Tory leader takes new coalition to task

Conservative shadow team rattles the cage as the new council gets back to business

NORTH Devon Council’s shadow Conservative team has fired the first shots across the bow of the newly formed Liberal Democrat-Independent coalition administration.

Speaking just a week after the Tories were ousted as the council’s ruling majority, group leader Cllr Des Brailey said he was seeking assurances over what he described as three key issues facing the council.

An imminent �1million loan repayment, the on-off supermarket saga in South Molton and the issue of regeneration in Ilfracombe topped the shadow leader’s list of priorities.

“During the last administration, the council borrowed �5million to help finance the new Brynsworthy Environment Centre,” said Mr Brailey.


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“The first �4m has been paid back and in July, the final �1m comes up for repayment. My question is whether the new administration will agree to honour that and make us debt-free, as we intended to do.

Of South Molton’s long-running supermarket plans Mr Brailey said he thought the council could “do better” for the town by reviewing a planning agreement made with Tesco in 2009 and bringing more council-owned land to the table.

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The council had previously agreed to sell off part of the Central Car Park to the retailer, which owns the Norrington Yard site currently occupied by South Molton Recycle.

But Mr Brailey said he had personally put the plans on hold three months ago as he and fellow councillors Richard Edgell and Jeremy Yabsley felt there was more value in the land if the deal incorporated the cattle market and sheep pen area.

“I think if we took a longer view and utilised council land as opposed to part council and part supermarket-owned land, we could make about �6m to �7m,” he said.

“I am asking the new administration to put out a study and look at a better option.”

Of Ilfracombe, Mr Brailey asked that the council continue with the plans put in place to revitalise the seafront.

“We started to help regenerate Ilfracombe and I would implore the new administration to continue with that work because the town has been neglected for some time now.”

Responding to comments made by the council’s new deputy leader Cllr Rodney Cann in last week’s Gazette, Mr Brailey said he disputed the accusation that his previous administration had set an unsustainable budget with a view to winning an election.

He also said that he hoped the new cabinet would protect front line council services and offer job assurances to staff.

He said: “Something that I have always said is that we would do our very best to protect people’s jobs at this council and I will fight to ensure this is maintained.

“I am concerned that the new administration is not giving the same guarantees to staff that I gave.”

The Shadow Conservative team: Paul Yabsley (Environment); Philip Webb (Planning and Development Ilfracombe); Des Brailey (Community); Jasmine Chesters (Performance and Procedures); Richard Edgell (Regulatory Policy and Services Plus – Rural); David Luggar (Economic Regeneration); Pat Barker (Culture); Brian Moores (Housing); Michael Harrison (Resources)

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