• Questions and (some) answers at EDDC full council

    27th July 2013 | News | Claire
  • Certainly, several of the questions were not answered, if not evaded completely (again).

    Question 1: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Ben Ingham
    As part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s 2013 spending review announced in June, George Osborne confirmed that local authority spending will be cut by ten per cent. This will be on top of a thirty three per cent cut in central government funding earmarked for councils in the current spending round period 2011/12-2014/15. Can the Leader explain how he is going to accommodate this at EDDC? 

    Answer:
    Can I refer the Councillor to the work of the Budget Working Party on which one of his members is represented. We have been set a challenge but have a clear view on how the challenge can be met.

    Question 2: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Ben Ingham
    The Local Government Association has criticised the latest local authority cuts announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. LGA Chairman Sir Merrick Cockell said: “Local services on which people rely will have to be significantly reduced as a result. No area of spending can be totally immune and some services will be wound down entirely”. Which services does the Leader of EDDC intend to wind down, why and how?

    Answer:
    Please see the answer to Q 1 above. In addition I would recommend one of the LGA ‘rewiring local government’ working papers and technical annex which looks at the specific challenges facing district councils. Although the DCN is doing an excellent job, the LGA tends to be pre-occupied with the financial challenges of adult and child care and it is the financial demands of an ageing population (particularly) that the LGA is most concerned about.

    Question 3: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Susie Bond
    It appears likely that Feniton’s four planning appeals will be heard as one merged public inquiry. Given that the over-riding reason for EDDC’s refusal of these applications was ‘sustainability’, would the Council agree to outsource its legal representation to a QC specialising in planning and, more specifically, sustainability? Feniton is bracing itself to be in the eye of the media storm yet again, and it is vital that appeals are won, both to Feniton and EDDC.

    Answer:
    I am disappointed that the Councillor demonstrates such a low opinion of our staff, particularly when our appeal success rate is well above the national average with 75% of appeals against the Council’s decision to refuse planning permission being dismissed.* That being said our legal team will assess the best way forward and if external legal representation is appropriate it will be engaged.

    *See Development Management Committee report – 7 May 2013 setting out planning appeals statistics    

    Question 4: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Susie Bond
    Notwithstanding the police investigation into the former ward member for Feniton and Buckerell, when is the Council intending to start an internal investigation into his activities as chairman of the LDF and why it was considered appropriate for a planning agent to act in this capacity?

    Answer:
    It is inappropriate to answer this question; the Councillor knows that we should not be doing anything that might prejudice any police investigation.

    Question 5: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Claire Wright
    Page 42, point three of the audit and governance papers, dated 27 June, state that the former Cllr Graham Brown’s actions are considered to be a “one off, with a limited risk of repeat.”

    Can the Leader confirm what is meant by “limited risk?”

    Answer:
    Please see the answer to Q.4 above. In more general terms I would refer the councillor to the Council’s risk management policy and the specific definitions used therein.

    Supplementary question
    Does the leader think that to have such a response in the public domain shows a degree of complacency about a very serious matter?

    Supplementary answer
    Didn’t take a note of supplementary answer, but I think it ran along the lines of not giving an answer as it might prejudice the police investigation.

    Question 6: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Claire Wright
    At EDDC’s annual council meeting on 22 May, a welcome decision was made to audio record key council meetings, and to allow members of the public to do so.

    Can the leader assure members of the public that they will also now be welcome to film council meetings, in line with the latest government guidance?

    Answer:
    The law does not currently require the public to be allowed to film Council meetings. The Council is piloting audio recordings of meetings and the next meeting where that will happen will be Overview and Scrutiny on 25 July. We will also look to introduce permission for the public to film meetings in the light of the latest government guidance. I have asked officers to look at this new guidance urgently and make recommendations which will be routed through our proper democratic processes so that all our elected members feel they have been party to this decision.

    Supplementary question
    Can the leader reassure members of the public that if they film meetings, they won’t be “rough-housed and jostled out of the building”, as Paul Hayward (member of the public and Axminster town councillor) suggested might happen, in his question earlier?

    Supplementary answer
    We do things differently in East Devon. I have never manhandled anyone, although I have been manhandled myself