The NEW owl has arrived …

EAST DEVON WATCH

2 February 2020

 

STOP PRESS

OWL DEPARTED … NEW OWL IS HERE

NEW LIGHT NOW SHINING ON THE DARKEST CORNERS OF EAST DEVON

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 eastdevon.owl@gmail.com

East Devon council offers support to Axminster Carpets staff

Following this week’s announcement that Axminster Carpets had entered administration, East Devon District Council has said it will be working with partner organisations to assist staff facing redundancy.

East Devon council offers support to Axminster Carpets staff

The historic carpet-making company, once one of the biggest employers in the area, entered administration on Wednesday with almost all of the remaining 90 staff members being made redundant.

The council is re-convening a support network, which will give staff the opportunity to access direct support, advice and guidance to help them through this difficult period.

East Devon is bringing together a group of relevant organisations, who will be available at the Axminster Job Club at Pippins, Lyme Road, Axminster on Thursday, February 27.

This session will be repeated over the following weeks as many times as is necessary to ensure that the needs of all redundant staff are met.

Affected staff will be offered the opportunity to come and speak one-to-one with representatives from organisations to find out about universal credit/benefits, council tax, options for retraining and skills development, finding alternative work, support for self-employment.

Organisations offering support will include the council itself, as well as Business Information Point, Job Centre Plus, Citizens Advice, the National Careers Service, Education + Training Skills, Learn Devon, Axminster Job Club, and Community (trade union).

The council wants to encourage all staff, including those unable to attend the event, to speak to the right people and organisations who will understand their individual situations and who are best placed to offer advice and valuable practical support.

Councillor Kevin Blakey, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for economy, said: “We are deeply saddened at the news of further redundancies at Axminster Carpets.

“East Devon District Council responded in October 2019 with a programme of support for employees affected by redundancy at that time. We are now working with a range of partner organisations to widen our support via a series of redundancy support events at Axminster Job Club for as long as the support is required.

“We recognise that finding alternative employment is a daunting task for those facing redundancy, but we are keen that the skills and expertise of the highly trained workforce are recognised by other prospective employers who undoubtedly can benefit from this pool of talent.”

View of the South West from influential Northern think-tank – “challenging”

Owls’ previous post  mentioned the IPPR ( Institute for Public Policy Research ) study on devolution. This is their view of the South West.

They use the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) definitions of regions.  In this definition the South West includes, not just the area of the Great South West, but Gloucestershire, Bristol, Bath, Swindon and Wiltshire.

https://www.ippr.org/files/2020-02/the-devolution-parliament-feb20.pdf  

(page 53)

The South West is perhaps the more challenging part of England to group together at scale. Cornwall has a very strong regional identity which is often overlooked by policymakers, and it is crucial that, in devolving power out of Westminster, this sense of identity is duly respected. That said, there is an economic case for grouping the South West together, due to the economy of scale and the resilience that comes with an area that is more socially and economically diverse.

Taken as a whole region, the South West would be home to 5.6 million people. With annual GVA of £139 billion, it would be the smallest English region, but it would have an economy twice the size of Wales. This region would unite the high-productivity city of Bristol, its affluent commuter belt, high-tech clusters, and universities with the rural Devon and Cornwall, with their natural assets and tourism economy. There are significant disparities in income and wealth between Cornwall and Gloucestershire for example; and there is currently a great deal of geographical fragmentation too. Bristol has been working closely with Cardiff recently in the Western Gateway project and such cooperation should be encouraged rather than impeded by any new governance structure in England.

However, all these factors could be better addressed by more cooperation within this region. The region could work at scale to reduce economic disparities and to enable better connectivity, and could also use devolved power to forge stronger partnerships across the Severn estuary. Given the strong economic case for working at a regional tier, this appears to be the best starting point for this part of England. However, economic arguments can only take policy so far, and identity must also be respected. The area may therefore benefit from a bespoke governance solution and more powers devolved to Cornwall than to subregional authorities elsewhere. 

Regions must be given new powers

Owl has been reporting on the very public way the new unelected, unaccountable, unrepresentative Great South West, chaired by Steve Hindley (Chair MIDAS Group) and previous Chair of HoTSW, has been pushing its prospectus for your future to Ministers (including Sajid Javid).

Under the headline “Regions must be given new powers” today’s Western Morning News gives a more balanced view from a Northern Think-tank.

Owl wonders whether Exeter University, whose representatives are claimed to contribute to HotSW, has produced a regional view as comprehensive and reflective as this? Are we letting the North seize the initiative?

Sophie Morris, Western Morning News 21 Feb 2020:

The Government must deliver a devolution Parliament and open the door to more devolved power across England, including the South West, to level up the country, a think-tank has said.

