals and parking and such like.  Woking raises 87% of its income from such charges.  The report is here:

Click to access Fees-and-charges-VFM-briefing-FINAL-for-web-23-Sept-2013.pdf

from which it can be seen from the maps provided (page 6) that EDDC is amongst those councils raising the most from domestic charging.

The chairman of the Local Government Association said …”the funding system for local government is bust … some councils are in danger of being unable to fund their statutory responsibilities”.

And against this background, EDDC continues to tell us that an HQ move will be “cost neutral” even though it is going to need a loan of nearly £5 million.

Might it be that these “hidden” charges will be the ones that will rise if/when a financial black hole appears in EDDC finances – where a deficit has already been predicted for the next financial year?

What can happen when a council project goes wrong

24 Sep

Again, from our Site of the Week, Local Government Lawyer here is a cautionary tale about what can go wrong when a council is inadequately prepared to take on a big project.

…..

Auditors found that:

  • “Corby’s arrangements for managing the projects were ambiguous and ill defined leading to uncertainty as to who should have made key decisions;
  • There was insufficient member oversight at critical periods of the schemes;
  • Where established governance arrangements and internal controls did exist they often did not operate as they should have done;
  • Financial and project management of the schemes was poor;
  • On the face of it the land at St James was sold for considerably less than best consideration without getting the requisite statutory approval to do so;
  • This was compounded because the checks and balances, including the statutory responsibilities of key officers, which should have alerted the council to the failings, did not operate.”

…..

Speaking truth unto power

24 Sep

A very interesting article here, again from the Local Government Lawyer website, particularly the bit about Monitoring Officers standing up to pressure:

But in any event, there will probably come a time in every monitoring officer’s life when the irresistible force of the legal and governance position meets the immovable object of political objection. And that is when your strength of integrity and resilience will be vital. For it may be extremely tempting to allow a small three letter word (yes) to parachute you far away from all the stress and danger of a career-threatening situation. But it is a temptation firmly to be resisted. For if no is the right answer (followed up as necessary by a statutory monitoring officer’s report), then no is the only way to go.

Local Government lawyers unhappy about the current standards regime

23 Sep

The Lawyers in Local Government website has grave misgivings about the current workings of the local government standards regime.

Lawyers in Local Government (LLG) has echoed a watchdog’s criticisms of the workings of the revamped local government standards regime.

In its annual report for 2012/13, published last week, the Committee for Standards in Public Life (CSPL) accepted that the new system – introduced through the Localism Act 2011 – required time to bed in properly.

However, it raised specific concerns about the new regime, namely:

  • Its operation in local authorities where leadership is inadequate;
  • The lack of meaningful sanctions;
  • The weakness of the ‘independent person’ arrangements; and
  • The lack of time that was available for transition to the new system

…..

For instance, as the CSPL report indicates, the new regime fails to catch ‘….inappropriate behaviour which would not pass the strict tests required to warrant a criminal prosecution, but which deserves a sanction stronger than simple censure’. Because while ‘censure may carry opprobrium in the political arena it is often considered unacceptably lenient by the public relative to other areas of their experience’.”

…..

Nicholas Dobson, LLG’s Communications Officer, said: Local government standards exist for two key reasons, i.e. so that those: (i) elected to represent and serve the public behave in the way that the public would reasonably expect; and (ii) taking decisions on behalf of and affecting the public do so without any taint or perception of self-interest.

“Although many aspects of the previous regime may well have been over bureaucratic and cumbersome, we do nevertheless feel that the Localism Act changes weakened processes to such a degree as to render them unfit for their overriding purpose of promoting confidence in local democracy.”