May I take this opportunity to wish all readers a happy new year, while also pointing out again that these columns are 'a personal point of view.'

They do not represent an “official line” from East Devon District Council. Instead, they are my take on mainly local, often regional, sometimes national, and very rarely international matters that affect the district.

As we enter an election year, there are obviously many difficulties presenting almost daily for Conservative candidates and I won’t restate the obvious here. Their greatest obstacle in local campaigning is how readers should take promises of action when after fourteen years in power these actions are only needed because of them! Two very recent examples, if I may.

First, although I steer clear of Twitter/X, I was passed a posting by Simon Jupp MP in which he blamed the “LibDem-led administration at EDDC” (I think he means me) for the council having to consider a new community to the east of Exeter. Although Mr Jupp has decided not to stand in his current constituency, which could be affected, he is clearly trying to leave a bit of ammo behind for his successor as Conservative candidate. I wouldn’t pick it up off the ground if I were him.

Put simply, the decision to continue exploring a new town location was supported by all 3 Conservative members at EDDC’s Strategic Planning Committee on 5th December 2023. The recording of this is on YouTube about 3 hours 7 minutes in. Unlike Mr Jupp, Councillors Brian Bailey, Ben Ingham and Helen Parr knew as well as everyone else that it is the chaos around the National Planning Policy Framework and some illogical “housing need” numbers which makes consideration of this necessary in the first place. The 3 Conservatives could do little else and could justifiably feel somewhat undermined by their own MP.

I am grateful for the second example to our superb portfolio holder, Geoff Jung, and some terrific campaigners in Exmouth for my spending New Year’s Day not pottering along a beach but immersed in the latest and worst chapter of South West Water’s sewage operations in Exmouth. Many Exmouthians will have seen nine huge tanker lorries carrying sewage out of the failing plant in Phear Park and driving it across town to the plant in the Mear Road car park. As a council, both directly concern us, having responsibilities and ownership obligation. At the time of writing this had been going on day and night for 72 hours, ruining people’s sleep and leading to more untreated sewage entering the sea.

Geoff and I asked our terrific officers to act, sending urgent emails to the relevant agencies asking for immediate clarification around the health and safety issues. Meanwhile, Mr Jupp has taken to Twitter/X saying he is “demanding” action from South West Water. His potential successor is getting involved too. Their problem is that this scenario comes wholly from their own party, its grotesque defunding of the Environment Agency - who should be on these incidents instantly and strongly - and their failure to deal with the cavalier way South West Water is set up corporately. Exmouth Phear Park and Mear Road Car Park, and whatever items of sewage can be found on the Maer after manhole covers pop under the pressure, are the product of fourteen years Tory chaos.

There is no wriggling out of this, and I am reminded by all the indignant Conservative social media protests of that ancient playground saying, “He who smelled it, dealt it”. I imagine many readers will feel the same.