Tuesday, December 11th, 2018 7:25pm By Daniel Clark Share on Facebook Share on Messenger Share on Messenger Share on Twitter Share on Whatsapp Here's 5 things we learned from last week. Motorists driving at motorway speeds in country lanes, council employees getting paid the living wage, and ‘gagging clauses’ for former council employees were among the topics discussed at last week’s Devon County Council meeting. The full council meeting gives members of the public the chance to present petitions, councillors the chance to ask questions, and to request cabinet members to provide reports on parts of their portfolio. Here are five things that we learnt from the meeting. TAVISTOCK SPEEDING CONCERNS Motorists are driving at ‘motorway speeds’ on a narrow rural road just outside Tavistock. Mrs Naybour, who lives in Whitchurch Road in Grenofen, presented a petition of concern to the council at last week’s meeting, calling for a review of the speed limit to be looked at. The road currently is governed by a national speed limit of 60mph, but she told councillors that the Department for Transport says that where 20 houses or more are on a road, it should be designated as a village and have a 30mph speed limit. Whitchurch Road contains 44 houses. She said: “It is a very busy road, and the road is very narrow with no footways. It is used by residents including schools children, walkers, cyclists, horse riders, tractors and farm vehicles, delivery vans and the bus. “Traffic is very busy at peak periods and when something happens on the main road, it used as a rat run to Tavistock. It is not a rural road due to the diversity of the users and some traffic is travelling at motorway speeds and sharing that road with children. It potentially very dangerous and does need to be addressed.” She added that she had the support of the parish council, ward councillor Philip Sanders, and the MP for the area, Geoffrey Cox. Devon County Council will consider the petition EXMINSTER SCHOOL No date for when a planned all-through school in Exminster has yet been confirmed – but contracts to deliver it have been signed. Cllr Alan Connett asked for an update on the provision of the planned all-through school at South West Exeter, including an indication of whether the land for it has been secured and is in the county council’s ownership and when the school is expected to open. In response, Cllr Andrea Davis, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure Development & Waste, said that contracts have been signed, but the and is not yet in the ownership of Government-owned property company called LocatEd. She added: “Officers are however working closely with the Department and the school sponsor, the Ted Wragg Multi Academy Trust, however to date there is not a confirmed opening date. “The responsibility for securing the free school site sits with a Government-owned property company called LocatEd, again Officers are working closely with them and they have recently confirmed that contracts have been signed but the land is not yet in their ownership.” Plans for 1,500 homes in Exminster have been approved by Teignbridge District Council, and South West Exeter will eventually contain 2,500 new homes. LIVING WAGE Devon County Council’s current lowest hourly pay rate is well above the National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage and applies to all corporate employees and school support staff regardless of age including apprentices. Cllr Marina Asvachin had asked if the council pays all its staff at least the Living Wage and whether all outsourced contractors do the same. She was told that although all council employees are paid the Living Wage, some contractors might only be paid Minimum Wage. Cllr Barry Parsons, cabinet member for organisational development and digital transformation, said: “Devon County Council’s current lowest hourly pay rate is well above the National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage and applies to all corporate employees and school support staff regardless of age including apprentices. It is currently £8.50 per hour and will rise to £9 per hour with effect from April 2019, thus matching the ‘voluntary’ Living Wage from April 2019. “Terms and conditions of contracts Devon County Council enters into with companies delivering services on behalf of the Council are required to comply with all relevant legislation including the national living wage/Minimum wage. Regular checks are carried out to ensure compliance.” The National Living Wage hourly rate is currently £7.83 and will rise to £8.21 in April 2019. The National Minimum Wage hourly rate increases according to age so from April 2019 it will be £3.90 for apprentices up to a maximum of £7.70 per hour for those aged 21 to 24 inclusive. Adopting the ‘voluntary’ Living Wage as proposed by the Living Wage Foundation is not a legislative requirement. ‘GAGGING CLAUSES’ Over half of the 145 non-disclosure agreements made in the past five years by Devon County Council relate to schools. A Freedom of Information Request revealed between 2013 and 2017, the county council spent £1,965,370 on 145 separate settlement agreements, often referred to as ‘gagging orders’. Cllr Parsons said that the settlement agreements are not “gagging clauses” and do not prevent employees from exposing unacceptable behaviour, whistleblowing, reporting a crime, talking to a regulator or disclosing information as require by law. He added: “Devon is a large employer with over 4,300 staff, plus a further 8,000 staff in maintained schools for whom the Council provides an HR service. 145 settlement agreements were made in the last five years and the average number per year is 29, and the average cost of these settlements is £393,000 a year or £13,500 per case. “The total cost of settlement agreements over this period was £1.965m which represents less than 0.13% per cent of the total salary cost during the same period (£1.535bn). “The settlement process is a recognised and lawful practice that can provide a cost-effective way to resolve unreconcilable employment disputes which could otherwise lead to more timeconsuming and expensive legal processes. They can also be used to expediate the early release of a school employee so that they can be replaced more quickly to minimise disruption to teaching and learning for schools. Over half, 75, of the 145 agreements made in the past five years relate to schools. “A business case has to be prepared for each settlement agreement and the likely financial impact of both a settlement and no settlement is considered carefully as part of this. When negotiating settlement agreements any compensation payment will take into account the amount/cost of the notice period that a member of staff would be entitled to. “For the majority of staff this will be three months’ notice. All expenditure on settlement agreements is subject to external financial audit.” Cllr Frank Biederman, who asked the question, said that he was shocked and staggered when he read the figures in the press. GOVERNMENT POTHOLE REPAIRS Details of how Devon’s record-breaking allocation of £18.75 million for road maintenance from the Government will be spent has been revealed. Devon received the highest share of any local authority in the country from the £420 million national pot, which was announced by the Chancellor in the Budget. Cllr Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways Management, speaking at the full council meeting, outlined how the council currently planned to spend the money. He said that around £1m would be spent on the A-road network, around £7m on the ‘unprincipled’ road network, around £4m on bridges and that some money would go towards footways as well. No specific location for any of the road maintenance projects has yet been stated, but Cllr Hughes confirmed that councillors will be consulted on as to where the money would be spent.