The owl returns …..


Shining a light into the darkest corners of East Devon

Contact us at

“Nothing about us, without us, is for us”



Full information about voting:



see Independent Councillor Claire Wright talking SENSE about OUR NHS!

NHS demo, London 3 February 2018

“Manchester council to publish files used to bypass affordable housing quotas”

“Manchester city council has voted to make public the secret documents used by developers to bypass affordable housing quotas.

Analysis by the Guardian earlier this month showed that developers behind almost 15,000 new homes given the green light by the council’s planning committee in the past two years all managed to avoid including any affordable housing in their developments.

In many cases, developers submitted confidential viability assessments to successfully argue that their projects would not go ahead if they were to offer even one flat for affordable rent or sale. Just 65 of the 14,667 units analysed by the Guardian made any concessions to affordability, being pitched as shared ownership properties.

Over the past year councillors on Manchester city council’s planning committee have become increasingly frustrated that they are being asked to approve huge new developments – some containing 1,500 market-rate, luxury apartments – without being able to scrutinise the viability assessments.

‘We said it wasn’t acceptable’: how Bristol is standing up to developers
On Wednesday councillors voted to require viability assessments for developments of more than 15 units where less than 20% of the development is affordable housing as part of the planning process and for these to be public.

After the unanimous vote, all information submitted for the documents (including commercially sensitive information) will also now be made available to members of the planning committee and other relevant members of the council in advance of determination of the planning decision.

The motion read: “This council notes that developers have often used viability assessments to avoid their obligations to provide affordable housing and where this happens, it can damage public confidence in the planning process. Labour councils in Greenwich, Bristol and Lambeth have improved transparency by making their viability assessments public. “This council believes that the developers who make money from building in our city have an obligation to make a fair contribution to providing affordable housing.”

Last November Bristol became the latest city to force developers to be transparent by publishing viability assessments. Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, believes that it sends a signal to developers: “We’re a great city to do business in – but we want the right kind of money.”

DEFRA not fit for purpose on countryside policies and issues

“The UK government is failing rural communities and the natural environment, a report says.

The Lords Select Committee document says there should be radical change in how the countryside is looked after.

It recommends stripping the environment department Defra of its power to regulate on rural affairs, and reforming the Countryside Code.
The Lords said Defra had focused too much on farming and agriculture, rather than other aspects of rural life.

The report describes a “consistent failure, over a number of years, to prioritise the ‘rural affairs’ element” of the remit of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

All this, it says, has had a “profound negative impact … to the cost of us all”.

The Select Committee on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 recommends that responsibility for rural affairs should transfer to the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government.

According to the report, the body responsible for conserving the natural environment and promoting public access to the land, Natural England (NE), has been “hollowed out” and is now largely ineffective.

The report’s chairman, Lord Cameron of Dillington, said: “The last major research was done by the Commission for Social Mobility last year, and it said some of the worst spots for deprivation and intergenerational poverty exists in rural England.

“That it’s as bad as if not worse than our inner cities. We feel they have been neglected by government, that Defra is not doing a good job and that changes need to be made.”

Budgets slashed

Severe budget cuts and the abolition of the Rural Communities Policy Unit means that NE no longer has the budget or power to effectively and independently regulate government policy. It also means that not enough is being done to promote responsible access to the countryside.
Taking advice from the National Farmers Union, it says that the Countryside Code should be re-launched, so more people are aware of how to properly enjoy rural areas. …”

So, what difference has our Police and Crime Commissioner made to policing in Devon?

“Devon and Cornwall Police needs to improve at keeping people safe and reducing crime, an official watchdog has ruled.

The force was given the rating of ‘requires improvement’ in its annual report from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

In particular, it received poor grades in two key areas – investigating crime and preventing reoffending and protecting vulnerable people.

The findings come with inspectors raising “major concerns” over the stress police forces across the country are under, with “cracks beginning to show” due to budget cuts.

For 2017, Devon and Cornwall Police received a ‘good’ grade for tackling serious and organised crime, and for preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour.

But it received a ‘requires improvement’ grade for both investigating crime and protecting vulnerable people.

That meant the force received an overall grade of ‘requires improvement’ this year.

