Hinkley C just got even more expensive

The cost of building a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset could rise by nearly £2 billion, piling more pressure on the over-stretched finances of the French energy giant EDF, according to a report seen by The Times.

An independent analysis of the £18 billion project claims that Areva, the French company that developed the EPR reactor earmarked for Hinkley, is repricing the technology before a final investment decision, which it expects to be signed by EDF and its Chinese partners in May.

(article behind paywall)

No doubt in the repricing, there will be attempts to offload the costs elsewhere.

The next French presidential election is due in May 2017. How on earth is Hollande going to explain this away to his successor?

Straitgate Quarry update

“Campaigners are calling for a public exhibition on revised proposals for a 100-acre quarry on Ottery’s outskirts that they say could impact thousands.

A controversial application from Aggregate Industries (AI) to extract sand and gravel at Straitgate Farm met with community opposition before it was withdrawn earlier this year.

AI confirmed this week it intends to resubmit plans in April, but will not be holding any further public exhibitions – choosing instead to distribute information leaflets to householders.

Straitgate Action Group was formed to fight the proposed quarry and says that if the company will not be using the narrow Birdcage Lane as its main exit under the revised proposals, HGVs are likely to come straight out on to Exeter Road.

Member Monica Mortimer said: “We have been writing to AI to ask when they will be holding a public exhibition. If they are planning on using the one and only main road in and out of Ottery then it will impact on thousands of people all day every day. It just seems a ludicrous proposal.”

The Straitgate plan relies on a linked application to retain Blackhill Quarry, on Woodbury Common, for processing material – a site that is due to be decommissioned this year. Delays in securing the Ottery site have led to AI submitting a new application for importing reserves from Houndaller (Hillhead) Quarry, near Uffculme, to be processed approximately 26 miles away at Blackhill.

Campaigner and county councillor Claire Wright questioned the sense of transporting sand and gravel so far for processing, with the resulting impact on roads and surrounds.

John Penny, South West estates manager for AI, said that following a review, the company will be resubmitting planning proposals for Straitgate and an extension to processing at Blackhill.

He said: “This is to address concerns raised about the transport of materials. Instead of using the more rural Birdcage Lane to exit the Straitgate site, we will be proposing an alternative site entrance.

“We feel this will provide a safer way for vehicles to enter and exit the site and it shows that we are acting on feedback from the community.”

Mr Penny said the Hillhead Quarry plan would be a temporary measure that the company has applied for ‘to allow the business to maintain aggregate supplies to the Exeter and East Devon construction markets during 2016’.

The plan for Hillhead Quarry is open to consultation until April 7.”


LEP Conflict of interest? Not when you all share the same interest it seems!

We reported that LEP member Nicholas Ames (Supacat) used to work for Serco which has been handed a lucrative LEP contract:


We also reported that Supacat is moving into the nuclear industry:


Now we hear that Serco is also involved in the nuclear industry:

“A consortium including government outsourcing specialist Serco has won a new framework contract from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to manage the UK’s nuclear warheads via the Atomic Weapons Establishment through to 2025.”


Stuart Hughes is top of the (grand)pops …

For some reason, several older posts on EDW have been extraordinarily popular recently.

This one from 2015 (apparently designed to appeal to young people just before last year’s local council elections) topped our chart this week: current EDDC chairman Stuart Hughes with his take on exactly how his council approaches its planning responsibilities:


Anywhere … did people not understand he was totally serious?

East Devon Businesses: your chance for “expert advice” from an LEP “pop-up” cafe in Exeter

on 6 April 2016 at the Fresha Cafe, Sowton, 8am – midday:


Register and then book hourly slots with experts on marketing, finance, business strategy, skills, regulation, the Hinkley supply chain or a regulation expert (presumably a maximum of four different sessions).

Of the 24 session slots on offer, so far only 2 of the marketing slots are booked – the other 22 are unbooked.

Just one question: just WHO are these “experts” and how much are they being paid to attend these events all over Devon and Somerset?

Owl would want to be sure that taking a morning off its ceaseless job of hunting vermin would be worth it.

“Healthy Cranbrook”? Not for some stressed residents

Exchange of views in town council website after a quiet, green space is suddenly changed into a children’s playpark, when residents were told it would not be built o and would remain a quiet space:

As the EDW correspondent says:
When developers lie about green spaces/parks? So much for wellbeing and health?

