'Silent majority' approve

PUBLISHED: 01:01 20 March 2008 | UPDATED: 08:54 10 June 2010

THE LEADER of East Devon District Council has rejected the suggestion by Labour's Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Gareth Manson, that the authority is intent on bypassing the democratic process over Exmouth regeneration. Councillor Miss Sara Randall

THE LEADER of East Devon District Council has rejected the suggestion by Labour's Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Gareth Manson, that the authority is intent on bypassing the democratic process over Exmouth regeneration.Councillor Miss Sara Randall Johnson told The Journal this week: "Mr Manson had intimated (Journal, March 6) that the proposed Exmouth Regeneration Programme Board was an attempt to take the ASDA proposal forward, away from scrutiny and against public opinion."On the contrary," she retorted. "The council is quite determined to ensure that the people of Exmouth, many of whom want to see their town grow and prosper, have every opportunity to influence the shape and format of the various pieces of the regeneration jigsaw."I would remind Mr Manson that the Conservative Party majority on East Devon District Council was increased in May, 2007, when a number of additional Exmouth wards returned our candidates. I regard this as a mandate from the electorate for EDDC to start delivering some of the concepts that we have been putting forward over the past several years."I believe the silent majority in Exmouth approve of the way we propose to make things happen in Exmouth, after years of indecision and inactivity in the town. Driving things forward does not mean riding roughshod over people, but it does require showing leadership - and that is something this council is not afraid to do."The proposed Exmouth Regeneration Programme Board is modelled on the Exeter and East Devon New Growth Point Steering Board, which has been in existence for over a year and has successfully achieved a number of important objectives. The Exeter steering board is currently chaired by Councillor Peter Edwards, leader of the Labour-controlled Exeter City Council. "It is possible that Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate is confusing the proposed Exmouth Regeneration Programme Board with a regeneration company, which is a device that is often used in towns or cities where large and complex schemes need to be driven forward. "A regeneration company may well take decisions in private, but this will precisely NOT be the remit for Exmouth's programme board."To answer Mr Manson's questions directly: l The proposed Regeneration Programme Board's powers and terms of reference are clear and transparent. They are contained in the report to EDDC's executive board meeting of January 30."The proposed board is a non decision-making body, whose remit is to chart progress against a programme set by elected representatives and to find means of overcoming barriers to that progress. Often, such barriers will be matters that are commercially sensitive and cannot be effectively resolved in a public arena. The board's remit is also to recommend actions to the three elected bodies - Exmouth Town Council, EDDC and Devon County Council. It will be those elected bodies that make the decisions and will be accountable to the public for what they decide. l The proposed board cannot make binding decisions off its own bat.l Since the programme board cannot make binding decisions, it is not necessary for its members to be subject to the code of conduct or the local government ombudsman. Both of these controls already apply to the decision-making bodies.l It is routine for discussions and deliberations that involve commercially sensitive and property considerations to take place in private - for example, Part B discussions at EDDC are commonplace when such matters are being considered."He suggested that Mr Manson and others were a little premature in their condemnation of the course EDDC were following and should allow the democratic process to work, with consultation with the townspeople through the accepted channels so that together Exmouth's true potential could be realised.

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