Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils... part eleven: "Exeter, East Devon and Teignbridge councils to form Greater Exeter"

After all the talk about parameters and definitions of what a 'merger' would entail
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils... part eight: defining the term 'merger': "Each council would continue to set its own budget and remain independent, but work from one office."

it does now seem that it will be happening:


November 23rd, 2014

Seems the predicted merger is underway, as some of you may have noticed, from news of an EDDC job advertisement in an earlier EDA post today. In ‘About the role’, the link refers to the ‘partnership’ between EDDC, Exeter and Teignbridge for delivering jobs and growth.

Bear in mind our earlier post about how Teignbridge planning already operates:


source: http://www.countryside-jobs.com/Jobs/Dec14/Habitat-Regulation-Delivery-Officer-East-Devon-District-Council-2111_2.html

It’s official! There’s a ‘longterm partnership for East Devon, Exeter and Teignbridge’ | East Devon Alliance

See also:
East Devon and Teignbridge workers amongst the lowest paid in England | East Devon Alliance
Another chalk and cheese IT partnership | East Devon Alliance

And see:
Greater Exeter – you read it here first! And here! And here! | East Devon Alliance
Greater Exeter part 2 | East Devon Alliance
“Greater Exeter” – just as EDA predicted months ago, weeks ago, days ago and hours ago! | East Devon Alliance

There have been questions about process:


November 25th, 2014


and an interesting comment on Independent councillor Claire Wright’s blog:

“It would be so dangerously easy to misconstrue this development as an attempt to coordinate housing development for builders rather than address the real agenda that means something to the electorate. Or is it that this development is the sweet spot for the various individuals involved, because they have quite deliberately chosen to focus on development rather than caring for the community. Still, elections are coming so best hurry through what you can while you can?”


Greater Exeter “a profoundly undemocratic decision” and with a hidden agenda? | East Devon Alliance

Here is the Express & Echo piece in full:

Concerns raised over “profoundly undemocratic” way decision was made for Greater Exeter, Greater Devon Partnership

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: November 25, 2014
Comments (1)

EAST Devon councillors have reacted to the plans for closer working between East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council and Teignbridge District Council.

Many have welcomed the plans but criticised the decision not to consult members before the announcement.

East Devon ward member for Ottery St Mary, Independent Councillor Roger Giles, dubbed the way the decision was made as “profoundly undemocratic”.

“If the East Devon conservative group wanted joined-up decision making with Exeter and Teignbridge district councils on planning and other issues – it should have first of all asked the people of East Devon what they think, and acted after reflecting their views,” he said.

Exeter, East Devon and Teignbridge councils to form Greater Exeter, Greater Devon Partnership

“The agreement was signed with councillors having been denied knowledge of the proposal, having been denied the opportunity to express an opinion on it, and having been denied the opportunity to give/withhold their consent to it. There is a very great fear that because of joined-up decision making with Exeter and Teignbridge on planning, there will be even more inappropriate planning approvals contrary to community desires and best interests – particularly in the part of East Devon nearest to Exeter. This is a disastrous day for countryside protection, for community involvement, and for our precious democratic processes.”

Exmouth ward member Councillor Eileen Wragg, welcomed the plans but said the decision came as a “sudden surprise” to members.

“We knew cross authority meetings were being held from August, but we had no idea what about,” she said. “The announcement came as a sudden surprise to many of us, which isn’t exactly democratic. But, this type of unitary working is what the Lib Dems have called for, for a long time. But this is unitary by the back door, but it makes sense. It’s clearly a cost cutting measure, but why do we need all these chief executives and heads of finance? We need to be mindful about the effect this could have on jobs. And we have to look at the detail of the plans now. It would have been courteous to have had prior notification.”

Sidmouth ward member, Conservative Councillor Stuart Hughes, also welcomed the plans. He added: “There is nothing extraordinary about decisions such as this being made without members and it seems like a good idea. If it’s good for local residents and I think it could be, and saves money, then it should be welcomed.”

