• Trees and hedges are currently being planted around AI’s proposed quarry boundaries on Straitgate Farm. Planting ahead of an application is standard practice. The boreholes on and around the site are continually being monitored. In January, groundwater levels had already risen significantly - up five metres in one borehole within the proposed area of excavation! The consultants have collected enough data to start modelling stream-flows and draw-downs associated with AI’s proposals. AI should learn more later in March about whether this modelling confirms their proposed footprint [...]

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    I am writing to you in connection with the consultation regarding Devon Youth Service and this letter is on behalf of the Sidmouth and Ottery St Mary Local Action Group who have agreed its contents. I am the Community Safety and Anti Social Behaviour Officer employed by East Devon District Council. I have been in this role for nearly 10 years during which time I have become very familiar with the role of Devon Youth Service.  Prior to that I had many dealings with them in my time as the Community Safety Team Sergeant for the district based at Exmouth Police Station. The main point we [...]

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    My (apparently very confusing) motion was this: “Openness and transparency in the planning process is vital. This council therefore agrees to include an item on the agenda of all development management committee and planning inspections committee meetings, requiring members of those committees to declare if and who they have been lobbied by, about items on the agenda.” In my speech I explained that I had been asking for this issue to come before overview and scrutiny committee, which had eventually referred it to the standards committee. but despite several requests, the standards [...]

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    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01r46tb

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    The question was: “The Pulman’s View From newspaper of 11 February reports the corporate business portfolio holder as saying that “a bus service currently passing Skypark will be diverted to serve stops within Skypark when it is completed.” Devon County Council is responsible for the bus service. Would the portfolio holder indicate when Devon County Council made this commitment? Answer This commitment is contained in the section 106 agreement accompanying the outline planning for Skypark. Paragraph 3.13 of schedule 3 of this document states that: “The owner shall[...]

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    Office move takes another step forward. Further research into the viability of the council’s office relocation to SkyPark was given the go ahead by full council last night (26 February). Council officers will now enter a further evaluation and negotiation phase with the preferred option of SkyPark. A report outlining whether the council should commit funding to the new headquarters is expected to be presented to cabinet and full council in July. Councillor Paul Diviani, leader of East Devon District Council, said: “Now we have full council’s approval to enter further negotiation with [...]

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    But during my motion on deferring the decision to buy Skypark land, which was voted down by the conservative group, senior conservatives were trying to pretend that the big decision before the council was just a matter of a preferred option! Cabinet councillors played it down, in an apparent attempt to mislead councillors, which I pointed out in my summing up speech. And myself and Roger Giles had the usual flack from the Tories to daring to oppose their plans.  Cllr Giles had to demand a retraction from Cllr David Cox who claimed that Cllr Giles had not previously argued against the [...]

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    Here’s my speech (sorry if a bit abbreviated in places) ........... More tomorrow…. Important to clarify that the recommendation from OSC was UNANIMOUS. I was asked by chief executive to make alterations including to insert the words “some councillors” referring to independent survey proposal. Council has a major PR problem with its office relocation project. And if it was bad before, it has just got a lot worse. The leadership has worked up plans to move offices, having taken virtually every decision in the past 18 months or so, in private session. This is controversial [...]

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    I will enquire about my other Devon County Council villages, such as Sidbury, Tipton St John, Gittisham, Buckerell and Alfington, although I have found that getting information on this project is like pulling teeth, as there is a confidentiality agreement and timescales for receiving superfast broadband, very frustratingly, appear to be off-limits. The speeds will be lower the further away from the telephone exchange communities are, so while Ottery is likely to receive very fast speeds, West Hill’s broadband will be slower, albeit faster than it is now.  Here’s the press [...]

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    I went along to the public rights of way committee meeting this afternoon and spoke in support of the officer recommendation, on wildlife and precious countryside grounds. Fire Beacon Hill is precious and a haven for walkers and wildlife - it is a nature reserve after all. And one of very few places where the rare Dartford Warbler makes an appearance. It must be protected and I am very glad that the committee also thought so.

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    Fortunately, it looks as though the bungling proposals may have been saved by Sarah Wollaston who has spoken out against them. Well done Dr Wollaston. Let’s hope he and his cabinet colleagues actually listen this time. Here’s the link (and story below) in today’s Western Morning News - http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Government-set-revise-national-park-house/story-20698048-detail/story.html#ixzz2uKsiWVZq Ministers could row back from plans to allow a development free-for-all on national parks amid an outcry from MPs. Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes, has led calls for the[...]

