Don’t believe everything you hear – and check it!

Express and Echo today, article on Exmouth seafront campaign, quote from Swire:

“Councillor Moulding assured me that under the plans, there will be a number of free facilities for the people of Exmouth and new attractions for younger people.”

Er, that number could be ONE Mr Swire – and note the construction of the sentence means that the facilities for younger people may well not be free!

Could we have clarification, Councillor Moulding? It seems plans are well advanced so you should have something less vague to tell us.

Is austerity really worth the price we all pay?

We see the devastating effect of flood prevention and relief cuts in the north of England and, closer to home, the effect of flooding on the school at Tipton St John yesterday – denied new buildings even though it floods frequently – which Claire Wright illustrates so movingly here:

Yes, we have to live within our means. But which of us lucky home owners has a mortgage – which, given that we pay back around twice the purchase value of our homes over 25 years – could be said to be very much living beyond our means. We buy cars and pay for them (with interest) if we are not rich enough to pay cash. Why? Because we want secure roofs over our heads and many of us (given our poor and worsening public transport links) must have cars to go to jobs to pay for those roofs.

Surely, when it is the education of our children we should similarly expect them to have a decent, secure roof – and floors and walls – as they learn.

Austerity for some but not for others … and our children suffer in so many ways.

One post office box, two mobiles, an 0300 number and a “promise” ….

This page of last week’s Sidmouth Herald is SO entertaining!


Swire says we shouldn’t be worried that devolution deals are being done behind closed doors and that power is being devolved from politicians in Whitehall.

But he neglects to say that it is being devolved to … er … a bunch of anonymous, unelected businessmen in … er … well, they have a post office box number in Exeter, two mobile phone numbers and an 0300 numbers on their contact us webpage:

so they could be anywhere!  Running their businesses, perhaps …..

and as a bonus we get a” Buy one, get one free” offer from Diviani promising us those missing relocation documents (the ones he was ordered to produce last May) ” soon”. Was the “Sale, amazing offers” advert a coincidence or a subliminal message to us all?

BOGOF indeed.

Nine housebuilding companies are sitting on at least 615,000 agreed planning permissions

“Britain’s biggest housebuilders possess enough land to create more than 600,000 new homes, an analysis by the Guardian has found, raising questions about whether they are doing enough to solve the housing crisis facing Britain.

The nine housebuilders in the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 hold 615,152 housing plots in their landbank, according to financial disclosures. This is four times the total number of homes built in Britain in the past year.

Berkeley, Barratt, Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey – the four biggest companies in the industry – account for more than 450,000 of the plots. They are also sitting on £947m of cash and declared or issued more than £1.5bn in payouts to shareholders in 2015.

Shelter said the figures showed how dysfunctional the housing market has become. Toby Lloyd, head of policy for the housing charity, said: “Developers do need a pipeline of future sites – but when housebuilding is still stubbornly low and landbanks are this large it is a signal of how dysfunctional our housebuilding system is….

… The land held by housebuilders includes sites they own and sites that they have an contractual option to build on. Some housebuilders do not publicly disclose all the land they control, meaning their total landbank could be even bigger. For example, Bellway does not report land that has not got planning permission for house construction, while Persimmon says it controls 18,000 acres of “strategic land” on top of more than 90,000 plots that already have planning permission.

1985: NHS privatisation would be good as it would stop staff resting

“David Willetts also sent a memo to Margaret Thatcher in 1985]about the benefits of private healthcare compared to the NHS.

In one section about whether the private sector should be brought in to run a psychiatric hospital, he explained:

“The hospital is run cost-effectively. Only one in 20 patients gets a tray meal: the rest go to one canteen which is shared with the staff.

“The building avoids ‘staff traps’ – private areas where staff can take a rest.”

Independent online today

Compare with:

“A Freedom of Information request reveals how peers are so unhappy with their 8 eateries they’ve been sending handwritten complaints to Parliament.

Peers can buy confit halibut for £15, “prawn and lobster meat folded into Avugar caviar” for £10, or a full roast dinner for £9.50.

A restaurant in central London would charge £25 for a similar halibut dish, while prawn and lobster with caviar could rack up around £30 and a roast dinner could set you back £18.

One complaint was from a very angry member of the Lords left waiting 30 minutes for a sandwich in the Bishop’s Bar.

