Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

Guidelines for commenting on this blog

Sunday, 20 April 2014 16 Comments by Claire

I strongly support transparency and openness in local government and I administer my blog in a way that upholds and supports my position on this.

I really enjoy getting comments on my blog – negative and positive - because it is a useful way of finding out what residents think on a range of issues.

But there are rules that commenters must follow, to ensure that any comment published under my name, complies with defamation laws and the councillor’s code of conduct.

Please take note of the following guidelines when using my blog for comments:

- do not defame any individual (post an untrue damaging statement about someone)

- do not criticise council officers. (EDDC’s monitoring officer has advised me that this may breach the councillor’s code of conduct)

- criticising councillors, however, is fine (providing you are not defamatory or offensive)

- use your real name. If I know who you are then I will probably post your comment, but it is helpful if readers also know who you are.

- If I have reason to believe that you are using a false name and you post what could be construed as a malicious comment, from now on I will ask you to confirm your true identity, via a private email.

If this request is refused, ignored, or false information is given, your comment will be deleted without being published.

While I welcome robust commentary from anyone with any view, I will not allow my blog to be abused by individuals using false names attempting to damage mine or anyone else’s reputation, with spurious or unsubstantiated claims.

I have put a link to this post under “useful information.”

Many thanks

Claire

Comments

1. At 11:12 pm on 20th Apr Sandra Semple wrote:

We can criticise councillors but not officers - who thought that one up!

2. At 01:27 pm on 22th Apr Cllr Phil Twiss wrote:

This intent of this post seems reasonable enough but like all things the “proof of the pudding” etc.

Using the guidelines in this post the comment below written by someone who I guess is writing under an assumed name is patronising, offensive, defamatory, misleading and untrue. I have said on numerous occasions that no Whip has been used while I have been a member of EDDC but “Conrad Black” persists like others in saying that this is untrue; he is wrong.

Stuart Hughes was not dumped from an EDDC post (or posts as written below) on grounds of ill health or because he spoke up for the interests of Sidmouth (which he continues to do very effectively). He has a very senior cabinet role at Devon County Council which is to all intents and purposes full time and as they go through very tough times he did not need the distraction of maintaining another senior role at EDDC in tandem with his DCC responsibilities.

I did not say Cllr Bloxham was batty or that my colleagues in the EDDC Conservative Group might be compared to sheep by being told how to vote (judging by the result of the proposals on public speaking they clearly vote as the think most appropriate).

The Local Plan Inspector has asked for further clarification on a number of issues including justification of housing numbers and traveller’s sites and not rejected the plan which is clearly well past the first base. Around 40 out of 109 Local Plans submitted for inspection have been approved with many in a similar position to that of East Devon where further information is being sought by the Inspector and some in a Judicial review process with invariably the key issue being housing supply data in one form or another. 

Can you please remove this comment from your blog to comply with your guidelines for publication?.

Stormy debate stalls public speaking restrictions
Thursday, 10 April 2014 27 Comments by Claire
A raft of proposals aimed at restricting public speaking at EDDC planning committee meetings have been referred for examination at the overview and scrutiny committee.


21. At 08:01 pm on 11th Apr Conrad Black wrote:

Oh tush and fie, Councillor Twiss.  Do you really think we are so stupid as not to recognise that the moment last year, when Stuart Hughes dared step out of line and put it on record that he was opposed to the Party plans for Sidmouth, he was promptly dumped - by you - from posts he had held perfectly well, on the grounds of his health (being too demanding).  That, sir, was a whip doing his whipping.  And we returned Stuart Hughes, not because he was a Tory, but because he had the cohones to represent Sidmouth and the spine to stand up for principles.

As a minor point, your claim about the Tory block vote saying the Bloxham proposals needed looking at is perverse.  Are you saying Bloxham is batty?  Surely, if you are the Whip you knew exactly what was going on, and it had your blessing.  Or don’t you know what your sheep are doing?

On the matter of tourism it seems that you don’t know your European Regulations.

Insulting people because they have decided to change political party is a poor substitute for argument.

If you think people are ‘frightened of the truth’ then maybe you can try getting your mind around the cold hard fact that it is your administration that has dismally failed, for years, to even get past first base on preparing the Local Plan, and have just had an Inspector give the most appalling analysis of even the most basic parts of what was proposed as a plan.  The fact of the matter is that your administration has failed to conduct the planning for East Devon, and proposing to curtail the ability of the public to exercise their democratic right to make their opinions heard when a demonstrably unrepresentative group has shown itself incapable of delivering, is more than a bit rich - it is that you cannot accept criticism even when you are found demonstrably incorrect by an Inspector of planning.