COMMENTS (only names of residents removed)

“Brilliant, I can’t wait to have this right outside my house (NOT!!) has anyone thought about the people that live in Hayes square??

I’m great full (sic) that we will be moving soon, will be crazy in the summer defiantly (sic) when its baby’s bedtime

moving?? I know I am dreading it, it’s gonna be teenager heaven at night!! Not looking forward to it at all

Yep! For sure the park by co op is full of chavy teenagers from 7pm have to get husband out there. I’m glad we won’t be here when it’s finished. I like it how it is

I think it’s the most stupid place to do its basically right outside my house the children have been more than happy playing out there how it its just going to bring more vandalism to the estate xx

I thought it was supposed to be a quiet park? Why have they spent all the time making it like it is if they are now changing it?

Sorry residents feel like that, also fully understand. Time for parents to stand up and make sure we and our kids do not make an amazing asset into a nightmare for those living nearby. This goes for existing park too.

Shame developers have to lie to sell houses, we were told that was going to be a nice green area where you could just go and sit and relax and read a book, never any mention of a kids play park, why do they need another one so close to the one they already have!

We got told the same.”

Not healthy to have all these people stressed, EDDC!

Devolution and LEPs – more worrying insights

” … So what is wrong with it?

That question takes us to the first problem that we would want to talk about. Who decides what will happen? Well everything is decided at central government level. In particular, and I just mentioned George Osbourne, it’s quite odd that the whole thing is being driven by the Treasury rather than the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). So it’s Osbourne’s particular baby.

The way it works is that officials from the Treasury, certainly with people from DCLG too, enter into secret bespoke discussions with whoever approaches them and say “please may I have a slice of your devolution pizza?” They say “well, OK, we’ll come and talk to you.”

These discussions have all been held behind closed doors so at best it’s a discussion between the Treasury, the Department of Communities and Local Government, the leaders of the local councils who will probably be statutorily constituted as a combined authority and the Local Enterprise Partnerships, the LEPs.

The first problem with that is where does it leave the citizens? The citizen has no say, has no seat round the table and is not party to any of these discussions, which is an odd thing because you might think in principle devolution is at least in good part about devolving power to the local citizenry. Yet here are deals being hatched that exclude the citizen’s voice. I think that’s our first problem, discussions taken in private.

So, what are Local Enterprise Partnerships and how have they become so powerful in such a short time?

LEPs were the substitutes for the Regional Development Agencies or RDAs. RDAs were abolished once the coalition took off in 2010, they were abolished over a timespan of a year or two. So LEPs are the replacement.

LEPs are not statutory bodies, so in that sense there’s no clear channels of public accountability. They are basically a group of self-selecting business people who come together on a local basis and have the power to bid to Regional Growth Funds to get money for local enterprise development. They do have governing bodies and essentially the government’s arrangement is a mix of local business people again, as I said, pretty much self-selected because it’s done on a voluntary basis and members of the combined authority. So it’s a mix of politicians and local business people who sit on the LEP governing body.

It’s not a mix that always works well. LEPs have crept into a powerful position and sometimes central government will say certain things may be permissible at local level, for example increasing the business rate by 2%, but only if the LEP agrees. So LEPs are accreting little bits of power here and there even though they have no statutory basis for exercising their powers.

I guess most people will not have heard of LEPs. They are fairly shadowy and it would be fair to argue that if they’re going to exercise an increasing range of powers, they should be put on a statutory basis and there should be proper accountability to local people.

I thought it was fascinating in your article when you mentioned that Local Enterprise Partnerships resisted any examination of what they were doing on the grounds that it might “scare business”. That’s just extraordinary.

I would guess any self-respecting LEP is feeling a little bit awkward itself about all of this. LEPs are not statutory. They’re not accountable in any way to people living in a local area. They’re run on a shoestring, yet here they are having quite a significant voice round the table. That will be one of their concerns, that we need to talk about these things privately. This is part of what I’ve been calling the ‘democratic deficit’.

The second thing that perturbs me a lot about this is that as well as having private discussions that exclude the people, the government then goes on to require a form of governance that they prefer and which people have no choice over. I’m referring here to the requirement in the Act of Parliament now, that in order to get a deal, most places (the South West might be an exception because of its geography) must have a directly elected Mayor.