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    ************************************ Dear Andrew Can you spare a few moments to let me know if you were among the many Conservative councillors who voted “en bloc” to deny the many young people, who attended the DCC meeting yesterday, the chance to address Council? I understand that Cllr Hughes ( chair ) declined to allow the suspension of standing orders to allow this group to speak to chamber despite requests from non-Conservative members. I however was not present to see first-hand what occurred and thus I would welcome your version of events in the interests of balance, as the [...]

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    Here’s the statement, released by UK Youth Parliament member, 16 year old George Downs, on behalf of the campaigners ........................ “When adults are making decisions that affect children, children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account.“ This is Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by the UK in 1991. On Thursday 20th February 2014 the executive and cabinet of Devon County Council violated international law by denying the young people of Devon to speak for just three [...]

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    The decision was issued this morning. As adjacent ward member representing the residents at Higher Metcombe, I accompanied the planning inspector, EDDC’s appeals officer and the applicant, on a site inspection last month. The appellant, Chris Down, comes in quite a bit of criticism from the planning inspector, for either failing to provide important information, or not backing up statements with evidence, or for providing inaccurate information. Inspector, Pete Drew devotes the first four pages of his decision to querying landownership details, whether the incorrect paperwork has been [...]

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    In the agenda papers for the next public rights of way committee meeting, Devon County Council officers have recommended that “no modification orders” be made with respect to four proposals to upgrade a bridleway for use by “all traffic.” Proposals five and 15 are within my county council ward. The proposals include one of the most beautiful spots in East Devon - Fire Beacon Hill, which is partly managed by the RSPB, is a nature reserve and home to all manner of important wildlife, including the Dartford Warbler. It is one of the only places in the UK where it can be [...]

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    I spoke briefly to say that tree planting can have huge flood prevention benefits, as well as all the other issues. Water sinks into the soil under trees 67 times the rate at which it sinks into soil under grass. We are lagging a long way behind Europe on our tree planting, with less than 10 per cent of wooded areas, compared with around 44 per cent in Europe. With the recent weather, our already struggling trees, which are battling development and unprecedented disease, have been under huge pressure from the storms. I am the Woodland Trust’s tree champion for Devon and the Woodland [...]

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    A group of around 40 campaigners, chanted and waved placards outside County Hall, before filing into the council chamber. I asked that they be allowed to speak, under the public questions agenda item.  But chairman, Cllr Bernard Hughes refused.  I argued and fellow independent, Cllr Frank Biederman, requested that standing orders be suspended to allow the young people to address the council. They had taken the time and trouble to travel to county hall, from places as far away as Ilfracombe, Colyton and South Devon, which I pointed out. They wanted to speak because councillors were [...]

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    The motion was put by Cllr Jill Owen and was lost by 18 votes to 27, largely along party lines. I argued along the lines that even if vaccination had some evidence to support it (and it actually has quite a lot) then it should be pursued first. I said I was opposed to the cull on humanity grounds, on lack of evidence that it works, cost (£7m excluding policing costs) and impact on tourism. Before coming to my view I spent an hour on the phone with my beef and sheep farming cousin in north Devon, exchanged emails with a retired vet and read many emails and documentation on the subject. I [...]

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    Young people bearing placards are expected arrive at County Hall at lunchtime, from all over Devon. Similarly protesters against the badger cull are also expected to congregate at County Hall at the same time, but wearing black and white and looking as badger-like as possible. A motion by Cllr Jill Owen (labour) on keeping any future badger cull off Devon County Council owned land has prompted campaigners and members of the public to inundate councillors with messages and information on a preferred alternative - vaccination. My rather less contentious motion - on a tree planting programme [...]

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    Others said:  “It’s a safe environment” where they can meet friends.  And they were worried about being stereotyped as being “up to no good” if they were forced outside to socialise during the evenings. One 16 year old said:  “It’s the highlight of my week, I really look forward to coming here.” But youth clubs are not just about socialising with friends, although of course this is an important aspect. The other purpose of youth clubs is to provide important health and social education to young people in a way that really engages them. Youth workers are highly [...]

