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Overview and Scrutiny Committee fail to oversee and scrutinise

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee, enfeebled by its meek majority, let council officers off the scrutiny hook again, at last night’s meeting at Knowle.

For SOS, Richard Thurlow, Richard Eley and Marianne Rixson spoke, saying that the O&S committee should take more interest and actively question the Knowle plans.

There were 10 O&S councillors present, plus the Chair Tim Wood (from Exmouth) and the Deputy Chair,Graham Troman, (from Sidmouth) ). No-one from Sidmouth Town Council was present.

Richard Cohen presented his office relocation report very poorly and was questioned by Cllrs Clare Wright (Ind), Roger Giles (Ind) , Mike Allen (Con) and Tony Howard (Con). Graham Troman (Con) spoke very strongly about his refusal to accept the relocation, citing the effect on Sidmouth employment and the effect on the town. So did Roger Giles who also asked some very pertinent questions about possible planning permission problems for the 3 sites being considered by EDDC.

Deputy Chief Executive Richard Cohen showed his usual arrogant disdain for the questioners, but stumbled several times in his replies. He admitted, “There is always a possibility that we won’t move to Skypark”. A rambling discussion was followed by a proposal by Cllr Wright that ‘The council made no decision on selling the Knowle and other assets associated with the relocation until there was complete certainty over a new location. AND that no decision be made until all the costs were published – both expenditure and potential new build costs. AND that no decision on the relocation be made until after December.’

The vote was 5 for and 5 against, with Cllr Wood, casting his vote against the proposals. Cllr Humphries proposed that Cohen’s “excellent” report (he gave no examples of the ‘excellence’) be accepted, again 5 votes on each side, with the Chair casting his vote for the proposal. Of the Councillors representing the Sidmouth area, Frances Newth and Christine Drew asked no critical questions, and Sheila Kerridge remained curiously silent. At times, Cllrs Drew and Newth could be seen waving frantically to Cllr Humphries to push him to speak for the report and against Cllr Wright’s motion. So our local Councillors, apart from Graham Troman, don’t seem to understand why there was a Mass March on their doorstep. http://saveoursidmouth.com/2012/11/10/mass-march-pictures/

It is the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s statutory job to hold the Cabinet (all Conservative) to account, and last night it failed most miserably to even back a few basic proposals to provide a modest check on one of the most financially risky, secretive and controversial projects in recent years.

Full report at http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/eddc_scrutiny_cttee_votes_against_holding_cabinet_to_account_which_is_its_j
and further comment at http://eastdevonalliance.org

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