• A DISTRICT council watchdog has called for ‘independent’ professionals to carry out a survey of Knowle over concerns about the amount of money being spent on the authority’s relocation project. Overview and scrutiny committee members last night agreed to make the recommendation to cabinet. East Devon District Council (EDDC) has decided to leave Sidmouth – saying Knowle is not ‘fit for [...]

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    The information was set to go live on Monday (3 February) but was inadvertently published ahead of time yesterday. It has now been withdrawn from the the council’s website. The news caused considerable alarm among councillors at today’s budget scrutiny meeting and among youth service staff, who, according to one councillor, were “up in arms” about proposals. Almost one [...]

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    There isn’t time to outline all the proposals now, but I am really alarmed at some of the funding reductions to services to children and young people, which is a service under massive pressure. Youth services are set to lose almost £1m and there are other services that help children and young people that are also being hit. Highways is set to lose £6.6m, with huge implications for highways[...]

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    In May 2015, the next general election will take place alongside local elections - for EDDC - and if more people stand than there are seats - for town and parish councils also. If not enough people stand for election, or the same number as there are seats, candidates will be automatically elected.  EDDC’s make-up is 59 councillors - 42 conservative, 7 independent and 10 libdem. In my [...]

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    Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has insisted he wants to see fracking “all over rural parts of the UK”. Mr Paterson said the controversial mining technique would boost jobs and growth, and there was a robust regime for ensuring safety. But he also admitted opponents of the practice were winning the war for public opinion – suggesting that was in part because they wear “exciting [...]

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    Dear Claire, I wanted to let you know straight away. I’m afraid we lost the gagging law vote in the House of Lords this evening. That’s it - it’s going to become law. It couldn’t have been closer. On the final vote, 245 Lords voted in favour and 245 against. Unfortunately the rules mean that in the case of a tie, the government gets its way. Personally I feel pretty [...]

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    The Countryside Alliance view - http://www.countryside-alliance.org/ca/communities/regrettable-that-mps-rejected-key-amendments-to-lobbying-bill It is deeply regrettable that on 22 January MPs rejected key amendments, made in the House of Lords, which would have limited the damage that Part 2 of the Lobbying Bill will do to democratic engagement in this country. The Government has continued to [...]

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    Dear Hugo and Neil I was so disappointed to learn that you both had voted with the party line on the lobbying bill. The way the government has handled the lobbying bill is quite deplorable: *there were no white or green papers before part 2 of the bill was laid before parliament * the government did not consult any of the major stakeholders before publishing the bill * the bill was laid before [...]

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    The NHS is still smarting over the drinks industry squashing proposals for a minimum price for alcohol - something that just about every senior doctor in this country thought would be an effective way of trying to reduce alcoholism. Let’s also not forget HS2, which the government paid with taxpayers money, aggressive lobbyists, £50m (this is on top of the actual cost of HS2 which is £50bn)[...]

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    Here’s the email from 38 Degrees ............................................................................... Disappointing news: your MP was one of those who let us down this week. They followed party orders and voted to reverse the main improvements to the gagging law. [1] But there is a glimmer of hope. Now that the government has removed the Lords’ changes, it has to go back to the [...]

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    Here’s a quick update on how it went today, with MPs voting again on the gagging law. I’m afraid it’s bad news. Most Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs chose to follow party orders. They reversed the main improvements made in the House of Lords. This means they voted: - to remove new rules limiting secret lobbying by big business - to put back in key limits on what campaigners, [...]

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    A paper submitted to next week’s overview and scrutiny committee states:  “Pre-application advice will be published as and when appropriate as and once a planning application has been received and resources permit.” The report adds:  “For the reasons set out in the report, the position adopted is an appropriate one in advance of the review to be carried out by [...]

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    Officers told the committee that the incidence of complaints in East Devon was “way higher” than in other councils, from conversations with colleagues elsewhere. Since October 2013, 23 complaints have been submitted to EDDC - largely against town and parish councillors. Five complaints are against district councillors. Two complaints have been referred for investigation and 12 are [...]

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    The standards committee had previously (at its October meeting) made a series of recommendations, which included proposals for public questions to be in writing in advance of meetings, BUT the proposals were qualified with “where possible”, which allowed flexibility. Then at November’s cabinet meeting – blog link here - [...]

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