Monday, 20 April 2015

Streetlife debates the election issues for Sidmouth: part 2

The issues around the District and Town elections have been discussed very heartily these last days on the on-line forum Streetlife - as reported in this blog:
Futures Forum: Streetlife debates the election issues for Sidmouth

The debate started on 26th March and has been dominated by the Knowle relocation project and the Sidmouth Beach Managment issue/Community Flood Plan.

Copied below is the thread from 15th April:

Stuart H
If you and the other Sidmouth Town Councillors had picked up and run with the recommendation to prepare a Community Flood Plan when the 2010 DEFRA Pathfinder project (and me) strongly recommended it to Peter Sullivan, Christine Drew, Frances Newth and yourself, then you wouldn't be called out at night to put out sandbags to prevent flooding: the flood wardens for the area would be doing it. Now your own Flood Prevention Department in County Council (which is under your control) is calling on you, in the Town Council, to prepare a Community Flood Plan. Perhaps you as County Councillor, will be more effective in getting you, as Town Councillor, to act on something that members of the community on the Pathfinder project could not.
Polarising Plebeian
Well, it is certainly commendable to deliver sandbags, or unblocking drains. It really is.

However, this is what we'd expect from any good neighbour. When I hear on Twitter that the river is about to flood the houses near the Nissan garage in Sidford in the middle of the night, I put my wellies on and see if I can help. This has nothing to do with the function of a local politician in office. If any politician, including Stuart H, boasts about doing such stuff (and I m not saying Stuart did, I simply don't know) then I classify this as a PR stunt, nothing more.

Looking for instance at the chairman of the town council, his primary qualification or action is apparently to show up at suitable "events" in his chain of office and grin into the camera. He delivered a speech once to the Chamber of Commerce members. which was the most uninspiring waffle I have ever heard in my now rather long life so far. It was a patronising blurb about the trivial fact that his councils work is paid for by the taxpayer. Yawn. Can we get rid of him? No, he goes in again as his seat isn't even contested. Houston, we have a problem (with the election system). 
[Blimey, this rant really reminds me of my hey-days in the senate, of Rome that is. I should really give ol Caligula a call to see how he's doing these days]
Stuart H
The role of a councillor now is as a community leader and not just attending meetings ... I can certainly think of better ways of gaining publicity than getting drenched, delivering sandbags and unblocking drains or driving around four miles of roads off the gritted network gritting estate roads etc to help residents and especially the elderly in our society get out onto the gritted network so they can do their shopping and go about their daily chores. I'm delighted to read that you are neighbourly and also help others and we should encourage more to take this stance as local authorities and especially county find their government funding being cut. As for a Chairmans role yes it does include photo opportunities but this is all down to those organising events inviting media. I expect the speech that I gave to Chamber was a subject they requested and I'm delighted that the electorate have an opportunity this year to go to the polling station and cross boxes as I'm pleased to say we do live in a democracy.
Stuart H
In reply to Jo The Pathfinder Project, which was actually April 2013- March 2015 and not 2010 as indicated,(I think the one referred to was re coastal flooding and led by Jim Masters) did not include Sidmouth as one of the communities involved in the Project. The Devon wide project focused on the theme of improved resilience for rapid response catchments. As part of the project we have communicated with a number of other communities to see if there was the appetite for developing a community emergency plan along the same lines as the Pathfiinder Project and Sidmouth were content with the EA regarding completion of their emergency plan, which i believe is well under way if not complete. The Town Council under my chairmanship completed its own plan identifying rest centres 4x4 owners, sandbag collection points etc...The question raised to the EA was for funding of a rain gauge to support the towns councils plan and this was passed to the Project Manager of the Pathfinder Project as a bid for funding. This wasn’t how the project was funded but we were looking at ways that we could link this sort of request to the Project. The Town Council has its own weather station which is frequently accessed by our HOCC at County and the Met Office.

It is a strong recommendation that all communities have an emergency plan to ensure they have a local understanding of what to do during an incident. The building of local resilience is essential in ensuring they have the skills and potentially equipment to help them help themselves.
Bob B
Pleb , the only problem we have with the election is the fact that no one can be bothered to put time and effort into our community. Hughes and his fellow councillors may not be the best at making interesting speeches and get it wrong ( possibly) on certain decisions but at least they give their time free for their community not one night a decade doing the neighbourly bit but most weeks and fir the whole valley not just people they know . Perhaps if you are so smart and wise you should have stood for the council and made a difference ... Oh sorry yes I forgot like the rest of us your too busy but will carry on criticising those that do ..
Barnacle Bill
Have you missed something Bob B? There are plenty of Independent candidates now doing exactly that! Standing for seats on both the town and district council.

