Is it time the West Country had its own party!

Is the West Country being best served by either Conservative or Labour or Liberal Democrat national parties? Should we be following the SNP by attempting to look after ourselves after being overlooked and penalised in just about every major area of life?

A correspondent writes:

The decision was taken by the NHS CCG last Thursday to axe beds from both Ottery and Axminster hospitals, together with the minor injuries units at Seaton and Sidmouth.

An article in The Times in June 2015[1] reports that ‘patients in the countryside are left at a “severe disadvantage” by an NHS funding system that is skewed towards cities.’ It further states, ‘There’s diminishing availability of district nurses not because there are fewer of them but because they can do less if they travel further.’

Perhaps a report[2] by The King’s Fund, April 2013, entitled “Improving the allocation of health resources in England” can throw some light on the matter.

1. Oxford and London are “relatively over-funded compared with the rest of England”.

2. ‘In the mid-1990s, a decision was taken not to apply an updated weighting for need across all services, in particular not applying it to community health services.’

3. ‘The materially more significant political motivation is that all political parties have abided by the unwritten rule that no area should receive a real-terms cut in NHS funding as a result of resource allocation decisions. The political fallout from this would be immense and no party has had the courage to take such decisions.’


Another important area where Devon receives insufficient funding relates to education. An article in the Western Morning News (WMN) of 13th March 2014, was headed ‘Westcountry schools get £23m extra next year to tackle under-funding.[3]

‘Education Minister and Somerset MP David Laws announces the money, available for 2015/16 was the “biggest step towards fairer schools funding in a decade”.’ The article later states, ‘The hand-out will act as a “bridge” until a new formula is developed to be introduced after the election in 2016, Mr Laws said.’

‘The South West in particular has been a long-standing loser. Devon sits sixth from bottom in a national league table of 150 education authorities in terms of funding.’

Rail Transport

This year, the WMN reported[4] (6th January 2015) ‘Trains serving the Westcountry are the oldest of any inter-city fleet in the country, figures have revealed against claims of massive under-investment in the region’s railways.’

‘Since the collapse of the rail line at Dawlish, critics have pointed to the chronic lack of rail investment in the South West. There has been growing criticism the response has been too feeble, with the promise of a review into an additional Dartmoor line the only clear pledge to date.’


Finally, an article this week in the WMN of 20th July 2015[5] entitled ‘Scandalous divide between police funding’ states ‘Police in Devon and Cornwall receive less than half the funding per person enjoyed by forces in the capital, new figures reveal, as politicians continue their campaign for fair funding of rural services.’

‘Mr Hogg said these numbers revealed “the in-built metropolitan bias” of the current funding system.’

“The information that my office researchers have uncovered is scandalous. It is no wonder that policing is so stretched in Devon and Cornwall when Government funding is so unfair,” he said.’

Anyone else spot a trend here? The Westcountry and Devon in particular have been systematically denied adequate funding.

Now the government has announced a further round of swingeing cuts. How are they to be meted out? As our region has suffered historically from unfair funding formulas, just how does the government intend to implement these cuts in Devon?

The questions to ask are:

1) Why has our region been denied adequate funding in so many areas for so long?

2) When will Devon receive its fair share?

For example, if only the NHS in Devon had received proper funding, would the CCG have decided to axe beds or MIUs in local hospitals?



Anyone got £30 to spare for a good cause?

Sidmothian Jeremy Woodward (who began the Freedom if Information process that East Devon District Council lost in court about secret relocation meetings and papers) is, as of this moment, only £30 away from raising the £660 needed to begin another challenge to EDDC.

This time it is about appropriation of Knowle parkland to enable developers of luxury retirement homes to have a larger outside space.

Anyone who thinks this is a good cause is urged to donate the remaining amount. As mentioned before – this is NOT just about Sidmouth. This is about EDDC favouring developers over its own citizens and could happen anywhere in the district where EDDC own land.

Skypark delivery company will add only 127 new jobs

The rest are relocating from the current Sowton depot:

Not quite the thousands of jobs Skypark was expected to attract. The ambulance centre also relocated which just leaves the E.ON energy centre as the only new employment on the site.

One can see why EDDC were so keen to help the developers of the part-EDDC owned site by moving there. Indeed if the supermarket at Honiton had not been cancelled no doubt they would have been making their plans for a move to the edge of Exeter. So convenient for the Rugby World Cup!

Neil Parish to campaign to keep Axminster hospital open

Now, where is the same sort of letter from Hugo Swire about Ottery? Not just the anodyne phrases he has trotted out so far – some real fighting words.

He will say that, as a Minister, he cannot bring this up in Parliament. So why did people choose to vote for him?

Imagine what an Independent MP could have done, free from party shackles – including joining forces with Neil Parish to double exposure of the situation in Parliament.

It is all up to former parliamentary candidate and current DCC councillor Claire Wright now – and a great job she is doing.

The myth of “transparency”

“The manufacturers of controversial pesticides took part in a key meeting on whether a Europe-wide ban on their chemicals should be lifted in the UK, according to newly published documents. The record of the meeting of the UK government’s expert committee on pesticides (ECP) had previously been suppressed.

Neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used insecticide, have been linked to serious harm in bees, including a drastic reduction in queens, and were banned across the EU in 2013. Bees and other pollinators are essential for many crops but are in decline due to the impact of pesticides, loss of habitat and disease.”

EDDC helps out Clinton Devon Estates with pebblebed heath problem

… “The district council has taken out an injunction to prevent the unlawful residential development of a gypsy-owned plot in Hawkerland – which would have a ‘significant’ impact on the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

… The plot in Hawkerland has been monitored by council officers for a number of years, due to its untidy state and concerns raised by neighbouring residents.

The EDDC spokesman said it has long been contentious and the recent installation of a caravan shows the intention to occupy the site – contrary to the emerging Local Plan.

The injunction prevents the owner from using the land for residential purposes and forbids the development of the land without planning permission.

Possibly caused in no small part by not having a Gypsy and Travellers policy and site in the Local Plan, as its Inspector noted.

Still, it’s nice to see EDDC helping out a landowner:

Bid to raise Knowle legal challenge letter raising funds

As of this morning, 50% of the £660 needed to begin the process of a possible legal challenge to EDDC’s appropriation of parkland to extend the private grounds of the planned Pegasus Life luxury retirement complex has been raised:

This is not only a Sidmouth issue: this same land grab could happen anywhere in East Devon where a greedy developer fancies a slice of public land owned by EDDC.

Crowd funding for access to law to save Knowle Parkland

Sidmothians – and others who wish to save our historic parkland are being asked to contribute towards a fund of £660 to draft a pre-action protocol letter setting out the legal errors in the Council’s decision.

The specialist legal practice of Richard Buxton Environmental & Public Law has been recommended by campaigning group SAVE Britain’s Heritage to do this work.