Jed writes about life as a Devon councillor
On the lst/05/2003 Lesley Roden and I became the first Independent Councillors to represent East Budleigh and Budleigh Salterton at East Devon District Council (EDDC) at Knowle in Sidmouth.
To be Independent sounds fine–no political pressures for local issues - but Lesley and I faced the realities in our very first meetings.
EDDC is controlled by the Conservative majority. They hold the positions of Chair and Vice Chair of the Council, and those same important posts on all the Committees, so most votes are a foregone conclusion–if the 6 Independents vote with the 18 Lib Dems we are still outnumbered (24 to 35). The Independents being truly independent do not always vote the same way, so it’s not with votes in Council that we can do any good.
To my great surprise, I discover our real influence is in direct contact with any of the EDDC Officers. As Ward Member I can access the heads of any Department or the Chief Executive at any time, on any project or problem.
Lesley and I know full well that we were voted in by the Town’s voters who were fed up with a whole series of Planning blunders–so Planning is where we put most of our efforts. It would be terribly easy to be diverted by dog bins, buses, beaches or tourism–but we try to stay focused on Planning.
A few successes:
‘Chance’ on Coastguard Road now reduced to an acceptable size
The Cliff Path re-instated above Links Pinewood
Trees at Elvestone removed, TPOs and protests notwithstanding
The phone mast at the Games Club still solidly in place
But the most important work is for the future of our Town, that’s where I am spending most of my time on two critically important projects.
The Town Design Statement
After a year’s work, this is now a 50 page book that will be coming up for the Town’s approval at an exhibition in May.
The Traffic / Parking Survey
Working with Devon County (roads) EDDC (Planning), the Police and Chamber of Commerce on how to make our High Street a safer, more pleasant place to shop, stroll or park. No easy answers here!
East Devon is a Conservative Council wriggling under the thumb of a Labour Government that orders EDDC to do more and more, yet reduces the money available by taking our funds and transferring them to needy Labour strongholds in the North. John Prescott’s office is removing the old protection from ‘Residential Areas of Special Character’ (West Hill) and trying to promote housebuilding everywhere (your back garden).
So your support is just as vital now a year later–we need to finish our Design Statement, as once approved by EDDC, it will become an important bulwark against unsympathetic development.
So thank you again for your help last year–and remember, we still need you to get anything done this year too.
This material ©Jed Falby 2004