He was so dissatisfied he wrote a letter to Lord Sewell, Chairman of the Committees at the House of Lords – one of several revealed after the information request by MailOnline.

He wrote in the letter, dated 26 November 2014: “For the second time in two weeks I waited over half an hour for a sandwich in the Bishops Bar.

On the first occasion, a chef who did not seem to be doing anything was present and today it was just chaotic.”

Another complaint was from a Lord who was “very disappointed” because his creme brulee wasn’t very cheesy – and a worker put a pat of butter in his soup, which he found “a bit odd”.

He said the “supreme of Hake” dish was “awful” and too plain, saying:” The Hake was completely unadorned, with a hard crust on top.”

He claimed that he requested something to make the dish more bearable, but was handed more pats of butter.

This particular Lord says he will no longer be able to entertain guests there unless the food improves.

The Head of Catering services Tim Lamming, said he read the peer’s complaint “with dismay” and said: “I must apologise most sincerely for the dip in standards and I will investigate the issues you have raised.”

Further upset has been caused by the fact that peers can now no longer select a second vegetable with their dish.

One peer complained that there was a lack of variation in the vegetables served, saying: “Cabbage, broccoli, sprouts and spinach have almost vanished completely in favour of root vegetables.”

This week with the roast meat we have had in succession carrots, parsnip and celeriac, so that with roast potatoes there is a considerable excess of carbohydrates.”

Other bugbears were that wine per glass had increased by 30p, the yoghurt is too heavy and staff need to smile more often.

No wonder the government wants to curtail Freedom of Information!

Warnings about Devon’s flood defences we published in February 2015

“… The Environment Agency data showed the majority were in areas where large numbers of homes and businesses could be vulnerable to flooding.

However, the agency said “most of the issues are minor”.

Other failures from the agency’s latest inspection report included some sea defences, culverts, outfalls and embankments.”

Devon – Tavistock, Horrabridge, Plymouth, Lympstone, Ottery St Mary, Exeter, Totnes, Barnstaple, Dawlish Warren, Ilfracombe, Tiverton, Kingsbridge, Teignmouth, Torbay and Clyst St Mary

First published on

and at

on 10 February 2015

Devolution problems for dummies

“Devolution: the moving of power or a responsibility in a main organisation to a lower level or from a central government to local government”


The moving of power from an elected body of councillors to an unelected small group of business people (Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership) who have their own agendas and pecuniary interests and who are untransparently unaccountable to no-one.

And all being done in secret with no public consultation.

Anyone not understand why people might be critical of this?

Claire Wright asks: ” Why is Mr Swire angry over devolution criticisms?”

I see that Mr Swire has been publicly critical of those of us who have expressed concerns about devolution.

Devolution is essentially the transfer of some government responsibilities to local councils.

I am not opposed to the principle of devolution, however, Chancellor, George Osborne has strong-armed councils into taking on these extra responsibilities, which gives me a cause for considerable scepticism.

A group of councils in Devon and Somerset, as well as the NHS and businesses are currently negotiating a deal to be put to ministers for devolved powers.

As Devon County Council prepares to shave off nearly £40m again, from its budgets in a few weeks, thanks to austerity measures, it will be even less well equipped than before to provide vital services.

But now Local Enterprise Partnerships (run by largely by business people) must take a leading role in preparing a bid to government for devolved powers. Ministers have insisted that bids must be business focused.

At the Devon County Council meeting in December, councillors voted in favour of my motion to allow public consultation on the bid. Although, from Mr Swire’s recent opinion, one might be forgiven for thinking that this was a Conservative proposal!

East Devon District Council Independents (especially the East Devon Alliance councillors) have been very proactive in raising concerns about plans, which up until now have been extraordinarily vague and tricky to get to grips with.

From what I have seen however, the bids will be very big business focused. And politically conservative, with a huge emphasis on the importance of Hinkley Point for example … while renewable energy, which has been a thriving industry in the south west – or at least it will be until the 64 per cent subsidy cut hits in a few weeks, doesn’t appear to get a look in.

Mr Swire might not like Independents expressing opposing views to government policy (has he ever voted against the party line?) but I tend to take the view that councillors (and MPs) are here to represent constituents, not to protect corporate interests or nod in sage agreement with every ministerial announcement.

I have raised many important issues in many of my columns in this newspaper and invited Mr Swire’s to respond.

He appears to favour silence, however.

Here’s the article –