2024 community share offer
2024 community share offer

THE EXETER DIGEST

Exeter Digest #27: County governance failings - Local elections guide - Duryard double standard - Councillor attendance

Invest in local news that matters by buying community shares in Exeter Observer then help us hold the city's political parties to account during the local elections, catch up with the news in brief and browse Exeter events.

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TOP STORY

DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL ADMITS “SERIOUS, MATERIAL, WELL-EVIDENCED” GOVERNANCE FAILURES

Deficient SEND and children’s services combine with threat of section 114 bankruptcy notice to prompt “root and branch” review aimed at restoring “external confidence in the council’s democratic legitimacy”. Full story here.

LOCAL ELECTIONS

2023 EXETER LOCAL ELECTIONS GUIDE

City council elections take place on Thursday 4 May. Our essential guide highlights who’s standing where, wards to watch and what the results might be. It also covers the wider context, voter ID and the impact of First Past the Post in Exeter elections. Full story here.

EXETER LOCAL ELECTIONS CANDIDATE IS ALSO STANDING IN WINCHESTER

University of Exeter student Harry Johnson-Hill hopes to represent voters both in Duryard & St James and at home in Alresford & Itchen Valley, 100 miles away. Full story here.

ALPHINGTON WORST REPRESENTED WARD AS COUNCILLOR ATTENDANCE AT PUBLIC MEETINGS VARIES WIDELY ACROSS CITY

Consistent commitment to participation in democratic decision-making by some councillors in contrast with poor attendance rates of others. Full story here.

WHEN, WHERE AND HOW TO VOTE IN THE 2023 EXETER LOCAL ELECTIONS

Our guide to casting your ballot in person, by post and by proxy as well as the new voter ID requirements. Read it here.

EXETER CLIMATE ACTIVISTS SUBVERTISE BUS SHELTERS WITH SATIRICAL NEWSPAPER FRONT PAGES

City centre posters promoting “The Big One”, a mass gathering in Parliament Square on 21 April that began four days of climate action in Westminster involving 100,000 people. View gallery here.

EXETER IN BRIEF

The UNIVERSITY OF EXETER has submitted plans for a six acre 1.07MWp solar farm and substation beside Belle Vue Road and alongside Duryard Valley Park which include fencing off part of the publicly-accessible greenspace.

SOUTH WEST WATER has been fined £2.15 million and ordered to pay £280,000 costs after pleading guilty to thirteen environmental offences committed between July 2016 and August 2020 across Devon and Cornwall, the largest fine imposed for such offences in the region. The company allowed toxic chemicals to escape into waterways on several occasions, causing significant environmental damage. A single spill at Kilmington led to the deaths of thousands of fish in the River Axe, including protected species. It also pumped raw sewage into rivers and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

A new development of 1,435 homes has been approved at Cobden on the eastern edge of CRANBROOK by East Devon District Council.

A major review of EXETER CITY COUNCIL governance, which has already been postponed six times and was not expected to address the issues it raises until July, making it nine months late, has now disappeared from the council’s forward plan altogether.

Exeter COST OF LIVING data shows that wages fell in real terms by 6.6% over the year to March 2023, the biggest fall bar one of all 62 cities and large towns included in the Centre for Cities tracker. The think tank found that Exeter workers were on average £144 a month poorer in January 2023 than the previous year as local wage levels have more in common with the north of England than the south.

Work at MARSH BARTON RAILWAY STATION is now complete but an opening date will not be set until regulatory approval for its use is granted. The station was originally scheduled to open in December 2016.

When asked at April’s meeting of EXETER CITY COUNCIL why it does not follow Local Government Association guidance which explicitly advises against the council leader and planning portfolio holder sitting on the planning committee to avoid conflict of interest risks, council leader Phil Bialyk said: “I choose not to follow the guidance”. Both he and Emma Morse, Executive portfolio holder for city development and planning, continue to sit on the committee, which she also chairs.

Dozens of postal voting forms completed with the names and addresses of Exeter voters have been left on a garden wall by local EXETER LABOUR election canvassers. The data breach occurred as the national party put the sensitive personal data of millions of local authority voters at risk via a security flaw in its telephone canvassing database.

More Exeter In Brief here.

EXETER OBSERVER COMMUNITY

HELP HOLD EXETER’S POLITICAL PARTIES TO ACCOUNT DURING THE LOCAL ELECTIONS

Send us any campaign materials you receive so we can factcheck candidates’ claims and hold them to their pledges after the votes have been counted. More details here.

ON OUR RADAR

SATURDAY 29 APRIL // SIDWELL STREET BAKEHOUSE

Not Saints/Together open mic night: a free evening of music, poetry and comedy in an inclusive, safe and sober space. More info here.

