It’s official: Devon and Somerset councils plan to merge: whither EDDC’s new HQ?

“Councillors from across Devon and Somerset have agreed on a joint devolution bid to secure greater control over skills, growth and employment in the region.

The decision follows a summit of county, unitary and district council chiefs in Exeter today, which brought local authorities one step closer to a devolution deal for the region.

Current plans propose an organisation based on the boundaries of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), with a focus on economic development and job creation.

Commenting on the progress, Devon County Council leader John Hart said the level of agreement had been “very encouraging”.

“It’s important that we present a united front to the Government,” he said.

“I have always said that we can do things more effectively and more efficiently locally than being told what to do by London.

“The big themes we hope to focus on are on skills, economic growth and improving productivity, as well as infrastructure so we can ensure our road and rail network is more resilient than it has been in the past.

“Doing the very best for our older residents by coordinating health and social care and affordable homes for our young people are also key themes.”

The announcement follows the confirmation of a devolution offer for Cornwall last month – the first non-urban deal of its kind.

LEP chief executive Chris Garcia was at the meeting, along with leaders from Devon’s eight district councils and Torbay mayor Gordon Oliver.

Councillors have previously indicated a bid could involve a “double devolution” model, under which the counties and unitary authorities would receive powers from central government and pass them down – where appropriate – to districts.

There has also been discussion of “soft” boundaries which would enable different parts of the region to reach individual devolution deals while still collaborating with neighbouring authorities.

The next round of devolution applications are due for submission in September.”

http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Devon-Somerset-councillors-agree-joint-devolution/story-27648023-detail/story.html

Nicotinoid pesticides do cause bee decline

“… The UK government has always maintained that neonicotinoid pesticides do not threaten bees. It has laid the blame for high honeybee losses on the parasitic varroa mite which spreads viruses, and wet summers that prevent bees from foraging.

A European-wide two year ban on a number of pesticides linked to bee deaths came into force in December 2013. Last month, the UK government temporarily overturned the ban on two pesticides on about 5% of England’s oilseed rape crop …”.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/aug/20/pesticides-neonicotinoids-linked-bee-decline-first-time-large-scale-field-study

Enforced transparency rule cuts down positive medical trial results from 57% to 8%

“… A 1997 US law mandated the registry’s creation, requiring researchers from 2000 to record their trial methods and outcome measures before collecting data [on real patients]. The study found that in a sample of 55 large trials testing heart-disease treatments, 57% of those published before 2000 reported positive effects from the treatments. But that figure plunged to just 8% in studies that were conducted after 2000.

… Irvin says that by having to state their methods and measurements before starting their trial, researchers cannot then cherry-pick data to find an effect once the study is over. “It’s more difficult for investigators to selectively report some outcomes and exclude others,” she says.

Many online observers applauded the evident power of registration and transparency, including Novella, who wrote on his blog that all research involving humans should be registered before any data are collected. However, he says, this means that at least half of older, published clinical trials could be false positives. “Loose scientific methods are leading to a massive false positive bias in the literature,” he writes.”

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/15-year-old-transparency-effort-seems-to-curb-dubious-biomedical-findings/

No wonder this government doesn’t like transparency!

Would I Lie to You? I’m a Tory politician – what do you think!

” … Mr Osborne said he was “determined the way we’re going to govern this country will change.

The way of running our country has been too centralised for too long. We want to have local people in charge of local decisions,” he said. “We’ve made a start in big cities but we’ve also made a start in some of our most rural counties.

I don’t think there’s a single model – what works in Manchester is not going to be the same for what works in Devon ,” he added. “We have to wait for local people and elected representatives to come forward with their proposals.

But I’m really open to lots of exciting ideas. Power is going to be brought much closer to the people.”

http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Time-invest-West-chancellor-pledges-massive/story-27646399-detail/story.html

Yeah, yeah George – trouble is your Bullingdon Club mates don’t agree!

Former head of Federation of Small Businesses criticises lack of transparency in Whitehall

Yet more ammunition for those who do NOT believe that Freedom of Information requests are a waste of money and that the Freedom of Information Act is invaluable!

Today’s Western Morning News:

Ian Handford is a former national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses:

“Whitehall civil servants have always had a problem with transparency, writes Ian Handford. There is little doubt that Whitehall staff and not politicians dream up the majority of new ideas or, as the business community might say, new legislation resulting in more regulation.

Governments come and go as do our Members of Parliament but the process rarely sees civil servants moving on and particularly not the “mandarins”. Today’s most senior civil servant at Whitehall is Sir Jeremy Heywood who has suggested the idea of wanting to amend the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) .

