The NEW owl has arrived …


2 February 2020





East Devon could NEVER remain Owl-less …

As one departed another has taken its place …

The new Owl has arrived!

Talons sharpened, eyes trained …

A new light now shining into the darkest corners of East Devon

Contact us at

In the link below EDDC announces the launch on Monday 30 March 2020 of the East Devon District Council Coronavirus Community Support Hub and explains what  it will seek to do.

It also brings you up to date with a comprehensive range of local services appropriate to the Coronavirus  emergency.

It is too long to post but is a useful reference.

Breaking news: GWR has a recovery plan but no timetable

After five days we now have a “service recovery plan” to restore rail services!

[One more to add to the list of “recovery plans” – Owl]

Trains that were taken out of service after cracks were found will be reintroduced after “rigorous safety checks”, the Rail Delivery Group says.

BBC News

The industry body said Great Western Railway and London North Eastern Railway (LNER) will ramp-up services.

There has been disruption for passengers since Saturday after small cracks were discovered on the base frame of some Hitachi Class 800 trains.

The rail minister warned passengers to expect disruption for “some time”.

Travellers are being advised to continue to check with their operator before they travel.

In a statement, the Rail Delivery Group said Hitachi Rail, train operators and the government have agreed a “service recovery plan” to reintroduce more Class 800 and 385 trains after they were taken out of service on Saturday.

But it said trains on some routes may be less frequent than usual and train availability could vary.

The industry has put in place “suitable criteria for the trains to meet before they can re-enter service”, the Rail Delivery Group said.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said he welcomed the news that “many trains” can return following safety checks.

“Trains should begin to return to service after further inspections have been carried out, helping to safely restore the reliable and punctual services on GWR and LNER that passengers deserve,” he said.

“Safety is our absolute focus, which is why Hitachi will carry out a comprehensive daily testing regime on affected trains.”

He said the “next step” will be for Hitachi to present its long-term repair plan for the fleet, which he expects “shortly”.

“Whilst this long-term fix can partly be incorporated into the regular service pattern for these trains, we do expect disruption to services for some time to come, but hope passengers understand this work is essential to ensure these issues do not occur again,” Mr Heaton-Harris said.

With only 43% of the vote the Tories swept the board in East Devon – a fair win?

Clearly we need a more representative voting system, but what can we do about it?

A view from East Devon Council leader Paul Arnott published in Exmouth Journal (and elsewhere)

So, good people of East Devon, this week I would like to set you an exam question?

Q: In last week’s County Council elections, Conservative candidates in our district polled a total of 22,265 votes across all 12 wards, and non-Conservatives polled a total of 29,654. The question is, how many non-Conservative councillors for the available 12 slots will now be sitting at County?

Even allowing for what one might imagine about the eccentricities of our electoral system, with its odd historical boundaries and so forth, you might guess that the Conservative representation would be perhaps 5, with the non-Tories being 7. Something like that.

In fact, I can report to you that the Conservatives now hold 10 seats at Devon county from our area, and the non-Conservatives just 2. This has caused blood to boil in some quarters, and I can understand that. But in my position, as leader of the Independent East Devon Alliance, I want to move on to the ‘what can we do about it?’ phase as soon as possible and beyond the anger.

To explain, as a small local registered political party we played nice. Where we were not sure that we were the most likely candidate to challenge the Conservatives we simply did not stand. But the Labour Party did and I believe they took a small but highly significant part of the non-Conservative vote, and our three lost by one or two hundred votes in all three wards.

Now, I feel really bad pointing this out. Those young candidates have every right to stand for what they want, where they want, and when they want, and I applaud their enthusiasm to enter politics. But this is local politics. This is the problem with democracy; it is not quite what we all think. It has been reported last weekend that in the coming weeks Home Secretary Priti Patel will change the way in which mayors for major cities and areas are elected.

