The owl returns …..


Shining a light into the darkest corners of East Devon

Contact us at





Seats now available on coach to NHS RALLY in London Sat. 4th March, 2017.
Cost £25 per person, return. Special rates for students, and others on low income.
Pickup points:
6.30 a.m. Sidmouth, seafront by Bedford Hotel
6.45 a.m. Sidford, Green Close bus stop
7.00 a.m. Newton Poppleford, bus stop stop by church.
7.15 a.m. Ottery St Mary church.
7.30 a.m. Honiton , Smileys cafe.
Return journey: Depart London approx 5 pm, arriving home approx 10-10.30 pm.
To reserve a seat, e-mail
Early booking advisable. Not restricted to EDA members.
-by BACS transfer, quote ref NHS coach, Account No 00060156, Sort Code 40-52-40
-by cheque, payable to Old Meeting Unitarian Chapel, Sidmouth, posted to 2 Glenisla Terrace Sidmouth EX10 8BP
-or in cash, on the coach
Let’s show that East Devon cares about the NHS.



Oh dear, Swire really doesn’t like the Lib Dems – surprise! Real Tories don’t eat tofu!

Atticus column, Sunday Times, page 21:

“Not every Conservative felt as comfortable in coalition as David Cameron. Former Foreign Office minister [Sir – Owl refuses to recognise croney titles] Hugo Swire, interviewed by the Institute of Government, explains the advantages of winning a majority in 2015: “We didn’t have to listen to the Lib Dems whingeing on about compulsory sandals or tofu for lunch or whatever.” Is that quite the spirit?”

Owl says: stereotyping, puerile and arrogant. Nothing new there then.

“Tory Councillor ferried in from France to vote for cuts”

“Despite living in France, Eve Barisic, Conservative Devon County Councillor for Newton Abbot North, managed to make it to County Hall… to help scrap school crossing patrols – including one in her own division.

It’s not that often that Eve does make it over The Channel, and in fact she missed the meeting about changes to Devon’s children’s centres – including one in her own division.

Of course, living in a different country (let alone county) to her constituency and not turning up to meetings hasn’t stopped her picking up the £10,000 that goes with the role.

But staying in her county councillor position also means that she can be rolled out to vote for cuts. Not least because the rest of her Tory chums have kept quiet about how poor her behaviour in the role has been.

You’d think that the MP would have said something, but Newton Abbot’s Anne Marie Morris is not about to throw stones about being an effective politician, now is she?

So the lollipop people are scrapped, Devon faces cuts to services and an increase in Council Tax and Eve trundles back to France.

(There was a rumour that Eve would be standing for election again in May – we tweeted her the question in December 2015, but still haven’t heard back. We’ll let you know what we find out.)”


Business rates row intensifies

“Ministers try to defuse business rates row

Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is examining ways of making the scheme fairer after widespread outrage at the first rates overhaul in seven years, which will come into effect in April.

Small businesses face huge increases while some of the biggest companies in Britain — including Amazon and large supermarkets — will benefit from rate cuts on some of their properties.

The chancellor will be looking at ways of ensuring things can be done a little fairer
Senior government sources insisted they would stick with the revaluation but conceded that more might need to be done to ease the pain.

Hammond is understood to be examining ways of preventing a “cliff edge” increase after business groups signed a letter demanding changes. But he is reluctant to pour more money into a fund to help those worst hit.

A senior government source said: “The chancellor has paid very close attention to the way this has played out over the last week. If you take money for this, it comes away from other things. The system has been fixed to ensure there are far more winners than losers.

“However, the chancellor is attuned to this and will be looking at ways of ensuring that things can be done a little fairer”. He will want to prevent “heavy-handed” implementation of the revaluation so as to ensure “the system never has a cliff edge like this ever again”.

The shift came as Grant Shapps, the former local government minister, said ministers should “quietly drop” the planned revaluation. He said he was “concerned” that the changes “may undo progress” on reviving Britain’s high streets. “Might be better not to revaluate BizRates,” he tweeted, adding that he would “need convincing transition plans will help”.

