• Cllr Stuart Hughes deposed as EDDC scrutiny chair

    15th May 2013 | News | Claire
  • The agenda papers for the EDDC annual council meeting next Wednesday (22 May), show that Cllr Hughes has been deposed and replaced by Exmouth councillor, Tim Wood.

    Conservative, Cllr Hughes has also been relegated to the back bench at full council meetings and is now one of only two EDDC councillors without a seat on a single EDDC committee. 

    The news is likely to fuel speculation that Cllr Hughes has been sacked from his EDDC scrutiny chairman post and removed from all committees, for backing a controversial proposal, which reportedly went down badly with senior Tories.

    Cllr Hughes has also been publicly critical of leader, Cllr Paul Diviani, during his tenure as scrutiny chairman, asking some thorny questions about the proposed development for Sidmouth and opposing the Local Plan allocations for the town.

    At the overview and scrutiny meeting on 28 March, Cllr Hughes supported a proposal from Libdem, Cllr Derek Button (and seconded by me), to allow the East Devon Business Forum (EDBF) scrutiny committee, to discuss planning issues.  The role of EDBF in EDDC’s Local Plan has been a hugely controversial subject, prompting huge public attendances at meetings and heated debate.

    Chief executive, Mark Williams, withdrew his staff from EDBF and the public funding of £5,200, following the dramatic Daily Telegraph revelations relating to former councillor, Graham Brown, published on 11 March.

    Mr Williams had previously vetoed the discussion of planning relating to EDBF activities, describing it as “unlawful.”  But on 28 March, the overview and scrutiny committee narrowly voted through Cllr Button’s proposal, citing it as being in the public interest to have such a discussion.

    The only other councillor without any committee seats is Philip Skinner.

    Other changes proposed in the papers, are:

    – Mysterious removal of the post of recycling champion.  Roger Giles has held this post for the past two years and has not been notified of the change.  All “champions” are now conservative councillors..

    – Recording of meetings to be rubber-stamped, although a trial period is proposed to begin with – see pages 24 and 25

    – Apparent questions over the continued leadership of Cllr Diviani – see agenda item 8 and page 25.  Members are asked to express opinions on the length of term of office for the Leader.

    – Changes to the regulations of overview and scrutiny committee, including no matters allowed for debate relating to a planning decision (rather broad?) and no “vexatious, discriminatory or not reasonable” matters allowed on agenda…(interesting one).

    – There is a new chair and vice-chair of the development management committee.  Helen Parr is proposed as chair, with a vice-chair of Cllr David Key.  Cllr Key was a former local plan panel chair, following Cllr Graham Brown standing down from the panel, in 2010.

    – Public speaking arrangements, including proposals for “shortened times” (who proposed that?) for public speaking AND proposals for allowing residents to speak on items at the development management committee (proposed by Feniton’s John Withrington, West Hill Residents Assoc, Dick Beardsall and myself and Roger Giles), that are not just related to planning applications, will be debated by the standards committee, which is to be chaired by conservative councillor, Graham Godbeer.  The external/neutral people on the Standards Committee lost their vote under the Localism Act.

    – Another issue likely to cause concern, is a proposal to allow more planning applications, that are contrary to the Local Plan, to be determined by “delegation” – this means by planning officers and the chairman of the development management committee.  Applications contrary to the EDDC Local Plan are currently brought before the development management committee to be debated in the public domain. The reason given for the change is that more applications that are contrary to the Local Plan are likely to come forward, with the five year land supply issue and this would take up a lot of committee time. 

    Debate at the annual council meeting is likely to be lively, as usual.  It starts at 6.30pm on Wednesday 22 May and will be held in the Knowle council chamber.  The link to the papers are here – http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/annual_council_220513_agenda_combined.pdf