Take where I live: I’m up here in the North East. We will have one person whose remit will run from the Scottish Borders right down to the Tees Valley. It’s a vast area. One person running a swathe of important public affairs, and no-one’s been asked if they would like that model. It’s completely unclear where it leaves thousands and thousands of local councillors whose services will probably no longer be required.

What does this tell us about localism and the Big Society and all of that stuff that was very much heralded at the beginning of this government?

It was going to give all this power back to local people and so on and so on. Now that we’re a few years into it and we’re starting to be able to see what it actually looks like, what do you think it tells us about the motivation behind it? Who are they doing it for?

My view of the Big Society is that it was simply an attempt to cut costs and transfer services out to the third sector but without the necessary funding to accompany that transfer. You don’t hear a lot of talk these days about the Big Society, do you? So where are we left with this?

We’re left with councils cut to the bone and the suspicion through the whole devolution policy that what the government wants to do is transfer responsibility for funding and public spending cuts to a more local level. Regional, sub-regional, currently it’s with the local councils. That’s probably best not described as devolution. It’s best described as delegation of responsibility for funding. It can even apply to the NHS, in particular in Greater Manchester, which so far is the only devolution deal which has involved fairly clear agreement to take on responsibility for NHS services.

There are some very important and worrying questions being raised by all of this. What we’re slowly doing is taking the national out of a lot of services that have been national and making them local. In principle it has some attractions but in the current economic and political climate, I’d be very worried about taking responsibilities on when the funding was disappearing.

A lot of this stuff is being justified on the grounds of economic growth. What do you think we run the risk of sacrificing in our desperate attempt to achieve economic growth?

If there’s one implicit objective of the devolution deal, it’s the idea that it will spur economic growth. This is George Osborne’s real focus. You devolve to core cities and through devolving some powers over transport and regeneration you get the benefit of agglomeration. That may well work in certain geographies but even if you did get more growth – I think it’s a bit unclear exactly why you would – but even if you did, more regional growth is one thing. How you use the proceeds of that is another.

If you take the Northern Powerhouse as the most frequently cited example, it may well be good for Manchester, maybe even for Leeds, but once you get out into the rural areas and the older industrial areas, it’s not easy to see how this will be of benefit in these wider geographies. It’s a question about the type of growth and the proceeds of growth as well as whether you get the growth at all.

If people read your article and feel like something very valuable, something very precious is either slipping through their fingers or being wrenched from their grasp depending on which way they look at it, what can they do about it?

That’s a good question, isn’t it? We’re looking at a whole range of different ‘devo deals’. What the Chancellor did late last year was to invite local areas, regions and sub regions to put in a bid for a deal, and they were given seven weeks to do it. Seven weeks. Thirty eight such bids were received. Most of them were not considered strong enough to take forward, so we only have about half a dozen that are currently going forward.

I guess you could stop these deals in their tracks if one or more local councils who were in the combined authority said “we don’t think this is a good deal, sorry, we’re pulling out. We just don’t want to go ahead with it.” You would then suffer a loss of course, because you would be seen as a poor team player. There are more powers coming along, even if these are delegated powers, and there’s a bit of money at stake. Always follow the money! Council spending is being crucified.

But as part of the devo deals, the Treasury comes along and says “if you sign a deal on our terms, we will give you x amount of money.” My own area, the North East is pretty typical. The deal up here with the North East Combined Authority is £30 million per year for 30 years. Incidentally, I have never known a political pledge that was ever honoured over 30 years! But that’s the deal on offer.”


UK: the worst score for electoral integrity in Western Europe

The UK scores worst in electoral integrity in Western Europe. Here’s why:

The UK performs poorly when it comes to issues of electoral integrity, lagging behind European neighbours but does particularly poorly when compared with Scandinavia – which as is the case in many fields outperforms Britain.

Here, Pippa Norris looks at the reasons why, pointing to voter registration procedures, electoral laws, media coverage, constituency boundaries, and the counting and results process:

Issues of electoral malpractice have received growing attention in the UK. The House of Commons Library briefing on Electoral offences since 2010 gives details of the reports published by the Electoral Commission and the Associations of Chief Police Officers on cases of alleged malpractice.

Questions have arisen over insecure postal ballots, proxy voting, and fraudulent practices. The Electoral Commission issued warnings of potential ‘ethnic kinship’ voting in British Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, a practice thought to make these areas particularly vulnerable to electoral fraud.