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    Two of the motions are mine and supported by fellow independents. These are:  Lobbying: “Openness and transparency in the planning process is vital. This council therefore agrees to include an item on the agenda of all development management committee and planning inspections committee meetings, requiring members of those committees to declare if and who they have been lobbied by, about items on the agenda.” Buying land at Skypark: The second motion is to defer the decision to buy land at Skypark for almost £1m, to allow the recommendation from the overview and scrutiny [...]

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    The BBC said that between 2008 and 2013 local councils in the south west (not including Cornwall, which had an even higher figure) had approved 352 major planning applications in areas that flood, against the Environment Agency’s advice. Cllr Roger Giles, who was interviewed, said that under the current government there have been massive budget cuts to the Environment Agency and new planning guidance which relaxed the rules over building in areas that flood. Worryingly, both Cllr Evans and Mr Parish appeared to be arguing that we had no choice but to build in floodplains but finding a [...]

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    Politicians look like they are “running scared”, a senior Lib Dem has said, after plans to allow voters to remove MPs between elections were dropped. Plans for a “power of recall” for MPs who have committed “serious wrongdoing” have been abandoned following a dispute between the Tories and Lib Dems. Lib Dem Party President Tim Farron said the “modest” plan was blocked by the prime minister David Cameron. But Tory MP Zac Goldsmith said he was “disgusted” by the Lib Dems’ actions. The Independent reported that the plans would not [...]

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    The programme is focusing on the issue of councils allowing building in floodplains. It starts at 11am on BBC1.

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    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01q3fyf

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    Day four began with some rather tetchy interventions from the inspector who gave the impression of having had a bad breakfast (or perhaps a missed breakfast). Flooding The first speaker was Tim Hale of the CPRE, who wanted the plan to address flooding issues by draining more land and dredging more rivers. The inspector told him that that was not a planning issue, and therefore not something relevant to the plan. Tim Hale then started to speak about agriculture and flooding, before the Inspector intervened again to say that what the farmer does is not a matter for the Council and its local [...]

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    http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/West-MPs-rebel-Government-rural-council-cash/story-20622814-detail/story.html?820159663=334568944#ixzz2tDqEJun3 Four Westcountry Liberal Democrat MPs have voted against the Government in protest at a shortfall in funding for rural councils. Andrew George (St Ives), Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay), Sir Nick Harvey (North Devon) and Adrian Sanders (Torbay) all rebelled in a vote on the financial settlement for local government from April. Many MPs from the region back the Rural Fair Share campaign, which argues urban councils receive 50% more funding[...]

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    There was a marked difference from Wednesday’s session on housing, when there had been so many participants that some people were parked two rows back from the main tables. Yesterday many well known (and some not so well known) housebuilders were anxious to demonstrate that the EDLP did not provide sufficient housing, and to urge the Inspector to provide more. The wildest claims and demands came from Mr David Seaton who wished to see the housing provision in East Devon almost doubled at nearly 30,000 additional dwellings up to 2026. By contrast only 14 people debated the employment [...]

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    The Lion’s Den

    12 Feb 2014 | News

    Residents who had speaking rights included Dr Margaret Hall from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, David Boyle (Tipton St John resident and expert statistician), David Mason (Rockbeare Parish Councillor) and Charlie Hopkins, planning consultant representing Save Our Sidmouth, Mike Temple from Sidmouth and David Valentine, from Gittisham Parish Council. EDDC councillors with speaking rights were myself, Roger Giles and Susie Bond. Planning officers from EDDC were present, as well as statistical officers from Devon County Council. There were around 10-15 developers present, with speaking [...]

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    Statement from the independent members of the Environment Agency Board. 10th Feb 2014 As independent board members of the Environment Agency we have been following the commentary about the Agency’s performance over the recent weeks of unprecedented rain and storms. We know that flooding always causes misery, and we sympathise with the anger and frustration felt by flood victims in Somerset, the Thames Valley and many other places. We are also pleased that, since early December, over one million homes and thousands of businesses have been protected from flood damage by the defences we [...]

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    ...  written a comprehensive minority report to the planning inspector, objected to and spoken against copious planning applications submitted as result of a lack of a local plan ...... .... and I have to say I am very glad we are (hopefully) coming to the end of the process.  I hope.  It is not certain of course, how the planning inspector will view the local plan. The developers are arguing for more development.  Residents and campaign groups are arguing for less. One stalwart champion of the process, who has undertaken a tremendous amount of work is Dr Margaret Hall of[...]

