Photo of Cllr Paul Arnott
Cllr Paul Arnott, new Leader of East Devon District Council

New Leader Cllr Paul Arnott promises a new approach to bring stability for all its residents

East Devon District Council (EDDC) has a new administration following an extraordinary meeting of the council today. (Friday 29 May)

The meeting was reconvened this morning following technical issues with the council’s YouTube channel last night.

The Democratic Alliance group, the largest group on the council, has formed a coalition with the Independent Progressive group to form the administration with a total of 31 councillors. The council has 60 councillors in total. The Democratic Alliance group is made up of councillors from the Independent East Devon Alliance, the Liberal Democrat Party, the Green Party and some independents.

New Leader Cllr Paul Arnott told the meeting that the new administration marks the start of a new approach to collaborative working and will bring stability and direction for the benefit of all its residents. Cllr Eileen Wragg, who has more than 20 years’ experience as a councillor, will be the deputy leader.

Cllr Arnott said that the new administration recognised the need for continuity during such uncertain times and three of the portfolio holders for the previous Cabinet have been reappointed. He said that the hard work they have undertaken for the last 12 months and the knowledge and experience they bring with them will help the council smoothly transition into this fresh new approach.

He said:

It is essential that at this of all times East Devon has a stable majority leadership. It must also have a keen eye on the district's future wellbeing when this troubling period comes to an eventual end. The electorate spoke hoping for a reformed and improved council last year and our aim is to deliver that with hard work and with pride in the wonderful place we are all fortunate to call home.

He announced that the new Cabinet will now host three critical new roles to enable the council to tackle both the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis head-on.

Cllr Jess Bailey is the new Cabinet portfolio holder for Corporate Services and Covid-19 Response & Recovery to ensure a consistent and pro-active approach to the Covid-19 pandemic. Cllr Arnott said:

At this time of crisis, it is vital that operations across the council continue to be focussed and understood both during and after, so that as the period for recovery begins, the council emerges in the best shape and able to continue to serve East Devon effectively.

Cllr Marianne Rixson is appointed as the new Climate Action portfolio holder securing the council's commitment to Climate Change. Cllr Arnott said she will ensure that every action and strategy pursued by the council is compliant with its zero-emissions commitment and that climate is considered in the formation of all policy. From building construction to the provision of enhanced outdoor places and from the protection of our ecology through to transport. Her assistant portfolio holder is Cllr Denise Bickley.

The new Democracy and Transparency portfolio holder is Cllr Paul Millar who will carry out the new administration’s commitment to overseeing the governance of the council to ensure that all 60 councillors are able to contribute fully.  A full review of the constitution, member engagement, and external communications will be undertaken. Cllr Sarah Jackson will be the assistant portfolio holder.

The former Asset Management role will now be included within Economy and the Transformation portfolio is no longer required as it is covered within the Corporate Services and Democracy roles.

The Economy and Assets portfolio is Cllr Paul Hayward and his assistant portfolio holder is Cllr Geoff Pratt. Cllr Geoff Jung is the holder for the newly-named Coast, Country and Environment portfolio and his assistant portfolio holder is Cllr Eleanor Rylance.

The Finance portfolio holder is Cllr Jack Rowland and his assistant portfolio holder is Cllr John Loudoun. The Strategic Development portfolio is Cllr Dan Ledger and Sustainable Homes & Communities portfolio holder is Cllr Megan Armstrong.

Cllr Arnott added:

Countrywide, the last decade or more has seen local councils put under increasing pressure financially, EDDC is no exception. The current pandemic further compounds this.

EDDC’s new administration is committed to a thorough assessment of the council's current position in all areas, including finance, and is determined to lobby both central government and the districts MP's to help us out of our financial shortfall so that we can continue to provide the best service to our residents, district-wide.

A further meeting of the council will be held on June 8 to elect a chairman and vice-chairman of the council.