Sidmouth beach erosion: support – but no money

Everyone SEES the problem
Everyone KNOWS the solution
NOBODY has the money

And all Swire can say: nice to see a bit of progress since 2001 but don’t look at me – pay for it by flogging off Port Royal!

“After the recent wild weather, Councillor Stuart Hughes fears that the Ham’s sewage pumping station could be ‘overwhelmed’ and said it needs protecting – and now, writes Stephen Sumner.

East Devon’s MP Hugo Swire also says any necessary work will have his ‘full support’.

However, East Devon District Council (EDDC), which is leading a long-term plan to protect the beach, told the Herald that there is no government funding available for immediate intervention.

“If the sewage pumping station was affected, Sidmouth would close down,” said Cllr Hughes. “Where would all the sewage go? How can you have a holiday resort without a sewage system? We need to do something before it’s too late.”

South West Water (SWW) has played down any concerns.

EDDC is drawing up a beach management plan (BMP) for the town and a draft of it is expected in the autumn. However, the implementation of any protection scheme could take years.

Mr Swire said: “This is a prime example of why it is absolutely vital that we deal with the problem of cliff erosion at Pennington Point and improve Sidmouth’s flood defences. This has been an ongoing issue since I was first elected as MP in 2001, and I am pleased that progress is finally being made with the publication of the BMP. However, it is likely that the BMP will not be implemented for another five years, so interim measures might be needed. Any necessary measure will, of course, have my full support. Generally speaking, I believe that any solution which addresses the problem of cliff erosion and the Alma Bridge needs to be part of a wider redevelopment that includes Port Royal and the Ham.”

Sewage is pumped from The Ham up to the treatment works at Sidford and final effluent is discharged out to sea.

A spokeswoman for SWW said the ‘substantial reinforced concrete’ pumping station is not considered to be at ‘significant or immediate risk’ of structural damage by the sea. It has an overflow it can operate in the event of it becoming overwhelmed by surface water.

An EDDC spokeswoman said there is currently no government funding available for interim measures to protect the seafront while the BMP is being drafted and funding would need to be found elsewhere. She added that a repair project to stabilise the training wall and retaining wall at Port Royal is under way.

“The timeframe for work to start on the main scheme depends on the preferred option coming out of the BMP, but we are looking to complete the funding application to the Government as soon as practicable,” said the spokeswoman.

Among potential protection works being considered in the BMP are options to remove rock groynes from the main beach and raise the height of the sea wall. Other possibilities are the construction of new groynes off the east beach, a replacement promenade at Jacob’s Ladder and a continuation of shingle recycling.”


The 2016 LEP Annual Conference on 22 March is attracting some heavyweight thought leadership to give you a valuable insight into what LEPs can do for your business to generate economic growth and drive up UK productivity. They include the newly appointed Director-General of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn, the Chair of the Local Government Association, Lord Porter, Chief Economist and Director of Policy at the IoD, James Sproule, and Martin Donnelly, BIS Permanent Secretary.

If you want to know how to effectively engage with LEPs, what they can do for you, and how they can help your business boost growth, make sure you book your seat to join other leaders of Government, business and local government who are at the heart of economic policy.”

But if you don’t have a business that needs to boost growth or drive up UK productivity – beggar off!

(How do you get “health and wellbeing” to boost productivity? when our LEP takes it over? Get more people to die quicker? Then pay fewer carers less money, perhaps).

In 2014 our enterprise partnership had an income of £250,000 so how come it can now run Devon and Somerset?

Here is an interview the LEP CEO, Chris Garcia, gave in February 2014:

“We have core funding but we are not a Regional Development Agency. I get £250,000 as core funding per annum and there’s some money to pay for contractors so you can see that’s not a lot of money.”

Was this including salaries of Board Members and staff – we don’t know because they don’t publish accounts.

He then went in to say, in the same article:

… Partnership is fundamental to us. My view is that the LEP is there to facilitate and build those partnerships that will make a difference.

Q) That sounds like a public sector approach when the LEP is meant to be private sector-led. What’s your response to that?