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    And the recommendation by the overview and scrutiny committee that an independent survey of the Knowle office buildings be allowed to take place, was apparently not supported by councillors. The issues were debated with the press and public excluded last Wednesday evening (5 February). Page 115 of the cabinet minutes state:  “Reference was made to the recommendations of the meeting of the overview and scrutiny Committee of 30 January 2014 which would be formally referred to the next meeting of cabinet. It was commented that the recommendations failed to reflect information that had [...]

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    Residents of Somerset have experience weeks of flooding, and debate has sprung up over whether dredging could have mitigated the extent of the damage. Prof Roger Falconer, CH2M HILL Professor of Water Management at Cardiff University, said: “I feel extremely sorry for the people living in the region and I cannot imagine the difficulties which they are experiencing.  It must be extremely frustrating for them to be encountering such stress and I can imagine their wish to conclude that a lack of dredging has considerably exacerbated their problems. “However, I have lectured in hydraulic [...]

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    At a time when local government is being forced to make deep budget cuts to important services that help people, many residents believe that this is the wrong time to be undertaking such an expensive and financially risky project. Two and a half years ago, EDDC announced its intention to relocate its offices. The reasons given were that the Knowle was “not fit for purpose,” was getting old and costly to repair and that Sidmouth was not a central location within East Devon.  Residents and councillors were informed that the new build would cost around £3.5m and that Honiton was the [...]

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    But after this morning’s trip to Ottery library, (it is Library Day), I have made a pledge to amend my errant ways and borrow my books from the library instead. Why, I asked myself this morning, would I want to buy books, when I could borrow them for free? For those who don’t have their own PCs there are two computers available to use at Ottery’s library - and they are very popular with residents. If you want a particular book, you can ask the library staff to order it in for you and they will do.  And there is now a wide range of online books that you can download too.[...]

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    The motion, which will come before EDDC full council on Wednesday 26 February (6.30pm start), is as follows: “This council notes the concerns of the overview and scrutiny committee at its meeting on 30 January 2014 about the Knowle relocation project, and the particular concerns about the increasing cost of the project, and the lack of detail provided to justify the inclusion of a further sum of £200,000 in the capital budget for the 2014/15 financial year, and the inclusion of a further sum of £200,000 in the capital budget for 2015/16. The Council also notes the decision of the [...]

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    Fire Beacon is one of my most favourite places in East Devon.  It is so peaceful and beautiful and there is a huge range of important wildlife there, including Dartford Warblers, which are one of the rarest birds in Britain. I am extremely concerned about this proposal and will be going along to speak against it. The public rights of way meeting is on Tuesday 25 February, and starts at 2pm. It will be held at county hall. For more information see the link below…... http://www.devon.gov.uk/index/environmentplanning/public_rights_of_way/definitive_map_review/sidmouth-dmr.htm

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    Yesterday evening, myself, Cllr Roger Giles and some residents, attended the first part of the cabinet meeting under the impression that the subject would come up under an early item of the cabinet meeting relating to items referred from the overview and scrutiny committee. But there was no mention of it. Today’s press release even states that EDDC will now “market Knowle promptly!”  Has someone put their foot on the accelerator? If so, why might this be? It really isn’t good enough for the conservative cabinet to ride roughshod over its own scrutiny committee, [...]

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    Below is EDDC’s press release issued today…..................................................................................... East Devon District Council is considering relocating its headquarters to Skypark. The decision, taken by cabinet on 5 February, will now be put forward as the preferred location to full council on 26 February. If approved, officers will be asked to carry out further research into the viability of the move. Marketing of Knowle would start promptly. This is an important step forward and a further report would then be brought back to cabinet and full [...]

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    Health chiefs have warned that the current population of East Devon “replicates what the average population of England would look like in 2075” and is putting a strain on the district’s health provision. The comments were made at last week’s meeting of East Devon District Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee by Tamara Powderley, head of commissioning for the Eastern Locality of Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group. Ms Powderley was speaking to councillors about the development of healthcare services in East Devon and urged planning officers to meet [...]

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    Controversial pesticides ingested by bumble bees can seriously impact the insects’ ability to collect food, even at very low levels of contamination, says new research from the University of Sussex and the University of Stirling. The study, published in the journal Ecotoxicology,1 shows that even tiny doses of a neonicotinoid pesticide called imidacloprid reduce the amount of pollen collected by bumblebee colonies by 57 per cent, and that the effects last for at least a month after exposure.  The researchers fitted bees with electronic tags so that their movements could be tracked. [...]

