Paul Diviani and budgets: the worrying question and the even more worrying answer

7 Oct

A full copy of the email referred to below can be found here.  We will leave it to Claire Wright, the East Devon Alliance and Save our Sidmouth to respond to those parts of the email that attack them, but let us deal with what ought to have been the crux of the matter and for which the rest of the email is just flim-flam and blame shifting.

The first email (contents which kicked off this outburst sets the totally reasonable question:

Are we looking at ways of saving money or are we saying that some discretionary services might go?”.

and puts that question to Paul Diviani and Andrew Moulding.  In full it says:

“[Someone] has forwarded me an article from Claire Wright, a (sic) Ottery Councillor about seeking information about budget cuts from the public, which one presumes would include town and parish councils.  She makes reference to discretionary services – to which I suspect [my parish] would get few of anyway.  [The person who sent the email to me] wanted this on the agenda – but I felt that you could both provide some information on this.  This seems to have got muddled by Cllr Thomas [Portfolio Holder, EDDC] talking about the public wanting their rubbish collected – that of course is a mandatory service as Clair (sic) points out .  We have of course not really had an official request.  I note that [name] has put something on the blog.

Are we looking at ways of saving money or are we saying that some discretionary services might go?”.

Two different questions with different possible answers.  Is this something you could cover in your sessions rather than a separate agenda item at this stage?  Replies soon as I must prepare the agenda.

To which Diviani’s reply is:

If we are to move beyond back office cuts and efficiency savings then the obvious target will be the “nice to do” – I will try and find a definitive list but the complexities are myriad”.

Our translation:  I have no idea, I don’t even know which services we are talking about but will ask other people if they know.

Not a good response for someone who has the budget for the whole of our district in his hands and who is thinking of spending around £5 million  on a vanity project of new offices, having already spent £500,000 on the project which has mostly been discussed and agreed in secret.  Oh, and this is the council that has INCREASED back office staff recently rather than reduced them!

9 Responses to “Paul Diviani and budgets: the worrying question and the even more worrying answer”

  1. Not A Developer October 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    Yes, it is very worrying seeing my council tax in such unprepared hands which are more concerned with trivialities of politics than urgent and important issues.

  2. Sandra Semple October 7, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    What worries me is something different. Presumably, Diviani is communicating with local party members about items that should or should not go on a parish (or town council, it isn’t clear) agenda for a meeting. The person asking appears to have control over the agenda but is asking Mr Diviani what he thinks should be put on it.

    Is Mr Diviani a member of this council? If so is a small group of members of one party (and possibly a clerk) arranging agenda items between them? Town and parish councillors are supposed to be non-political – it is only when you get to district/county level that politics intrude. Also, if a clerk is involved, a clerk is supposed to ADVISE a council not set council policy in advance of a meeting.

    This therefore raises some very uncomfortable questions about the independence of town/parish councils and/or their clerks and the amount of political interference that goes on in this area.

  3. Axegrinder October 7, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Not A Developer has a serious point here, Many worry that in all the justified noise over conduct at East Devon D.C, the ongoing horrors at a number of parish and town councils go ignored. Certainly the Monitoring Office looks defeated.

    But if, for example, a development application has the “full support” of a parish/town council this is regularly cited by Planning Officer reports and District Councillors as a potent, clinching argument during debate in favour of a development.

    Cllr Helen Parr leaned heavily on just such an argument in personally driving a housing estate through her Development Management Committee last month.

    Wouldn’t it be worrying,then, if a DMC chairman, her parish chairman, and her parish planning committee chairman were all from the same party? If a DMC chairman was married to the parish chairman.

    If the parish planning chairman was married to the parish finance chairman.

    What if the parish chairman, the planning chairman and the amenities chairman were also part of the same powerful, closed-door charity holding funds for the benefit of the town and meeting in secret?

    What if the other district councillor was also in the same party, and was Chairman of the District Council?

    Couldn’t happen could it, not in 2013, in a sweet little town in the lower Axe Valley? (Don’t know about the current clerk – but the one before was Secretary of the local party. Nice.)

    Could ask Eric Pickles to help, perhaps. Doh! Same party.

  4. Sandra Semple October 7, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    If Mr Diviani is NOT a member of this council why is someone from it writing to him about the agenda. And why is it being copied to scores of other people (presumably parish councillors on other parish councils in the area) who should not be involved? If he IS a member, why tell everyone in the area the private business of that one council?

    Of course, a big problem in East Devon is clerks of councils (who have TOTAL control over what goes on an agenda) also being district councillors at the same time. Gamekeeper AND poacher!

    Mr Diviani ought to be running the district council and representing his WHOLE constituency as its county councillor professionally and with dignity.

  5. Rich October 7, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

    This is ridiculous. Read the email – you are getting out of control! I see no issue at all in the exchange. Good heavens everyone is suffering from paranoia. The man is doing a good job.

  6. Sandra Semple October 7, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    What exactly are “these sessions” that the councillor talks about? Will we all get to go to them? I greatly admire John Hart (Leader, DCC) who tours the county to hear from people where they think budget cuts should happen, takes the flak when he makes difficult choices and writes to his Tory masters in no uncertain terms when he feels the cuts are unfair. What a difference from our Leader in his bunker.

  7. Paul Arnott - Colyton October 7, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    Referring to contributor, Rich above … Rich, Mr Diviani sent out a communication which was partially pondering on budget cuts – and fair enough, this is going to be hard. He is free to comment on this as he wishes.

    But he also freely chose to frame this with a thrice repeated, unwarranted attack on an Independent councillor. Combined with an attack on sincere individuals who are genuinely desperate about the way their district – in its democratic processes – has been and is governed.

    He and his allies must realise that this was very poorly judged. The councillor, and these independent people, wish only the best for their district and their communities. They exert every sinew trying to hold the district to account and to encourage it back to being an properly accountable body.

    This is not paranoia – and if I may say so, there is something of the pot calling the kettle black here.

    But it is possible to see where the problems really took hold. I was at EDDC recently and in one of the rooms there is a series of cartoons of the council in action in early 2002. And good fun they are too, in a Punch-ish kind of way. One of them shows the then chairman, Bill Waterworth, assuring the assembly that the (then) new form of Cabinet Government at District would do nothing to dilute local democracy …….

    Rich, have a look at the next round of district or town or parish meetings in your area. Then think about what your own party says it is trying to do with Localism. It could be a great idea … but the bodies locally currently constituted to carry the idea forward?

    Mr Diviani should engage with those who are so concerned, and respect them. But yet again he has played the man and not the ball.

  8. Jen October 8, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    Some people on this site appear fixated with hatred for people just trying to do a good job in public service. Leave the poor man alone and get a life… Or do some charity work!

  9. Media Mandy October 8, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    Mr Diviani is getting paid a great deal of OUR money to do his “public service” and commenting on a blog and doing charity work are not mutually exclusive activities!

    Anyone in public life should expect to be scrutinised – though, admittedly EDDC does its best to ensure that this does not happen. If Mr Diviani and his cohort were open and transparent (as they promised to be at the last election) blogs such as this would be unnecessary.

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