Sir Eric Pickles, the Government’s Anti-Corruption Champion, has reviewed electoral fraud to make recommendations on what could be done to tackle the problem.Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, has claimed that electoral fraud is a ‘growing phenomena’ in British elections.

Polling Day in the UK General Election

The UK General Election on May 7th 2015 certainly generated several media reports of alleged malpractices and shortfalls.

On polling day, technical glitches were reported in Hackney and Dorset following problems with the electoral roll and distribution of cards for the incorrect polling station, blamed by officials on information technology and printing errors.

Bournemouth council apologized after 100 people were unable to cast their vote in the local elections because an administrative blunder had led to the wrong ballot papers being issued. Earlier 250,000 ballot papers went missing after a printer’s van was stolen in Eastbourne and Hastings.

The Electoral Commission investigated complaints that some overseas voters had not received their voting packs in time. The Guardian reported that Metropolitan police received 18 allegations of electoral fraud in the run up to polling day.

In Tower Hamlets, the High Court suspended the Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, after he was found guilty of falsifying postal votes and putting undue pressure on voters at polling stations during the 2014 local and European elections.
In Darlington, the BBC reported that the UKIP candidate’s name was missing on ballot papers.

Finally, the Telegraph reported that the Scottish Tory party leader tweeted claims of voter intimidation in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, with the allegations investigated by local police.

None of these were major issues, compared with problems common in many other countries, but they may still have undermined public confidence in the electoral process. When asked beforehand in the British Election Study, the majority of citizens expected that the election would be conducted fairly, but almost one fifth (18%) thought that it would be unfairly conducted. …”


Meet our elusive MP Hugo Swire – Sidmouth, Friday 22 April 2016, 9.15 am

Coffee morning, Woodlands Hotel Sidmouth 9.15 am
Sidmouth Business Club – though flyer says all welcome and no need to book
£5 entry

No doubt LOTS of people have LOTS of questions – but are they willing to pay £5 for a coffee to ask them?

But you never know when he will be back …

Hinkley C: the damning views of its own French engineers

EDF dissenters urge Hinkley nuclear delay

nicosiamoneynews.com Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Senior engineers at French utility EDF have called for at least a two year delay at the controversial Hinkley Point nuclear project in the UK and recommended a redesign of the reactor technology.
An internal white paper written by dissenting EDF engineers, which has been seen by the Financial Times, argues that Hinkley Point is so complex and untested that the company should announce a later completion date than the target of 2025.

The paper, circulated among top executives, said that the “realistic service date was 2027” due to the size of the project, continuing design modifications to the European Pressurised Reactor system and the “very low” competency of French supplier Areva in making some of the large components.
The white paper also made the case for a “new EPR”, calling on the company to redesign the current reactor technology to make it smaller, cheaper to build and less complicated.

A timely start-up at Hinkley Point, which will provide 7 per cent of UK electricity, is critical because the government has set 2025 as the date by which the last of Britain’s coal-fired power stations is due to close.
EDF said in a statement last night that it would stick to the planned timetable. “The date for the first operation of Hinkley Point C has not changed. It will be in 2025,” it said.

But experts say any slippage in that timetable was likely to mean having to pay companies to keep older plants running or even build more short-term, highly polluting diesel power.

EDF has been beset by internal tensions over Hinkley Point, with chief financial officer Thomas Piquemal resigning this month over concerns that the project could threaten the company’s future.

Critics have raised concerns over the £18bn cost, given EDF’s stretched balance sheet. Two other projects in France and Finland using the same EPR technology are both severely delayed and billions over budget.

The unsigned white paper was written after Mr Piquemal’s resignation by a group of senior engineers and other dissidents, according to people with knowledge of the document. The company plans to make the final investment decision on the project at a board meeting on May 11.

Doubts grow over hitting the zero-carbon target

According to existing plans, 2025 is to be a pivotal moment in the history of British energy. The problem is that while the closure of coal power plants is accelerating, the prospect of Hinkley Point opening by 2025 appears to be receding.

In the paper, the EDF engineers called for a joint “Franco-British project” to commission four to six “optimised EPRs” by the end of the decade that could be operational between 2028 and 2031.

