‘Some of our senior officers are going to be absolutely monitored to death’ – East Devon District Council reveals ‘ambitious’ scrutiny plans

Monitoring and scrutinsing the performance of the powers in East Devon has been highlighted in a plan set out for the district over the next four years.  

East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) future plan, which Councillors claim is “ambitious” has been approved, but some concerns were raised about its scope, writes local democracy reporter Bradley Gerrard.

The plan, which sets out the council’s vision, as well as strategies and actions to help achieve it, for the period up to 2028.

The idea is that by clearly outlining what the council wants to achieve, and how it plans to get there, residents can better hold the authority to account and Councillors can also track progress.

Cllr Christopher Burhop (Independent, Newton Poppleford and Harpford) told a full council meeting that the plan is “laudable” but questioned the number of things being monitored.

“I’ve got to put this in perspective, as we have 46 actions to be monitored. There are 72 on the audit and governance committee, and over 100 key performance indicators, or KPIs, being monitored on the housing review board,” he said.

“I’m really concerned that we are over scrutinising and overtasking ourselves with objectives that maybe don’t dovetail together.”

He thought a more sensible strategy would be to pick 10 objectives at a time, and once those were well progressed, tackle a further 10.

“Some of our senior officers are going to be absolutely monitored to death,” he added.

Cllr John Loudon (Independent, Sidmouth Rural), portfolio holder for council and corporate co-ordination, who has been involved in developing the plan, acknowledged this was a “fair observation.”

“It is a conversation that is going on in terms of how we as a council can better monitor what we are doing, as there has been criticism that we have not monitored ourselves effectively and efficiently, and balance that what it is we have to monitor and how often,” he said.

Cllr Eleanor Rylance (Liberal Democrat, Broadclyst), who chairs the council, acknowledged the tricky balance. “We are cognisant of the effect on officers and we are constantly seeking ways to lessen the load, but it is not easy with the multiple challenges facing us,” she said.

Cllr Mike Goodman (Conservative, Sidmouth Sidford) complimented councillors and officers involved in creating the “ambitious and challenging local plan”. However, he asked whether the number of action and measures was “achievable” and whether it could be done within budget.

Cllr Loudon said the plan had been “written in a way that the actions one anticipates at this point are achievable.”

He continued: “Things will get blown off course somewhere, so I can’t say 100 per cent everything will be completed, but we have drafted it with the expectation that this is a deliverable council plan.”

The council plan is a different document to a Local Plan, with the former focused on the council’s aims, while the latter sets out a vision for future planning and infrastructure development.

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