Skypark jobs: now you see them, now you don’t …

July 2014: new parcel depot at Skypark will create
new jobs:

November 2015: new parcel depot at Skypark has created
new jobs:

Devolution: Scrutiny 1, EDDC Leader and CEO own goal

As Owl has already hooted, the Tory Government, for ideological reasons, is very keen to devolve some power over public spending to new regional bodies.

Local authorities in Devon and Somerset- including EDDC- have responded enthusiastically setting up a consortium, the Heart of the South-West (HotSW) to bid for more power to spend central government money.

But critics believe that the Government wants to boost local productivity by letting rip construction, housebuilding, and manufacturing, and by encouraging the selling off of public assets to be more economically exploited by the “free market”. Farming, tourism, and renewable energy seem low priorities. Climate change and the environment seem hardly to figure as concerns.

The negotiations at HotSW involve a business organisation, the Local Enterprise Panel, (LEP) but it’s difficult to know exactly who calls the tune, because the meetings so far have been closed to press and public and no minutes are published. A draft bid is almost ready and is intended to be sent to Whitehall before Christmas.

EDDC representative on HotSW is Council Leader Paul Diviani, and, true to form, a recommendation was about to be slipped through for Cabinet approval, to give Cllr Diviani delegated authority to agree to whatever bid HotSW comes up with!

But thanks to the insistence of Chair of the Scrutiny Committee , Independent Cllr Roger Giles, the context of the recommendation was openly discussed first, at a special meeting (Combined Overview & Scrutiny) called in the nick of time, just hours before the Cabinet meeting last Wednesday (2nd Dec).

The meeting began with a presentation by EDDC Chief Officer Mark Williams, which confirmed that the thrust of HotSW was to boost the local economy by expanding construction, industry and commerce – productivity was too low, he said, because there were a lot of old people in the area! The new digital economy would benefit from better training and apprenticeships, especially “Greater Exeter” (including part of East Devon).

Councillors were sceptical. Tory Mike Allen said HotSW negotiations should be more transparent, and Independent Cllr Rob Longhurst followed up his idea, putting forward the motion that a group of councillors with appropriate responsibilities should be kept informed of developments and consulted before decisions were made.

This was accepted, and it was also proposed that no delegated authority should be given to the Leader until the Full Council Meeting on 16th December, by which time all councillors would be sent a copy of the bid.

A triumph for transparency? Not quite— the bid will still not be put in the public domain before it goes to Westminster.

EDW note: Two previous posts on the subject here

and here

“Parliament’s expenses watchdog hiding names of MPs being investigated for misusing public money”

“Rules dictate that MPs under investigation for unjustified or fraudulent expense claims must be publicly identified.

…Under rules set by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), MPs under investigation for unjustified or fraudulent expense claims must be publicly identified.

But the organisation’s compliance officer, Peter Davis, has avoided naming individuals by carrying out detailed “assessments” of the complaints, denying they amount to formal “investigations”.

The loophole last week allowed Mr Davis to refer two MPs to the police over expenses fraud without ever launching a formal investigation, which would have triggered a public announcement.

It has also allowed other MPs to avoid publicity about using taxpayer-funded websites for party-political material by paying back website domain fees to Ipsa, or simply removing content from sites.

Ipsa previously proposed conducting probes in secret to prevent “reputational damage” to MPs – but the idea was dropped after criticism from the Commons Standards Committee and Committee for Standards in Public Life. It now appears that Ipsa is using “assessments” to get around calls for transparency.

According to a breakdown of cases, released by Mr Davis’s office in response to a Freedom of Information request, 40 “assessments” of allegations against politicians were carried out in 2014-15. But just one – relating to Conservative MP Bob Blackman’s mileage claims – was classified as a formal investigation and disclosed publicly.

Among those listed as “closed prior to an investigation” was a case in June last year where an unnamed MP claimed for a taxi journey that was not allowable. The compliance office concluded it had been a “legitimate error by a member of staff” and said it had been “repaid in full”.

In another case, an allegation was made that an MP’s staff had filed duplicate claims for a hotel. Mr Davis considered the matter closed after “the MP provided a valid explanation for why two separate hotels were claimed inadvertently for the same night and… repaid”.

” One in a hundred/ two hundred years” floods

What would have happened if Storm Desmond had chosen East Devon for its landing, with all its rivers and estuaries?

What the Environment Agency DOESN’T tell you is that the phrase ” one in a hundred or two hundred year event” does NOT mean such floods will ONLY happen once in a hundred or two hundred years: they mean 5 or 10 times in a thousand years – which could be five or ten years in a row! However, if we do get 10 years in a row and we query them when it happens in year 11 – they will tell us it is an acceptable statistical variation, etc. etc.

Plus the EA uses PAST events to work out what to do where the past is no guide whatsoever to the future.

In any case, with climate changes going haywire and El Nino playing up more than usual, it is all pretty meaningless.

What CAN you do? DON’T BUILD ON FLOOD PLAINS – the clue is in the name! And perhaps even extend the said floodplains!