• Last night’s cabinet meeting

    1st November 2012 | News | Claire
  • The normal unanimity of view among the conservatives at East Devon District Council was conspicuous by its absence at cabinet yesterday evening (31 October).

    A report about development of the former Ottermill Switchgear site in Ottery had been included in the agenda papers. This had been scheduled to be taken in the part of the meeting from which the press and public were excluded. However I (Ottery Councillor Roger Giles) had asked that the report should not be considered, because doing so would pre-empt the imminent planning application.

    Council Leader Paul Diviani asked the Cabinet Members if they were happy for the report to be withdrawn. Ottery councillor,and cabinet member, David Cox, said that he was not happy for it to be withdrawn.

    It wasn`t David Cox`s night – during a later debate about car parking he was described by Paul Diviani as “Mr Micawber.”

    Dissent began to rear its ugly head when several councillors spoke about the very late (the day before) paper about an additional £20 million for developments at Cranbrook, and the over-payment (or ‘margin’ as it was described) of £1million which would fall on the partners – EDDC, DCC and the private sector.

    Several councillors carefully prefaced their remarks by saying that it was a good news story, but then sought assurances about the EDDC contribution towards the £1 million. Council chairman Peter Halse, said that it could be a very heavy burden. There was particular concern about the impact on the New Homes Bonus. 

    It was supported anyway.

    The real departure form the script came about when Ian Thomas raised the issue of the Scrutiny Committee of 27 September recommending that ward members should only receive a draft planning report if they had already made comments on the planning application, and that they would only have three days to comment on the report. Ian Thomas said that this had been ‘sneaked through’ the scrutiny committee – the item had come up at the end of a very long meeting discussing Rolle College and East Devon Business Forum.

    A succession of speakers, including three more cabinet members, supported the Thomas view that things had worked quite well, and should be left as they were. The chief executive reminded members that the decision would have to be made by a meeting of the full council.

    Tim Wood then introduced the task and finish forum (TAFF) report on ‘Vitality of High Streets and Town Centres.’ He said that there was a link between car parking charges and the viability of town centres. He had, that afternoon, been at Otter Nurseries where there was unlimited free parking. Out of town shopping centres had an advantage over town centre shops.

    David ‘Wilkins Micawber’ Cox had some sympathy with the view. He said “I`m not sure that Sainsburys has helped Ottery; the problem is Otter Nurseries and Joshua’s.”

    For those unfamiliar with the Micawber (a character in Charles Dickins David Copperfield) principle: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six pence, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and sixpence, result misery.”

    Deputy Leader Andrew Moulding was complimentary about the work done by the TAFF chaired by Tim Wood. He said that he did support having a close look at car parking charges. However fees and charges were a key element of the District Council financial situation, and reduced car parking charges would create financial difficulties for EDDC.