A report by IPPR North suggests almost half of England’s job increases in the last decade were in London or the South East and calls on the Government to implement a four-year programme that “puts power and resources into towns, cities and regions” across the country.

Greater powers should be given to mayors and local leaders and areas that already have devolution such as Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and London should be permitted to take on more, the research suggests.

The Local Government Association also urged the Government to publish its promised devolution white paper “as soon as possible’.

England has the worst regional inequalities in the developed world with 47% of the increase in jobs in the last 10 years occurring in London and the South East, despite the area being home to just a third of England’s population, the research shows. This Parliament must be the “devolution Parliament” to reduce divides both between England’s regions and between the people living within them, IPPR North said.

The think-tank’s proposals to bridge the gaps include giving additional power to mayors and local leaders over issues such as schools commissioning, job centres and some taxes and setting up a “new geography of regional collaboration” with four regions in the North, the Midlands, South East and South West led by council leaders and mayors.

Holding a “convention on devolution in England” to “set the direction of travel and empower citizens” is also recommended.

The report suggests that Germany, which spends twice as much locally or regionally on supporting their economies as a percentage of GDP, is “better placed to support economic prosperity’.

Senior Research Fellow at IPPR North, Luke Raikes, said: “For too long, Westminster has hoarded power and held back prosperity in all of England’s regions, including London.

“Levelling up should mean opening the door for all of England to benefit from devolution, while also letting areas that have devolution take on more.

“This Parliament must be the Devolution Parliament. It is time to overturn the centralisation that’s let towns, cities and regions fall into decline. The Government must give places the power and resources they need, to adapt to the decades of change that lie ahead.”

Responding to the report, Sir Richard Leese, chair of the Local Government Association’s City Regions Board, said: “There is clear and significant evidence that the country gets better value for money when decisions over investment and how to run local services are taken closer to communities and businesses.

“As this report shows, with the right powers and funding, devolution can lay the foundations for a more inclusive arid prosperous economy across the whole of England. Democratically-elected councils are best placed to support the Government in seizing the opportunities for growth in the years ahead. They also make a huge difference to their communities by building desperately-needed new homes, creating jobs and providing care for older and disabled people.

“We urge the Government to publish its promised Devolution White Paper as soon as possible, and to reignite the process of handing councils the freedom and resources they need to get on and deliver for their communities:’

Last year, Local Government Association chairman James Jamieson said of Conservative plans for a Devolution White Paper: “Taking decisions over how to run local services closer to where people live is key to improving them and saving money.

“There is clear and significant evidence that outcomes improve and the country gets better value for money when councils have the freedoms and funding to make local decisions!’

Low wages ‘driving young people out of Dorset – and may contribute to suicide rates’

Next door to us in Devon, East Devon District Council is discussing a poverty strategy that addresses issues of incomes, rent, rural isolation, debt and general well-being. So if you live in Honiton or Axminster the council is actively engaged in addressing your problems. If you live over the border in Lyme or Beaminster – or if you’re in Sherborne or Wyke or Swanage or Ferndown … bad luck!” Owl thinks this is the advantage of having a Council no longer dominated by Conservatives unlike the Dorset unitary authority.

www.dorsetecho.co.uk /news/18250506.low-wages-driving-young-people-dorset—may-contribute-suicide-rates/

Chronic low wages are not only driving Dorset’s young people out of the county to find work – but may also be contributing to suicide rates and poor health.

Professor Phil Marfleet says that while the incidents of people taking their own lives in rural Dorset increased by almost 40 per cent last year, in neighbouring Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch it reduced.

Some of the poorest and most deprived areas of the country are in South Dorset – which also has one of the lowest average household income figures.

Profesor Marfleet told Dorset Councillors at their February meeting in Dorchester: “chronically low wages are driving away our young people. Many of those who can leave – especially if they have appropriate qualifications – do leave, and don’t return. Among those who remain, job opportunities are depressed by employers who take advantage of the low-wage economy by violating the law on pay, contracts and in-work benefits. This is becoming a systemic problem, especially in South Dorset – and especially in leisure, hospitality, retail and the care sectors, which dominate the local economy.”

He said that in a few years the ratio of those in work in the area, compared to those who are economically inactive, will be 1:1 – a ratio which he says is not sustainable and will leave the county in deep trouble.

“Chronically low wages have their impact on local businesses – less to spend, less commercial income and more business failures. This is part of the syndrome which leads to a collapse in new business starts. Weymouth & Portland dominates the Dorset Council area demographically … but here, where wages are lowest, the number of new companies is a fraction of those established elsewhere in the county and in Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole.”

He says that other councils with similar problems have intervened – with Cornwall and Bristol guaranteeing the real living wage of £9.30 an hour to its lowest paid, compared to just 12 registered Living Wage employers across the whole of south and west Dorset.

