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OTTERY:Council is ‘committed to transparency’, says mayor

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Ottery Mayor Glyn Dobson has assured residents that the town council is “committed to transparency”, despite public concerns raised this week regarding councillors’ conduct. A long-running dispute over the council’s policy of meeting privately with developers resurfaced at a town council meeting held in West Hill this week, after it was revealed that the full report of the East Devon District Council monitoring officer – who was tasked with investigating the council’s actions – would not be made available to the public. The dispute first arose in December last year, when Councillor Roger Giles was accused of breaking confidentiality rules regarding a meeting held behind closed doors. A report was presented to councillors in April, requesting that they seek further training, but only sections were made public. The mayor confirmed that councillors had attended - or were due to attend - training courses on chairing meetings, and that the majority of councillors had voted in favour of requesting the publication of the full report. He also read a correspondence from the monitoring officer Denise Lyons, which revealed that two councillors had objected to the report being made public. The officer also suggested it would not be “appropriate” for details of the report to be released. Speaking at the town council meeting, local author and Ottery resident Philip Algar raised concerns about the resolution of the dispute. He said: “Effectively a very small minority of councillors has voted against the publication of this report. The reputation of this council has been severely damaged and many people would agree this is a very unsatisfactory conclusion.” Responding to the comments, Councillor Dobson insisted it was a decision for the monitoring officer and that the council was now “satisfied” with the outcome. The council has previously come under fire for its policy of meeting privately with developers in advance of applications – a policy the council has always maintained is appropriate and advised in local government guidelines. And Councillor Dobson addressed further public concerns about the council’s handling of planning issues in his annual report this week. He said: “Planning developments have been extremely noticeable in our parish in this last year and naturally there have been many concerns about the number of major developments that obviously impact on our community. “As a council, we do engage with the public on planning applications and if necessary we go out to the villages if a larger application is in one of the villages.” He added: “The council is committed to being transparent [and] looking at both sides of the debate. “We have policies in place for larger planning applications and all this information is on our website. “The public are always welcome to attend our council meetings [and] in fact we actively encourage this and there is an opportunity to speak during public time at meetings.” The mayor also confirmed that development of the Ottermill Switchgear factory, recently approved by the district council, would soon get underway, and work at the council offices would “hopefully be completed this summer”.


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