Accountability & transparency
Exeter local elections campaign materials

EXETER OBSERVER COMMUNITY

Help hold Exeter's politicians to account during the 2024 local elections

Send us any campaign materials you receive so we can factcheck claims and keep tabs on pledges after the votes have been counted.

Devon & Torbay Combined County Authority governance structure diagram

COMMENT  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Devon devolution deal to create unaccountable local government layer for paltry £16 million payoff

Democratic deficit to increase as city and district councils lose control over housing and prosperity funding and transport policy powers moved out of reach, while county council plans to approve deal irrespective of public consultation outcome.

Liveable Exeter Placemaking Charter cover image

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Liveable Exeter Placemaking Charter consultation skewed towards only one of five 'core tools'

Private developers' forum and other major components of new charter not mentioned in council communications, but transparency and new 'culture of openness' to 'help build trust in the planning system' emphasised throughout.

Exeter City Council allotment fees increases 2016 to 2024 line graph

ANALYSIS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Council plans huge allotment fees increases to claw back cash from 1,500 city gardeners and growers

Plot holders provided with incomplete picture as consultation held which does not comply with council's own charter and delayed scrutiny report that omits key survey findings suggests council aims to turn profit from allotment provision.

, updated

Scrutiny Programme Board agenda extract 21 July 2022

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

City council scrutiny board enabling illicit obstruction of democracy

Essential safeguard against misuse of power misdirected by Executive members and senior officers while backbench councillors persistently denied rights to examine high-risk schemes and citywide climate crisis response.

Exeter City Living hoarding at Clifton Hill sports centre development site

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Exeter City Living to be all-but wound up after £4.5 million losses with £10 million owed to council

Council expects resulting resale value of surrendered Clifton Hill development site not to cover company's debts, with remaining losses to be written off, as Liveable Exeter vision thrown into doubt and councillors evade responsibility for failure.

Cover of Exeter City Council 2022-23 unaudited statement of accounts

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Annual inspection period begins as unaudited 2022-23 city council accounts published

Special information access rights enabling local residents to examine records and ask council and external auditor related questions apply until 12 October.

Exeter In Brief - July 2023

Keeping you in touch with local news that matters.

, updated

Closed doors at County Hall

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

AirBnB website listing page

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

, updated

Satellite image showing two minute pedestrian route from The Cottage, Nadderwater to Newbery car breakers, Redhills

COMMENT  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

Exeter local elections campaign materials

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.

Devon County Council National Bus Strategy Bus Services Improvement Plan cover image

ANALYSIS  ⁄  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.

Exeter City Council in session at Exeter Guildhall

COMMENT  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

Exeter In Brief - January 2023

Keeping you in touch with local news that matters.

, updated

Exeter Development Fund workshop presentation October 2021

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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 Council 2020-21 external audit report cover

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

Rob Hannaford and Karime Hassan at Exeter City Council's June 2022 strategic scrutiny committee meeting

COMMENT  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Net Zero Exeter accountability under scrutiny

Exeter City Council's response to the climate crisis has so far been characterised by numerous failings. Unfortunately its attitude towards accountability for its actions in this area is also cause for concern.

Church Road traffic congestions

ANALYSIS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Alphington 'enhancements' will not mitigate traffic impact from massive South West Exeter extension

County council manipulates public consultation and allocates just 1% of £55 million grant to pedestrian scheme while spending 75% on new roads and increased road capacity for 3,500 new cars expected on greenfield housing estate.

Exeter City Council 2022 annual meeting 17 May 2022

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

Vaughan Road Exeter City Living development site

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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 Council in session at Exeter Guildhall

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

Guildhall shopping centre sale brochure cover

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

£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.

https://unsplash.com/photos/Xq0goxN9F3w

NOTES & SKETCHES  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

We heart climate crisis

Anyone who might have been tempted to believe that the climate crisis is at the heart of everything Exeter City Council does (as it repeatedly claims) need look no further than its response to the consultation on the Devon climate assembly’s output report for clarification.

Karime Hassan, Phil Bialyk, Tony Rowe and Paul Thomas at Sandy Park hotel development site

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

Individual overseas ownership of Exeter property titles 2010 to 2021 bar chart

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Individual overseas ownership of Exeter property triples in ten years

350% rise greater than in Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster, increasing housing costs, reducing home ownership levels and harming housing affordability.

https://unsplash.com/photos/tn57JI3CewI

NOTES & SKETCHES  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Democracy inaction

Meanwhile the poor record of the county council-led Devon Climate Emergency Response Group on keeping the public informed about what it is up to reached a new low this month, when it simultaneously published the minutes of ten meetings on the same day, some from as long ago as August.

https://unsplash.com/photos/rrTRZdCu7No

NOTES & SKETCHES  ⁄  ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

Public sector pay pals?

Instead of announcing the biggest council funding rise for over a decade, Exeter City Council’s press team marked budget day by celebrating Exeter’s latest quarterly YouGov popularity rating. The Paris Street PR machine forgot to mention that those surveyed need never have visited the city.

Liveable Exeter Place Board agenda October 2020 redacted

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

Exeter city centre from Exeter Cathedral roof

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

https://unsplash.com/photos/nXhJ4v_GphQ

NOTES & SKETCHES  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Sound familiar?

A Centre for Governance and Scrutiny report into Nottingham City Council’s “superficial and inadequate” scrutiny mechanisms has been published.

https://unsplash.com/photos/rD2dc_2S3i0

NOTES & SKETCHES  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Marking their own homework

Exeter City Council’s ruling Labour group reallocated the city’s committee seats at its annual meeting last week.

https://unsplash.com/photos/jvKAp8Z7HPg

NOTES & SKETCHES  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

Exeter City Council in session at Exeter Guildhall - Inauguration of Lord Mayor

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

Exeter local elections campaign materials

EXETER OBSERVER COMMUNITY

Do Exeter election leaflets stretch the truth and make promises that don't get delivered?

Help us hold candidates to account across the city by sending in campaign materials so we can factcheck them and test election pledges against what actually happens.

Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

COMMENT  ⁄  ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Exeter City Council's Chief Executive uses statistics to show the city in a good light, but in doing so presents a picture which omits important information about the city's true position.

Exeter City Council offices on Paris Street

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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'.

St Sidwell's Point development site outline aerial view

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

Food retailers at Queen Street Dining in Exeter Guildhall shopping centre

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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 accounts delayed by auditors Grant Thornton

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

Exeter City Council cuts executive decision-making scrutiny

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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 anti-government protest Devon for Europe speaker

COMMENT  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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 City Council public toilet closures Exeter Live Better hoarding

COMMENT  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

Exeter City Council public toilet closure notice

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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?

Jemima Moore campaigning in Exeter local elections

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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?

Exeter City Council press and public exclusion notice

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

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