• At the last standards committee meeting in July where the social media policy was debated, committee member, David Mason said he was concerned that the policy contained a “gagging clause” and could prevent councillors from giving their views freely about controversial issues, such as the local plan, for example - see account of the meeting here - http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/social_media_policy_could_gag_councillors/ At the last EDDC full council meeting on 24 July I raised these concerns and proposed that it be amended. Cllr Roger Giles also asked that the [...]

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    The motions are: By Cllr Julian Brazil (libdem) seconded by me This Council is appalled at the effect of the new NPPF document and this Government s policy of building houses as a solution to the economic crisis. This is having an adverse impact on our schools and health provision. We will continue to support the housing needs of our local communities to build houses for local working families but we will reject the destruction of the Devon countryside for the benefit of landowners, developers and short term political expediency. By Cllr Emma Morse (labour) The Council notes: 1. Already 1 in 4[...]

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    New national guidance states that such advice should be made available to the public. The recommendation on the report circulated with last night’s agenda papers, was to “note the restrictions in place on communicating confidential and commercially sensitive information disclosed at pre-application discussions.” Member of the public, Jessica Bailey, who had patiently sat through three hours of the committee meeting waiting for this item, addressed councillors. She said that she was unhappy with the committee report because it did not mention the latest “Probity in Planning” guidance [...]

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    Portfolio holder, Cllr Ian Thomas, and a senior officer, gave presentations to last night’s overview and scrutiny committee meeting about the parlous state of the council’s finances.  They outlined the measures that the council was taking to try and cut costs. Measures include: - a budget working party being set up and being charged with saving £1.5m over the next three years - the asset management forum ordered to make £50k of savings/create additional income - fees and charges task and finish forum responsible for saving £50k The committee was given lists of mandatory and [...]

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    An officer confirmed that the fees and charges task and finish forum had “benchmarked” fees and EDDC had been found to be charging below what many other councils are charging. I said that the rise in costs were extortionate and I could not support the recommendations.  I asked that the committee be provided with evidence that EDDC was undercharging.  I said the cost increases would hit the people hardest who could least afford to pay.  I asked why developers who submitted major planning applications could not be charged higher fees.  The reply was that this was[...]

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    I arrived to the meeting late as I had come from a Feniton flood defence meeting elsewhere in the building.  I arrived, incidentally, at the beginning of the relevant agenda item. Roger Giles was already asking a question about why the audit report relating to Graham Brown, was confidential when I sat down. The answers that came back from a senior officer was that it was: written for management, contained risks and could be taken out of context, or selectively reported. I put up my hand and asked whether all auditor reports were confidential. Chairman, Cllr Ken Potter said that they were [...]

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    Overview and scrutiny committee chairman, Cllr Tim Wood, said that it was not possible to bring the subject of the office move to the committee until 30 January, because the scrutiny agendas for the next three months are full. An officer said that a major report on the office move would be debated by EDDC’s cabinet on 4 December. I argued that it was probably the most important issue facing the council at the present time and with the large holes in the budget, the financial risk proposed and people’s anxiety about it, it was surely vital that the office move was discussed as a [...]

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    The move is linked to the huge funding cuts that the government has insisted the council must make over the next four years. Over £110m must be cut from DCC budgets.  This is in addition to almost the same amount being cut over the last four years. The youth services issue comes before people’s overview and scrutiny committee tomorrow, accompanied by an agenda paper which states that the review will be based on the following key principles: - a substantial reduction in office buildings - co-location of adult and community learning, libraries, youth services and fulfilling lives [...]

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    INDEPENDENT auditors have scrutinised East Devon District Council’s governance procedures following concerns about the integrity of a former councillor. Councillors on the Audit and Governance Committee called for the audit following concerns about whether there was a conflict of interest between former councillor Graham Brown’s role on the council and his professional work as a planning consultant. As previously reported by the Echo, police are investigating whether the former Feniton and Buckerell ward member may have committed a criminal offence after being caught on camera boasting [...]

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    I hear many anecdotes about what is happening across East Devon and I am sure that the article (link below) will resonate with many people. http://sidmouthindependentnews.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/local-government-lawyers-unhappy-about-the-current-standards-regime/ When the new regime was imposed on councils last year I tried to get EDDC councillors to mount a protest to government about it, but my proposal was voted down by the conservative group. Here’s the blog from that council meeting in June 2012 - [...]

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    Page 20 of this Thursday’s audit and governance papers states:  “The Audit & Governance Committee were concerned relating to the perceived or actual conflict of roles of Ex-Councillor G Brown and accordingly amended the 2013/14 Audit Plan to include an audit by SWAP (south west audit partnership) to consider the Governance arrangement implications and to suggest any necessary improvements. “A similar point was raised within the Assurance Statements and a perceived/actual conflict between Planning and Economic Development Roles.” The report goes on to say: [...]