As voters, it is our right to criticise councillors when we believe it is relevant to do so - they are always accountable to us - or so they would have us believe. What better time to express our feelings than in an election?
By the Byes
Bob B, what you are suggesting then is that only those prepared to stand for council can question the decisions made on our behalf? Like many other here I have nothing but admiration for anyone prepared to put in the time and effort it takes to be a councillor. However, my not being prepared to do the same does not preclude me from speaking out if something doesn’t seem right.

It’s been interesting that both Cllrs Hughes and Troman have joined in here and answered several questions on this thread, but not the key one on which this entire discussion started, and so I put this to them both:

Have the documents relating to the sale of the Knowle, which the council were ordered by the Information Commissioner to release, been placed in the public domain? If so – where can I inspect them? If not, why not?
No Stuart H, you are wrong in your interpretation of what I was referring to in my previous post.
I was referring to the 2010 DEFRA Coastal Change Pathfinder Project which included Sidmouth and five places in Dorset. It came to the recommendation that Sidmouth prepare a Community Flood Plan. This is the recommendation that I took to the Sidmouth Town Council and the EDDC. You came to a workshop on that Pathfinder Project when it was held in Sidmouth and you were at the Sidmouth Town Assembly when I asked the Chairmen (Peter Sullivan) when action would be taken on the recommendation for a Community Flood Plan.
Your own department in Devon County Council has recently produced a report (15 November 2014) called Sidmouth and East Devon Floods and it is that report which recommends the EDDC and Sidmouth Town Council to prepare a Community Flood Plan. So again, I ask why no action was taken by Sidmouth Town and District Councillors after the recommendation from the DEFRA 2010 project and why it has taken until end last year for you as the County Councillor with Flood prevention responsibility to at last recommend that Sidmouth should have a Community Flood Plan.
Pining Lass
I don't know if BB made the comment on this thread or another but I think it is relevant here.

Many people strongly dislike Diviani and his group, and what they are trying to do in East Devon. Many of these people will vote to try to get rid of him, and not for the people who might do the best job. That is not for Conservatives who might do the best job.

Given that Hughes and Troman often vote against Diviani I put this question to you both. Why do you continue to stand as Conservative rather than Independent? As Independents we would be free to vote for the person not the Party.
Stuart H
I'm sorry Jo but your memory is failing you I have all the minutes of the Pathfinder which was Dorset led and they invited Devon to include Sidmouth. Jim Masters was project manager and had his base in County Hall ..... The only meeting of this group I attended was the one with you in Weymouth. This Pathfinder was supposed to help move forward the scheme for Coast protection scheme east of the Sid and to address the possibility of tidal flooding of Eastern Town .... My previous post is from information I obtained following an hour of conversations with various officers in my flood team and is fact..... Whist writing I must say I'm very keen on having further discussions with you about the reef idea. Finally I have this morning received an email trail from EA which backs up what I was saying and I quote 'Although they are not part of the pathfinder project (Sidmouth) they are at high risk of flash flooding and have worked hard to complete their community emergency plan' I instigated this.... Be nice to meet face to face rather than using social media which unfortunately is being used more and more by people to attack those who are trying to work for the local community....
Stuart H
In reply to Bob B. Shall get answer for you and Pining Lass ... How much time have you got?
Pining Lass
I'm retired Stuart so I have plenty of time to explore things I don't understand :-)
By the Byes
I've got lots of free time too Stuart, so I'll happily wait as long as it takes to get access to the documents EDDC don't want their electorate to inspect.
I'm not retired but can find time when I want to and could for this.
By the Byes
Thought it worthwhile attaching here the decision from the Information Commissioner back in March 2014 about the hidden relocation documents. Key points below, full document attached.

3. The Commissioner requires the public authority to take the following steps to ensure compliance with the legislation. 

• Disclose the project reports. 

4. The public authority must take these steps within 35 calendar days of the date of this decision notice. Failure to comply may result in the Commissioner making written certification of this fact to the High Court pursuant to section 54 of the Act and may be dealt with as a contempt of court. 

It's worth noting that rather than provide the public with a peek at these documents, they chose to hire a lawyer to appeal instead, paid for by us all.
Also worth noting that Devon County Council were fined £90,000 in 2012 by the Information Commissioner - we can all guess who paid that as well.
Pining Lass
Was it the dcc or the eddc who were fined? Thanks for this pdf.

