Council claims town is left short
07:30 12 March 2014
Ottery St Mary is being overlooked for community funding by Tory district council bosses because of the town’s independent representatives, claim civic leaders.
Town councillors this week heard that the involvement of either Roger Giles or Claire Wright in bids to the authority ‘could signal the death knell’ to any application – a situation lamented as ‘sacndalous’.
Both have been critical of the Conservative East Devon District Council (EDDC) hierarchy over several issues – including controversial relocation plans.
Mayor Glyn Dobson was giving colleagues an update on correspondence between himself and EDDC’s chief executive Mark Williams at a meeting last Monday when the claim was made.
He said: “I believe that Ottery Town Council does not get its fair share of money from EDDC, and I have thought that for a long time.”
Cllr Dobson said EDDC currently spends more than £200,000 across the district, subsidising running costs for public toilets in more than 10 towns and villages – but Ottery has to pay an annual fee of £2,500.
He added: “I put the case to Mark Williams at a meeting in July last year, and asked if they could help with other projects too – insurance for our skatepark, a reduction in parking charges for coaches at Land of Canaan and help with the pavilion at Strawberry Lane.”
Mr Dobson only received a response from Mr Williams on February 21 – with no offer of any financial help – and added: “I think it is appalling. We certainly don’t get our share of public funds – everything we ask for they say ‘no’.”
Deputy mayor Ian Holmes said: “At the meeting [with EDDC bosses in July] it was said to us that if either of our independent councillors were involved in a project it could signal the death knell for it.”
Long-serving Cllr Giles, who represents the Ottery town ward on the district council, said the situation was ‘scandalous’ and added: “It’s totally unacceptable and unimaginable that council spending priorities would be decided in this way.
“Projects put forward should be decided on merit, not on whether you are a Conservative or independent.”
The town council agreed to take advice from the Devon Association of Local Councils to resolve the situation.
Cllr Wright, representative for Ottery Rural, told the Herald: “Serious questions need to be, and will be, asked at the highest level.”
Both Mr Giles and Mrs Wright bagged resounding victories in the 2011 district council elections.