3. At 04:11 pm on 22th Apr Claire wrote:

Thanks Phil, I cannot see anything in Conrad Black’s comment that is contrary to my policy.  They are his opinions, which I also am aware that many others share. And you do have the opportunity to refute them, which is what you are doing now, albeit belatedly.

4. At 04:40 pm on 22th Apr Cllr Phil Twiss wrote:

Meaningless and hollow guidelines given the points I have made in just this one example of the more reasonable ones that appear on this site. e.g. - do not defame any individual (post an untrue damaging statement about someone) which is precisely what “Conrad Black” did on the .

You may recall that last year I challenged Roger Giles to ask any member of the Conservative Group if the Whip had ever been used but to my certain knowledge he did not take up the offer to verify this for himself. 

5. At 06:49 pm on 22th Apr Sandra Semple wrote:

Councillor Twiss, please do not take us for simpletons.  The job of a whip is not to go around with a bull whip torturing members.  A GOOD Whip will hardly seem to be doing the job - a raise of the eyebrow here, a pursed lip there, a demotion here, a promotion there all done with the lightest of touches.  And I do believe you are a good Whip because if you were not you would be a bad Whip and I am sure you would not want that reputation.  You cannot be an invisible Whip - there is no such thing.  A Whip has a job and if you don’t whip then resign the post openly and transparently instead of trying to pretend (not very well) that you do nothing.  Merely by writing so stridently to this blog about your party shows that you have some function in it, otherwise you would just be sorting out your own constituency instead of poking your nose into those of others.
A good Whip also scours the press for “anti-party” items and attempts to put the Party spin on them to the detriment of the person who disagrees with them OR who is so popular and so good at their job that he or she might pinch thousands of votes from the Party - after all, there is no-one with the role of “Publicity Manager” and the council press office is specifically prohibited from putting out political information so that role has to default to the Whip.

PLEASE Councillor Twiss, put your own house in order before trying to demolish someone else’s, especially when yours is derelict and tumbling down and the other person’s is in good nick and sparkling with new paint.  Get your councillors (and their officers) working night and day to sort out the Local Plan disaster.  Get them to understand that not only does the public not like to be gagged, it actively despises those who try to attempt it.  Get them to work FOR their constituents and NOT against them.

Then, and only then, you can start criticising others for the things that are so conspicuously missing in your own group.

6. At 06:54 pm on 22th Apr Paul Arnott wrote:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” : Evelyn Beatrice Hall, paraphrasing Voltaire. An oldie, but a goldie nonetheless.

So, Phil, I will put up with your council’s half-truths and puffs about the Local Plan catastrophe, with my council tax money being debited from my bank account and spent on a PR unit for political ends, with the drivel released to local papers eager to fill space and reliant on EDDC ad revenue .... and in return you will tolerate opinions with which you do not agree through blogs or letters pages or, and this is the one you need to focus on, from people with the guts to stand up at your public meetings and speak truth unto power.

Deal?

7. At 09:23 pm on 22th Apr John Withrington wrote:

While I always enjoy reading Cllr Twiss’s comments – usually occasioned by a need for light entertainment at the end of a working day—the observation that “The Local Plan Inspector has asked for further clarification on a number of issues including justification of housing numbers and traveller’s sites and not rejected the plan which is clearly well past the first base” is .... well, it’s the kind of statement I’d expect from the Ministry of Truth, really.
‘Fact is, Cllr Twiss, that Mr Thickett’s response to EDDC was, as the East Devon Alliance has already pointed out, a devastating critique. As near as dammit, Mr Thickett was exhorting EDDC to extract the digit. It’s not simply a question of Mr Thickett asking for “further clarification” of housing numbers: he was clear that he hadn’t a clue in places where EDDC was getting its figures from.  The absence of having something as fundamental as an up to date SHMA was described as a “serious failing”. (Hint: ‘serious’ and ‘failing’ next to each other is not good news, Cllr Twiss.) As for Cllr Twiss’s cheerful assertion that “around 40 out of 109 Local Plans submitted for inspection have been approved …”, er, is that meant to reassure? Are we supposed to take comfort that because only 37% of Local Plans submitted for inspection have been approved, that somehow EDDC can expect a shoo-in?
EDDC’s approach to the Local Plan has been, as Paul Arnott observes, a catastrophe. In fact, you could say that there’s been a serious failing on EDDC’s part. I would.

