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 not possible because fees are not set by EDDC.
But other councillors disagreed. Cllr Mike Allen said that myself and Roger Giles (who was also opposed to the fee increases) should have gone along to the task and finish forum meetings and taken part in discussions. (we were not members of this committee).
“Rich people die as well as poor people,” Cllr Allen added.
Cllr Giles replied that there were all sorts of reasons why councillors could not all attend all council meetings and we were entitled to give our view. He reminded Cllr Allen that he (Cllr Giles) had once asked to speak at a Local Development Framework Panel meeting but Cllr Allen, as chairman, refused to let him do so.
Cllr Chris Wale said that he supported the increased cemetery charges and said that he trusted that the correct research had been done to justify the higher fees.
Cllr Giles queried the justification on page 20 of the agenda papers – that hire of the Knowle buildings were going to remain at the same level (with only a retail price index increase) apparently due to the “limited life of the building within council control.”
The recommendations from the overview and scrutiny committee fees and charges task and finish forum (including the increased cemetery charges) were voted through with three votes against and 10 in favour.
For details of the fees, see page 18 of the agenda papers here – http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/os_agenda_260913_combined.pdf