One person with knowledge of the company likened the current EPR to the Concorde supersonic airliner, a technical marvel but a commercial failure. The new EPR would be “more like an Airbus”, the comparatively simple but successful passenger aircraft.

The paper also addresses wider fears that the Hinkley project will in any case not be completed by 2025 and might suffer years of construction delays.
One person on the EDF board who had read the white paper said: “Few believe that we can build this [Hinkley Point] by 2025 any more.”

Another person close to the group said that 2025 was set to remain the official target, but the final decision could incorporate a margin for error because even with a two-year delay the project would still be profitable.
Three people close to the company said that CGN, EDF’s Chinese partner for Hinkley, also feared possible delays, attempting to insert a clause so it would take on a lower financial risk if there were a large problem.
Nuclear options

Engineers believe 4-6 smaller, simpler power plants could become operational as early as 2028, only a year later than the backstop date for Hinkley. UK ministers should consider this option.

In the case of a £5bn cost overrun, despite EDF having a 66.5 per cent stake in the project, EDF would be liable for 80 per cent of the additional costs, according to a document sent by the EDF finance department to the board’s audit committee in January.

That figure could be subject to change as the final investment decision has not been made. EDF declined to comment on the number.

The Hinkley project is still likely to go ahead as planned. Three out of the four EDF unions with board seats are against the project in its current form, as well as at least one independent board member.

But the majority of the 18-strong board is likely to vote in favour of the deal in May, according to people close to the group. The company is 85 per cent state owned, and the government wants the project to go ahead.


“Police and Crime Panels must be better equipped to hold PCCs to account: MPs”

Police and Crime Panels must be better equipped to hold Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCS) to account, MPs have said.

In a report the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) noted that the panels were the only mechanism for accountability of PCCs outside of elections every four years. The MPs said the panels and PCCs should meet a minimum of once every two months.

The report, Police and Crime Commissioners: here to stay, also said that – in order to improve transparency and accountability – there should be a a central register of PCCs’ interests and a centrally maintained list of PCC office costs.

The MPs added that:

Those Commissioners who will be elected in May must prioritise consolidating the work of their predecessors before considering further expansions of their role and powers.

It was “deeply concerning” that there had been so few applicants for recent Chief Constable vacancies. Many of these roles had been awarded to the incumbent Deputy Chief Constables, who often shared a close relationship with the relevant Police and Crime Commissioner.

PCCs should consolidate their profile in the communities they represent. Turnout at the next elections would be one measure of success in engagement.
Any expansion of the PCC role needed to be incremental and carefully judged. “The additional responsibilities for PCCs detailed in the Policing and Crime Bill in relation to fire and rescue, and in police complaints provide sufficient additional challenges for now, and PCCs should concentrate on the issues raised in this report, wider public engagement and their core role before broader expansion of their role is considered.”

Progress on the new Police Funding Formula must be brought forward, “as damaging delays are making it impossible for PCCs to fulfil their role of setting Force budgets. PCCs hands are tied by the stalled review which must be restarted urgently, with the establishment of the independent panel HASC called for in its December report.”

Keith Vaz MP, chair of the committee, said: “PCCs are here to stay. A series of measures would consolidate their role and effectiveness in local communities. This must begin with a central register of PCCs interests and a centrally maintained list of PCC office costs, so they can be better scrutinised by their electorate.

“We did not anticipate that the creation of PCCs would have such a dramatic effect on the appointment of Chief Constables. The pool of talent in policing is in danger of drying up, with so few applications for the most senior jobs in policing. PCCs must ensure applicants for Chief Constable roles have served at least two years in another Police Force at a senior rank, and not allow close working relationships with their Deputy Chief Constables to deter external applicants.”

Vaz added that newly elected office holders in May should not be burdened with too many additional responsibilities. “They are already due to be given more powers for Fire and Rescue Services and Police Complaints, and an even broader remit on top of this may prove overwhelming and these proposals should be paused.”


Sidford Fields industrial park: Councillor Hughes talks as if it is a shoo-in

… DCC highways boss, Councillor Stuart Hughes said: “Facilities for pedestrians at Sidford Cross are less than ideal and that is unlikely to be helped once further development takes place at the proposed business park.

“We will be able to assess the transport assessment of the business park planning application in detail once it has been submitted to see what the impact of the development will be on this junction.

