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EDDC full council questions and answers from last week’s meeting

Wednesday, 30 July 2014 2 Comments by Claire

These may be of interest….

Question 1: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Ben Ingham

After the East Devon Local Plan was rejected by the Inspector, we were told to expect the SHMA during June. Then an EDDC officer would consider the implications, producing a new report in time to go to the DMC on 1st July.

This deadline has been missed due to EDDC’s failure to complete the population model on time. What is the new deadline for the officer’s report?

In the recent report to Audit & Governance, Members were told that if the housing figures are about right, the EDLP could go straight back to the Inspector. However, the Inspector said that even if the figures were the same, people must have the opportunity to comment through consultation on the process. What timetable have our officers in mind for the consultation to happen?

What is your new target date for submission of a revised EDLP?

Answer:
Past timetables for production of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment indicated that we should have already received the draft report. Delays, outside of this Council’s control, have however arisen and the consultants undertaking the work have been liaising with and will need to continue liaising with Devon County Council over data preparation and population and housing projections. 

The new timetable that the commissioning authorities (East Devon, Mid Devon and Teignbridge District Council’s and Exeter City Council) have been advised of and are working to is:

• Early Aug – draft of report issued (and soon after the draft report or key findings to be made public);
• Week of 11 – 15 Aug – an industry workshop will take place;
• Late August – Final Report will be published.

On this basis we plan to report to Development Management Committee on 23 September 2014.

Consultation on the basis of the above would mostly likely be in October/November and re-convened examination hearing sessions would hopefully be in late 2014. On this basis we would hope for adoption in early 2015. The SHMA will cover an area of 945 square miles and currently has 452,200 residents and 195,000 households.


Question 2: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Ben Ingham

We have now budgeted £700,000 towards the EDDC HQ relocation preparations. Separate from this, what is the estimated total cost for the relocation, if it is completed?

Answer:
Members have been informed at previous stages through reports and briefings as to the costs of the relocation project and the mechanisms of funding the project.  Furhter reports will come forward.

The Part B Cabinet report of 5 Feb 2014 for example provided extensive detail of the costs of relocation.  The figures were and continue to be commercially sensitive in terms of projected capital receipt from land sales, any borrowing requirements and the estimated design and build costs of new offices that would be subject to commercial bidding processes in future. 

Question 3: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Susie Bond

Is the Leader in possession of any information relating to the police investigation into former Councillor Graham Brown?

Answer:
Along with everyone else, I await hearing from the Police on the outcome of their investigation.

As and when there is further information I would expect the Chief Executive to update the Council.

Question 4: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader of the Council from Councillor Claire Wright

Is the Leader aware of the growing support, including among local MPs, for a cut in tourism VAT?

Answer:
As far as I’m aware nothing has changed since Council last debated this but I await publication of the General Election manifestos to see what support there is for this from the main political parties.

Question 5: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Portfolio Holder - Environment from Councillor Claire Wright

It was agreed that a task and finish forum would be set up to look at better protecting our trees, last October.  As yet there has been no progress. Can the Portfolio Holder for the Environment please confirm when the first meeting will take place?

Answer:
We have very limited resources in our ‘two man’ tree team who have been struggling with a heavy workload, made worse by the impact of the winter storms. The frontline officers need to be involved in the TaFF and managers have been reluctant to divert their energies from advice and assistance to the public, planning consultations, care of Council trees and tree preservation order work.

The officers are already involved in a Systems Thinking review of trees and a further distraction would inevitably lead to deterioration in service delivery. We are working towards the first meeting of the TaFF in September/October.

Question 6: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader from Cllr Claire Wright

Can the Leader please explain why this council has appealed against an information commissioner’s ruling on publishing an important survey on the state of the Knowle buildings?

Answer:
There seems to be some misunderstanding here.  The appeal underway relates to reports to the Council’s relocation working groups on a range of matters, not particular to a survey on the state of Knowle buildings.  The nearest thing to such a report would be the previously published costing of essential improvements to the Knowle which Cllr Claire Wright will be aware of.

The working group reports subject to an ICO hearing contain information on a variety of sensitive subjects relating to the Council’s relocation including detail on land ownership, land values and ongoing negotiations as well as matters of legal professional privilege.  As such the Council believes that it is not appropriate that this information should be in the public domain.

Question 7: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader from Councillor Claire Wright

Please confirm the cost to EDDC, of the Information Commissioner’s public hearing on publishing the survey, which takes place on 28 August.

Answer:
The Council had asked the Information Commissioner’s Office if the matter could be resolved by paper process but the ICO has insisted on an oral hearing.  The costs of an oral hearing could fall at least in part to the Council but we are not able to say at the moment what those costs will be.

Comments

1. At 11:05 am on 31th Jul Damien Mills wrote:

As ever, some interesting questions posed and some real nonsense cited in response.

In particular, apropos Question 1, can anyone explain what, exactly, is intended by the ‘industry workshop’ scheduled for the week of August 11-15?

As regards Question 3, given the significance of the situation, one might reasonably have hoped that the leader of the council and / or the chief executive would have instigated some kind of dialogue with the police and were aware precisely what the situation was at any moment in time.  I for one find Cllr Diviani’s assertion that ‘as and when there is further information I would expect the chief executive to update the council’ wholly unsatisfactory.

The answer to Question 5 is, it seems to me, no more than a smokescreen for the council’s abject failure to deliver on what was promised. One presumes the portfolio holder for the environment was aware of the tree team’s workload when it was agreed the Task & Finish Forum would be set up – if not, why not? – and it is, therefore, entirely unsatisfactory to cite this as a reason for the inaction. Moreover, it’s disappointing – if not altogether surprising given the history of the East Devon Business Group Task & Finish Forum – to see an initiative with the potential to improve the council’s service delivery referred to by the portfolio holder as ‘a distraction’.

Once again, as happens all too often with the ruling elite at Knowle, the response to Question 6 and, in particular, the reference to ‘matters of legal professional privilege’ seeks to take us all for idiots. While legal professional privilege is a fundamental principle of justice in England and Wales and does indeed grant protection from disclosing evidence, five minutes on Google will reveal it is not applicable in this case and a complete red herring to suggest otherwise.

http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/advice/practice-notes/aml/legal-professional-privilege/

The response to Question 7 is a masterclass in weasel words and invites us to believe that the council has not already sought outside legal advice for a hearing scheduled to take place within the next four weeks. Of course, it will have done and it will have a very good idea what the cost of this is likely to be – well into five figures I’d imagine. For the leader to skirt around the question in the manner he has done tells you everything you need to know about how seriously the council takes its avowed commitment to openness and transparency, IMHO.

2. At 04:25 pm on 03th Aug anita jennings wrote:

would somebody please explain what is meant by “Systems Thinking”??  I have a vague
recollection that Mrs Kate Little introduced it to the Planning Department soon afer
her appointment ca. 2001-3.

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