Where I Stand on Issues

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Council Tax

I moved the motion to hold West Devon's rise in Council Tax to 2.6% this year. Whilst I am not against raising enough revenue when necessary to get the council's jobs done, I believe strongly in keeping taxation down whenever we can.

Traffic and Transport

I believe we have to be realistic about the balance between cars and public transport in rural West Devon. I can't go along with the idea that, if we make things very difficult for car users, masses of people will turn to using 'buses and the world will be a better place. That just isn't realistic. That's why I have taken a noisy stand against excessive reductions in road space (eg the Bedford Square issue) and inappropriate traffic calming (eg the infamous Grenofen Gateway and the silly chicane in Horrabridge).
I didn't win the Bedford Square battle outright, but here's what I said about it in 1999. I haven't changed my mind, but I should be deluding you if I said I could see a realistic prospect of restoring the Square to its old format. The best we can hope for is another traffic lane, but I can't honestly see that happening in the next four years.
My broad view is that, in West Devon, the transport of necessity and choice is the private motor car and, whilst cycling and 'buses can be encouraged to make a contribution, we have no business oppressing motorists as an article of faith.

"Green" Issues

That doesn't make me sound very "green", does it? OK. Let me try to redress the balance. My line is that it's a matter of balance. That's one reason why I'm independent. I support sensible initiatives like decent pavements, sensible traffic calming that doesn't just make congestion worse. I strongly support waste recycling. It is daft to use up huge landfill sites for dumping all the waste that we throw away. West Devon's recycling schemes are a great success. I'm also lucky enough to have enough room to compost most of my waste, so I don't need to throw much away.
I have also been an active member of WestDEN's Indicators Project, which devises ways to measure the environmental quality of West Devon. I've not had as much time to spend on that in the last four years as I had in the previous council, but I'm still making a contribution to that work.
I do not jump on popular emotive bandwaggons as one of the parties has done in this campaign click here for my reaction to what I regard as cynical party political exploitation.


We are desperately short of social housing in West Devon. Traditional council house building is a thing of the past by what seems to be a consensus of both the last Conservative and the present Labour governments. In West Devon, we have created West Devon Homes as a way to replace the depleted stock. I have supported this strongly and joined the board as an unpaid council-appointed director from its inception. This year, for the first time since the 1980s, there are more "council" homes in West Devon than there were a year ago.

Youth Issues

I admit it: I'm a wrinkly. I can't change that, but it doesn't mean I've forgotten my youth. I should like to see more attention paid to youth issues, though I don't necessarily think I am the best person to drive those things forward. That is one reason why I've decided not to stand again for the Town Council. It is time to make way for younger people. I very much hope that there will be some young candidates putting up. and that you will seriously consider electing them. I only ask for one of your votes. I shall use all of mine: so if I am defeated by a single vote, it will be my own.
This is also why I am using the internet to get my message over. I hope it will interest more of the "internet generation" in getting involved in local issues and voting.


We don't have a lot of choice about the number of new houses that we have to find room for in West Devon over the next ten years: central government sets the agenda for us. I have been involved in the West Devon Local Plan process. For the first time, we have mounted a truly massive consultation exercise before drafting the new Local Plan. That new Local Plan is now going through its Public Enquiry stage. Here's a link to West Devon's web site where you can read more about that. (If that link has changed by the time you read this, try this one, which is West Devon Borough Council's Home Page.)
My job as chairman of the planning committee is to put that plan into practice. There's a lot of misunderstanding about how the process works. I have tried to explain the process, month by month, during committee meetings, so that those attending can see how and why we make the decisions that we do. I haven't time to write up every controversial issue for my web site, but I did comment on one recently, to try to explain the issues more widely. Here's the link to the Milton Abbot School's Peace Window application, for any who are interested.
I believe that, by and large, the new Local Plan is as much your plan as it is the council's. My committee's job is to apply it fairly and consistently for the benefit of this generation and those who come after us.

Regional Assemblies

The government is keen to set up Regional Assemblies as yet another tier of local government. We already have a confusion of councils and I struggle to see that adding another will be of any benefit to anyone except professional politicians. The proposed South West Region will extend from Tewkesbury to Lands End and will inevitably be vastly more expensive than the present estimates. I oppose it.
The English Counties would disappear under the regional system. Districts like West Devon would be absorbed into "Unitary" authorities like Torbay and the whole business of local government would become remote, wholly politicised and pretty much unaccountable to you.
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Party Politics

I can't avoid making a party political point here: Liberal Democrats support Regional Government. Some of their leading members at West Devon also seem to support the notion of Cabinet or Executive councils (see the next paragraph). Whilst there is an arguable case for both, I don't agree with either.

Cabinets and Executives

You may remember that we held a referendum on whether to have a directly-elected Mayor for West Devon. You rejected the notion by the largest majority in England. Quite right, too!
The same goes for councils run by single-party Cabinets or Executives. West Devon council, with just 31 members, would be hard pressed to find eight or ten members all of one party with the time and capacity to do the work required. In any case, would you want one-party decision making? I don't.
The poor turnout in local elections shows that most of you don't think you can influence your councils much now. How much worse would it be if you knew that most of the councillors you elect would be on the periphery of decision making?
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Any Questions?

I'll be pretty busy electioneering in the next few weeks, but if you have any questions for me on issues that are important to you, feel free to email me. Not only will I do my best to respond to you, but I'll try to find time to put both your question and my answer on this website: click here to see if anyone has taken me up on this.

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Published as an Internet document by R W Mathew, Willowby, Down Road, Tavistock, Devon