“From the initial site meeting we’ve had, it appears that the only sensible solution would be for an all-red phase of lights, with some form of pedestrian crossing across the middle of the junction – but design work would be needed on all of the possible options, because it would clearly impact on how the junction operates.”

Allowing time for survey and design work to be carried out, the earliest any proposal could be considered would be at the council’s autumn meeting.

Cllr Hughes admitted the council has a limited budget but expressed hope developer contributions could be negotiated, or external funding sought.”


So, that’s that then – Sidford Fields sorted, even down to a possible developer contribution, and even before a planning application is in.

Exmouth Town poll omnishambles – jump through almost invisible hoops to vote!

The poll will ask if Exmouth Town Council should approach East Devon District Council (EDDC) – which is behind the plans for Exmouth seafront – calling for further independent consultation.

Hoop 1: Town Poll (Parish Poll) is on Wednesday 20th April but voting can only take place between 4pm and 9pm.

Hoop 2: Postal and proxy votes are not applicable to this vote – though many will not (yet or maybe ever) know this.

Hoop 3: People will not be sent ballot cards they must just go to their polling station – if they have seen any (as yet unpublished) voting information

Hoop 4: Not all the usual polling stations will be used. No information available (yet or maybe ever) on where it WILL be possible to vote.

Good luck Exmouthians … you are going to need it. Anyone would think ….

Is our LEP already in the doggie dirt?

The more Owl reads about what our Local Enterprise Partnership should be doing and what it does do, the more it seems that the LEP inhabits a totally different universe to us where its own rules don’t apply

Check out this publication from December 2014: Her Majesty’s Government LEP Framework. And then contrast it with what has happened in the two plus years since it was published.

Click to access bis-14-1241-local-enterprise-partnership-LEP-national-assurance-framework.pdf

Here are a few choice highlights – let’s start with one that appears on the very last page of the document (page 17):

Business cases must be published (and publicised) before funding approval decision is made so that external comment is possible. Opinions expressed by the public and stakeholders must be available to LTB members when decisions are being take.”

Does anyone recall being consulted about ANYTHING by our LEP? Has anyone SEEN a business case for anything?

And there is more:

“… 3.1 It is important that LEPs have clear arrangements in place which enable effective and meaningful engagement of local partners and the public. They should operate transparently giving people confidence that decisions made are proper, based on evidence, and capable of being independently scrutinised.
3.2 We expect LEPs to take a proportionate approach to sharing and publishing information, using the prompts set out below as the basis for determining what they release. We fully expect that there will be information which is not appropriate for publication – including information that is commercially confidential, and expect LEPs to use their own discretion in determining what shouldn’t be published. Our expectation however, is that the public should see that the LEP is applying similar standards of transparency as other public sector organisations over decisions it makes over public funding. Within reason we would therefore expect LEPs to:
• have a dedicated website through which local partners and the public can keep in touch with progress on implementing the Growth Deal, access key documents etc;
• publish their arrangements for making, and recording decisions, and for ensuring that papers, decisions, minutes, agendas etc are published in line with existing local authority rules and regulations [access to information, Schedule 12A of the LGA 1972, as amended by the FOI 2000];
• through their accountable local authority, ensure that Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulation requests are dealt with in line with relevant legislation;
• have a published conflicts of interest policy, register of interests covering any decision makers, and published complaints policy;
• ensure that there is appropriate local engagement – both with public and private stakeholders to inform key decisions and with the general public around future LEP strategy development, and progress against delivery of the SEP, including key projects and spend against those;
• publish arrangements for developing, prioritising, appraising and approving projects, with a view to ensuring that a wide range of delivery partners can be involved (see also Part 5 on value for money below);
• clearly set out the LEP’s priorities and mechanisms for maximising the social value of its investment funding and activities so that partners and beneficiaries can play an active role in the programme. …

… 4.2 The lead local authority, working with relevant officers will need to put in place appropriate arrangements for the proper use and administration of funding, building on the existing local government systems, and which fall under the annual audit of the local authorities accounts. The accountable local authority would also be responsible for ensuring that decisions are made in accordance with the local LGF assurance framework. …

… 5.4 Across both of these aspects, LEPs should ensure that they have robust processes in place which ensure all funding decisions are based on impartial advice. The arrangements set out in the local assurance framework will need to ensure a clear separation between those acting as scheme promoters and those advising decision makers will be maintained, so that the LEP is acting on impartial advice on the merits of (potentially competing) business cases.