“Next door to us in Devon, East Devon District Council is discussing a poverty strategy that addresses issues of incomes, rent, rural isolation, debt and general well-being. So if you live in Honiton or Axminster the council is actively engaged in addressing your problems. If you live over the border in Lyme or Beaminster – or if you’re in Sherborne or Wyke or Swanage or Ferndown … bad luck!”

He said that so far, despite Dorset Council setting up a panel to investigate, it had made no recommendations:  “Other local authorities are intervening directly to tackle wage poverty and social deprivation. Why is Dorset Council apparently unable to take the initiative? “

Fellow speaker Jenny Lennon-Wood said that one third of children now live in poverty in the Dorset Council area.

“Parents frequently go without food so that their children can eat. Even so, children often go to school hungry and, during school holidays, food banks do their best to make up for the loss of the main daily meal. Hungry children can’t get the best out of their education and impoverished parents can’t afford extras like school trips. So the one-third of Dorset’s children who live in poverty are doubly disadvantaged in the education system,” she said.

She also highlighted the area’s gender pay gap – at 29% compared to 8.9% nationally.

“This grim situation serves only to bring down the economy of the county as a whole,” she said.

Cabinet brief holder Cllr Gary Suttle says that work an economic growth report is expected by the council later in the spring.

“In the short-term the council is providing leadership to drive improvement and is working with partners to deliver interventions such as the work of the Careers Enterprise Company.  In tandem with the Careers Hub focussed on Weymouth & Portland this will raise aspirations amongst young people, develop linkages between schools and business, and identify appropriate pathways for progression.”

He said the other initiatives included special events in the coming months to raise awareness of careers in science, technology and maths subjects, and jobs in construction.

Cllr Suttle said that the impacts of equal pay and adopting minimum wages needed to be“fully appraised, and if considered appropriate could take significant time to deliver.”

 

One in 10 new homes in England built on land with high flood risk

Owl has previously chronicled EDDC’s planning decisions, irresponsible in Owl’s mind, to build in areas prone to flooding. Now that EDDC has a climate change strategy. No doubt that will be a thing of the past.

But wait – Owl finds a concern in the strategy that new planned development will have minimal environmental impact, good, but no mention of not building in flood risk areas. Opps!  As one might expect there is a lot of talk of the risk of flooding and the need for protection measures (and a lot of this will be paying for past mistakes).

This looks to Owl a strategy that isn’t entirely “joined up”.

www.theguardian.com /environment/2020/feb/19/one-in-ten-new-homes-in-england-built-on-land-with-high-flood-risk

Josh Halliday

(abridged)

One in 10 of all new homes in England since 2013 have been built on land at the highest risk of flooding, official figures reveal, potentially leaving tens of thousands of people in greater danger from extreme winter storms.

The number of properties built in these high-risk areas annually has more than doubled in recent years, with more than 84,000 new at-risk homes in total since 2013, according to a Guardian analysis of government data.

In the aftermath of the devastating Storms Ciara and Dennis, experts and council leaders have warned that residents are being left at risk in part due to the pressure on local authorities to build thousands of new homes despite a dearth of suitable sites.

Prof Robert Wilby, of the University of Loughborough, said the government should review its housebuilding target in light of the increasing risk from floods: “We’re compounding the existing risk by continuing to build on the floodplain. The more we’re paving over natural areas the more we’re making it easier for water to move across the land and enter rivers.”

The figures emerged on Wednesday……….

The government has promised to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s to help solve the UK’s chronic housing shortage. Data from the ministry of housing, communities and local government (MHCLG) shows that the number of new houses built on land at the highest risk of flooding has risen from 9,500 in 2013 to 20,000 in 2017-18, following a peak of nearly 24,000 the previous year…….

Wilby said the issue was one of several that needed to be examined by the government in light of storms Ciara and Dennis. He said ministers also needed to rethink contingency planning for widespread disasters like these – with multiple agencies with often overlapping roles on the ground – and ensure the regular maintenance of flood defences and drainage systems.

Another key issue is funding. Boris Johnson has committed to spending £4bn over the next five years on flood defence schemes. However, the Environment Agency and independent experts have said this is too little and that money needs to be committed way beyond 2025 so planners can mitigate future disasters.

“A greater level of investment would mean that we could prepare better for floods,” said Prof Hannah Cloke, of the University of Reading, who is helping the Environment Agency respond to the widespread damage caused by storms Ciara and Dennis.

She said that with more funding “people would not be at such great risk” and planners could make bold changes to cities and landscapes that at the moment “we just can’t do”. She added: “You can’t plan ahead to deal with climate change unless you have a sustainable funding source to take those big measures, to redesign cities and landscapes so we can design better for floods.”