He has stated he wished the FOI rules to be amended as the law was making his officials “less candid” when advising ministers on political issues. Earlier this year an ex-Tory was even quoted as having stated “Sir Jeremy has the Prime Minister by the privates” which seemed an interesting comment bearing in mind the PM’s own comment a few years before about the power of Whitehall.

Some years ago the Daily Mail unearthed an email from Whitehall boss Sir Andrew Cahn, the then head of the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) quango, in which he had instructed his staff “to invent ways of spending one million pounds of taxpayers’ money” so that he might protect his department’s 2011 budget. The evidence was so damaging the Prime Minister had observed – the Civil Service seemed not to have developed a mind set about saving money continuing. He believed there was a cultural problem in Whitehall. “Frankly, it’s a culture that needs to change and we are going to change it,” he said.

Fine words but in practice a mission to fail, as had previously been found under numerous past Prime Ministers – including Mrs Thatcher.

Why on earth we continue to allow Whitehall officials to become so adept at side-stepping important questions is hard to understand, as it results in less transparency and virtually no accountability, which undermines the democratic process. Most of us can recall the marvellous television series Yes Minister where Sir Humphrey portrayed what happens in the corridors of power. It was a situation I witnessed over a number of years while lobbying for the Federation of Small Businesses.

Whitehall mandarins managed to block the idea of a Foreign Affairs Select Committee being set up to look into the Iraq conflict for more than 13 months before finally in 2013 Sir Jeremy’s predecessor, Gus O’Donnell, having been called to give evidence announced “various memos were not disclosable”. It was then down to Sir Jeremy to act as arbitrator .

Sir Jeremy’s brilliance at Civil Service “speak” is unequalled as question after question drew answers like “our talent matrix” or “functional leaders” or when asked to explain his own involvement in a decision as “no greater than that laid down in a protocol governing the inquiry”.

When Parliament appoints a Select Committee or asks the National Audit Office (NAO) to investigate an issue, the purpose is not to embarrass anyone but to interrogate those who are accountable in the hope of achieving more transparency.

Unfortunately, neither occurs and you have to wonder how it is that state-paid civil servants gain such notoriety.

In the private sector if a proprietor gets something seriously wrong, they will likely lose everything, yet if a civil servant dreams up a bad idea or makes a wrong decision they are rarely named.

For a highly paid civil servant to imagine that any email can remain buried might seems incredible. Yet having dealt with these officials for more than 20 years I know how far removed they are from reality. Sir Andrew, when later asked to comment, was unrepentant saying he had done nothing wrong.

He said: “In Government you are criticised as much for not spending your budget as you are for overspending.” That was exactly the portrayal of Ministers that Sir Humphrey undertook in Yes, Minister.

Sir Andrew eventually did depart, although not before being awarded a reported package of a quarter of a million pounds and a pension pot of a £1 million. Meanwhile the Prime Minister may still be seeking to change attitudes in Whitehall although in my view this is unlikely to occur until Select Committees and the NAO are given political power over decisions.

Sir Jeremy, meanwhile, will continue his quest to amend the FOI, maybe in the hope his staff can be left unaccountable to anyone, while Parliamentary committees will continue to use the law to demand an attendance. A much harsher regime than embarrassment is needed if we are to convince taxpayers that real accountability and transparency is being achieved from those they employ.”

http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/harsher-regime-needed-mandarins-accountable/story-27646198
detail/story.html#ixzz3jN5vX5Kd

“Time for a political uprising?” asks Claire Wright

… The Independent Candidate who secured 13,000 votes at the last General Election:

http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/Comment-time-political-uprising/story-27646072-detail/story.html

And loved the comment underneath the web post:

KazzieLove1 | August 20 2015, 3:26PM
Can we have Claire’s commentary instead of Swire’s as a regular please E&E?

Another nail in EDDC’s “high growth” coffin

Shares and oil prices around the world have seen further falls, sparked by renewed fears over the health of the global economy.

In China, the authorities intervened again on the stock market to little effect. Shares in Shanghai fell 1.5%.
And in Washington, expectations of a US interest rate rise dimmed after Federal Reserve policymakers said the economy was not ready yet.

European markets in Paris and Frankfurt were down 1% in morning trade.

London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index shed 0.5%, while the price of Brent crude oil was down 1.1% at $46.66 a barrel. US crude was down 0.4% at $40.95. …”

The trouble is we residents who get buried, not our misguided (to put it VERY kindly) officers and councillors:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34003197

Mid-Devon opted for “sustainable growth”. Oh, how they must be chuckling now.

Plus, the policy of asset-stripping will look remarkably like a fire sale in a pound shop.

George Osborne’s “rural solutions”

Our summary: more houses and trying to persuade internet providers to connect mote rural areas.

Does it cut the mustard for rural communities: hhhmmm.

http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Chancellor-unveils-new-point-plan-unleash-rural/story-27639025-detail/story.html