Chairman divides Sidmouth Town Council

SIDMOUTH town councillors accused their own chairman of ‘playing politics’ by calling for Knowle plans to be put on hold in light of a report by Lord Heseltine.

Stuart Hughes wants district bosses to halt their relocation plans until Government has ruled on the recommendations of ‘No Stone Unturned’ - which says such authorities should be abolished.

Councillor Hughes, who proposed the motion to East Devon District Council (EDDC), wanted the blessing of his town council colleagues at a meeting on Monday.

But some members told the chairman he was playing up to the electorate.

Cllr Ann Liverton said: “It’s politically motivated – we are being used as a tool against East Devon District Council.

“It’s a way of telling the people of Sidmouth that there’s a way out.”

The meeting heard that EDDC’s abolition would see its powers divided between Devon County Council (DCC) and Sidmouth Town Council, in a move that is intended to increase transparency and cut costs.

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Mr Hughes called for a halt in the Knowle redevelopment plans, as the offices could be used as a DCC satellite office or by an expanded town council.

Mrs Liverton said that Government reorganisation ‘takes forever’, so to put the town on hold for an indefinite amount of time was not an option.

Cllr Graham Liverton said to Mr Hughes: “You play politics at East Devon – don’t play it here.”

However, the motion was backed by Cllr David Barratt, who congratulated the chairman for seeing the connection between the proposal and its particular relevance to Sidmouth.

And Cllr Mary Jolly said: “Unitary authorities worked well before East Devon was established in 1974 and could work well again.”

Defending the motion, Cllr Hughes said: “This is nothing to do with playing politics – we have discussed unitary authorities three times before while I’ve been here, and I dare say we will again.”

He said he thought Lord Heseltine’s proposals could benefit Devon’s residents, and reiterated that the idea would not be discussed until the next parliament.

The motion was defeated in a vote of ten to six.