The report showed that recorded crime in Devon and Cornwall was up 17 per cent for the 12 months to June 2017 compared with the 12 months to June 2016.

This is compared to a national rise of 14 per cent.

Although Devon and Cornwall Police was seen to have made progress in some areas since 2016, its performance in other areas has deteriorated.

Inspectors found that the force needs to provide better support to officers and staff investigating crimes with vulnerable victims.

It also needs to improve its understanding of the way it protects some victims of domestic abuse.

Similarly, the force requires improvement in some aspects of investigating crime and reducing re-offending, as while victims generally receive a good service, rising demand has undermined the quality of some subsequent investigations. …

In total, 12 of the 43 police forces are considered to require improvement overall – including Devon and Cornwall – although none were seen to be inadequate. …

Performance is still below standard in nearly half of all forces. …”

Campaigners in Huddersfield win right to judicial review of hospital closure

Campaigners against a hospital closure in Huddersfield have been granted a judicial review hearing of the decision.

Hands Off Huddersfield Royal Infirmary said plans from Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust would see the town’s hospital demolished but not replaced.

Its chair Mike Forster said the grounds for judicial review would be flaws in the consultation, inadequate travel and transport provision to alternative hospitals, lack of community care provision and potential breach of the law on equalities.

The campaign group originally applied to the High Court in November.
Forster said: “We would like to thank the people of Huddersfield who have made this legal breakthrough possible through your long standing support.
“To those who told us this was a done deal, you were wrong. If you stand and fight, you can win. This is a huge hurdle we’ve passed but the fight goes on.”

The trust did not respond to a request for comment, but its chair Andrew Haigh told the BBC: “We note the judge’s findings today and we will continue to work with our healthcare partners, local communities, scrutiny and campaign groups.”

“WHY WE CANNOT ACCEPT THE INTEGRATED CARE SYSTEM, by the Councillor who first exposed the CCGs’ plans”


“I am the County Councillor who first put the ICS (Integrated Care System) on the Council’s agenda, at the last Health Scrutiny in late January. This is what has led to the item at today’s meeting. Then, the CCGs and the Council’s leadership had failed to bring the proposals to Council ​- ​although they had been agreed since September. ​They did not want debate on the proposals in the Council – still less for the public to know what is planned.​

I shall be telling Health Scrutiny [Committee, meeting today] that even now, despite having 6 months to produce proper information, they still haven’t revealed some of the most ​worrying aspects of the ICS:

funding of services in the new system, how contracts will work, and whether these will lead to privatisation

details of the proposed Local Care Partnerships for N, S, E & W Devon and for Mental Health which are key to the system, and how they will be funded/contracted

the governance of the system – as things stand, Devon County Council could be handing over control of its social care services to unelected quangos (the CCGs)​​

plans for public engagement – the Cabinet paper says this is necessary but there are no proposals.

However, we do know there will be equalisation of funding between Eastern and Western Devon. Because the CCGs say Western Devon is relatively underfunded, this means deeper cuts in Eastern Devon – probably including closures of community hospitals. Scrutiny should reject this ‘equality of misery’.

On governance, I support the proposals of Cllr Hilary Ackland that if integrated commissioning in the ICS is to go ahead, a reformed Health and Wellbeing Board with proper all-party representation should become the integrated commissioning board. Democratic control is not an optional extra.

Devon County Council cannot support these proposals as they stand. Without full answers to our questions, Health Scrutiny should call in the plans.

I should be happy to talk to (journalists) today​. I shall be with the Save Our Hospital protestors ​outside County Hall ​between 12.30 and 1​ or you can phone me on ​07972 760254.

Martin Shaw
Independent East Devon Alliance County Councillor for Seaton & Colyton”

“Tory donors among investors in Cambridge Analytica parent firm”

“Conservative party donors are among the investors in the company that spawned the election consultancy at the centre of a storm about use of data from Facebook.

