Thursday, 23 April 2015

Who should determine 'strategic planning' in East Devon? part two >>>>> Cabinet decides to defer the decision to "have a separate committee for planning policy issues until after the elections in May 2015"

At the final Cabinet meeting of this District Council - and so the final one before the elections on 7th May - no 'strategic decisions' were made:
Cabinet minutes for 15 April 2015 - East Devon District Council

Nevertheless, Cllr Andrew Moulding, Deputy Leader/Portfolio Holder for Strategic Development and sitting in the chair as the Leader had been delayed, was very keen to push the recommendations of his 'think tanks':
Portfolio holders - Strategic development and partnerships portfolio - East Devon District Council
Portfolio holders - Think tanks - East Devon District Council

During the discussion at Cabinet, the issue of hiving off the 'strategic planning' responsibilities from the current planning committee (the DMC) was discussed. 

In fact, this had also been discussed - and enthusiastically promoted by officers - at the last Audit & Governance Cttee:
Futures Forum: Who should determine 'strategic planning' in East Devon? Or: How to "take politics out of development decisions and exclude all issues of contention from discussion."

... and by the Overview & Scrutiny Cttee which had supported the notion that "the DMC's terms of reference be amended to reflect that it will solely focus on the determination of planning applications"
Overview and Scrutiny Committee minutes for 26 March 2015 - Joint think tank recommendations - East Devon District Council

Back to the Cabinet meeting of 15th April:
Although Cllr Helen Parr is not a member of the Cabinet, she was asked to contribute to the discussions and was clearly dismayed at Cllr Moulding's enthusiasm for a split.
After some toing and froing over the issues, the clear consensus from Cabinet was that it was the wrong time to push through such a 'fundamental change' - as Cllr Tom Wright made plain. 
In fact, the Leader Cllr Paul Diviani on his arrival agreed, saying that matters could not change now and that it needed 'more discussion'.

Here are the relevant sections from the official minutes to that meeting:

207 Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting – 26 March 2015 

Members received and noted the minutes of the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 26 March 2015. 

The Portfolio Holder, Corporate Business outlined the latest recommendations following a think tank held on the 30 March. The think tank had discussed changes to the committee structure and other constitutional amendments. 

The recommendations also included separating out the two functions of the current Development Management Committee into separate committees, one undertaking the determination of applications, the second covering planning policy. 

Discussion on the proposal from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for a separate planning policy committee included: 
 A separate committee was needed for planning policy issues and should not be part of DMC. It would include a broader range of opinion from a wider pool of members. Any decisions would be debated again as recommendations would be referred to Council. 
 Strategic policy was not a Cabinet function but Cabinet members should be allowed to sit on any new committee. 
 More committee meetings would increase the workload of Democratic Services. Discussion on the proposal from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for separating Overview and Scrutiny included: 
 All depends on the new terms of reference which could have a wide remit. 
 It was important to keep Overview separate from Scrutiny. 
 Cabinet members cannot sit on Overview panels. 
 Timing of setting up the new committee structure was questioned with members’ and officers’ focus at the current time being on the elections in May. Members were reminded that any constitutional changes were made at Annual Council in May so the need to act quickly was imperative. 

1. That the Planning Inspections Committee be disbanded and planning inspections be carried out by DMC. 
2. That the Overview and Scrutiny proposal to have a separate committee for planning policy issues be deferred until after the elections in May 2015. 
3. That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee be split into two separate committees. 
4. That any amendments to the committee structure be reflected in the constitutional changes to be agreed at Annual Council.

EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL Minutes of the meeting of Cabinet held at Knowle, Sidmouth on 15 April 2015

In which case, there will be no matters concerning 'strategy' which will be going before the final District Council meeting on Wednesday 29th April.

The agenda for the full Council meeting has just been published:
Council council agendas - East Devon District Council

Here is comment from the East Devon Watch blog:
Final full council meeting: Wednesday 29 April 2015, 6.30 p.m. | East Devon Watch

NOTE: the list of meetings for March/April were amended two months ago:
List of meetings 2014/2015

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