But East Devon Alliance campaign group chairman, Paul Arnott, slammed the “dehind closed doors” decision making. “One of the giveaway indicators of Government bodies making bad policy is when they announce a major decision to the press before they tell their own elected representatives,” he said. “The East Devon Alliance is not, on principle opposed to districts working across current administrative boundaries, but as far as East Devon is concerned, when was any of this publicly debated and agreed? And what of the board announced as running this body? Who chose it, and does its beginning with such unwarranted secrecy indicate yet more behind-closed-doors decision making? It also has to be observed that early signs suggest that the structures being created here are perfectly devised to facilitate backdoor privatisation of great chunks of our local Government. Who voted for that, and when?”

Concerns raised over “profoundly undemocratic” way decision was made for Greater Exeter, Greater Devon Partnership | Exeter Express and Echo

See the comments at independent Cllr Claire Wright's blog:

EDDC councillors kept in dark over council merger, until agreement signed today

Monday, 24 November 2014 9 Comments by Claire

Councillors were informed of a new partnership with Exeter and Teignbridge Councils this afternoon.

We are told that the consultation with us will take place in the new year - after today’s agreement has been signed!


What does it mean for the unpopular and vastly expensive office relocation?

What does it mean for planning, given the talk of economic growth… and finally - is this act of unilateralism the final nail in the coffin of a deeply undemocratic council?

Are they REALLY serious about a consultation after the agreement is signed?

Link here and story pasted below: http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/Greater-Exeter-created-council-link/story-24643530-detail/story.html

Exeter is one of three Devon councils that have announced they will be working more collaboratively to drive forward economic growth.

Exeter City Council, Teignbridge District Council and East Devon District Council today signed an agreement that paves the way for joined-up decision making on planning, housing, resources and infrastructure.

The three councils have previously worked together on economic development and tourism.

They recently merged individual ICT services to create Strata Service Solutions Ltd, a shared ICT partnership that will deliver significant savings and deliver better day-to-day services for customers.

The three local authorities - with a combined population of 380,000 - will come together as The Greater Exeter, Greater Devon Partnership but still retain individual identities. Each council will remain politically independent with no desire to change municipal boundaries.

Exeter City Council Leader, Pete Edwards, said: “As neighbours we have a great track record of working together to secure jobs, houses and investment. But we recognise that there is a great opportunity to grow the regional city economy, deliver higher-paid jobs and provide an even better quality of life for residents and businesses across Devon. Through this partnership we can build a shared vision and invest jointly in initiatives that span our boundaries and benefit the wider area.”

Teignbridge District Council Leader, Jeremy Christophers, said: “Politically, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the people of Exeter, East Devon and Teignbridge. A mature working relationship built on trust between the Leaders allows us to move forward with confidence to deliver positive change for our communities, despite current financial challenges for local government.”

East Devon District Council Leader, Paul Diviani, said: “The way we live, work and spend our leisure time is already dispersed across the geographical boundaries of each authority. It makes perfect economical sense to work more collaboratively as a group. This is such an exciting venture which addresses the issues which affect us all and will play a critical role in driving economic growth and social cooperation across our boundaries. Our people care that the services they can reasonably expect to see delivered are done so in a sustainable, equitable and efficient manner. Working together we will achieve so much more than we ever could in isolation.”

The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership has backed the announcement. Steve Hindley, Chairman of the LEP, said: “I fully support this closer collaboration and am convinced that it will be of enormous benefit to everyone concerned.”

The Greater Exeter Visioning Board will meet every month to define work priorities of the Group. The Board will consist of the Leaders and Chief Executives of each district council plus the portfolio holders responsible for development:

Exeter - Cllr Pete Edwards, Karime Hassan and Cllr Rachel Sutton

Teignbridge - Cllr Jeremy Christophers, Nicola Bulbeck and Cllr Stuart Barker

East Devon - Cllr Paul Diviani, Mark Williams and Cllr Andrew Moulding


9. At 04:48 pm on 25th Nov Claire Wright wrote:

Thank you for your observation. In relation to your other points, I think that you will find that most people believe that such a fundamental change to the way in which the council operates, should be subject to public consultation and certainly involvement of councillors, before the decision has been made. It is inexcusable to keep members and residents in the dark until the paperwork has been signed.

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