Tory Leadership Intend To Stop 26 Councillors Voting On Planning Applications




The Tory leadership, after being rattled for so long by some battling councillors and discontented residents, is fighting back. The leader of the council, Terry Cutmore, is bringing this little gem to Full Council next week:

devcon motion

So, basically, after this only 13 councillors will be able to vote on planning applications at any meeting. Although the motion says the idea is to ‘mimimise the potential for political influence’ it will actually increase that potential for political influence, because Tory councillors on the committee will be wary of falling out of favour and being removed from the committee.

It’s a further step in the council leadership isolating itself from the public and from all the other councillors. First it was the creation of a council cabinet, then it was the abolition of the area committees where the public could speak, then it was the removal of the right of referring decisions to full council. And now this…

About the author, admin

  • I am so sad about this erosion of democracy. The electors must not be complacent at the next election in May .We all need to get motivated and support those candidates who support real debate and throw out the members who throttle localism .

  • This is quite outrageous , presumably this motion will be subject of a full council vote , any councillor voting for it is betraying those who elected them.
    This District Council has systematically created a dictatorship – the public at large must now vote for anyone but a Conservative , we need a diverse council chamber from next May .
    But this move underlines the effectiveness of public opposition – they are moving the goalposts because of it.

  • Never was the saying ‘Power corrupts and total power corrupts totally’ more evident than in this proposal. I think this proves one thing. In the words of Corporal Jones of ‘Dad’s Army’ fame ‘they don’t like it up ’em’! The public being made aware of the many shenanigans pertaining in this Council has made them devise even more measures to prevent debate. They are slowly removing any vestige of democracy and it will be their undoing. It might take time but I have no doubt they will eventually regret these attacks on the methods of decision taking at RDC. Although I live in hope that it might just be the perfect time for some of the supine members of the majority party, that usually wave these decisions through with their fingers crossed, to wake up and smell the coffee before they become contaminated with the stench their ‘leaders’ are creating.

  • Admin – can I suggest this one is worthy of an article in the ECHO , it would make a great headline……..because they would prefer it stays out of sight.

  • This Motion CREATES the opportunity for political control by virtue of applying political pro-rata rules of Membership which can be further enforced by Substitute Members in the even that one or more of the appointed Members is absent for any reason. It also means that any single Councillor not representing a political party, an independent for example, will never have an individual vote in planning. Any single Councillor representing a political party will have no vote and even where there is more than one Councillor representing a registered political party then that party also may have no vote at all in planning. This means that alliances, as have been made by Rochford District Residents with the Greens, is the only way forward. I have no doubt that if there were ever a “rainbow” of 20 non Conservative Councillors out of the 39 that they would find a way of co-operating but that could still leave little actual direct and certain say or influence in pro-rata committees, I call on the Leaders of the UKIP Group (3), Lib Dems (2), Independent Group Member Keith Gordon and single Labour Member, Jerry Gibson to form an Alliance BEFORE the May elections and take that Alliance forward in the May Elections to co-operate in such a way in a coalition so that votes are not wasted fighting each other. But I’ll bet I hear either nothing or No.

  • So will the lib dems form an alliance/coalition with the independents and greens? or will the minority groups all resign en mass? How will this game of cat and mouse be played out? Right now they have you backed into a corner and have surely outsmarted you all….

    • No it is much simpler than that – it’s called majority manipulation , works for
      now but eventually ( it always does ) it will backfire , hoefully next May elections.

  • Is there anything any more that isn’t corrupt or if not corrupt skewed so that it is easier to facilitate that certain decisions are made in a certain way to benefit certain people.

    There is a growing disillusion or dare I even say resentment amongst the public against the political process in general and unfortunately I count myself in that number. There has been feelings of this nature expressed on other social media sites and is it any surprise that such things are starting to be said. It no longer appears that our democracy is being eroded it is being slapped constantly in our face that this is the case.