Shapps’s intervention came as the chief executive of Sainsbury’s waded into the row, calling for “fundamental reforms”. Mike Coupe described the current setup as “archaic” and called for a “level playing field”. He said: “The way it currently stands, there is an advantage for those without bricks-and-mortar operations so there’s a strong case for a level playing field in business rates and taxation generally.”

The Sunday Times has established that large supermarkets are to benefit from business rate cuts of up to 25% on their out-of-town stores while nearby struggling high streets are to be “hammered”.

Reporters analysed the top 20 towns being hit by the biggest rise in business rates, compared with the changes in rates at the local out-of-town supermarket.

Thirteen out of the 20 supermarkets were set for business rate cuts, five were having no changes and two faced higher rates.

Traders in Southwold, Suffolk, say the “rateable value” of their properties — which is used to calculate business rates — has risen by 177%. By contrast the nearest Tesco superstore — a 30-minute drive away in Lowestoft — has had its rateable value cut by 7%.

Rebecca Bishop, owner of the Two Magpies Bakery, who is facing an increase in her rates from £2,000 to £11,883, said: “The government is encouraging the growth of online retailing and out- of-town shopping and killing the high street.”

The fall in business rates for supermarkets in the 20 towns worst hit by the increases — including Cobham in Surrey, Padstow in Cornwall and Crowthorne in Berkshire — is reflected across the country.

The Valuation Office Agency is updating the rateable value of business properties on April 1 this year. The last time they were all valued was in 2010.

The rates rises have triggered a political storm with more than 500,000 traders facing increases.

The annual rates are calculated by multiplying the rateable value by a figure set by the government, which is up to 47.9p for 2017-18. There is also transitional relief to limit the sudden changes in bills.

Supermarkets are enjoying a rates cut because the rental values of their out-of-town stores has fallen.

Analysis by CVS, a business rates specialist, has found that the rateable values for 2,172 supermarkets in 2017 is £2.76bn compared with £2.93bn in 2010. The average superstore will see its rateable value fall by 5.9% or £79,368.

Sainbury’s said this weekend, however, that it expected its rates bill to rise from £483m to £500m.

CVS said it would “stick in the throat” of many small businesses trying to keep their “heads above water” while the warehouses of large online retailers such as Amazon and various superstores were getting business rates cuts.

It added that the government had said in 2015 that it would conduct a structural review of business rates but this was never delivered.

Mark Rigby, chief executive of CVS, said: “April will serve a hammer blow to small shops and the consideration should now be to ensure that they are in fact paying fair and accurate rates.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government said most businesses will either not see their rates rise, or will enjoy a fall.

It added that 520,000 ratepayers will see their bills increase, 920,000 will see them drop and 420,000 will see no change.”

Sunday Times, 19th Feb 17 (paywall)

“Support for public ownership” – greater than Brexit


57% want councils to be allowed to set up new public bus companies – 22% oppose this (Survation, 2016)
46% want more public ownership of buses – 11% want more private ownership (Survation, 2016)


68% want public ownership (YouGov, 2013)

84% want public ownership (YouGov, 2013)
65% of the public would not feel comfortable using GP services provided by a private company like Atos, Capita, G4S or Serco (Survation, 2014)
74% want hospitals in public ownership (YouGov, 2015)

70% of the public want public ownership (Survation, 2016)
75% believe councils should have a statutory duty to protect public parks (Survation, 2016)

62% want prisons in public ownership (YouGov, 2015)
28% of people think it is appropriate for private companies to run prisons
25% think it is appropriate for private companies to provide court services (Survation, 2014)

66% want public ownership (YouGov, 2013)
59% want public ownership of Network Rail (Survation, 2015)
20% were in favour of reprivatising the East Coast line (Survation, 2013)

71% want public ownership (Sunday Express, 2012)

Public assets
49% want the Green Investment Bank in public ownership
20% want it to be privatisated (Survation, 2015)
70% want the Land Registry in public ownership (Survation, 2015)
60% want National Air Traffic Services in public ownership (Survation, 2015)
64% want the student loan book to be in public ownership (Survation, 2015)
67% want the Royal Mail in public ownership (YouGov, 2013)