A) Investment comes from two sources –the private sector and public sector. Our role is to maximise both so we can’t just say we’re only private sector. We have to recognise that the £200 billion that is out there is money controlled by the public sector and distributed by the public sector. If I’m to maximise the amount of money that comes into the South West, I have to satisfy the National Audit Office and government departments. We have to recognise that’s fundamental – but at the same time we need the flexibility to work however we wish. …”

However they wish – hmmm.

For anyone wanting to understand the history of LEPs (originally having taken over Regional Development Agency assets and tied in only with Enterprise Zones) this is useful reading:

How our LEP (secretive, unaccountable, non-transparent, politically-appointed business people whose only driver is “growth”) suddenly morphed into a group capable of taking control of millions and millions of pounds of our assets, potential grants and direct income from all of us in Devon and Somerset – as well taking responsibility for “health and well-being” AND directing where Housing IN ADDITION to that in neighbourhood and Local Plans should go, is not covered in that document and remains a mystery.

Whose idea WAS it to give this small group such a lot of power?

Hinkley Point decision: substance or spin?

“We have the intention to proceed rapidly with the investment decision for Hinkley Point,” EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Levy told reporters.

He added that EDF had not yet finalised talks with its Chinese partners before the Chinese New Year break. “Today we estimate this final decision is very close,” he said.

Levy said it would take about three years, possibly a bit more, of study and work with sub-contractors before EDF will begin building the first definitive structures on the Hinkley Point C site, though the company will do terracing and other preparatory work between now and then.”

Er, not quite a decision then, more a bit of spin?

And, still, we need a BREXIT strategy … how much more will it cost if we are not EU members then?

“Growth” and zero hours contract hell

When you read all those promises of 1,000 jobs to be created here and 500 jobs there, first realise that this is rarely the true number (in East Devon recently such promises led to only half the number of jobs originally promised at Premier Inn, Exmouth, for example) and the read this article on zero hours contracts – a favoured method of employment in many companies:

Employers counter any criticisms of the use of zero-hours contracts by arguing that employees like the flexibility. The ONS findings, and discussion with those on the contracts, suggest otherwise. In Liverpool, a young mother with two children told me over a cup of tea how both she and her partner were on zero-hours contracts. He had originally planned to meet me at their house as well, but had been offered more hours and felt that the precarity of the contract meant that if he turned it down, he would deliberately be overlooked for future shifts. By the end of the week, he would have worked 70 hours.

The mother worked in a shop, alongside sales assistants on regular contracts. Her work ebbed and flowed with the seasons: more work at Christmas and over New Year, with sales and the festive run on gifts, and more shifts over the summer and Easter breaks, when the staff on regular contracts took their children on holiday. During school breaks, both rarely spent a whole day with their children, but the fear of the weeks where there was a shortfall in rent meant they’d never turned down a shift, even when sick. She told me that they were desperate for permanent contracts offering economic stability and a routine for their children, but were told they were lucky to have anything. …

… A Guardian investigation revealed appalling working conditions at a Sports Direct warehouse, where over 80% of the staff were employed on zero-hours contracts. The conditions included labyrinthine rules on uniforms, pay docked if staff were a minute late, and pay rates that were effectively below the minimum wage. It was able to get away with this because staff without guaranteed pay are effectively powerless, and have to operate at the whim of their employer. Parents who were too scared to take time off work told schools to keep children in when they were sick, rather than risk losing their job.

That’s the fear of zero-hours contracts: that one day, you find your hours have dropped to zero and you’ve effectively been sacked. You can’t challenge your employer over their decision, because effectively, contractually, they were doing you a favour by giving you any shifts at all. A man in his 40s in Redcar told me outside the jobcentre that he had been given no shifts by his construction firm for eight weeks. The jobcentre adviser insisted he was employed, so he wasn’t entitled to jobseeker’s allowance. If he left the job, he’d be deemed to have quit voluntarily … so wouldn’t be entitled to jobseeker’s allowance. This paradox is precisely why so many people are against zero-hours contracts: they make low-paid workers completely powerless, and let their bosses act with unaccountable impunity. Everyone deserves a fair wage for a fair day’s work, and to be able to depend upon it.”