The Conservatives don’t like the current system, where voters may express a first and a second preference. It’s fair and ensures that a perhaps divisive candidate of one party does not get in with just 40% if their two rivals have polled 30% each. The Conservatives fancy that as long as they can find a series of Borises, big characters who can attract a popular if not always well-informed vote, they can make a clean sweep of mayoral elections next time on the old past past the post system. That may be alright for national hunt horseracing, but it is no way to encourage true democracy in the 21st century. But doubtless it will sweep through Parliament. No more first and second preferences, a democratic reversal

Now, I must presume that about 45% of the readers of this column are Conservative voters – well, some of my best friends are Tories, even my son’s godfather (a former Winchester councillor). So I’m not doing you down; I am just pointing out that the best of you I suspect will agree that the representation we need on councils or at government level should reflect the numbers of votes cast, not the eccentricities of ward boundaries etc. But the real challenge is to those who do not wish to vote Conservative. Please look at those figures again. Nearly 30,000 of you voted non Tory, for 2 county seats. Just over 22,000 voted Tory for 10 county seats. So what are we, what are you, going to do about it?

Sidmouth elects three new town councillors

Three new town councillors have been elected in Sidmouth.

Philippa Davies

Following the vote last Thursday, Richard Thurlow has been elected to the Salcombe Regis ward.

There were two seats vacant in the Sidmouth South ward, and they have been filled by Hilary Nelson and Rachel Perram.

All three of the new councillors are Independents.

GWR situation is “shambles” says Exeter MP

After the best part of a week, GWR services from London to the south west are still are not running, following safety concerns about new trains.

Radio Exe  

The Hitachi engines were introduced with much fanfare in 2018, but after small cracks were found in them, they’re being checked to see what precautions need to be taken to protect passengers.

Major disruption is the result. GWR is advising people to put off their journeys to a later date, in the hope they’ll be able to sort things out. In the meantime. they’re operating some separate shuttles in place of the fast service. It means previous direct trips may now need several changes.

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw, who sits on the transport committee in parliament, describes the situation as “a shambles.” Whilst safety is paramount, he says: “so is getting around the country when you want to see loved ones you haven’t seen for more than a year. There will be many people in the south west who will have made plans for next week so it needs to be sorted out as quickly as possible.”

The ‘Super Express’ trains were introduced to take advantage of electrification of the Great Western railwayline, but that’s not coming to the south west any time soon. They were late going into service after being announced. According to Private Eye, the 866 carriages being used nationally are costing £7.7 billion in ‘train usage prices’ over nearly 30 years.

David Cameron bombarded ministers with texts and calls over ‘bonkers’ Greensill decision

David Cameron bombarded government ministers and officials with scores of texts, calls and emails over a four-month period, telling them that the failure to provide financial support to Greensill Capital was “nuts” and “bonkers”, it has been revealed. 

A cache of messages released by the House of Commons Treasury Committee showed that the former prime minister and his office contacted ministers including chancellor Rishi Sunak – as well as senior officials at 10 Downing Street and the Bank of England – on 27 separate days between 5 March and 26 June 2020, with multiple contacts on some days.

And Mr Cameron’s messages also revealed efforts to lobby Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove. But there was little indication that Gove – a former close friend who fell out with the ex-PM over Brexit – gave much of a response to his contacts.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that Mr Cameron will face two grillings from panels of senior MPs on Thursday this week, facing the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee at 5pm, just after concluding a previously-announced interrogation by the Treasury committee at 2.30pm.

Signing his messages “Dc” or “De”, the ex-PM begins with requests for talks and offers of lunch, but the pleas for help become increasingly lengthy and detailed after it was made clear that Greensill’s application for inclusion in the multi-billion pound Covid Corporate Financing Facility had been rejected.

In all, at least 25 texts, 12 WhatsApp messages and eight emails were sent, and 11 calls are recorded in a timeline supplied by Mr Cameron to the committee, which is conducting an investigation into the affair with company founder Lex Greensill giving evidence this afternoon.

At one point, Cameron tells the Treasury’s top civil servant Tom Scholar he will “see you with Rishi’s for an elbow bump or foot tap”, as he assures him that Greensill are eager to “help” with the government’s response to the Covid crisis.

As the decision on CCFF got nearer, Cameron became more persistent, at one stage even telling Scholar: “One last point, then I promise I will stop annoying you”.

After the application was refused, he stepped up his contacts, telling the Treasury permanent secretary on 3 April he was “genuinely baffled” by the decision and asking for a phone discussion on what he said was a “bonkers” decision.


The same day, he texted Sunak himself to brand the Treasury decision “nuts” and asking him to “call any time on this number”. 