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    Here’s what page 72 of the Audit and Governance agenda say: “Following the approval of the 2013-14 budget, the Council now face a cumulative budget gap of £3.973 million over the next five year period, with a budget gap of £1,878,000 for 2014-15. “These gaps are before consideration of New Homes Bonus to fund the shortfall. Whilst this is a significant income stream to the Council, it is aware of the risks of over-reliance on this reward grant following recent Government announcements and has proposed that the amount to be used to fund the general fund budget should be [...]

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    The event, organised by the Otter Trail cycle way campaign group, of which I am a member, made an impact on the streets of Ottery, with the colourful “pelloton” doing a quick and dramatic tour of Ottery town, before heading back to the Land of Canaan car park and over the new connect bridge. Stalwart police community support officer, Maria Clapp, was on hand to distribute high visibility jackets. From the Thorne Farm Estate, the group cycled up Barrack Road and then turned right into Cadhay Lane and travelled along the lovely quiet lane, with magnificent views over the surrounding[...]

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    http://www.nlgn.org.uk/public/wp-content/uploads/Future-Councillors_FINAL.pdf

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    The Straitgate Action Group’s most recent blog (below) highlights the dangers of meddling with underground watercourses. In this instance, people in Northumberland were left without water supplies for one year…. http://straitgateactiongroup.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/the-dangers-of-messing-with-groundwater.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+StraitgateActionGroup+(Straitgate+Action+Group)

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    Following concerns from residents I asked that the item be discussed by the committee, as I do not believe that it is necessary or correct that the information should have a blanket label of confidentiality. There are certainly cases in my view, when it is very much in the public interest to release pre-application advice.  Commercial sensitivity is a different issue and can be treated separately. Currently, a Freedom of Information request must be made by someone wishing to see pre-application advice and it is up to EDDC whether they release the information or not. Officers say requests[...]

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    And the all-conservative cabinet has made decisions to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax payers money, without residents being able to either see the associated reports, or be present when major decisions were being made. EDDC says that discussions are commercially sensitive and has so far resisted my calls to publish the reports and minutes in a redacted form. There are increasing fears that relocation costs are spiralling and July’s report to the cabinet on the relocation project hinted that the emphasis had shifted from a “cost neutral” scheme, to an aim for a [...]

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    Hopefully, the request will approved.  We will know within 20 working days.

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    Cllr Tim Wood has today replied to my email of last week, asking that the increasingly controversial issue, is placed on the next scrutiny agenda. Instead, I am invited to raise the subject at the forward plan item, at the end of the meeting, which I will do. I am not sure what will be listed on the agenda for the meeting on Thursday 26 September, 6.30pm, but from looking at the forward plan in the July agenda papers, there doesn’t appear to be anything anywhere near as important or significant as the office move. The overview and scrutiny committee has discussed the relocation project [...]

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    East Devon District Council has agreed to the request from Save The Red Lion Campaign to list the Red Lion pub in Sidbury village, East Devon, as an Asset of Community Value under the 2012 Localism Act. The District Council’s important decision is a significant one for a rural community in East Devon. This listing is only the second that the District Council has made and the Red Lion pub now joins around a hundred other pubs across the country which have been listed as Assets of Community Value by their local authorities. This reflects a growing demand by local communities to not only save [...]

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    Here’s the link and story - http://www.thisisexeter.co.uk/Concerns-East-Devon-District-Council-8217-s-HQ/story-19781047-detail/story.html#axzz2efJajWjg  CAMPAIGNERS against East Devon District Council’s proposed sell-off of its Sidmouth offices have voiced concerns that the move will not be as “cost-neutral” as anticipated by council bosses. Their claim follows a lighthearted Picnic in the Park event in the picturesque grounds of Knowle. It was organised by the Knowle Residents Association, backed by campaign groups Save our Sidmouth and the East Devon Alliance. The aim was [...]

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    In this excellent article, Simon Jenkins reveals that the breathtaking £50bn set to be spent on HS2, can be hiked by a further £250m - spent on a coterie of PR advisers and lobbyists.  If you remember, it is these advisers that “positioned” objectors to the project as selfish nimbys standing in the way of jobs and progress.  “We’re going to s*** them up”, was, I think, one of the quotes given to journalist, Anna Minton, who looked into this shadowy group. If the economy is picking up, it is no thanks to Mr Osborne. Here’s the article - [...]

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    The air we breathe has a direct impact on our health. But the government is trying to push through damaging changes which remove the responsibility for local authorities to assess air pollution and declare where it is a problem. If the government’s successful, you won’t be able to find out what the air is like in your local area. Or hold local authorities to account if it’s at unsafe levels. Which currently you’re able to do. [1] And as usual it’s the poorest who will suffer the most - poorer areas have dirtier air and so are likely to feel the health impacts. These changes would[...]

