Closed doors at County Hall for councillor conduct hearings
A survey of local authority approaches to standards committee hearings finds Devon County Council alone in imposing private determination of conduct complaints.
Exeter councillor Yvonne Atkinson found in breach of code of conduct but escapes prosecution
Summary of investigation related to rental property interests involving Devon & Cornwall Police and Crown Prosecution Service withheld by Devon County Council while councillor campaigned for re-election to Exeter City Council.
Labour councillors again appointed to all thirteen committee chairs at annual council meeting
Council leader finally quits planning committee alongside other remaining Executive member but persists with secret board that enables scrutiny evasion.
Exeter City Council 2023 local elections results
The votes cast, ballot share and change by party plus turnout and postal votes in each ward with the overall distribution of seats.
Exeter electoral tectonic plates rumble as political landscape shifts
Labour takes second Conservative seat in Topsham but loses in St Thomas to Liberal Democrats as Green wins in Heavitree, St David's and Newtown & St Leonards place party second in 2023 city council elections.
How far does the council leader have to go before he sees a planning committee conflict of interest?
Phil Bialyk led charge against application to develop site 160 yards from his house despite conduct codes and LGA planning probity guidance.
Councillor falsely labels community grants cuts story "misinformation"
Labour's Martin Pearce brands Exeter Observer "opposition propaganda" at full city council meeting, earning rebuke from Lord Mayor and putting council at risk of code of practice breach during pre-election period.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
Exeter City Council's approach to decision-making is damaging local democracy
Separation of powers and transparency provisions intended to safeguard public interest being subverted while council defies auditor over loss-making company.
Underperforming county council children's services to receive nearly half of proposed spending increases
Details of simultaneous £50 million 2023-24 spending reductions not yet published as finance director cites service delivery "re-prioritisation".
Exeter City Futures falsely claims development fund documents disclosed under FOI legislation
Senior council director puts company on collision course with Information Commissioner's Office as significant governance failings emerge after councillors and public kept in dark over Liveable Exeter financing scheme proposals.
Exeter City Living put council at "significant financial risk" after £2.2 million loss in first two years
Missing business plan, lack of transparency and conflicts of interest among senior council directors prompt board resignations and governance review at council-owned and funded company.
Pinhoe, St Loye's and Topsham all in new Exeter East and Exmouth constituency under revised changes
Final boundary commission consultation follows city council proposal to move marginal Pinhoe to safe Conservative seat and keep Priory Labour stronghold in city.
NOTES & SKETCHES
Race in pole position
Exeter Labour looks set to pick Steve Race as the party’s parliamentary candidate at the next general election after retiring incumbent Ben Bradshaw anointed his former assistant as his heir apparent in what has been a fairly safe Labour seat since the 1997 landslide...
NOTES & SKETCHES
The third in a series of city council scrutiny meetings intended to satisfy councillors that Exeter Development Fund is a way to put Exeter on the map rather than the council’s financial viability at risk took place last week...
Labour councillors appointed to all thirteen city council committee chairs at annual meeting
Council leader falsely claims "overwhelming majority" voted Labour in Exeter local elections while circumvention of council decision-making scrutiny continues.
Greens take three seats from Labour so Progressive Group replaces Conservatives as official opposition
Conservative loss in Topsham among significant vote share changes in 2022 Exeter City Council elections suggesting city's political landscape in flux.
Do Exeter Labour election campaign claims stand up to scrutiny? Coda: Council tax
The last part of our 2022 local elections series is a coda examining Exeter Labour's claim that the city has one of the lowest rates of council tax in the country.
2022 Exeter local elections guide
City council elections take place on Thursday 5 May. Our essential guide highlights who's standing where, wards to watch and what the results might look like and mean. We also outline their context and explain when, where and how to vote.
NOTES & SKETCHES
Brownfield or green?
At yesterday’s second scrutiny meeting in the series being orchestrated by the city council to air Exeter City Futures’ ideas about using Exeter as an urban guinea pig for its development fund project it was Frazer Osment’s turn to play the ringer...
Low attendance levels among some councillors mean Exeter electors get varying value for their votes
As part of our 2022 Exeter local elections coverage we have assessed the past year's attendance figures for public council meetings as a measure of councillor commitment to their constituents.
NOTES & SKETCHES
It's scrutiny Jim, but not as it should be
The city council kicked off a quartet of scrutiny meetings intended to pave the way for councillors to give Exeter Development Fund a green light with a session last night that resembled a sales pitch...
Why does Exeter City Council evade public scrutiny of Exeter City Living property development decisions?
Significant decisions concerning the council-owned company are being taken in secret despite transparency legislation and assurances when it was created, with governance and scrutiny arrangements also potentially putting the council at risk.