He also fired off texts and emails to Treasury ministers Jesse Norman and John Glen, as well as 10 Downing Street special adviser Sheridan Westlake, who he told there was “a looming problem you can help solve”.

And he emailed the deputy governor of the Bank of England Sir Jon Cunliffe, telling him Greensill had been rejected despite having “dealt with every objection”, and adding: “I think I must be missing something here, Am obviously talking to HMT but would be grateful for any light you could shed on this.”

In a text that day to Gove, Cameron wrote: “I know you are manically busy – and doing a great job by the way (this is bloody hard and I think the team is coping extremely well). But do you have a moment for a word? I am on this number and v free. All good wishes De.”

Follow-up emails showed that Mr Cameron spoke with Mr Norman and Mr Westlake that day. And he texted Mr Sunak to say he looked forward to speaking the next morning.

After speaking to the Chancellor on 4 April, Mr Cameron was pushing for more meetings for himself and Lex Greensill, which took place later that week.


After amendments were made to Greensill’s proposals, Cameron texted Sunak again on 22 April, urging him to “give it another nudge over the finish line” and insisting it was “clearly in the national interest.”

Over the following weeks, he was repeatedly in touch with the chancellor by text message, assuring him on 23 April that “goodwill and common sense can fix this” and thanking him on 29 April for “huge progress” which he suggested meant that supply chain finance suppliers like Greensill could be included in the facility.

By 15 May, he was telling Mr Sunak “think we are there” and adding: “Happy to talk any time, but hope this can now get the green light!”

The messages also reveal that in June, Mr Cameron contacted both Mr Sunak and vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi pressing for the maximum loan Greensill could make under the Treasury’s CBILs scheme to be increased from £50m to £200m, describing the difference as “rather crucial”.

The contact came to an end on 26 June with a text to Mr Glen stating: “Thanks for your help with this. Sorry the answer is a No, but we appreciate the engagement. All good wishes. De.”

Johnson’s planning laws an ‘utter disaster’, say countryside campaigners

A dramatic loosening of planning laws to create a housebuilding boom will damage local democracy and destroy swathes of countryside by granting property developers a freer hand to build over green fields, planning experts have warned.

[Likely to prove controversial with backbenchers with backbone – would that include Jupp and Parish? – Owl]

Robert Booth 

The new laws, part of the government’s “Project Speed” to accelerate infrastructure projects, are intended to increase the number of homes being planned by more than a third, and were announced in the Queen’s speech. But critics described them as “an utter disaster” which would return the country to “a deregulated dark age of development”.

Ministers are expected to enact a radical shift in the way decisions are made on new developments by zoning land either for growth, where developers will be allowed to build homes and related infrastructure such as schools and hospitals without individual planning consents, or protection where development will be restricted.

It wants to boost home ownership in areas of increasing Conservative support in northern England and the Midlands and will use post-Brexit freedoms to “simplify … environmental assessments for developments”.

It said there will be stronger rules on design – but countryside campaigners warned the changes would lead to the “suburbanisation” of the countryside and “rural sprawl” without delivering much-needed affordable housing.

The councils body the Local Government Information Unit said the changes would “leave local government with the political liability on planning whilst depriving them … of the powers to manage it effectively”.

The Queen’s speech did not include a bill to improve regulation of social housing despite a government white paper last year. Grenfell United, which represents the bereaved and survivors of the 2017 council block disaster, said it was “deeply let down” at the failure to “redress the balance of power between social housing tenants and landlords”.

Plans to reform leaseholds went as far as a new bill so leaseholders of new, long residential leases cannot be charged a financial ground rent for no tangible service. But there was no plan for helping current leaseholders pay up to £10bn in fire safety costs from faults discovered after Grenfell.

Announcing a planning bill that is expected to be the most radical since the 1948 Town and Country Planning Act, the government promised “simpler, faster procedures for producing local development plans, approving major schemes, assessing environmental impacts and negotiating affordable housing and infrastructure contributions”.

But Fiona Howie, the chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association, said: “It is disappointing that the government’s narrative has focused, once again, solely on housing numbers. If we are truly committed to building back better, we need the built environment to support communities to thrive.”

She also said the bill must “ensure planning radically reduces our carbon emissions”, describing the legislation as the “last chance”.

The moves were described as an “utter disaster” by the Lancashire, Liverpool city region and Greater Manchester branch of the CPRE charity, which lobbies to protect the countryside.