TUESDAY 2 TO SATURDAY 12 MAY // MAKETANK

Make Your Own Book festival: an exhibition exploring local independent book and art creators with a weekend of storytelling, illustration and book-making workshops. More info here.

WEDNESDAY 3 MAY // EXETER CLIMATE ACTION HUB

How can Exeter Observer help our city to thrive? Come along to one of our informal events and share your ideas on how we might grow the independent journalism Exeter needs. More info here.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

CITY COUNCIL SUSTAINABLE FOOD POLICY IS A CLIMATE CRISIS RED HERRING

Proposed changes don’t apply to council meetings or most council food provision and are expected to have unquantifiably small impact while diverting resources from major decarbonisation challenges. Full story here.

DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL SOCIAL CARE CUTS TARGET HOMELESSNESS SERVICES

£1.5 million homelessness prevention service funding cut will make situation worse for people who are homeless and at risk of homelessness and is likely to cost more than it saves. Full story here.



Recent stories
Exeter Science Park main building

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

Council sinks additional £1.25m into struggling Exeter Science Park as company unable to repay £7m debts

Serial scrutiny failures continue as emergency meeting held to increase city council exposure to joint venture to more than £2 million on top of £450,000 project costs plus £950,000 guarantee but rescue plan risks repeating earlier strategic mistakes.

Illustrative view of development beside Gabriel's Wharf

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Revised Water Lane redevelopment plans submitted for outline approval

Application for up to 980 dwellings and up to 320 student bedspaces with 40,000m2 of other uses on ex-industrial site between railway embankment and Exeter Ship Canal obfuscates numerous key issues.

Exeter City Council 2023-24 unaudited statement of accounts cover image

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Annual inspection period begins as unaudited 2023-24 city council accounts published

Special information access rights enabling residents to examine records apply until 12 July as two preceding years' accounts still not signed off and auditor's inquiry into council governance and financial and performance management continues.

Exeter St Thomas station access

NEWS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Exeter St Thomas improvement bid rejected as Devon denied step-free access funding for five years

Two-thirds of Access for All money to go to Conservative seats as low-key Department for Transport announcement finds its way into constituency-level news stories and political PR across the country.

Howell Road garage student block illustrative elevation

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Howell Road garage for sale a week after student block redevelopment plans granted at appeal

Developer denied he would 'spin in and spin out and take my profit' at planning committee that approved 'backstop' plans for nine flats on site, saying student block was 'what we want to build'.

Howell Road garage

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

26-bed Howell Road garage site student accommodation block allowed at appeal

St James Neighbourhood Plan community balance aims discounted and council policy and evidence deemed insufficient in inspector's decision to overturn planning committee refusal.

On Our Radar
More stories
Exeter Academy English language school in Sylvan Road, Pennsylvania

ANALYSIS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Plan to convert language school to nursery to test credibility of city council active travel policy

Exeter Academy sits near top of steep hill 250 feet above city, far from accessible bus and rail routes, but developer claims local plan compliance in 'demonstrably sustainable location' which is 'conducive to sustainable modes of travel'.

Corner of Fore Street and West Street with St Mary Steps church in the background

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Developers claim council planning committee refusal was 'if not malevolent, certainly misguided'

Appeal against decision to deny fifth additional storey in build-to-rent scheme above Crankhouse Coffee accuses councillors of seeking to 'appease the weight of objectors' orchestrated opinion' against amendments to eleven year-old consent.

Exeter City Council ballot share by ward 2016 to 2024 line graph

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Exeter bucks national trend as Labour support falls 6% and party loses vote share in all but one ward

Independent group, Greens and LibDems all take seats and Conservatives increase share in four wards as Labour stays in control of council after close call in Mincinglake & Whipton, holds in key battlegrounds and third Topsham win.

, updated

Exeter City Council 2024 local elections results party seat distribution

BRIEFINGS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Exeter City Council 2024 local elections results

The votes cast for each candidate with vote share and vote share change by party in each ward, plus turnout and the distribution of seats.

, updated

2024 Exeter local elections guide graphic showing current council seat distribution

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

2024 Exeter local elections guide

City council elections take place on Thursday 2 May. Our comprehensive guide covers who's standing where, wards to watch and the backdrop to this year's ballot, which promises to be the most unpredictable contest in years.

Exeter Labour 2024 campaign leaflet

COMMENT  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Council raids community fund for £6 million to pay for eight year-old food waste collection promise

Emergency decision to finance materials reclamation facility investment taken less than a week before 2024 local elections campaign officially began.

Spotlight
Spring 2024 community share offer

Exeter Observer celebrates five years of local public interest news publishing

Invest in our Spring 2024 community share offer to help us deliver all the independent journalism Exeter needs and make it five more.

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