    History tells us over and over again what happens when the public are no longer heard

    All the best Citizen Smith

  • Admin – can you clarify please :-
    If it becomes effective at 19/11 meeting , is it discussed / voted on at a meeting
    prior to that ( ie: 20/10 ) or not until 19/11 meeting….? Thanks JIM

  • Now confirmed – this next step in doing away with democracy will be done on the evening of 20/10/15 , Cllr’s Cutmore & Hudson will instruct all the Toadies to vote it through .
    All armchair warriors please attend to witness “this day of infamy ” ……

  • I am a bit of a newbie but can I ask something?
    1. If the voting is still ‘pro-rata’ then how do the changes really effect the decision making process?
    2. How do other local authorties work? It was my impression that having all councillors on a planning committee was a bit of an anomaly?
    3. from reading the above. does this not now help the elected persons not in the planning committee to ‘shout from the rafters’ their residents veiws now? which could be interesting.

    • David, good questions, thank you.

      1 : Pro rata rules work best when there are just two large political groups on the council. Things work less fairly when you have several very small groups and do not give independent councillors outside of a group much of a chance.
      2: I would not call it an anomaly, but certainly a rarity. But it has served our district well for 40 years or so.
      3: councillors can already shout from the rafters early on and give up the chance to vote at the meeting but I don’t think anyone ever has taken this option. There are members of the public and parish councillors who can do this anyway. Although ward members who not on the committee will be able to speak at the start of the meeting that is very limiting. Often the most important contributions from ward members happen during the middle of the debates, clearly up other councillors misunderstandings. For example I remember this was important some years ago when Downhall Under Fives got permission for their new building.

      The motives for this motion are suspect and the timing is extremely curious, bearing in mind the big SW Hullbridge application will be coming to committee soon.

  • David – you are right it is a stacked deck either way ( 29-10 or 9-4 ) , but having watched the proceedings for two years it is clear that the 29-10 system does create some interesting situations ie:-
    Clearly Rayleigh Ward Tory Councillor’s have been getting stick from their electorate and had to tactically abstain on the Parking fee increase and indeed
    vote against the recent Countryside 500 approval to save face with residents.
    Whereas the 9 will be hand picked out of Town Toadies , who will have no problem with dumping decisions on Rayleigh / Hullbridge in order to keep their own Hockley / Wakering / Barling /………etc; electorate sweet.
    Mark my words this is all about pushing through their flawed Core Plan to
    balance the books ( and keep their jobs ) via the new housing bonuses.

  • Don’t forget we have a revision of the Core Strategy underway. More of our greenbelt will be under threat. Call me cynical but after the secrecy clause in the SHLAA (2012) Paragraphs 2.19 and 2.20 made identifying landowners impossible could this is also be a way of absolutely ensuring the enriching even more of the great and good known to Councillors through their networks. After all virtually every large development site in the previous merry-go-round had links to various past Tory Councillors of one sort or another and not one person declared any interest. Never forget it was also nearly all virgin greenbelt farmland. I have on some authority that moves have been taken to remove some former farmland into just ‘greenfield’ that will make it less protected under food production Directives. Why would landowners forego EU payments for set-aside unless a bigger prize was coming down the tracks?

  • Chris, I’m in the same camp as David, if the pro rata is applied correctly and no existing party is excluded then how is voting affected ? Sorry, just can’t understand the issue. If it’s obvious to everyone but me then apologies to all concerned.

    • TB,

      How to explain?

      Well, first of all, the pro rata rules are NOT something being generously offered by the Tory leadership, national law requires this type of committee to have pro rata representation unless all councillors agree otherwise.

      Also the pro rata rules imply that Cllr Gordon, who sits as a lone independent, and Cllr Gibson, who sits as a lone Labour councillor, can’t be on this committee.

      Also, residents are simply going to be less well represented. At the moment , for example, in Wakering, residents are represented by Cllrs Seagers, Wilkins and Hookway. Their concerns and interests are simply going to be less well conveyed by having only one councillor on the committee instead of three. You can’t get away from that . And in fact it’s quite possible that some wards will have NO representation.

      To put it bluntly, this motion makes it harder for me and Ron to work for our residents.

