With around 80 or so people were present, the event kicked off with a presentation on parliament and how decisions are made and laws passed. It was really interesting and very well articulated, by a locally based civil servant, who was obviously passionate about her job.
Next up, after a very pleasant sociable coffee and cake break, was a presentation by someone from the cabinet office, about how registration is changing for elections. The jist was that people will soon need to register individually, rather than someone being allowed to register on their behalf.
Then, youth campaigners, 17 year old Alfie Weaver and 16 year old George Downs presented on their work for the youth service. George explained about his role in the youth parliament. And Alfie told the group what work he had been doing within schools and the community, helping young people. He explained that much work was currently ongoing to challenge the youth review.
After this excellent presentation, deputy leader, Cllr Andrew Moulding, said a few words on campaigning for election and being a councillor, (including words of advice from former EDDC leader, Ted Pinney, accounts of dog bites and leaflets being thrown in bins).
Unfortunately, the talk went down badly with some attendees, who were hoping to hear more about the work of a councillor and less about the hazards of putting your hand through a letterbox, with a silent but aggressive dog on the other side.
During questions, West Hill resident, Philip Algar, raised his hand. He asked why the council was lacking in democracy and why the ruling conservative group tended to vote en bloc at full council meetings.
The question received a smattering of applause and started an outbreak of muttering.
Cllr Moulding replied that if the tory whip (Cllr Phil Twiss) had been present, he would have confirmed that no whipping of conservative councillors ever takes place. This remark received a few derisive murmurs and prompted Alfie Weaver to raise his hand.
Alfie asked why, when he had brought his fellow youth campaigners to address the county councillors on budget day (20 February), had Cllr Moulding been part of the bloc conservative vote against allowing them to speak.
Cllr Moulding first replied that the young campaigners hadn’t registered in time. Alfie put him straight. They had, but had been told they couldn’t speak.
Cllr Moulding said he didn’t know about that but went on to say that if the council (Devon County Council) had allowed the youth campaigners to speak, they would have had to allow the badger campaigners to speak and maybe other members of the public.
I hadn’t intended to say anything this evening but this comment was so ridiculous that I put up my hand to respond. Out of a six hour meeting, this would have meant SIX MINUTES of time spent listening to the public!
Other hands also went up.
However, the chairman, Cllr Graham Godbeer, perhaps sensing that a can of worms had just been opened, hurriedly closed the meeting.