Chair of council is the right man for the job

Blackdown House, whcih Cllr Wragg said would be 'highly unsuitable as a meeting venue'

Blackdown House, whcih Cllr Wragg said would be 'highly unsuitable as a meeting venue' - Credit: Archant

Last month, I wrote a column following the May AGM of the meeting of EDDC, which had to be held at Westpoint due to social distancing seating arrangements, when I expressed a hope that Councillors would be able to put aside political differences and work together in the best interests of their constituents. Sadly, that plea has proved to be short lived, with the Conservative group opposing the other groups regarding the holding of future meetings.

The recently elected Chair of the Council discussed the possibility of holding Full Council by Zoom, with decisions made then being delegated to a quorum of the Council meeting at Council HQ, consisting of fifteen Councillors. The Tories rejected this, demanding instead that the Council meets at Blackdown House, Honiton, in person. That demand is, along with so many Government diktats, nonsensical, unreasonable and downright dangerous.

Blackdown House meetings of Full Council mean that Members have to sit elbow to elbow, with difficulty in even moving from their seats, literally herded into cramped conditions which would shame a responsible farmer. The response from the Conservative Leader stated that all Councillors should have had their second vaccinations, and that with the wearing of masks, and the implementation of using screens which were used in the recent by-elections, there was no reason why physical meetings of Council and Committees should not go ahead.

That decision demonstrates a woefully worrying lack of understanding of the reality for so many people, and Councillors are ordinary people, not an elite. Some have vulnerable relatives to care for, or have unvaccinated children, some are in the highly vulnerable group themselves, with serious medical conditions, and I know of two who are donor recipients. There are others, including myself, who have hearing impairments, and struggle to hear what speakers wearing masks are saying. Yet the Conservative group seems hellbent on herding us all into a dangerous and potentially life-risking situation.

Fortunately, the recently elected Chair of EDDC, Cllr Ian Thomas, has given considerable deliberation and reasoned thought to the matter, and has proposed that an Extraordinary General Meeting of Full Council will be held at Westpoint, where social distancing will be exercised, on July 26, when all attendees will have been Covid tested prior to the meeting. His proposal is that meetings of all Committees and Full Council will be held via Zoom, and that those decisions will be sent to the Chief Executive for ratification. No doubt there will be opposition from the expected quarter, but this is a matter of good common sense, and conscience.

The Chair of the Council IS supposed to be the conscience of the Council, which has not always been the case in the past. However, in this instance, we have an Independent Chair who genuinely cares about the welfare and safety of his Members, regardless of political affiliation, and personally, I believe that he was the right person to be elected to the Chair in May, and will support him in carrying the light of hope forwards for the future of East Devon residents and their decision makers.

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