• Tricky questions and their responses - for EDDC full council tomorrow evening

    14th October 2014 | News | Claire
  • Question 1: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Ben Ingham
    Please can the Leader tell me when he and the EDDC Cabinet were informed that the EDDC CEO, Mark Williams has been called as a witness by the House of Commons Select Committee for their meeting on Monday, 13th October at 5.15pm when they discuss “Political and Constitutional Reform: Voter engagement in the UK” and in light of the event, what he was asked and how he responded?

    The CEO is also the Council’s Electoral Registration Officer (ERO), and its Returning Officer. These 3 roles are deliberately kept separate and to maintain this independence/professional distance from the politics of the Council, there was no need for the CEO/ERO to inform the Cabinet or any other elected member about his attendance at the House of Common’s Select Committee. The CEO, along with the CEO of Mid Devon District Council, was requested to attend a meeting of the Committee in his capacity as the Electoral Registration Officer. The CEO provided an update to all members by email yesterday.

    Question 2: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Claire Wright
    Information commissioner appeal process

    a) What is the cost to this council of the appeal process, including the hearing at Heavitree Magistrates Court on 28 August, against the Information Commissioner’s decision to request publication of reports relating to the Knowle and office relocation.

    b) Please provide a full breakdown of the costs.

    The Council is engaged in complex legal argument with the Information Commissioner. The legal issues form a test case which is likely to involve the continuing involvement of Counsel, at the heart of which is this Council’s ability to be able to plan its relocation strategy effectively.

    The Council had a legal right to Appeal the original decision of the Information Commissioner. The Council always wanted the matter sorted out by paper submissions. However the ICO requested an oral hearing and so as a consequence the costs issues for the Council are likely to be higher than expected but are not for comment whilst the matter is ongoing.
    The cost issues will be reported to Members once the matter has been settled.

    Question 3: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Claire Wright
    Please provide a full breakdown of the spending so far AND budget allocated for the costs associated with the office relocation.

    As members will be aware from the most recent update report to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee figures are provided of spend and approved budget for the relocation project. There is also a limited breakdown of the elements spend to date. This allows members to understand the range of activities that the budget is being spent upon and also maintains commercial confidentially in relation to individual contracts.

    Extract budget section of O/S report 16 Oct 2014: The current approved budget agreed by Cabinet on 4 June 2014 for the Relocation Project is £705,568.00, and this figure remains unchanged. Project spend as at 31 August 2014 was £475,669, leaving a balance of £229,899. The approved Relocation Project budget is included within overall relocation project cost calculations being part of the calculation to ascertain financial viability of potential options.

    Question 4: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Susie Bond
    Given the importance of the 6-year land supply on planning decisions in East Devon, would the Council Leader arrange for the current housing figure to be put on the agenda of every DMC meeting and every full Council meeting as a standing item until such time as the Local Plan is adopted?

    At the present time the Council undertakes a bi-annual update of five year land supply. It takes a significant amount of time to assimilate data to do calculations; demands on officer time mean more frequent assessment is not possible. It would not, therefore, be practical to provide a recalculated supply assessment for each Development Management meeting.

    In any event the number of houses that are likely to be approved in a single month would not be sufficient to significantly alter the five year land supply figure and as such it needs to be calculated over a longer period than a month for each update to be meaningful. However a business case has been approved for enhancement to IT systems with the plan that assimilating data to undertake calculations is less time consuming in the future and more frequent reassessment will be possible. The ICT work is programmed to start in the New Year.

    Question 5: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Roger Giles
    When does the Leader expect the completed Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) report from the consultants? What indication of the findings of the consultants` work has he received from the consultants? What arrangements does the Leader intend to make to allow the Council to debate and agree a course of action following the receipt of the SHMA report? What recent contact has there been between the Council and the Local Plan Inspector concerning providing the LP Inspector with the SHMA information? When does The Leader anticipate that the East Devon Local Plan will be adopted?

    A report will be presented to Development Management Committee on 21 October that answers a number of the points raised. The SHMA is now programmed to be finished this autumn but there are currently no conclusions. The SHLA will be reported to Development Management Committee and full Council and it is planned will be subject to public consultation. Local Plan adoption is expected in 2015 and the Inspector will be advised on plan progress after the 21 October Committee meeting date.

    Question 6: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Roger Giles
    What recent consideration has the Council Leader given to the possibility of unification of East Devon District Council with other local authorities? What discussions have taken place with neighbouring local authorities about the possibility of unification?

    No consideration or discussions have taken place with regard to ‘unification’, which I assume means EDDC no longer being a separate local authority. I am quite clear that this is not up for debate.

    The duty to co-operate is enshrined in the Localism Act. However the Leaders of East Devon, Exeter and Teignbridge are absolutely clear that the concept of a Combined Authority does not lead to a loss of individual sovereignty but will enhance our joint ability to provide our customers with the services they expect at a price we can afford.

    We have always looked to develop good relationships with our neighbours. As part of that, the issue of sharing services, areas for future co-operation, development of policies for shared areas of concern, setting up the Strata company, etc are always ongoing. This is a common sense approach to the issues facing us.

    My work with the LGA People & Places Board and the District Council Network affirms we are not only taking prudent and innovatory steps but are ahead of the game nationally. The world of local Government is moving on