Exeter City Futures secondment decision may be unlawful
Backbench city councillors denied scrutiny call-in powers to challenge controversial decision to send chief executive and senior director to work for private company.
£55 million Guildhall shopping centre decision may breach local government transparency rules
Exeter City Council decision to purchase and redevelop shopping centre may be unlawful, ineffective and subject to judicial review, increasing already significant commercial investment risks.
Decision to send council CEO and director to work for Exeter City Futures is "disservice to citizens"
City council disregards governance, risk and conflict of interest issues despite cross-party challenges and conflates decarbonisation agenda with property development financing scheme.
NOTES & SKETCHES
Devon is apparently at the front of the pack for a Michael Gove-flavoured “double” devolution deal despite a competing bid led by Plymouth City Council (which wants to combine with the adjacent West Devon and South Hams district councils), next to no guidance on what is on offer from Whitehall, and even less public discussion about the prospect of local government changes across the county...
NOTES & SKETCHES
Money for nothing
The Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) closed its consultation on draft changes to the Prudential Code last month, following a preliminary consultation earlier this year. The code governs how much councils can borrow to invest and what forms of commercial activity they are permitted to pursue...
Proposed Exeter parliamentary constituency changes pit Priory against Pinhoe
City council responds to boundary commission consultation by proposing Conservative East Devon takes marginal Pinhoe and city keeps Priory Labour stronghold instead.
City council outsourcing Exeter local government to unaccountable Liveable Exeter Place Board
An Exeter Observer investigation of Liveable Exeter Place Board has found that it is a de facto decision-making and governance body which exercises public functions with the potential to affect everyone who lives and works in Exeter.
Freedom of information requests reveal Liveable Exeter Place Board "chumocracy" overseeing the city
Despite the significance of Liveable Exeter Place Board's role in determining the city's future, its members are selected and appointed on a secretive, informal basis.
NOTES & SKETCHES
A Centre for Governance and Scrutiny report into Nottingham City Council’s “superficial and inadequate” scrutiny mechanisms has been published...
NOTES & SKETCHES
Marking their own homework
Exeter City Council’s ruling Labour group reallocated the city’s committee seats at its annual meeting last week...
NOTES & SKETCHES
Follow the money
Glenn Woodcock and Roli Martin of Global City Futures were invited to join the board which oversees the Devon Carbon Plan at its meeting last month and given the same decision-making powers as the rest of the board, which is almost exclusively composed of public sector organisations...
Did Exeter's local elections results tell a Labour success story?
Exeter Labour lost just one seat in the city council elections and held all seven of its county hall seats, but on closer inspection its performance was more mixed than these headline results imply.
High Court rules council meetings must resume in person after local elections
Case seeking judgement to allow local authority meetings to continue remotely when temporary coronavirus regulations expire fails to override requirement for primary legislation.
NOTES & SKETCHES
So many questions
Quote of the week must surely go to Exeter City Council leader Phil Bialyk for: “Sorry, chair, I just need to refer to some of my other notes, if you’ll just bear with me”...
2021 Exeter local elections guide
Elections for Exeter City Council, Devon County Council and the Devon & Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner are taking place in Exeter on 6 May. Our essential election guide highlights wards and divisions to watch, changes taking place and how, when and where to vote.
Independent county councillor Claire Wright stands down
First elected to Ottery St Mary Town Council in 2009, the parliamentary candidate for East Devon in 2015 and 2017 also served on East Devon District Council for four years and Devon County Council for eight years.
£37.5 million council maintenance backlog caused by underinvestment to be part-funded by asset sales
Exeter City Council has allowed property assets to deteriorate while prioritising new schemes including the £44 million St Sidwell's Point leisure centre, forcing it to identify assets for sale to pay its outstanding repair bills.
Door to door campaigning for May local elections to go ahead after all
Government announces relaxation of coronavirus restrictions on election canvassing from next Monday 8 March in step with planned lockdown rule changes.
Council pushes back on Liveable Exeter Place Board scrutiny following membership change
Exeter City Council has responded to an enquiry about disproportionate Church of England representation on the Liveable Exeter Place Board by accusing Exeter Observer of promoting a "partisan narrative" and claiming our public interest reporting "bears no resemblance to fact".
May local elections to go ahead despite COVID-19 challenges
Ban on doorstep canvassing and door to door leaflet distribution likely to favour the two major parties on 6 May as postal and proxy voting encouraged in Exeter City Council, Devon County Council and Devon & Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner elections.
Exeter City Council executive members take direct control of city planning decisions
Council's executive now possesses majority on city planning committee, with council leader and planning portfolio holder also included despite national guidance, offering basis to challenge decisions and increasing democratic deficit.
Unelected Liveable Exeter Place Board created to oversee city from the shadows
Exeter City Council has convened an unelected board that meets in private, does not publish its discussions or decisions and is taking responsibility for major policies which will determine Exeter's future.