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    Below is Feniton Parish Council’s legal representative, Charlie Hopkins, closing statement. I thought readers may be interested in reading it all, as it is a speech full of logic, common sense and incisiveness. Now we must wait for the inspector to make her decision, which is expected to take approximately two months…....................................................................................................... 1. These closing submissions will address the issues identified by the Inspector in opening this inquiry. In summary, Feniton Parish Council (FPC) will say that [...]

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    No houses are reported to have been flooded thankfully, but residents were busy putting out sandbags and floodgates, just in case.  The floods took place as the Feniton inquiry for 235 houses continues at the Flybe Academy. Today is the last day and it is expected to finish late.  Some residents, including Val Jones, brought in photographs of gardens that looked like lakes as a result of water run-off from the fields behind that Wainhomes wish to build 83 houses on. Patteson’s Cross was impassable and the flooding spread towards Fenny Bridges. Other roads were virtually [...]

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    Proposals for a new walking and cycling route between Sidbury and Sidford will go on show to the public at a two-day exhibition later this month. Devon County Council is inviting members of the public to view plans at the exhibition which will be held at Sidbury Village Hall from 10am to 7pm on Wednesday 19 February, and at St Peter’s Church Hall in Sidford from 10am to 7pm on Thursday 20 February. The scheme will not only provide a more direct and convenient route for pedestrians and cyclists between the two communities, but it will also enhance safety and improve access for people with[...]

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    I understand that no Devon County Council run residential homes nor day centres, are proposed to be lost in the Ottery Rural area. Day care centres for the elderly in Devon face closure after the full details of £28 million in county council cuts were revealed. The Conservative authority wants to close 26 out of the county’s 35 centres and has launched a consultation. It says a significant fall in the number of older people attending facilities has forced a rethink on how the service is delivered in future. The move comes after plans to reduce the meals-on-wheels service and slash £1 [...]

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    The proposal was from Cllr Roger Giles and was put forward as an amendment to a paper by Cllr Martin Thurgood on how the town council demonstrates greater transparency when it meets privately with developers. Arguing in favour of his proposal, Cllr Giles said that private meetings ran counter to the spirit of localism and that there should be a policy of full openness and transparency about planning proposals. He reminded the town council about “Browngate” and how EDDC had changed its standing orders as a result, to calls of “point of order!” by Cllrs Ian Holmes and Paul Carter, who [...]

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    This statement has been formulated by a Core Campaign group of young people, on consultation with the Devon youth community and supported by the British Youth Council; Unite the Union and many Devon County Councillors including Cllr Claire Wright. The statement is as follows: “Young people across Devon have started to take action in the face of devastating cuts which face their youth service. Over the next weeks, we hope to make it clear to decision makers in Devon County Council that we will not just accept the destruction of our youth service. We will challenge every decision which [...]

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    2 September 2013 Dear Mr Swire, Thanks for your messages. I recognise how busy you are and how your role on the front bench constrains your freedom to act independently. But I want to take this opportunity to clarify that there are two separate issues that I believe need your urgent attention. The first is the growing scandal about Lobbying in East Devon District where the Sidmouth Herald reports that an unnamed officer has cancelled the scrutiny meeting scheduled for tonight and has again vetoed for investigation the topic which was agreed by the Councillors (our elected representatives) a [...]

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    Every time I hear that the police are under huge financial pressures I remember how much this government spent on the elections of political police and crime commissioners about two years ago - a scandalous £70m. And how much conservative, Mr Hogg, has cost, with his ballooning staff bill….. The election turnout across Devon and Cornwall was a tiny 14 per cent. Here’s the story in yesterday’s Western Morning News - http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Frontline-policing-propped-15-million-reserves/story-20537486-detail/story.html ................................... The [...]

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    Proposals include the loss of around 60 jobs and £970,000 from the budget in the next financial year. Having just checked my twitter account I did a double take.  The group has launched its excellent campaign with tremendous speed and creativity! Already, there is a trending twitter hashtag - #Devonyouth.  They have designed and tweeted their poster at all local media and they have even launched an online petition, appealing to Devon County Council’s leader, Cllr John Hart to retain the service! The campaign has been masterminded by 16 year old UK Youth Parliament East Devon [...]

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