8. At 10:04 am on 23th Apr Tony Green wrote:

Phil Twiss’s assertion that he never “leans on” members of the Tory flock who stray is, to use a phrase he likes, “economical with the truth”.
Witness what happened at the full council meeting of 24 July last year. Tory councillor Mike Allen was questioning the inexplicable inclusion in the Local Plan of a 12-acre business park at Sidford when suddenly he launched a swingeing attack on the Chief Executive.
Mark Williams, he said, had misled the Council with advice on the National Planning Policy Framework because he “lacked a grip” on it.
Cllr Twiss sprang to his feet to defend the CEO: he must know what he was talking about because he was a lawyer!
Shortly afterwards the Whip was spotted by several reliable witnesses administering a tongue-lashing to his undisciplined colleague.
Unsurprisingly, a day or two later, when quizzed by a local reporter, Cllr Allen flatly denied ever having criticised the Chief Officer!

9. At 10:49 am on 23th Apr Damien Mills wrote:

Cllr Twiss would have us believe that Stuart Hughes wasn’t dumped from his EDDC posts because he spoke up for Sidmouth but because: ‘He has a very senior cabinet role at Devon County Council which is to all intents and purposes full time and as they go through very tough times he did not need the distraction of maintaining another senior role at EDDC in tandem with his DCC responsibilities.’

Is it any wonder no-one believes him when Cllr Hughes himself dismisses it as nonsense.

“Their excuse doesn’t wash with me – I’m doing less now than I was two years ago when I was appointed to the post,” said Cllr Hughes, who has once again been named Devon County Council’s cabinet member for highways and flooding, while ceasing to be the chairman of Sidmouth Town Council. “I think it’s because I’ve been outspoken. The way they’ve treated some of the people in Sidmouth who have asked legitimate questions has been spineless and arrogant and I feel no-one is listening to the people in the town.

http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/8220-Spineless-arrogant-8221-East-Devon/story-19056369-detail/story.html

That aside, if we humour Cllr Twiss for a minute and accept his claim that Cllr Hughes is too busy to maintain another senior role at East Devon, where, exactly, does that leave Paul Diviani who, aside from also being a high-ranking county councillor, is also chairman of the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty group, chairman of the Making It Local Rural Development Plan Local Action Group, chairman of the Exeter & East Devon Rural Growth Point board and vice-chairman of the Local Government Association Rural Commission, as well as a member of the Conservative group’s police and crime panel?

http://www.devon.gov.uk/diviani-paul4.pdf?6f507b

Judged on the recent performance of the council over which he presides, dare I suggest it’s Cllr Diviani, rather than Cllr Hughes, who has too many ‘outside interests’ to perform his role effectively?!

10. At 10:57 pm on 23th Apr Conrad Black wrote:

Councillor Twiss, I am given to understand that you have some experience in legal matters, so you will know very clearly, as a holder of public office, that everything I said is covered under the fair comment defence - and clearly expressed views also held honestly by others, since I did not solicit any defense, but there was no lack of it on the day.

I do have a concern that your comments could be taken to be a threat to the manager of this blog, with whom I have no connection of any kind, to prevent the publication of analysis and criticism that are themselves perfectly valid, and, as a matter of fact, protected by law as a right.  I am absolutely certain that you will hasten to assure the manager that this is not the case and that you had no intention whatsoever to suggest that the manager should in any way refuse fair comment.

No doubt you can also hasten to assure me that, for instance, the idea it is impossible to name council staff and their actions/activities on this blog when they have already been reported variously by name, in Council minutes, in Council press releases, in the general press, could not apply in the cases I have just enumerated.  After all, surely it must be quite impossible to bring the council into disrepute by repeating things that the council have already chosen (for whatever reason) to make public, or are compelled by law to make public in any event (the content of public meetings, for instance).  I look forward to hearing your very precise opinion and recommendation.

While you are carrying out that little task, you might also like to explain why it is that, according to your expressed opinion, the uncertainty of ‘whatsoever might be built in the Knowle’ is guaranteed to provide a better income to Sidmouth that the 400 high grade jobs you are guaranteeing to take away from Sidmouth, never mind the additional costs faced by almost the whole of the District in getting to the proposed site for the new offices.  In my view, such a claim appears to demonstrate a presience of unusual order.  It certainly exceeds the opinions given in front of the Planning Inspector when the best that could be offered for the site is housing.  Do you have some inside track that we can all invest in?  Even a hint would be (commercially) helpful.