“We will see a lot more houses on greenfield land and in areas of outstanding natural beauty,” said Debra McConnell, the chair of the branch. “The people in the north of England need these green spaces for their wellbeing.”

The CPRE also warned the bill, which will largely apply only in England, ran counter to the proposed environmental bill and would “take us back to a deregulated dark age of development”. It fears most of the new homes are unlikely to be low-cost or affordable.

Queen’s Speech 2021: Everything In Boris Johnson’s Plan To “Turbo-Charge’ Post-Pandemic Recovery

A useful summary – Owl 

Boris Johnson has laid out his plans to “create a stronger, healthier and more prosperous nation” after the coronavirus pandemic with more than 30 new pieces on legislation unveiled in today’s Queen’s Speech.

As part of a strong focus on enacting the Prime Minister’s manifesto commitment to “level up” the country, there are a number of bills on improving skills and education, as well as around housing and the environment.

But crucially there is once again no concrete plan on how to reform social care, despite Johnson pledging to make it priority when he entered Downing Street almost two years ago.

Reading out the government’s legislative programme in the House of Lords this morning, the Queen simply said: “Proposals on social care reform will be brought forward.”

Explaining the bills included in the speech, the PM said with the help of the vaccination programme allowing the country to exit lockdown, “we cannot simply return to the way things were”.

Johnson said as the UK gets back on its feet “we will turbo-charge our economic recovery in every part of our country, increasing and spreading opportunity” with the publication of a Levelling up White Paper.

He promised to “make the most of our new found Brexit freedoms”, as well as “turn Britain into a science superpower”, protect the union and strengthen democracy and free speech.

The PM added that the pandemic “has shown – if there was any doubt – that deep wells of talent, kindness, ingenuity and resourcefulness exist in every village, town and city of the United Kingdom”, and his government’s task is now to mobilise that and unleashing the country’s full potential.

Here are the bills included in the Queen’s Speech:

Health and Care Bill

The bill will “lay the foundations for a more integrated and efficient health and care system”, which the government says will enable staff to “focus on delivering the best possible treatment and care for their patients and giving the NHS and local authorities the tools to level up health and care across England so people can live healthier, longer and more independent lives”. It will also put the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch on a statutory footing to deliver a fully independent national body to investigate healthcare incidents, and will form part of the wider NHS Catch-up and Recovery Plan.

Social care

Despite repeated claims there would be a plan to enact longterm reform to adult social care since Johnson became PM in 2019 (and several governments before that), there is once again no concrete legislation on the issue. The government simply says: “We will bring forward proposals for social care reform in 2021 to ensure that every person receives care that provides the dignity and security they deserve.”


The creation of a new Office for Health Promotion will work across government to improve health with an increased focus on delivering greater action on prevention, as well as tackling obesity, air quality, smoking and drug misuse.

Mental Health Act Reform

Following the White Paper on reforming the Mental Health Act published in January, the government plans to give people greater control over their treatment “and receive the dignity and respect they deserve”, as well as reforming the process for detention, change the law around how people with a learning disability or autistic people are treated under the act and make key improvements to how offenders with acute mental disorders are managed. The government adds that “these reforms also seek to address the disproportionate number of people from black and minority ethnic groups detained under the act”.

Levelling Up White Paper

A key plank of this government’s election campaign, there are again no firm legislative proposals to back it up, and the MP Neil O’Brien has recently been appointed as an advisor to oversee this process. The white paper will “set out bold new policy interventions to improve livelihoods and opportunity in all parts of the UK as we recover from the pandemic, grasping the opportunities of Brexit”, with a focus on improving public services, giving more access to skills, and increasing infrastructure spending.

Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill

The brainchild of Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings, the new ARIA agency will fund “high-risk, high-reward research”, to enhance the UK’s research and development offer and “help cement the UK’s position as a global science superpower”.

National Infrastructure Plan

The Spending Review 2020 committed £100billion of capital investment in 2021-22, and the new UK Infrastructure Bank will launch later in the spring to help deliver these ambitions. Headquartered in Leeds, it will be able to deploy £12billion of equity and debt capital and £10billion of guarantees, and is expected to support more than £40billion of infrastructure investment overall.