In-house services
61% of the public think that local and central government should try to run services in-house first – before outsourcing (Survation, 2015)
50% are against the current outsourcing trend and want more public services run in-house, 22% want more outsourcing (Survation, 2015)
80% believe that when a public service is put out to tender, there should always be an in-house bid (Survation, 2013)

73% of the public think they should be consulted before any outsourcing decisions (Survation, 2015)
68% believe they need a legal right to consultation and information on outsourcing (Survation, 2015)
88% support a right to recall private companies when they do a bad job of running public services (Survation, 2013)
54% think the public sector is more accountable than the private sector (Survation, 2013)

67% think that public service contracts and performance data of private companies should be publicly available (Survation, 2015)
60% think Freedom of Information laws should apply to private companies running public services (YouGov, 2016)
48% (mistakenly) believe private contractors are legally obliged to respond to Freedom of Information requests (Survation, 2013)

Outsourcing companies
64% distrust outsourcing companies
21% trust outsourcing companies – compared to NHS (79%), the police (65%) and the armed forces (79%) (Survation, 2014)
69% of the public think Atos, Capita, G4S, Serco are motivated by maximising profit
38% think this should be important (Survation, 2014)
80% think providing the best service to the public should motivate Atos, Capita, G4S and Serco
22% of the public think this is the case (Survation, 2014)
59% think more regulation of private companies running public services is needed
16% think there is adequate regulation already (Survation, 2014)
58% believe G4S and Serco should be banned from all government contracts if found guilty of fraud (Survation, 2013)

Developments outside village built-up boundaries since 2010 – all 17 pages of them

The result of a recent Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council:

Do our councils have plans for the effect of increased business rates on small businesses?

“Tory ministers were so concerned about the impact of business rates on the high street that they were planning extra financial support before the election, The Telegraph has learned, but the plans were later abandoned.

The Communities Department is understood to have grown worried that retailers were getting “completely clobbered” under the current business rates formula and worked with the Treasury to better protect the sector.

Plans were developed throughout 2014 and a review published before the 2015 election, but a Tory victory and a reshuffle saw the changes never adopted, with more modest reforms adopted instead.

The revelation that recent senior Conservative politicians were ready to act to protect the high street will fuel calls for Theresa May’s government to help those worst affected by an upcoming rates change.

For the first time in seven years business rates are being updated in line with property prices this April, leaving some firms facing increases of up to 400 per cent.

Small business owners have warned they face being driven out of business by the change, but government figures say the majority of firms will see no increase in their rates.” …

2+ 2 equals … er … run that past me again … a tale of big fleas and little fleas

“Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have smaller fleas, and so ad infinitum”


EDDC sets its housing targets in its Local Plan, paying consultants to come up with numbers they like, and the government agrees them (though note these are MINIMUM targets).

“Greater Exeter” is created (with no public consultation) and says: “Ah, but WE need even more houses for this bigger area to service the city, so you, East Devon will have to find more places to put them”.

The Local Enterprise Partnership says: “Ah, but we need even more houses for our (unsustainable)”economic growth” targets so Greater Exeter and East Devon – you will have to find even more space for even more houses.

The Government says: “It still isn’t enough – all of you will have to find MUCH more space or we won’t give you any money.

Developers say: “Stuff you all, we are laughing all the way to the bank as we dribble out new builds, get massive prices for them and create a market shortage. And if you meddle with us we will stop donating to Tory party funds.

And they all lived happily ever after:

– the district councillors drawing their allowances and officers drawing good salaries and hob-nobbing with developers keen to influence them;

– the Greater Exeter elite group of councillors and officers who are even more influential with the developers;

– the LEP who ARE the developers;

– the government whose coffers swell with donations from developers

– all except the hundreds of thousands of poor beggars who couldn’t afford to buy their own homes and who now can’t afford to rent them either.

Proper job!