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EDDC Conservative Group leader thinks bus concerns are “parochial”

April 29, 2018 10:24 AM
Originally published by East Devon Liberal Democrats

Also last week at East Devon district council...

I was deeply concerned about a particular spend at EDDC, and wanted some clarification.

This is the question I asked:

"Question 1: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Chairman from Councillor Eleanor Rylance
I have a question to ask of the relevant portfolio holder(s) in the light of the recent decision to allocate £500,000 in grant to run an early bus to the Lidl depot.
How is it that we can find £500,000 to effectively subsidise a multinational company, Lidl, to run an early bus from St David's station and through Exeter (thereby benefiting taxpayers not of East Devon, but of Exeter and west of Exeter), when at scrutiny in January we were told the budget was short by £450,000 and that certain core activities such as repairing playground assets, footbridges, and repainting railings could not be done. We quibbled about buying a £7000 trailer to allow our staff to do their job properly, yet now think nothing of helping Lidl out with their staffing transport issue.

So my question is:
"Which budget is the £500,000 for the early bus route coming from, and why could it not have been used instead to address the remaining items from the budget set for this year, leaving multinational Lidl to organise their own minibus for early morning transport?"

Answer: The budget is coming from the Enterprise Zone programme which involves borrowing against future ring fenced business rate income. The initial set of Enterprise Zone projects are designed to either overcome barriers to delivery or to act as catalysts to accelerate the development of new commercial space. As such they are intended to maximise the receipt of business rate income over the 25 year term of the designation. The projects have been appraised against their ability to support the development of the four Enterprise Zone sites (which do not include the Lidl building). By providing improved public transport accessibility, including to the Airport, the enhanced service is expected to particularly benefit Skypark and the Science Park. The service will continue to Woodbury and Exmouth utilising existing DCC subsidy albeit not at the same frequency."

I wasn't convinced this answered my question at all. Some of the money clearly comes from East Devon tax payers, yet it was very unclear how exactly it was going to benefit the taxpayers of East Devon. Furthermore, many rural villages will have no improvements to the bus service at all.

So I "called" the minute, which means that the chair of the committee that made the decision has to stand up in full council and answer an extra question. So I asked exactly that- how exactly is this huge grant of East Devon taxpayers' money going to benefit the taxpayers of East Devon given that it is certainly not even improving their bus services?

The person to answer the question, Cllr Paul Diviani, is also the leader of the majority Conservative group on your council. He informed me that I should be looking beyond the immediate concerns of my ward, and that I could not be "parochial" about issues such as this that were bigger than my immediate area. So there you have it. Asking questions about bus services is deemed "parochial" by the leader of the Conservative group on your council.

Worrying about the rural economy, public transport, or how taxpayers' money is spent is being "parochial". You heard it here first.