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    Unfortunately, apart from the occasional EDDC news sheets that proclaim how delapidated the buildings are, most councillors and members of the public don’t have a clue what is happening because discussions on the plans to move are all held behind closed doors, with agendas and minutes marked confidential, we are informed, for commercial sensitivity reasons. The last time a set of EDDC meetings about a major piece of work took place behind closed doors with CONFIDENTIAL rubber stamped across minutes, it spectacularly backfired.  And the committee’s chairman is now being [...]

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    http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/Royalist-atheist-anti-benefits-Study-reveals/story-19772624-detail/story.html?ito=email_newsletter_exeterexpressandecho In 30 years, the South West has shifted from a Conservative bible-belt with sympathy for the unemployed to left-minded atheism with a belief that it is possible to find a job if you really want to, according to a new study. Less than a third of people in the region identify themselves as Tories, down from almost half under Margaret Thatcher in 1986, according to the study by NatCen Social Research. But while more people now believe [...]

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    The new law, which was debated for the first time last week, with the draft bill only having been launched at the beginning of the summer recess, is returning to the House of Commons tomorrow. Why is it being forced through so fast? The legal advice is that MPs will be able to spend what they like on their campaigns, but charities, campaigning organisations and unions will be significantly restricted, in the lead up to any election.  Meanwhile the power of the shadowy lobbyists, who were supposed to be the focus for the bill, will be allowed to continue, virtually as they were before. [...]

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    At the latest OSC meeting on Friday (6 September), of which I am a member, there was a bumper agenda, with 14 items listed, including: - information on how £1m cuts to the maternity budget in north Devon, may affect frontline care - a north Devon community hospital that is planning a public consultation after suddenly closing all its beds - plans to shut all the beds at Budleigh Salterton community hospital, including an eight bedded stroke unit serving East Devon, to make way for day care services - the progress of plans for a major change in the way community services are delivered, called [...]

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    The line would rip up some of most precious countryside in the UK. Here’s the BBC story:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24011403 The estimated benefits of the planned HS2 high-speed rail link are dwindling as costs rise, a group of MPs has said. The Public Accounts Committee said the Department for Transport was failing to present a “convincing strategic case”. The committee added that it was instead based on “fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions which do not reflect real life”. Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin insisted the case for HS2 [...]

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    Feniton has already received 50 houses on appeal last year, and residents and EDDC planning officers are gearing up for appeals, totalling almost 250, growing the village by around 40 percent.  Feniton residents are worn down by repeated major applications and flooding events, but are determined to battle on. Andrew Lainton, a London-based planning blogger, who the CPRE worked with to try and improve the draft National Planning Policy Framework in 2011, has posted a blog this morning, in which he argues that the developers wanting to build at Feniton “are on a hiding to [...]

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    Apart from feeling deep gloom for our poor bees, my attention was also caught by this story because my family visited the Loire Valley a few weeks ago, and we were plagued by copious horrid giant wasps. So much so, that we went indoors as I was constantly hopping up and down flapping my book at them. My daughter and husband were continually either dodging them or trying to splash them, as they were flying right at us. Early on in the holiday when there were only a few around I saved one from drowning in the pool, during my daily routine of rescuing floundering bugs from an unpleasant [...]

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    Even Matt Woodley, BBC Radio Devon’s presenter, commented on Cllr Hart’s tone in the interview, observing that he had never heard him so frustrated or angry. Cllr Hart accused communities secretary, Eric Pickles, of treating councils like children, and said that someone in London was “living in cloud cuckoo land.”  He added that ministers were being “economical with the truth.” Cllr Hart’s views on cuts were expressed in a letter to the government, which was passed to the BBC. Frontline services such as libraries and youth services were [...]

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    Expressions of interest are to be sought for the Council-owned Heathpark site in Honiton following the Cabinet decision last night (4 September) to test the market. Council Leader Paul Diviani said: “We are committed to exploring all options for a possible new office site as well as maximising the values from our landholdings. One option has always been the sale of our Heathpark site alongside that of Knowle and Manstone Depot in Sidmouth and to use the money raised for a new, more efficient and modern headquarters.  It is important to understand the value of this site and what interest[...]

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    It looks like it falls to us to put the record straight. Here’s the advice from 38 Degrees…... On Tuesday the gagging law had its first debate in parliament. [1] The brilliant work of hundreds of thousands of 38 Degrees members - along with over 100 charities, community groups and campaigns - stopped it slipping through quietly. Dozens of MPs highlighted how many of us had contacted them and raised serious concerns about the plan. The government managed to win a vote for the law to pass to the next stage. But, as The Daily Telegraph put it, they were “given a rough [...]

