“No place for councillors who are developers” – in Australia

In East Devon our majority Conservative council puts councillors who are also developers on our Development Management Committee …

Developers have no place on local councils [in Australia] and the Parliament must move to not only ban them from standing at the 2016 elections, but also legislate for a comprehensive audit of every time a developer has voted in their own self-interest as a result of the Coalition’s corruption-ready 2012 legal changes.

As the [Australian] Greens have said for well over a decade, there is an inherent conflict of interest in having councillors who are also local developers. The government is moving to repeal their legalised corruption laws of 2012, but any legislation must go much further to ban developers from being on council and undertake a full audit of every time this 2012 law change has been abused by developers in the past three years.

Greens MP and Local Government spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“It was obvious to anyone with a brain that these changes were corruption ready when the NSW Coalition pushed these changes through Parliament in 2012.”


Or, you could just vote for an Independent MP …

An article on what Jeremy Corbyn should do if he becomes Labour leader:

… The whip is part of the machinery of an outdated party politics that can no longer galvanise voters. It evolved in the 18th century, with the office of the chief whip formally coming into existence in the early 19th, and should be consigned to this era when deference and obedience were considered virtues. It is profoundly undemocratic. MPs are elected to represent their constituents. They cannot do this if, once in parliament, they instead have to bow down in front of their party’s leadership.

Mainstream parties have been gradually losing support in part because they appear to be stuffed with people more interested in their team winning then serving the country. The more the whip disempowers individual MPs, the weaker the party looks collectively. Hence the whole will be much stronger if it exerts less control over its parts, enabling members to show their individual strengths, troublesome though they may sometimes be. …

… Take the whip away and Westminster could become a very different place. It would strike a blow against its excessively adversarial ways of working, the two sides of a divided house braying at each other across the floor. This is a hangover from the already obsolete two-party system. End the whip and it would become more natural for some MPs of different parties to vote together, some against each other, purely on the merits of the policy. It would make it less common for parties to oppose a policy simply as a way of trying to draw blood, because being defeated would no longer represent a major rebellion: you can hardly rebel when no one is commanding you to obey. …”


“Save Exmouth Seafront” group launches

“A new action group has been launched to ‘save’ Exmouth seafront from developers who plan an £18m redevelopment that will see some of the town’s oldest most popular businesses close.

‘Save Exmouth Seafront’, has been formed by concerned residents from Exmouth and the surrounding area to oppose East Devon District Council’s regeneration proposals for the seafront.

In place of the Railway Carriage Café, the Harbour View Café, the Fun Park, DJ’s Café, Jungle Fun and the Crazy Golf Course there is set to be a multi-screen cinema, an outdoor water splash zone and an adventure golf park along with a seafront restaurant, ground floor cafes with outside seating in the open space areas and a ground floor retail area.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) are behind the development which will see Moirai Capital Investments of Bournemouth putting forward proposals to “breathe new life into the nine–acre council-owned seafront site at Queen’s Drive with a range of exciting leisure facilities.”

Some of Exmouth’s town councillors have expressed reservations when the plans were originally put forward and the traders whose businesses would be demolished are equally concerned. The town council refused to back the scheme in 2013 when it first came up, while earlier this year Dawn Hirst of the Harbour View Café and Chris Wright of the Fun Park both demanded answers to the question mark hanging over their businesses.

Other residents have hit out at the plans with the ‘Save Exmouth Seafront’ group gathering public opinion during the last few weeks through its Seafront Survey, which will be analysed after the closing date of 5 September, with results presented to the Town and District Councils.

Chairperson Roger Thomas says “The change from a well known and much used leisure area, loved both by residents and holiday makers to one of a commercial and residential nature is not an appropriate development for this part of Exmouth seafront, which is a unique asset and should be preserved as such.”

Adding: “We are determined to oppose any such development to protect the seafront.”

The new group will hold a public meeting in the near future to open up the discussion and to consider future actions.

A planning application for the developmentwill be submitted later this year. EDDC said that the existing tenants on the Queen’s Drive site have been informed of the news and can trade until September 30 when work will commence shortly afterwards


“Asda sticks security tags on mince”

An Asda spokesman said: “Asda security tags a number of items. We have no national policy to tag meat but our stores can decide to do this at a local level.”

The Trussell Trust – who operate a food bank network – say this is a sign of how much some people are struggling.


What are we coming to? Or already at?

Anyone up for another Freedom of Information fight?

The post below, with its mention of Skypark, got the Owl thinking… never a good thing.

Is it time someone asked for the information about WHY EDDC chose Skypark as the site for its new HQ and then returned to its original decision? It won’t come voluntarily though, Owl thinks.

There can’t be much “commercial sensitivity” now that it has fallen through and what little there is (if any) should be easily redacted.

A few questions spring to mind – maybe you have more.

Who suggested Skypark?
What was the financial thinking behind it?
What interventions did other partners (DCC, St Modwyn) institute?
What correspondence did EDDC enter into and with whom about its decision to change to Skypark?
Why did they pull out so suddenly?
Why did the plans fall foul of EU directives, who noticed that and when?
How much was spent on the abortive project?

Owl thinks we should be told.

Local authorities should offer more work to smaller businesses

Compare and contrast with EDDC where big business is favoured and encouraged – remember the East Devon Business Forum consisted mostly of large or very large developers and landowners and favours partnerships with large building companies and developers such as St Modwyn (Skypark).