Ministers have also been advised to place more emphasis on natural flood management, such as planting trees, building so-called “leaky dams” and capturing water upstream, as well as building more hard structures like flood barriers.

An MHCLG spokeswoman said: “Local authorities have a responsibility to assess the number of homes their communities need and our planning policy is clear that housing should be located in the areas at least risk of flooding.” 

She added that when development in a risk area was “absolutely necessary, sufficient measures should be taken to make sure homes are safe, resilient and protected from flooding”.

Surprising news – Developers are still landbanking

Councils say 1m homes given go-ahead but not yet built. LGA says stripping councils of planning powers not the answer to housing shortages

www.theguardian.com /society/2020/feb/20/councils-say-1m-homes-given-go-ahead-but-not-yet-built

Peter Walker

Councils have hit back at possible government moves to strip them of planning powers to speed up housebuilding by releasing analysis that shows more than a million so-far unbuilt homes have already been granted planning permission in the last decade.

The Local Government Association said its analysis found 2,564,600 units had been given planning permission since 2009-10 and 1,530,680 had been constructed. It said this showed councils were not the block to the government’s target of creating 300,000 new homes a year.

Robert Jenrick, the housing, communities and local government secretary, is reportedly considering taking planning powers away from councils in an attempt to speed up housebuilding. Ministers are due to produce a long-awaited white paper on shaking up the planning system in the next few months.

Last week the government announced that eight local councils in London, the south-east or east of England would lose some planning powers after failing to meet targets for completed new homes.

The LGA found that the number of granted planning permissions for new homes in England almost doubled between 2012-13 and 2018-19, from 198,800 to 361,800.

While the organisation acknowledges there is an inevitable time lag between permissions being granted and the homes being built, it notes that over the same period the number of newbuild completions has risen more slowly, from 118,540 to 213,860.

The LGA argues the figures show that rather than taking planning powers from councils, the white paper should consider other measures, notably allowing local authorities to build on land that has planning permission, for example by assisting compulsory purchase on such land, and allowing councils to charge full council tax on unbuilt developments.

It is also calling on the government to change the right to buy system, under which tenants can purchase local authority homes, by letting councils keep all the money from such sales to help them to replace them.

David Renard, the leader of Swindon council and the LGA’s housing spokesman, said: “The planning system is not a barrier to housebuilding. The number of homes granted planning permission has far outpaced the number of homes being built.

“No one can live in a planning permission, or a half-built house where work on a site has begun but not been completed. Councils need powers to tackle our housing backlog and step in where a site 

Councils say 1m homes given go-ahead but not yet built. LGA says stripping councils of planning powers not the answer to housing shortages

www.theguardian.com /society/2020/feb/20/councils-say-1m-homes-given-go-ahead-but-not-yet-built

Peter Walker

Councils have hit back at possible government moves to strip them of planning powers to speed up housebuilding by releasing analysis that shows more than a million so-far unbuilt homes have already been granted planning permission in the last decade.

The Local Government Association said its analysis found 2,564,600 units had been given planning permission since 2009-10 and 1,530,680 had been constructed. It said this showed councils were not the block to the government’s target of creating 300,000 new homes a year.

Robert Jenrick, the housing, communities and local government secretary, is reportedly considering taking planning powers away from councils in an attempt to speed up housebuilding. Ministers are due to produce a long-awaited white paper on shaking up the planning system in the next few months.

Last week the government announced that eight local councils in London, the south-east or east of England would lose some planning powers after failing to meet targets for completed new homes.

The LGA found that the number of granted planning permissions for new homes in England almost doubled between 2012-13 and 2018-19, from 198,800 to 361,800.

While the organisation acknowledges there is an inevitable time lag between permissions being granted and the homes being built, it notes that over the same period the number of newbuild completions has risen more slowly, from 118,540 to 213,860.

The LGA argues the figures show that rather than taking planning powers from councils, the white paper should consider other measures, notably allowing local authorities to build on land that has planning permission, for example by assisting compulsory purchase on such land, and allowing councils to charge full council tax on unbuilt developments.

It is also calling on the government to change the right to buy system, under which tenants can purchase local authority homes, by letting councils keep all the money from such sales to help them to replace them.

David Renard, the leader of Swindon council and the LGA’s housing spokesman, said: “The planning system is not a barrier to housebuilding. The number of homes granted planning permission has far outpaced the number of homes being built.

“No one can live in a planning permission, or a half-built house where work on a site has begun but not been completed. Councils need powers to tackle our housing backlog and step in where a site with planning permission lies dormant and housebuilding has stalled. If we are to solve our housing shortage, councils need to be able to get building again and resume their role as major builders of affordable homes.”