Saturday, 21 December 2013

Transparency and process in East Devon..................... continued: part three

To continue one particular debate from
Futures Forum: Transparency and process in East Devon... a summary


Minutes of the Meeting of the Council: Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Public question time

Jacqueline Green referred to a letter from Councillor Twiss which had been printed in the 29.11.13 edition of the Sidmouth Herald. She said that this insulted and showed disrespect to Independent Councillors. She asked the Chairman if he would disassociate himself from the content of the letter. 

In response, the Chief Executive advised that the Council’s Monitoring Officer had received a Code of Conduct complaint in respect of the letter and so it was 
inappropriate to comment at this stage.


No whip required

Saturday, December 7, 2013 
I would like to add to the debate prompted by Councillor Roger Giles’s letter “Electing to stand” (Opinion, November 22).
Roger insults the intelligence of the electorate in East Devon, which over the years has elected two Conservative MPs, contributed to electing three Conservative MEPs, and duly elected a Conservative majority at East Devon District Council and Devon County Council.
Roger, face it – we live in area where the electorate has chosen the values and beliefs of the Conservative way of life...
Conservative policies are a matter of record and well established in East Devon. More than can be said for Independent candidates, who are very shy as to their values and beliefs.
Perhaps I could request, through the good offices of the Sidmouth Herald, that you explain them to the electorate – adding what has been achieved in regard to your values and beliefs since the last district elections.
Finally, you will note this letter is written by a free-thinking Conservative councillor without the aid of a ‘whip’.
Cllr Tony Howard
EDDC Conservative Member for 
Ottery St Mary Rural Ward
No whip required - Letters - Sidmouth Herald

East Devon residents have chosen “Conservative way of life”

Cllr Tony Howard, EDDC Ottery St Mary Rural councillor (my fellow ward member), has waded into the Phil Twiss debate, with a remarkable letter published in today’s Ottery/Sidmouth Herald. Here it is….
I would like to add to the debate prompted by Councillor Roger Giles’s letter - “Electing to stand” (Opinion, November 22)...