      It also makes it that wee bit harder to persuade any good potential candidate – for any party- to stand for election because this is yet another thing that they probably won’t be allowed to do.

      I know there is more to being on the committee than simply thinking of your own ward, you are there to judge applications according to their planning merits. But there is no evidence that I am aware of to show we are not doing that. If anyone is pointing to the “North of London road” application, I would merely point out that Cllr Cutmore voted with us in January.

      But what I like least about this application is its timing – the Tories have no electoral mandate to remove the only Labour councillor from the committee, and to possibly remove the only councillor for Barling and Sutton, but most of all it will put great pressure on the Tory backbenchers on the committee to conform.

      A conservative backbencher who gets onto the committee and wants to stay there may feel very reluctant to rock the boat in case they don’t get picked for the following year. You may feel that I’m overdramatising this, but I urge you to believe me, I’ve served long enough to compare this Tory majority group with the one in the 80s , and back then there was a lot less pressure to conform. This council becomes more authoritarian with each passing year.

  • Admin – please don’t cite the January voting as an example , that was a deliberate “pre-election” posture as they needed to appease the electorate –
    it has all changed now they are back in power, witness this latest ruse to 13.

    The updated Local Plan will give away even more Green Belt/ Arable Land and
    it will be in West Rayleigh/ Hullbridge – That is what this is about , circumventing opposition.

  • I have always been advised that any Member can attend any Committee and speak with the discretion of the Chairman. Based on what an Officer advised this is based on The Local Government Act.

    The third paragraph ONLY permits Ward Councillors to attend and to speak on individual planning applications.

    To this end based on the Officer’s assertion that my first paragraph above, which he says is based in law, this Motion determines otherwise in para 3.

    It is therefore contrary to law and is invalid for consideration by Council.

  • Dear Admin,
    thank you for your response. I could not find another authority in Essex that has ALL members on the planning committee – therefore my comment that Rochford Council is an anomaly is actually fact?.
    Looking at some of the comments it seems, although this porposal seems quite a rational one there are a few councillors who are protesting. (one appears to protest constantly on your page?).
    My personal view? The proposal works in other areas, so no reason why not here. Perhaps some councillors will then have more time to dedicate to other equally important issues such as health care, education, to name a couple…….

    • David, if you want to call it an anomaly, that’s fair enough, although you could equally call it a rarity or an example of excellence.

      I’d be happy if councillors could get involved in education , but that’s a county council function, not a district one (and the government is stripping power away from county councils on that anyway. We do have a small about of influence on health.

  • Posturing or not , you are absolutely right Jim that we need to keep a very close eye on what’s being planed in the future, especially the LDF subcommittee.

  • David – another aspect , why have ( and pay expenses to ) 39 Ward Councillor’s
    if only 9 sit on the Cabinet and only 13 sit on Planning issues ?.
    It is simple , you vote ( in your Ward ) for someone local to represent you , you
    do not vote for a stranger in another area to represent you – so I say again why do we have 39 Councillor’s if most of them don’t have a say ( think the answer is obvious )……

  • In effect there probably are only 13 that actually open their mouths during the meeting anyway .Unfortunately most of those will not get a seat on any proposed committee .There will consequently be little debate or persuasion as it will consist of “the silent majority” doing their masters bidding .

  • Anyone who can attend tomorrow evening , please do , the public gallery needs to be packed in order to demonstrate the electorate’s dismay at this demise of democracy – in fact please wear a black armband in mourning.

  • Could one of the councillors (Chris or Ron) apart from opposing this measure please raise an amendment

    The size of any development should determine the size of the committee, if 20 or over houses and / or it involves change of category from green belt; then the full council should form the committee to consider it.

    Please tidy up the wording

  • Just back from Council meeting the Tory puppets all followed the Whip instructions and voted the change through (proposed by Cutmore , seconded by Hudson and supported Cllr C Seagers ).
    Look out for the Echo , photos of the Coffin and Bearers( RIP DEMOCRACY )complete with Wreath on the Council steps.


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