11. At 09:04 am on 24th Apr Cllr Phil Twiss wrote:

Oh tush and fie Conrad, the clue is in the name i.e. East Devon District Council and not Sidmouth Town council. “400 high grade jobs” will not be lost to the District via a relocation of its HQ.

EDDC works on behalf of all residents of East Devon including and not exclusively for those in Sidmouth and you are aware of the reasons why Knowle is not fit for purpose and why we need to work in different ways to maximise efficient working practices and maintain frontline services.

E Mail me in confidence at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (I don’t bite or whip!) with you real name and we can discuss sensibly rather than having a “sound bite” slanging match via this forum unless of course we have already discussed this which would then be rather pointless.

12. At 09:47 am on 24th Apr Sandra Sempke wrote:

Oh tush and fie Councillor Twiss!  The Knowle was neglected for years so that you and your colleagues could spout this nonsense and it would take much less money ( and scarce resources) to fix up than your new HQ which is nearer to Exeter than most of East Devon’s towns.  You are also selling the family silver (Heathfield) and taking out a near £4m loan to pay for it.

But all this is is a distraction by you to cover up your woeful handling of our Local Plan on the basis of “a good day to bury bad news” whilst trying to trash the opposition.

The two (Skypark and the Lical Plan) do have a link however - EDDC’s total inability to do basic mathematics and a complete ignorance of what constitutes evidence. 

By the way, I am not Conrad Black and you know how to reach me.

13. At 10:54 am on 24th Apr Damien Mills wrote:

Dear Cllr Twiss

When a move to Honiton was on the cards, East Devon District Council commissioned an economic impact assessment:

http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/economic_impact_assessment_knowle_final.pdf

One would assume that Peter Brett Associates have by now been asked to produce a similar report assessing the impact of a move to SkyPark.  That being the case, and mindful of your desire to avoid sound-bite slanging matches and deal in facts, I am sure residents of East Devon would appreciate answers to the following questions:

[1] Can you confirm that such a report has been commissioned?
[2] Assuming the answer is yes, can you give us some idea when it will be published?
[3] Can you assure us that the council will not press ahead with plans to move to the SkyPark until such time as it is in possession of an economic impact assessment and has had the opportunity to give it due consideration?

Thanks in anticipation
Damien Mills

PS Any chance of you dealing with any of the points in my post of 9.49am yesterday?!

14. At 10:46 pm on 24th Apr Conrad Black wrote:

Come come, Councillor Twiss.  What could there possibly be that I could tell you secretly that would need a private conversation.  Far better to have discussion out in the open, don’t you think?  Much of the current malaise has been brought about by what seems to be unnecessary, or even incomprehensible secrecy, so surely it is much better that you and I avoid that complication.

You know, your description of our discussion as an exchange of sound bites shed a new light on your view of your contributions.  I had thought my questions were reasonably well formed, since they did not receive answers.  But I am sure that we can both work on establishing a rapport.

If you do have a moment I would appreciate the input I requested.  You know, I get the feeling that Skypark is really handing jobs to Exeter since they have the best access to the site, whilst it remains near inaccessible to EDDC (and I mean the geographic location).  It is perfectly valid to interpret the absolute determination by the current regime to leave Sidmouth if at all possible (and the pronouncements of the EDDC that they have to leave Sidmouth regardless) and the appointment of a project manager who can only succeed if he ‘proves’ that EDDC have to leave Sidmouth, as an exercise of loading the dice.  Who knows what might have happened if he had been tasked with finding the most cost effective way forward?  You being an experienced man will fully appreciate that the two objectives are wildly different.  And that is why I say to you it is my opinion that the decision is being taken based not upon what is best for the District, but predicated upon finding any way possible to ‘justify’ leaving the Knowle.  Not quite the disinterested study.

15. At 06:20 pm on 01th May Damien Mills wrote:

Further to my last post, how does Cllr Twiss feel about the role of East Devon Conservative MP Hugo Swire as Minister of State at the Foreign Office?

A quick look at Mr Swire’s Twitter account reveals he spends most of his time travelling around the world on Foreign Office business:

https://twitter.com/HugoSwire

It seems to me, Hugo Swire ‘doesn’t need the distraction’ of standing up for his constituents in East Devon; I wonder what Cllr Twiss’ take is.

16. At 02:31 pm on 28th Jul Deirdre Hounsom wrote:

This is indeed very bad news for people living in rural areas where the bus service is infrequent and for people who find it difficult to use public transport. Yet another example of people who live away from the major towns and cities being penalised for doing so.

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