Exeter City Council announces £1.584m April budget shortfall caused by COVID-19 restrictions
Council revenues have fallen dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic, prompting a £6.357 million capital spending deferment. But financial support from government has so far been limited.
Exeter & East Devon council accounts delayed by Grant Thornton's "lack of staff resources"
Annual accounts for local government, including Exeter City Council, have been delayed by private sector firms failing to complete their work on time after cost-cutting government auditing reforms.
Conservative vote share varies across Devon but still blocks an Independent MP in East Devon
Labour loses vote share in every constituency, but retains Exeter and Plymouth Sutton & Devonport to leave the county position unchanged from 2017.
Conservatives hold Topsham in Exeter city council by-election
A by-election held on general election day produced an unusually high turnout but a lower Conservative vote share than at the May local elections.
East Devon Independent Claire Wright set to unite Remain voters in close historic two-way contest
Claire Wright is poised to make history by beating the Tories in East Devon next week. If she does it will be without thanks to the LibDems and Greens, who insisted on standing candidates against her despite the preferences of local party members and the Unite to Remain campaign.
Exeter Labour support collapses in Heavitree & Whipton Barton county by-election
Greg Sheldon wins Devon County Council division by just 40 votes after Labour loses nearly a fifth of its previous vote share.
Exeter City Council cuts scrutiny of executive decision-making
Constitutional changes proposed by Exeter City Council will make it more difficult to hold the ruling political group to account.
Exeter protest misses its mark by mixing its messages
One of Exeter's biggest ever street demonstrations combined anti-Brexit and pro-democracy concerns to produce a confused protest against government policy.
Exeter could do better - was there no alternative to closing so many public toilets?
Exeter City Council did not need to close thirteen public toilets to balance the books. The money to keep them open was available in reserves, but no mention of this option was made during public decision-making by councillors or officers.
Caught short - balancing the books in a hurry
Exeter City Council has unapologetically confirmed its decision to close 13 public toilets as a money-saving measure with full knowledge of its expected effect on residents and visitors. Can we expect other spending cuts to be handled the same way?
Is EU membership essential to our ability to deal with the climate emergency?
Molly Scott Cato, Green Party MEP for the South West, visited Exeter during her re-election campaign to explain why the EU and its Green Group is leading the way on a wide range of progressive policies.
Exeter Labour loses local elections in all three city centre wards
Voters in Exeter yesterday elected three new councillors to represent them in the key wards that cover the city centre, with all the city's ruling Exeter Labour group candidates missing out despite the party's confident campaign.
Local resident stands as independent candidate in Exeter elections
Jemima Moore is a 36 year-old part-time primary school teacher and mother of two young children with little political experience. So why has she decided to stand for election to Exeter City Council on 2 May?
What does your council know that you don't know you don't know?
Extracting information from councils is hard work but increasingly necessary for local democracy.
Transport & Mobility
Future of Devon bus services being decided behind closed doors
Devon County Council does not want the public to hear whether local service improvements are going according to plan.
Stagecoach escapes major sanctions over service failures
Traffic commissioner decides four days of free weekend travel in Exeter Plus ticket zone is sufficient penalty for poor performance despite public inquiry hearing severe criticism of company.
Motor vehicle infrastructure continues to dominate Devon transport spending
New active travel infrastructure to receive just 5% share of capital allocations this year and next, with new roads capital expenditure to increase from 74% to 86%.
University comes clean on true Exeter campus student numbers over past two decades
Figures obtained under Freedom of Information Act confirm between 7,500 and 12,000 more students based in city each year than university numbers suggest – until this year – with major implications for council planning policy.
Exeter has more empty and second homes than built in city in past two years
Council tax premium proposals that aim to raise additional revenue from underused housing stock might also encourage return to residential occupancy.
30,000 students based at Exeter university campuses in 2022-23
Freedom of information request reveals significant drop on last year with postgraduate students accounting for 58% of fall in numbers.
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 expected to begin four days of climate action in Westminster involving 100,000 people.
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.
Is the grass really greener in Exeter city centre?
Academic research placing Exeter retail area at top of green space table was nationally reported, locally misrepresented then repurposed as booster fuel by local politicians overlooking study's social justice focus.
Decline in Exeter economic activity levels among largest in country
Census figures also show population increasing at nearly six times rate of job creation over past decade while healthcare, wholesale/retail and teaching make up nearly half of all employment, reflecting low pay and productivity.
Council borrowing nearly triples in three years as property acquisition and development loans mount
Freedom of information request reveals five paragraph "outline business plan" for £55 million Guildhall shopping centre investment.
Exeter beset by unaffordable housing, low graduate retention and economically inactive over 50's
Exeter City Council executive ignores key challenges flagged in major council-commissioned employment and skills research report.