Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The end of the one party system in East Devon?

This blog has looked at the decline of of the two main parties at national level:
Futures Forum: The end of the two party state in the UK?

The question is how far this upset is being reflected at the local government level.

This last week, there has been a lot of commentary on the dangers of the 'one-party state':

Local government has long been the weakest link in the country’s democratic infrastructure. The verdict that Lutfur Rahman, the one-time mayor of Tower Hamlets, was guilty of corrupt and illegal practices represents only the latest episode in a long line of crooks and chancers, of whom T Dan Smith, the corrupt leader of Newcastle upon Tyne in the 1960s, was the flashiest and most audacious.
In any case, local democracy is certainly not receiving the attention it deserves. On 7 May, people will also be voting in contests covering all 36 metropolitan boroughs, 194 districts, 49 of the unitary authorities, and for various directly elected mayors.
In most of these elections, much more than Westminster this time round, the results are a foregone conclusion. One of the more regrettable consequences of the decline of the Liberal Democrats was their disappearance in council chambers where they were usually the only opposition to an overwhelmingly Labour or Conservative administration.
Outside Scotland and Wales, where the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru are now making local politics more competitive, Ukip and the Greens are still a minor, though sometimes significant, force. (Not always an effective one, as the chaotic Green-run Brighton and Hove administration and tweets from the madder Ukip councillors prove.)
So far too many councils are virtual one-party states. Take the local authorities covering the constituencies of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. In the Tory West Oxfordshire, the Conservatives have a grip on 40 of the 49 seats; in Doncaster, Labour holds 50 of the 63 places on the council. In the Miliband family’s home borough of Islington, Labour represents 47 of the 48 wards.

Lutfur Rahman is the latest example in a long line of crooks and chancers - Editorials - Voices - The Independent
The curse of leaders who get too powerful | East Devon Watch

In 2013, the Conservatives continued to hold Devon County Council, with 38 of 62 seats:
Tories hold Devon but in Cornwall no-one has overall control | Western Morning News

In the East Devon District Council elections in 2011, the Conservatives won 43 out of 59 seats:
Trinitymatters.co.uk website of Cllr Ian Thomas EDDC - East Devon District Council

... although there has been a fair amount of correspondence about the effect of this 'control':
Have whip, but don’t ever use it - Letters - Sidmouth Herald
“Conservative councillors are free to express their own views..”, says East Devon Party Whip | Sidmouth Independent News
I’m the EDDC tory whip - but I never use it - Claire Wright
Futures Forum: Transparency and process in East Devon ... continued: part three
Futures Forum: "Over-representing parties through the voting system"

There have been several suggestions over the years that the East Devon District Council is run as a 'one-party state':

EDDC has been heavily criticised for many years for its poor environmental record. The Planning Department has been singled out for particular censure for poor performance. The Chairman of the Planning Committee had to remind Councillors that they should both bother to read papers prior to meetings, and turn up to vote. The Council is heavily dominated by Conservatives who have run a 'one party state' for so long they know that they can get away with just about anything. It is claimed by some local people that the entire system is a waste of public money because all the important decisions are taken behind closed doors.

Town planning and conservation areas - SeeRed

East Devon District Council (EDDC), widely perceived as a one-party state where developers rule - if not a hotbed of corruption (Tory Graham Brown was forced to resign in 2013 in a ‘councillors for hire’ scandal)
... a mass movement which brought 4,000 people onto the streets of the district capital and seaside resort of Sidmouth (population 14,000) in 2012, in protest against a development on open green space proposed by the EDDC. Already there was a scent of wider anger with a one-party regime on the council (the Tories have ruled for 35 of the last 39 Years). ‘Without the ventilation of change, the council has, some feel, begun to smell’, wrote the editor of Country Life at the time.

Development resistance threatens election upset in Devon | openDemocracy

And there is the thoroughly scurrilous 'Real Zorro' commentary:
Real Zorro: Councillor Diviani in politically motivated rush to sell the Knowle ahead of local elections

This blog has looked at the possibility of 'coalitions' happening after 7th May:
Futures Forum: Coalition government - at District Council level

See also:
Futures Forum: East Devon District Council elections: latest reports

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