• “The thought police have walked into the room”

    16th May 2014 | News | Claire
  • The EDDC annual general meeting on (Wednesday) 14 May) proposed constitutional changes to the motions procedure.

    Before 14 May a group of at least five EDDC councillors had the right to include a notice of motion on the agenda of EDDC full council meetings.

    The proposal was that the EDDC chief executive may seek to clarify that a motion “is compliant with the Council’s legal and administrative powers” and “where the wording of the motion is not immediately relevant to the business of the Council” it should first be referred to an EDDC committee, so that research could be carried out and an informed debate could take place.

    Accusations of whipping have dogged the conservatives at full council meetings as several of my own motions have been voted down en bloc by the ruling group.  See the report on my last motion debate here – http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/motion_on_cutting_tourism_vat_is_headline_grabbing_soundbites

    Cllr Roger Giles (Ottery Town – independent) was very concerned about the proposal. He said that motions were a legitimate and very useful part of councillors being able to represent their constituents interests, and to be involved in the council’s policy making.

    He said that in the previous 12 months there had been 14 motions included on the agenda. To agree the proposal would be to delay and obstruct the process. It would be a restriction, and it would diminish the role that councillors could play.  Roger Giles moved an amendment to delete the proposals.

    Cllr Ray Bloxham (Raleigh – conservative) spoke in support of the proposal. He said that it would allow a better informed debate on matters which are not the council’s business.

    Leader of the EDDC independent group, Cllr Ben Ingham (Woodbury and Lympstone), said: “the thought police have walked into the room.” He added that there was ample time between the agenda being published and the meeting taking place, for councillors to swot up the subject. He said the proposal was about stopping councillors coming up with ideas.

    Cllr Trevor Cope (Exmouth Brixington – independent) indignantly claimed “This is a gagging order.”

    Cllr Peter Halse (Honiton St Michael’s – conservative) said the first part of the proposal was perfectly sensible. He disputed that it was a “gagging order.”

    Cllr Helen Parr (Coly Valley – conservative) simply couldn’t believe that any councillor would debate an issue without being fully informed.

    However, cllr Geoff Pook (Beer and Branscombe – Independent) feared that there was a certain amount of stopping debate in the proposal.

    The chief executive thought that the first part of the proposal referred to a power that he thought he already had.

    As the mover of the amendment to delete the proposal Roger Giles summed up the debate.

    He pointed out that the EDDC meeting of 26 February 2014 Ray Bloxham had proposed a motion on notice about Legal Highs.

    Roger Giles had felt this was a good initiative and had been pleased to vote in support of it. However it certainly was not something which was the council’s core business – and would have been caught by the new rules.

    With regard to the need for a motion to be referred to a committee to enable a report to be written (which could delay the matter by several months). Roger Giles had submitted a motion: “Disaggregated Approach to Planning” for the EDDC meeting of 24 July 2013. EDDC officers had provided a written report on the matter in time for the meeting!

    Roger Giles concluded by asking: “What is the need for this?” He said such decisions should be made by elected members – not officers.

    The vote was then taken with the conservative councillors voting as a group to delete Roger Giles` amendment, and to approve the restriction.

    Motions – 2013/2014                     Proposed by

    Disaggregated Approach to Planning   Roger Giles   independent
    Staffing Levels                           Ben Ingham   independent

    Exeter to Salisbury Railway             Roger Giles   independent
    Tree Protection                           Claire Wright independent
    Local Retail Levy                         Ben Ingham   independent  
    Post Offices                             Ken Potter   independent

    Probity in Planning                       Claire Wright independent
    Car Parking Charges                     Roger Giles Independent
    Nuclear Test Veterans                   Paul Diviani conservative

    Lobbying                                   Claire Wright independent
    EDDC Office Relocation                 Claire Wright independent
    Legal Highs                               Ray Bloxham conservative
    Affordable Housing                       Jill Elson       conservative

    Tourism                                     Claire Wright independent