1. At 12:08 pm on 06th Dec Sandra Semple wrote:
But we don’t have a Conservative or conservative district.  We have a district ruled by a self-chosen group of right wing pro-development, pro-ruining the countryside, ignoring the value of small business and tourism small-minded, arrogant and not very bright bigots whose pals in the East Devon Business Forum had more power than anyone else around.
I don’t think many people voted for that - except perhaps other Conservative councillors.
2. At 02:56 pm on 06th Dec Tim wrote:
To justify such a sweeping statement as “we live in an area where the electorate has chosen the values and beliefs of the Conservative way of life”, Cllr Howard would at least need to produce election results that are substantially different from anything that has taken place in East Devon in recent decades. The Tories may have won seats but rarely if ever have they even had majority support from the voting electorate let alone the electorate as a whole. Hey, why let the facts in the way though!
Don’t confuse our imperfect ‘democratic’ election system with support for your party Cllr. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/election2010/results/constituency/b50.stm
Independent Councillors have achieved, amongst other things,  an increased accountability, and provided a genuine choice - otherwise you wouldn’t be bothered to have a pop at them now would you Cllr Howard?
3. At 04:10 pm on 06th Dec Susie Bond wrote:
Good grief ... doesn’t anybody get it?
You’re elected to serve the people who elected you.
Full Stop.
You have not been elected to serve your masters at Whitehall (or ... dare I say it ... your party Whip)
As a Councillor, you can’t please all of the people all of the time, but if you attend every Parish Council meeting that you possibly can and listen, rather than speak, you might just come to an independent view on the way forward.
4. At 05:37 pm on 06th Dec Malcolm wrote:
Who is Tony Howard – what does he do?
I think it’s the Conservatives who have insulted the intelligence of the electorate by taking them for granted and assuming they will vote for anybody with a blue rosette, even if they’ve never heard of them.
He lists all the election successes of the Tories in East Devon but I suspect many voters now regret their past actions and it will be interesting to see how well UKIP fare in next year’s Euro elections.  MP Hugo Swire (“I can’t act as your MP or give a view because I’m a Minister!”) is also deeply unpopular with Tory supporters in East Devon but is fortunate to be in one of the safest seats in the country so is likely to survive in 2015.
To many people in East Devon, Conservative beliefs and values appear to be assisting local landowners and developers, either through incompetence or corruption, in unnecessary developments in unsuitable places.  One Tory ex-Councillor was forced to resign in March and is now the subject of a criminal investigation.  Was no one at Tory-dominated EDDC was aware of any of this?
As he says, Tory policies are a matter of record and well-established in East Devon!
Has it never occurred to him that the rejection of these Tory policies has probably contributed to the success of Independent candidates, as well as their very obvious dedication and hard work in supporting their communities against injustice and unfairness, especially at the hands of EDDC.  All they get from the leadership of EDDC is arrogance, abuse and derision.
Cllr Howard may not wish to be reminded of recent election results, where the beliefs and dedication of Independent candidates were well understood by the electorate
2013 DCC election in Ottery St Mary Rural  
Chris Wale       Con       522                              
Claire Wright     Ind     2,970 Elec
Roger Giles (Ind) had previously held this seat for 20 years with massive majorities
2011 EDDC election in Ottery St Mary Rural  
Howard           Con     822 Elec                                              
Randall-Johnson Con       797
Wright             Ind     1,364 Elec            
The electorate (in what is seen as a very Conservative area) were so impressed with EDDC policies that they voted off Cllr Randall-Johnson, the EDDC leader, and replaced her with Independent Claire Wright, with a thumping majority of 542. - clearly they knew what values they were voting for.
Finally he describes himself as “free-thinking”.  In the recent disgraceful debacle of the handling of Kelly Lynch’s planning application he supported the appalling behaviour of EDDC.
Values and beliefs!!
As a result of his letter he is now much better known – even if for the wrong reasons!
5. At 05:58 pm on 06th Dec Graham wrote:
Surely it is the Free-Thinking Conservative Councillor Tony Howard who insults our intelligence.
Does he not recall the results of the last 2011 district election when he and his fellow Tory the former EDDC Leader Sara Randall Johnson were thrashed by an Independent candidate. Together they only raised 1619 votes which means 75% of the electors in his ward didn’t share his “Conservative values.”
6. At 08:36 pm on 06th Dec Christine Gibbins wrote:
I am shocked, disappointed and angered by the debacle playing out in our local councils. There is no place for political flag waving. I feel that each person wishing to become a local councillor should stand on his / her own merit and values and what they can bring to the table, not towing a party line that stifles the best way forward for the community they represent.
7. At 12:49 am on 07th Dec Sandra Semple wrote:
Yes, Susie, I naively thought that there was no place for national politics in parish, town and district.  But I soon found out that most party councillors would sell their grandmothers (though preferably yours) to climb the greasy pole to a photograph with the Party leader or MP.
8. At 02:47 pm on 11th Dec Chris D wrote:
‘Conservative policies are a matter of record?’ Looking at the East Devon Con web site it contains no policy info and the last update was in Sept 12. I have a much better idea of what you and Roger stand for than the Conservatives!
9. At 02:02 pm on 13th Dec paul johnston wrote:
A long time ago,  I was party to an informal discussion of Tory electoral prospects in the Shires.  One of the Tory Grandees present expressed the view that maintaining “safe seats” in Devon among other places was not a problem “You could paint a pig blue and people there would vote for it”. It seems that maybe that jest has proven both prescient and truthful with respect the remarks made by our elected representative Tony Howard.
His expressed conceit, that people have chosen the “Tory way of life”  and the complacency that it implies is scarcely credible in the light of recent local election results achieved by Independent candidates and the long tenure over many years of council positions by some Independent Councillors.
It seems that when people are presented with a real choice to vote for someone with integrity, who   not mired in the party political system,  and who clearly represent the interests of the electorate rather than their own, then they vote accordingly. Long may this apparent trend continue and move us all towards true representation of our views in a widely accessible, non-partisan, democratic space.  Blue painted pigs should be restricted to a role as novelty items in local livestock sales.
10. At 11:34 pm on 13th Dec Claire wrote:
If you wish to send your comment as a reply to Cllr Howard’s letter, which was published in last week’s Ottery Herald, the address is harvey.gavin@archant.co.uk

'Independent' Councillors were able to provide independent voices around the controversial planning decision at Budleigh:

Was it Councillor Howard who stated that he didn’t know what Independent councillors stand for?  
In the last week I have seen Councillors Wright, Giles and Bond stating exactly and eloquently what they stand for.


Referring to the continuing row over 'confidentiality' [or 'transparency and planning'] in Ottery:

Secrecy mistake

Saturday, December 21, 2013 

I was saddened to witness and to read (Herald, December 6) of the criticism and attacks on Councillor Roger Giles.

Roger is a model representative – passionate about the whole of Ottery St Mary parish and its inhabitants and an indefatigable worker for us all.
The council seems to have difficulty in understanding a fundamental point: whilst it may on occasion be necessary to hold some discussions in confidence, it can never be acceptable to keep the existence of those discussions a secret.
Indeed, the more confidential the discussions, the more important it is to be open about them taking place and to explain why they need to be confidential.
Our excellent mayor, Glyn Dobson, and some of his colleagues, should now admit that an error of judgement has been made, apologise to Councillor Giles, and learn from their mistake.
Dick Beardsall
Chairman, West Hill Residents’ Association

Almost 10% of District Councillors are Independents:
Political make-up of local councils in the United Kingdom - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Most people stand for election as councillors under the banner of the three largest political parties: Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat. 
However, there is also a strong tradition of local councillors working as Independents.


And more Independents are representing local government constituencies:
The Independents are coming and winning landslide victories | Sidmouth Independent News
Independent Trish Parsons celebrates landslide victory in Braunton by-election | North Devon Journal

It seems that most decisions are taken on a party-political basis, whether at County or District level:
devon_tories_vote_down_planning_motion/claire-wright (12 Dec)
planning_framework_motion_dismissed/claire-wright (15 Nov)
east_devon_tories_condemn_supermarket_levy_motion/claire-wright (27 Oct)

See also:
Futures Forum: "Over-representing parties through the voting system"
Futures Forum: "Over-representing parties through the voting system" ...some figures

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