• EDDC chairman adjourns council meeting over thorny question

    10th April 2013 | News | Claire
  • Sidmouth resident, Mike Temple started to ask a question about EDDC’s internal investigation into the activities of resigned councillor, Graham Brown.  But before he could get very far, Peter Halse, chairman, attempted to stop him, on the grounds, he claimed, of sub judice.

    But Mr Temple carried on speaking over Cllr Halse, so he stood up and announced that the meeting would be adjourned for five minutes because Mr Temple had continued talking.

    When the meeting reconvened, Independent leader, Ben Ingham challenged the chairman’s use of the word sub judice, which only applies when someone has been charged.  He asked the legal officer to supply a definition of the word.

    Officer advice was that sub judice applied only when a person was charged with a crime, however, EDDC had taken the view that it did not wish to do anything which may “prejudice a police investigation.”

    There were several other speakers, who also came under fire from the chairman for not asking questions quickly enough and making speeches first.

    Richard Eley made several points about the need for EDDC to revise its Local Plan, even at the stage it was at, because of inaccuracies relating to Sidmouth. He urged the council to submit two plans, one including vital corrections, to avoid holding up the process.

    Kelvin Dent asked what the plans were for the office relocation following the development management committee meeting of 21 March, where the application to redevelopment Knowle and its parkland, was rejected.

    Tony Green argued that his call for the chief executive’s resignation had been unfairly commented on by a council “spokesman” in the Sidmouth Herald of 22 March.  Mr Green said that contrary to the unnamed spokesman’s claims, that he (Tony) had not conducted a “trial by hearsay” but had based his arguments on detailed research and facts. 

    Mr Green asked for the name of the spokesman and requested a meeting with him and the press officer, with a view to issuing a joint press release.

    Paul Hayward, independent candidate for Axminster in the county council elections, asked about the council’s recycling scheme and made a strong case for recycling cardboard and said EDDC was one of a very few number of authorities that did not recycle cardboard.

    In response to the question on recycling, leader, Cllr Paul Diviani, said that many of Paul Hayward’s points was work in progress. 

    But of the other questions, Cllr Diviani refused to give verbal answers and instead said that they would be replied to in writing, to each of the members of the public, because of “election fever.”

    This I think, confused most of us in the room as it seemed entirely irrelevant and seemed a very convenient excuse to avoid embarrassment.

    Cllr Roger Giles raised his hand to ask (quite reasonably) whether the answers to the questions could be made public so as to ensure everyone got to hear them.

    Cllr Diviani replied (rather aggressively) that this would be addressed so Cllr Giles could “change his tune.”

    His tone prompted Cllr Trevor Cope to shoot to his feet to demand that the leader withdraw his remark and pointed out that his tone and attitude was uncalled for and unnecessary.

    The leader said he would withdraw the remark “only in the interests of good humour.”

    There then came a speech by the chairman on the contributions of Mrs Thatcher. 

    Cllr Halse waxed lyrical for several minutes about the former prime minster and said that a great deal was owed to Baroness Thatcher and that the people of this country were “greatly and deeply indebted” to her.  The chairman added that EDDC would “not be turning, especially not turning to the left.”

    Cllr Halse’s enthusiastic eulogy caused several libdem councillors to walk out of the chamber in apparent disgust.

    The chairman then a addressed the chamber about the tragic deaths of a family at Honiton, in a fire of a house owned by EDDC.  Cllr Jill Elson, who is the portfolio holder for housing, then gave a rather longer speech about the housing initiatives and other positive things that were happening in East Devon, in relation to housing.

    The speech struck a discordant note and caused anger among the libdems.  Cllr Geoff Chamberlain angrily accused Cllr Elson of “blatant electioneering” (she is a candidate in the county council elections in Exmouth) and demanded that the libdems be given the same opportunity of speaking.  Eileen Wragg then made several points about housing and asked questions about the bedroom tax and downsizing.

    There were quite a lot of formal written questions from councillors, as well as formal written “answers” and supplementary questions and answers.  I have put “answers” in inverted commas because I think that the councillors who asked questions, once again felt that we had not had them answered.

    My supplementary question caused some laughter because the chairman asked me to stand up.  I replied that I was already standing up and I was only 5’3.  (I had been leaning over to speak into the microphone to make myself heard).

    I will blog the questions and answers on Thursday….