Skills and Post-16 Education Bill

The government says this legislation will “transform access to skills across the country to ensure that people can train and retrain at any stage in their lives”, as part of a plan to get people into higher quality, higher-skilled jobs. It will enable people to access flexible funding for Higher or Further Education, deliver the PM’s new Lifetime Skills Guarantee and strengthen the powers of the Office for Students.

Turing Scheme

The replacement for the Erasmus programme, which allows students to spend a year studying abroad, the government says this new international educational exchange scheme will have a worldwide reach, unlike its EU-focused predecessor, and “will give young people across the UK, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, the opportunity to work and study globally”.

Subsidy Control Bill

This will implement a domestic subsidy control regime to “reflect our strategic interests and particular national circumstances”, to provide a legal framework within which public authorities make subsidy decisions now the UK is out of the European Union.

Procurement Bill

This will consolidate and streamline the 350+ EU-derived regulations and make the UK’s procurement regime “quicker, simpler and easier to use, allowing more freedom for suppliers and the public sector to innovate and work in partnership with the private sector”.

Professional Qualifications Bill

This will create a new “bespoke framework for the UK to recognise professional qualifications from across the world” which will make sure employers can access the right professionals where there are shortages in particular industries.

National Insurance Contributions Bill

This will provide a relief for employers of veterans and for the self-employed who receive NHS Test and Trace Payments, as well as help deliver the government’s commitment to establish a number of Freeports in England.

Planning Bill

The bill will create a “simpler, faster and more modern planning system” to replace the current one that dates back to 1947, as part of plans to build more homes and deliver infrastructure projects more quickly. The government says it “will bring forward reforms to deliver a fairer and more effective private rental market in England”, but the Renters’ Reform Bill from the last Queen’s Speech appears to have been quietly dropped.

Rail and Bus Reform

The government will publish a White Paper containing proposals to transform the railways with “new contracts that will get trains running on time”, as well as introduce modern ways to pay and “end the complicated franchising model”. The government will also table a High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill to provide the powers to build and operate the next stage of HS2. The National Bus Strategy for England “will deliver better bus services for passengers across England outside London”, and £120million will be spent this financial year on the commitment to introduce 4,000 zero-emission buses.

Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill

The bill will support the installation, maintenance, upgrading and sharing of apparatus that enables better telecommunications coverage and connectivity, such as extending 5G mobile coverage and gigabit-capable broadband. It will also ensure that “smart consumer products, including smartphones and televisions, are more secure against cyber attacks”, by requiring manufacturers to meet minimum security standards and create powers to investigate cases of non-compliance.

Draft Downstream Oil Resilience Bill

This will address threats to the security of the UK’s fuel supply by providing the government with tools to build resilience in the downstream oil sector, identify risks of disruption to the market and implement effective and proportionate contingency plans, as well as ensure if a key asset is sold, the “new owners are financially and operationally capable of keeping fuel supplies flowing”.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

The controversial legislation introduced earlier this year is being carried over, with measures including tougher sentences by ending the automatic release at the halfway point for serious sexual and violent offenders. But it will also include proposals “balancing the rights of protesters with the rights of others to go about their business unhindered”, which led to widespread protests of their own. The government says it will also refresh the Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy to “better protect women and improve outcomes for rape cases”.

Draft Victims Bill

This will place the “simplified and stronger set of rights for victims” set out in the new Victims’ Code on a statutory footing, and set expectations for the standard and availability of support for victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

New Plan for Immigration Legislation

The government says this will “increase the fairness and efficacy of our system” to better protect and support those in genuine need of asylum, while deterring illegal entry into the UK, breaking the business model of criminal trafficking networks, and enabling “those with no right to be here to be removed more easily from the UK”.

Counter-State Threats Bill

This will give the security services and law enforcement agencies the tools to tackle the evolving threat from hostile activity by foreign states and foreign actors, and will see the Official Secrets Acts of 1911, 1920 and 1939 reformed to keep pace with modern threats. The UK will have a Foreign Influence Registration Scheme to help combat espionage, and the government is considering updating treason laws to criminalise other harmful activity conducted by and on behalf of states.

Telecommunications (Security) Bill

This will give the government new powers to boost the security standards of the UK’s telecoms networks, ensure their long-term security and resilience and minimise the threat of “high risk vendors”.