Filings for SCL Group, which is at the top of a web of companies linked to Cambridge Analytica, show that since its conception in 2005 its shareholders and officers have included a wine millionaire who has given more than £700,000 to the party, a former Conservative MP, and a peer who was a business minister under David Cameron. …

From its outset as a UK-registered company, SCL Group had investors from the upper echelons of British life. Lord Marland, a successful businessman who became a minister in 2010, held shares personally and through two related investment vehicles, Herriot Limited and a family trust. …

Sir Geoffrey Pattie, a former Conservative defence and industry minister, took a key role in the company for its first three years. In a Guardian article from 2005 he is described fronting the company’s stand – which is “more Orwell than 007” – at a defence show in London. Pattie is shown to have resigned as a director in 2008.

One of Marland’s fellow investors, and the person now registered as having “significant control” over SCL Group, is a Conservative party donor called Roger Gabb.

Gabb, who introduced the Volvic water brand to the UK then went on to make millions selling wines including the Kumala label, now owns more than 25% of the company. At its formation he was named as a shareholder, as was the Glendower Settlement Trust which is linked to him and his wife.

Gabb has given £707,000 to the Tories since 2004, making contributions to the main party and his local Ludlow branch. In 2006 he gave £500,000 to the party, making him one of its largest donors at the time.

He was also a campaigner for Brexit, signing letters on behalf of the campaign as a director of Bibendum Wine, and placing an advert in local newspapers. In October 2016 he was fined £1,000 by the Electoral Commission for failing to include his name and address in the advert.

The property tycoon Vincent Tchenguiz was also a shareholder via his company Consensus Business Group. Tchenguiz donated £21,500 to the Conservatives between 2009 and 2010.

For eight years from 2005 Consensus Business Group held just under a quarter of the shares in SCL, which was valued at around £4m at the time of the investment.

The firm said it had no role in the running of the company, and had sold off its stake in 2013. It appears that it received around £150,000 for the shares.

Julian Wheatland, a close associate of Tchenguiz, was involved with SCL Group from the beginning, and is still a director at the company.

The other main players at SCL Group are Nigel Oakes, an old Etonian from a military family – his father is Maj John Waddington Oakes – and a former boyfriend of Lady Helen Windsor. Oakes had previously set up a company called Behavioural Dynamics which made many similar claims to SCL about its ability to influence voters. In 2000, it worked for the Indonesian president, reportedly without great success.

Nix, a fellow old Etonian, is reported to have joined Oakes at an earlier incarnation of SCL in 2003. Companies House data shows he is linked to 10 firms, which all appear to be linked in some way.

On Wednesday, the Scottish National party’s leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, asked May about her party’s links with SCL, which he said “go on and on”.

“Its founding chairman was a former Conservative MP. A director appears to have donated over £700,000 to the Tory party. A former Conservative party treasurer is a shareholder,” he said. …”

“Court of Appeal backs decision to put neighbourhood plan to referendum”

“Leeds City Council did not act unlawfully when it put a neighbourhood plan to a referendum after modifications had been made that partly differed from those recommended by the examiner, the Court of Appeal has said.

Kebbell Developments had challenged the council’s decision to allow the Linton neighbourhood plan to proceed to a referendum before its adoption under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

A 4.5 hectares site called The Ridge was not owned by Kebbell but it has applied for planning permission to build 26 homes there. The plan as drawn up would designate the site as unsuitable for development.

When the case first went to court Kerr J concluded Leeds had not dealt with the examiner’s recommendations unlawfully.

The appeal had to decide whether the council acted outside its powers in departing from the examiner’s recommendations when modifying the plan in relation to The Ridge, whether it failed to give sufficient reasons for its modifications, and whether it should have consulted on these.

Giving the lead judgment in Kebbell Developments Ltd v Leeds City Council [2018] EWCA Civ 450, Lindblom LJ said the modification was one the council was able to make in exercising its statutory powers.

“The modification was comfortably within the ambit of the local planning authority’s statutory power to modify a neighbourhood plan before putting it to a referendum,” he said.

The judge added: “The city council was entitled to conclude that the modification was effective both in securing compliance with the ‘basic conditions’ and in achieving internal consistency in the neighbourhood plan. There was no breach of the statutory procedure.”

He said the council’s reason for its actions could not “be regarded as unclear or inadequate”.

The procedure for post-examination representations on a neighbourhood plan was “tightly defined [and] the circumstances in which a local planning authority will be required to consult in accordance with it are limited to the particular circumstances referred to”, which did not fit with Kebbell’s case concerning The Ridge, the judge noted.”