100 days of independence – Independent councillors outline plans for future

Members of East Devon District Council's Independent cabinet, councillors Jess Bailey, Ben Ingham, S

Members of East Devon District Council's Independent cabinet, councillors Jess Bailey, Ben Ingham, Susie Bond and Kevin Blakey pictured at Cranbrook. Picture: Jess Bailey - Credit: Archant

Climate change, Cranbrook town centre and updating the East Devon Local Plan are among the main projects moving forward say the district council’s new independent administration.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) became Independent-led following an election in May, taking control from the Conservatives for the first time in 45 years.

The all-Independent cabinet has reflected on its first 100 days which has seen the council declare a climate emergency, write a council plan and outline an economic strategy for the East Devon Enterprise Zone.

As of May 2, the council is made up of 20 non-aligned Independent councillors, 19 Conservatives, 11 East Devon Alliance, eight Liberal Democrats and two Greens.

Leader of the council Ben Ingham said EDDC faced some major issues including budget cuts and climate change but the council would not be deterred.

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Councillor Ingham said: "We are a minority administration in a difficult economic climate facing big financial challenges.

"However, we are not deterred by this.

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"We will do everything we can to improve the quality of life and expectations for all in East Devon."

Since the cabinet's election on May 22, EDDC has sanctioned a joint Devon and Somerset economic strategy and is looking at our options for an update to the East Devon Local Plan.

Cllr Susie Bond, deputy leader of the council, said: "We are working incredibly hard to get things right for our district.

"Our critics have accused us of not making changes quickly enough. However, our first priority has been to provide continuity. We are making well considered decisions on behalf of our communities.

"There will be no political expediency. The Independents serve our residents, no one else. We are single-minded in our pursuit of the best outcomes for our district."

Senior officers at EDDC are currently working on an action plan to combat climate change following the declaration of a climate emergency last month.

Cllr Geoff Jung, portfolio holder for the environment, said: "It is vital we make our policy changes based on factual evidence in a calm and rational manner.

"Every decision made by EDDC will be scrutinised for its impact on the environment.

"We look forward to all 60 councillors reaching consensus on how we address the incredibly serious issue of climate change."

The group of councillors said transparency and openness are 'at the heart' of its administration as it produces a draft council plan, which will act as a blueprint for the next four years.

Cllr Jess Bailey, portfolio holder for corporate services, said: "We want there to be absolute clarity in the way we run this council. It is very important to us and to our residents."

The council is also putting the provision of Cranbrook town centre among its 'top priorities'.

Cllr Kevin Blakey, portfolio holder for economy and councillor for Cranbrook, said: "The vitality of the town will be massively boosted by the provision of the town council building, a dedicated GP practice, supermarket and library.

"The land is there ready and waiting - it's time the heart is put into our new community."

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