Democratic deficit
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.

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.

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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.

Rough sleeper sheltering at Exeter Guildhall

ANALYSIS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

County council determined to axe homelessness prevention funding despite zero support for cuts

Fate of £1.5 million contract sealed before consultation began with district councils and services providers kept in dark and huge prospective financial and human costs, dwarfing claimed savings, ignored.

Exeter City Council annual meeting

COMMENT  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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 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.

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.

Exeter Labour manifesto for Exeter City Council 2022 elections - front cover

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Do Exeter Labour election campaign claims stand up to scrutiny? Part I: Exeter's housing crisis

The first instalment in our 2022 local elections coverage examines Exeter Labour claims related to the housing crisis overtaking the city.

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.

https://unsplash.com/photos/OApHds2yEGQ

NOTES & SKETCHES  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

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.

Exeter Digest #4: University and council drop development standards - Exe valley under threat - Kinder Exeter community festival

In the fourth edition of our newsletter we also welcome trainee reporter Jenna McGill to the team and introduce the first Exeter Observer caption competition.

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 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 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 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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