Please excuse lack of correct capital letters, Street Life thinks I'm shouting and won't let me post ...... duh!
By the Byes
... and the Wikipedia entry below:

In 2012 the Council was fined £90,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) after it sent confidential and sensitive information about twenty-two people, including criminal allegations and information about their mental health, to the wrong recipient. Commenting on Devon and other authorities who had made similar data protection breaches, the ICO said "It would be far too easy to consider these breaches as simple human error. The reality is that they are caused by councils treating sensitive personal data in the same routine way they would deal with more general correspondence. Far too often in these cases, the councils do not appear to have acknowledged that the data they are handling is about real people, and often the more vulnerable members of society.
Polarising Plebeian
It would appear that entirely different bodies and indeed cases are referred to here.
The release of relocation project data at EDDC is not related to the DCC fine for personal data.
I thought this discussion touches EDDC's unwillingness to release relocation  project papers, despite an ICO order. 
By the Byes
PP, I didn't suggest it was connected in any way. The point to make is that the Information Commissioner is capable of handing out whacking great fines to those that defy it. If they do - we'll pick up the tab.
Stuart H
Firstly, may I thank you for expressing interest in the reef. I first proposed this at an Annual General Meeting of the Vision Group for Sidmouth sometime 2010 or earlier. I abandoned it when I found no interest from DCC or EDDC flood officers and councillors. Mary Bagwell also mentioned it at the recent BMP Steering Group meeting (by the way you, as a Councillor, were invited to observe and comment at these meetings, so you could have come). Hopefully we can influence the BMP to include a proposal along these lines for the protection for the eastern end of Sidmouth.
Re. the Coastal Change Pathfinder Project. As you say, you attended the Steering Group meeting in Weymouth, but you also attended the Pathfinder workshops in Sidmouth about how to increase resilience of our community in relation to flooding. The outcome of these workshops was a recommendation to Sidmouth Councillors to put a Community Flood Plan in place. I reiterated this recommendation to the Councillors at the Town Council in 2010 and also to the Annual Town Council Assembly in 2011 where you were present.
Enough of history - the thing now is how we can act on the recommendation about creating a Community Flood Plan, which has been in existence now for a number of years. All the Environment Agency analyses over the past few years, and the Devon County Council analyses, find that where there is one the community is much more resilient should flooding occur. The template for a scheme is available from the Environment Agency; there are volunteers waiting to help put it in place. What is needed now is leadership from our Sidmouth Councillors to make it happen.
Meanwhile, I will do the best I can on the Beach Management Steering Group to encourage the consultants to include acceptable solutions to protect the eastern flank of Sidmouth. I will also encourage the BMP to work with DCC in getting a bridge design that is suitable for the long term in view of the BMP recommended solutions for protection of Pennington Point.
Stuart H
Jo many thanks and let's take a look. I can assure you that I didn't attend any of the Pathfinder sessions with Jim Masters however as County member was well briefed.
Once again I repeat that we have a community flood / emergency plan and Sidmouths flood investigation report has also been published under Section 19 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. I have been pushing Sidmouths case at all the South West Regional Flood and Coastal meetings that I attend and am of course as you know Devon's lead member on Flood Protection.... I have been successful in obtaining further Levy money for the BMP and am pushing for the levy funding to deliver the recommendations of the Sidmouth Surface Water Management Plan brought forward in the 6 year plan. Catch up soon to discuss reef
Stuart H - Interesting, my memory and the Pathfinder meeting notes must be wrong!!
Jim Masters's Meeting notes for the Sidmouth Pathfinder workshops have you as an attendee at the workshops along with Frances Newth, Christine Drew and Peter Sullivan. All delegates came to the conclusion, in 2010, that the Community Flood Plan was vital for increasing community resilience in the face of possible flooding. You were all also at the Annual Town Assembly where I reiterated my plea to get something done.
Stuart H
Honestly Jo I don't think you are listening we have an Emergency Flood Plan for Sidmouth.... The recent completion of the Surface Water Management Plan has indicated a number of options and we (County as lead local flood authority) shall be progressing the bid for Defra funding to progress any improvements for the benefit of both residents and businesses.
Hi Stuart H

Yes I know there is an Emergency Flood Plan for Sidmouth and that's great. However, all the organisations that have studied flooding situations recently have found that the effects of flooding are minimised and the recovery from flooding is greatest when a Community Flood Plan is in place.

A CFP gives the community access to builders who know how to install one-way valves in drains, waterproof air bricks, install neoprene sealed barriers for doors, etc, etc. It also gives a network of flood wardens who give early warning to their community to save valuables, etc and to help elderly and disabled to safety. After the floods it gives the Community access to reputable builders who are knowledgeable in repairing flood damage, community help, etc, etc.

It really is strongly recommended by all organisations who have studied the effect of flooding. I strongly recommend it for Sidmouth.

Streetlife | Bye Bye Knowle

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