Draft Online Safety Bill

Ministers say this “will make the UK the safest place in the world to be online” whilst simultaneously protecting freedom of expression. They will introduce “ground-breaking laws to keep people safe online” and build public trust by making companies more responsible for their users, and designate Ofcom as the independent online safety regulator.

Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill

This will ensure leaseholders of new, long residential leases cannot be charged a financial ground rent for no tangible service. Instead these will be set in law as a ‘peppercorn rent’ level (the legal term), meaning nothing more than a literal peppercorn can be sought from leaseholders, and fines of up to £5,000 for freeholders who try and charge for ground rent.

Building Safety Bill

The long-awaited bill off the back of the Grenfell Tower disaster will strengthen the regulatory system for building safety, change industry culture and introduce rigorous standards by establishing the Building Safety Regulator and implementing the recommendations made in the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt.

There will be a new stringent regime for buildings of 18 metres or seven storeys or more, a system of Accountable Persons and Dutyholders to make and keep a building safe, a new homes ombudsman and simplifying the complaints process, and most importantly make “provisions to support the removal of unsafe cladding”, though campaigners say the moves do not go far enough to protect tenants.

Dormant Assets Bill

This will expand the existing Dormant Assets Scheme into the insurance and pensions, investment and wealth management, and securities sectors, and potentially unlock around £880million of additional investment for social and environmental initiatives across the UK.

Charities Bill

This plans to address a range of issues in charity law “which hamper charities’ day to day activities” by implementing the majority of the recommendations in the Law Commission’s 2017 report ‘Technical Issues in Charity Law’.

Catch up plans

In the wake of the pandemic the government is seeking to help pupils catch up on lost education, get through the backlog in the courts and judicial system, and reduce waiting times for those who missed out on hospital treatment for diseases other than Covid-19.

Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill

This plans to ensure equal treatment for all members within each of the main public service pension schemes, after the courts ruled the government’s plan to allow those closest to retirement to remain in “final salary schemes” discriminated against younger members. It will also increase the mandatory retirement age for the judiciary and put judicial allowances on a firmer legal footing.

Environment Bill

This will set legally-binding environmental targets, restore nature and biodiversity, tackle air pollution, establish an independent Office for Environmental Protection, cut plastic use and revolutionise how we recycle. It will secure long-term, resilient water supplies and wastewater services, and ensure companies undertake due diligence to protect ecosystems such as the rainforest from illegal deforestation.

Animal Welfare Legislation

There are three pieces of legislation coming on this issue; the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, the Kept Animals Bill – which will end the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter, tackle livestock worrying, prevent the keeping of primates as pets, improve standards in zoos, crack down on puppy smuggling – and the Animals Abroad Bill which will ban the import of hunting trophies from endangered animals abroad and end the advertising of “low welfare experiences abroad”.

Armed Forces Bill

The Armed Forces Act 2006 will be renewed, including enshrining the Armed Forces Covenant in law, and continuing the programme of modernisation to make “them fit for the threats of a more competitive age and the opportunities of a Global Britain”. The government is also investing over £24billion more in defence in cash terms over the four years from 2021-22, and is pledging to implement the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.

Conversion therapy

The government has committed to “ban conversion therapy, ensuring abhorrent and coercive practices are prohibited”, but will disappoint those hoping the measure would come in shortly as they are launching another consultation to “hear from a wide range of voices on how best to protect people”.

Electoral Integrity Bill

One of the most controversial pieces of legislation in the speech, the government say the bill fulfils its “manifesto pledges to tackle electoral fraud, prevent foreign interference and to make it easier for British expats to participate in elections”. But the plans to make voter ID compulsory at polling stations has been widely criticised for potentially leading to vote suppression.

Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill

This is meant to “strengthen academic freedom in higher education in England”, and will include “ensuring that academic staff feel safe to question and test received wisdom and put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without being at risk of losing their jobs, privileges or promotion”. They will create a new role of Director for Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom at the Office for Students, with a remit to champion freedom of speech and academic freedom on campus, and responsibility for investigations of infringements of freedom of speech duties in higher education which may result in sanctions and individual redress. Individuals will also be able to seek compensation through the courts if they suffer loss as a result of breach of the freedom of speech duties.

Judicial Review Bill

This will “protect the judiciary from being drawn into political questions and preserve the integrity of Judicial Review for its intended purpose”.

Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill

This will repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, “reinstating the constitutional principle that the Government of the day has the confidence of Parliament and is able to seek a fresh democratic mandate when it is needed”, prompting speculation Johnson may look to call an early election before the next scheduled one in 2024.

Northern Ireland (Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concerns) Bill

This is meant to strengthen Northern Ireland’s institutions, making them more sustainable and resilient by implementing aspects of the New Decade, New Approach deal. These include reforms to the sustainability of the institutions, updating the Ministerial Code of Conduct and reforming the Petition of Concern mechanism.

Legacy Legislation

The government said they “will introduce legislation to address the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland”. But there is anger that no specific bill has been brought forward, with former veterans minister Johnny Mercer – who resigned over the issue last month – tweeting that his  successor promised legislation would be in the Queens Speech. “At some stage, we must fulfil our promises to our Veterans,” he added.

Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions

These plans “will stop public bodies from imposing their own approach or views via boycott, divestment or sanctions campaigns”, such as the one imposed against Israel. The government has argued this is “divisive behaviour that undermines community cohesion”, and there are “concerns that such boycotts may legitimise anti-Semitism”.

Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 26 April

Alison Hernandez retains Police and Crime Commissioner role

(Despite being bitten by a dog whilst campaigning on election day)

Daniel Clark

Alison Hernandez has retained her role as the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly for the next three years.

The Conservative candidate was re-elected to the role with an increased majority on her 2016 win after counting on Monday.

Incumbent Hernandez was being challenged by Labour’s Gareth Derrick, the Liberal Democrats Brian Blake, and Stuart Jackson of the Green Party, and she came agonisingly close of a first round victory, scoring 49.97 per cent of the votes, just short of the 50 per cent required.

After the second round of voting, which concluded at 10.44pm, after counting for the first round started at 9.30am, she increased her majority to 65.2 per cent, up on the 51.1 per cent she won in 2016 with.

In her victory speech, she set out her stall for Devon and Cornwall to become the safest place in England and to get police officers back on the streets.

She said: “I am elated to get the opportunity for three more years. We have become the second lowest crime area since I came in to office and we want to get to number one, so I want to work with the communities to get there. We want to be so intolerant and create an environment so hostile to crime we stay at number one as well.

“We have to get the officers on the street. We have 317 of the 498 recruited and we want to get them out on the street and on foot patrol and the community needs to see that visibility and that investment on the streets where they live.

“We have had a promise from Government for more than the 498 coming so we have to make sure we get our fair share of that and we will do all we can to ensure we have a sustainable budget, so I am confident that we will be fine.”

She added: “The biggest thing is about reopening front desks and police stations. We already reopened Newquay last year, Tiverton is next in Devon, but I think a few stations in Cornwall are keen to see reopen again, with Penzance particularly and a few others waiting to see if there is support for them.

“Tiverton has a lot of community support and will reopen this year by the autumn and the next thing is to get those police on the street. Rural communities expect those police back on the streets and it will be the chief constable’s number one objective.”

And she continued: “I’ve got an ambitious plan to make us the safest place in the country – we’re already second but I want to get to number one. I need the community’s help to do that and you’ve started that journey this evening by voting for me and I want to thank everyone who took their time to go to the polling station.

“I am looking forward to addressing the community’s priorities and starting work on my next Police and Crime Plan. As we emerge from the pandemic I am heartened by the resilience that our communities have shown and how well Devon and Cornwall Police have engaged with the public, and I intend to build on this approach over the next three years.”

In the first round of vote, Hernandez received 247,173 votes (49.97 per cent), with Derrick on 99,894 (20.2 per cent), Blake on 88,318 (17.8 per cent) and Jackson on 59,242 (11.9 per cent).

Vote share for the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats was up on 2016, with Labour slipping back, while the Greens didn’t stand last time.

After the second round of voting, Hernandez had 275,217 votes (65.2 per cent), compared to Derrick’s 146,979.

Turnout was up on 2016 – 36.7 per cent compared to 22.1 per cent – although slightly impacted by the fact there were only elections in Exeter and Plymouth taking place at the same time five years ago.

The elections were due to take place in May 2020, but were postponed for a year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning that Ms Hernandez will only serve a three year term to return to the usual electoral cycle.