Winds of change

SIR - Following a recent article printed by the Archant Group in both print and electronic media titled “Ottery Councillor battles on to LDF panel”, I think it is important to put my fellow EDDC Councillor Claire Wright’s comments in context and correct obvious inaccuracies and assumptions, so that readers of your various are not misled.

All committees and a number of other bodies at EDDC, including the LDF panel, must be politically balanced, based on the number of seats that any group has on the council and then expressed as a percentage of the total. (There are three groups at EDDC, Conservatives with 43 members, 10 Lib Dems and 6 Independents making up the total number of 59).

Each of the groups put forward their candidates for the various committees and specifically in the case of the LDF based on required political balance there is one seat for a Lib Dem and one seat for an Independent. In the case of the LDF, the Independent group leader would have put Councillor Geoff Pook’s name on as their representative, which is ironic given that at a meeting of the Conservatives; Councillor Wright’s name had been put forward as the obvious choice for this panel given her campaigning and the ability to bring something positive to this particular party.

We also thought Councillor Claire Wright would make an excellent affordable Homes Champion, but she declined to accept our nomination for this important role. Equally, we thought Councillor Trevor Cope would make an excellent plain English champion, which he accepted and we unanimously supported that decision based on skills, experience and ability. This also applied to Councillor Roger Giles who we nominated and support in the vital role of recycling Champion, a role which he also accepted.

On the evening of the EDDC AGM it was not a question of following anything up on Councillor Wright’s behalf by Councillors Roger Giles and Trevor Cope; they simply had to change their nomination, which they already had done prior to the evening of the AGM. Councillor Wright is mistaken about the timeline of events. There was a purple sheet of amendments circulated to all members on the evening and prior to the AGM by EDDC Democratic Services department with her name listed as the LDF nomination for the Independent Group and not Geoff Pook. Her name had already been put forward as an amendment by the Independent Group and had been published alongside other changes not related to the LDF? There is no story here.

Part of my role, as the Conservative party whip at EDDC, is to act as a conduit between our own members and the Executive board, officers of the Council and members of other parties. I discussed a number of concerns raised with me about Councillor Claire Wright’s eligibility and effectiveness sitting on the LDF with council officers in respect of her activities with an interest group called Communities before Developers and possible predetermined or prejudicial interests (meaning her being less effective on this forum if it became clear there would be a conflict). I have seen no evidence of me saying or writing that she was ineligible for a seat on the forum; that was never going to be my decision and I am unclear why she is confused about this.

EDDC Deputy Chief Executive Denise Lyon has stated quite clearly the following “There is plenty of leeway for district councillors to be members of organisations and to have publicly voiced strong views about matters in the District. What members on Development Management Committee must do however, and the Local Development Framework Panel too for that matter, is be clearly seen by the public to be open minded and able to balance all views and issues”.

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This could clearly be an issue for a councillor who has publicly stated on the CBD web site that “particular large scale applications that I did not support” might then put her in a position of predetermination and therefore unable to be as effective as the LDF forum deserves. This is a critical matter for everyone in East Devon that needs 100% attention from all of the panel members.

There have been major changes in the “Management” at EDDC since the recent election where the focus is entirely on appointing the best people to perform the tasks asked of them and whilst the proof of the pudding is in the eating, I am disappointed that in the new spirit of openness and inclusiveness that is sweeping through The Knowle not everyone is on board and can afford to pick and choose. Don’t take my word for it, talk to your local councillor and ask them how things are now.

Phil Twiss

EDDC Councillor for Honiton St Michael’s ward

Swallowcliff, Beacon, Honiton