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    New research officially confirmed that ‘fracking’ caused the set of nearly a dozen mysterious earthquakes in Ohio in 2011. Scientists have spent the past two years trying to explain why Youngstown, Ohio- a town where there had been now reported earthquakes before December 2010- suddenly fell victim to 109 small quakes. The latest findings draw a definitive connection between the opening of a injection well site near Youngstown and the ensuing string of earthquakes, providing scientific proof for activists who are trying to prevent the spread of the controversial practice. [...]

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    The boxes will do not require planning consent, are set to appear at the following locations: Near Furzebrook, Ottery St Mary Ridgeway, Ottery St Mary Canaan Way, Ottery St Mary Thorne Farm Way, Ottery St Mary West Hill Road, near Eastfield, West Hill Near the war memorial, West Hill Road Towards the bottom of West Hill Road, West Hill Near the Golden Lion pub, Tipton St John The proportions of the boxes are - height 1600mm x length 1200mm x depth 450mm The letter to EDDC planners from BT Openreach’s contractors, the Harlequin Group, states:  “As part of Openreach’s ongoing [...]

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    We will start in Ottery at the Land of Canaan car park and continue to Escot Park, where we can enjoy a picnic lunch. You can bring your own or buy some food at Escot’s cafe to eat outside. Hope to see you then! For more information about our campaign, visit http://www.ottertrail.org - and please sign up to the petition for a cycleway if you haven’t already. Photograph:  Some of the Otter Trail campaign group at our public event last October.  Chair is Jo Elliott, teacher at King’s School.

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    Minsters have been at great pains to reassure charities and campaigners that most of their campaigning activities won’t be affected. How is that for an admission of a serious and underhand chilling attempt to control of free speech.  Even more sinister when one considers that lawyers had to examine the document with a fine tooth comb to discover the implications - and that it was released at the start of the summer recess.  The lawyers who have examined the small print, have a very different interpretation of the facts. What other controversial document was released at the [...]

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    Companies would be able to apply for planning permission to drill for oil or gas under people’s property without first notifying them, under government proposals to ease the consent process for oil and gas production. In a consultation published today, the Department for Communities and Local Government said that it intends to make changes to planning legislation to make it easier for energy developers to submit planning applications. The move follows the publication of shale gas planning practice guidance in July. The document includes plans to amend the Town and Country Planning Act [...]

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    In our area, the problem is caused by uncontrolled large-scale development. Here’s the story from the BBC website and below - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-23931974 Almost half of England’s school districts will have more primary pupils than places within two years, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said. Some local areas will face a 20% shortfall in places by 2015, according to analysis of official data from 2012. Rising birth rates began the squeeze but uncertainty over funds has made it worse, the LGA says. The government says it has more than doubled funding for[...]

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    From Saturday 5 October, traffic will be diverted along the B3181 at the Halfway Inn towards Daisymount and also from the Bowd Inn to Ottery St Mary town, through the centre and up to Daisymount via Barrack Road. All large vehicles are going to be diverted along the A375 at Sidford, through Sidbury and to Honiton, to join the A30.  I have previously received complaints from residents of Sidbury about the existing problems with traffic through the village’s main road, which is very narrow in places. I am also concerned at the level of traffic that will be travelling for almost six [...]

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    To resolve the omissions I have identified, I have asked that the decision to resume enforcement action be suspended, and that instead, it is referred to planning committee.  

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    The EA believes that if no work was done, it would be around 18 months before the rivers converged. It is viewed as a temporary solution, to avoid the bridge being damaged by the flows of water not flowing under the arches but flowing against the stone pillars.  EA officers confirm that Devon County Council highways department are fully aware that the bridge is potentially at risk from the river flows changing direction. The EA will now monitor the situation each month to see how the flows and bank erosion are affected.

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    The scheme has turned a lovely field and the stunning weir into a bit of a mess, albeit temporarily and I am aware that people have concerned about the length of time it has taken to complete The Environment Agency started work in January and was unfortunately delayed by bad weather and plenty of rain, which caused a very muddy access track, which had to be reinforced with chippings, as you will have noticed. The work has cost around £245,000 and has now finished and as of tomorrow the fish pass will be operational, with the plant and other structures, including the access track being removed[...]

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    This is because when the service change was implemented in May, many Exeter schools students would have been on study leave and an accurate picture of the number of children having to get off instead, at either Hand and Pen (Whimple) or Ottery, would not have been obvious. I share parents very understandable concerns about the forthcoming dark evenings where children as young as 11, will either have to hang around in Exeter, to catch the 16.40 bus, or parents will have to drive to Whimple or Ottery to collect them if they catch the earlier bus, which also may involve hanging around in the [...]

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