According to the Federation of Master Builders there should be an increase in spend with small and micro firms across the board and by every public sector body and not just for firms with government contracts. Sarah McMonagle, head of external affairs at the FMB, said: “The Government’s announcement that every £1 in £3 is spent with small businesses is welcome but only applies to central government contracts. “In many parts of the country, it is still the case that small firms are all too often squeezed out by larger competitors when bidding for public sector work.”

Mrs McMonagle added: “There are lots of good reasons why the wider public sector to spend as much as possible with small firms. In particular, using construction SMEs has been proven to provide real local economic and environmental benefits.

“SMEs employ local people, meaning that the money spent is likely to go to local suppliers and remain within the local economy. Furthermore, in the construction sector, two thirds of apprentices are trained by micro firms, meaning that spending more with these businesses could help towards the Government’s target of creating three million new apprenticeships by 2020. An even more ambitious target could go further towards the governments stated aim of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.”

The FMB said while some local authorities and housing associations are better at engaging with SMEs all public sector clients should to set a target for increasing the proportion they spend with SMEs.

Mrs McMonagle said: “Some may already be spending £1 in every £3 but then they should be working towards spending £2 in every £3. One way the wider public sector can boost engagement in public procurement by small firms is to ensure they are implementing the EU Public Procurement Directive which was brought in earlier this year.

“The directive states that public sector clients must break down their contracts into small lots and this makes public contracts much more appealing to small businesses – especially in construction where forming part of the supply chain can be particularly problematic due to late payment.”


Public service cuts could be less drastic if Osborne had the will

IPPR proposes more generous spending review

A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) claims George Osborne can be more generous in November’s spending review and still achieve a budget surplus by 2020. The research shows that reducing the planned budget surplus from £10bn to £7bn and introducing a range of tax increases mean the Chancellor could limit cuts to vital public services to 26%, rather than the 25%-40% range he’s asked non-protected departments to model for.

Financial Times, Page: 2

Chances of this happening? ….

Small businesses find councils least transparent organisations

Councils come bottom for transparency

Small business owners reportedly see local councils as the least transparent organisation that they deal with, according to a study by Axa. In a survey of 400 directors of SMEs only 59% of respondents said their local council was transparent in its dealings. By contrast accountants and lawyers were deemed transparent by 90% and 84% of respondents respectively. Banks and insurance firms won approval from around three quarters of respondents.

The Times, Page: 42-43

All singing from the same hymn sheet?

A correspondent writes:

The Talaton appeal decision summarised on “the Watch” recently, intrigued me. It brought to mind another recent appeal, Down Close, Newton Poppleford, dated 29 May 2015, in which the Inspector similarly upheld EDDC’s decision to reject the application but also threw doubt on whether EDDC can demonstrate a 5 year land supply. Something crucial to adoption of the Local Plan.

Two different Inspectors are involved and they are clearly singing from the same hymn sheet. Inspector Thickett is due to produce his report on the Examination in Public of EDDC’s Local Plan fairly soon. If he comes from the same broad church as the Appeal Inspectors then we might expect EDDC to get a rough ride on its housing needs and numbers. Could they be so unconvincing as to return us to a developers’ free for all?

Here is an extract of what Inspector Ball wrote about Newton Poppleford at the end of March:

“Just before my site visit the Council submitted a housing monitoring update purporting to show that it can now demonstrate a 5.45 year supply, including a 20% buffer due to previous under-supply.

I have reservations about this. Following significant objections by the Local Plan Inspector, proposed modifications to the NEDLP are currently out to consultation; the new objective assessment of housing need has not been fully tested; and the appellants raise serious concerns about the development timescales of several major sites relied on by the Council, throwing doubt on their deliverability within the 5 year period. These are matters to be tested and resolved by the Local Plan Inspector. For this appeal, as things stand, I do not consider that it is possible to conclude with any confidence that the Council can demonstrate a 5-year supply of deliverable housing sites.”

And here is an extract of what Inspector Preston said at on 24 August:

From the information in front of me, the Council has not demonstrated that previous under delivery has been accounted for within its five-year supply calculations. Even if the previous under-delivery has been accounted for within the estimated need of 17,100 identified within the SHMA, which is not certain, the way in which the Council have addressed the previous under-supply is not consistent with the aim of addressing it within the first five years, where possible. In the Council’s projection the 17,100 has been split evenly over the plan period, ‘the ‘Liverpool’ method. Whilst the PPG is not prescriptive in stating that any under-deliver must be recovered within the first five years it sets a clear preference for this approach, ‘where possible’. No evidence was presented by the Council to suggest that it would not be possible to recover any previous under-supply over the next five years and the Local Plan Inspector has previously written to the Council to advocate the ‘Sedgefield’ approach with the aim of boosting housing supply.

“Moreover, I have concerns that the projected delivery rates for the new settlement at Cranbrook are not supported by clear evidence. The predicted completion rate for the two phases of the development over each of the following five years is 467 dwellings per annum. However, the March 2015 HMU identifies that there had been 757 completions between ‘summer’ 2012 and August 2014. It is not clear when development commenced but the published completion rate suggests a figure in the region of 350 to 375 dwellings per year over the two year period.

The Council suggested orally at the Hearing that there is evidence to suggest that delivery rates are likely to increase but no firm evidence was submitted to show how the predicted delivery rates had been derived. In effect, those predictions show an increase of approximately 100 dwellings a year at the site, over and above the published rate of completion to date. That rate of delivery is not supported by the evidence presented to me.”