5.5 LEPs should also ensure that arrangements are in place which support the active management of risk across all matters for which the LEP is responsible, including but not limited to propriety and value for money issues. This should include having a named individual of appropriate seniority who is responsible for the identification and management of risk.”

ANYONE SEEN THE IMPARTIAL ADVICE? Until recently, we had no published agendas or minutes, and even now we get only notes not full minutes.

But what can we do? Who do we tell? The government doesn’t want to know, it just wants an annual report. Our councils? No, they have gone into this with little or no consultation.

It is left to us, the public to attempt to hold these people to account. And how do they respond?

Listen to the deafening silence.

Billions of pounds being given to a few businessmen and even fewer career politicians, some of whom have heavily vested interests.

And the blame for this cannot now be left at the door of Labour or coalition politicians.

It is a national scandal that no-one powerful enough is prepared to call out. And who suffers – us.

“Five ways to power the UK that are far better than Hinkley Point”

” … Electricity demand is already falling. The Somerset site for Hinkley C was approved in 2010 but since then UK demand has already fallen by more than the plant will produce, about 25TWh a year or 7% of today’s demand. Due to repeated delays, Hinkley C is unlikely to produce electricity much before 2030, by which time six Hinkleys’ worth of electricity could have been cut from the national demand, according to a McKinsey report for the government.”


The article goes on to say that five different approaches – wind, solar, cost reductions, inter-connection and improved storage and flexibility – are a more rational scenario than Hinkley C.

Which of these alternatives is our LEP researching for our region – none of them. It is firmly committed to this government’s political decision to plough ahead with Hinkley C whatever the cost.

This is what happens when you put unelected business people, chosen we know not how and many with vested interests, in charge of a regional economy


John Redwood, the senior Tory MP and former leadership contender, delivered a warning shot to Cameron to tone down his campaigning.

He wrote on his blog:

“As he wishes to remain prime minister, he has to remember that the prime minister has to speak as best he can for the whole nation. As party leader he has to speak for the majority of his party.”


Now, reimagine this quote as EDDC:

“.. he [Diviani] has to remember that as Leader he has to speak as best he can for the whole of East Devon. As party leader he has to speak for the majority of his party.”

If only!

What is our LEP doing about preparing Plan B in case of Brexit?

It is possible they are doing nothing. We are not allowed to know – it is secret. Here is what some small and medium-sized companies are already doing:

“Above a factory floor of machines carving metal to within a millionth of a metre, Stephen Cheetham is preparing his company for the unknown: a British exit from the European Union.

Since the government announced a referendum on Britain’s future in Europe, Cheetham has deferred investment decisions, put off expensive hiring and even bought equipment with his own money to avoid straining the balance sheet. …

… smaller companies in the manufacturing heartlands, crucial to the economy and often inextricably linked to continental Europe, are formulating contingency plans that illustrate the risks facing businesses across the country and the steps being taken to mitigate them.

At the start of 2015, almost half of Britain’s private-sector turnover came from firms that employed fewer than 249 people, according to the Department for Business.

For Cheetham his “disaster plan” involves jettisoning nearly half of his 30 employees if a Brexit compounds the drag from an already slowing global economy at his firm in the English rural town of Hereford.

Across the nearby Welsh border, Gareth Jenkins, who runs a toolmaking firm, has identified which major customers in Europe are likely to abandon him should they have to accept higher costs or slower delivery times that might come from new border controls with EU countries if Britain leaves the bloc.

He has calculated the financial impact and says in a worst-case scenario he could lose 25 percent of his turnover. He plans to tell his 91 employees in the next couple of weeks that a vote to leave could force him to lay off a quarter of staff. …

… Adam Shuter, head of haulier Exact Logistics, is investigating whether he should set up a German office, which he thinks could cost less than the additional taxes and paperwork of serving EU customers from outside the bloc.

“For a small business, it’s quite a bit of investment,” he said. “It just adds a layer of administration.”

He is also gauging the extra customs costs his British customers might incur outside the EU, using non-members Norway and Switzerland as guides, and looking at how much it would cost to set up expensive software to handle border clearances.

… British importers also fear they will have to pay VAT sales tax when they take delivery of goods from the EU – rather than at the point of sale – making cashflow harder to manage.”


Gateshead asks sensible questions before committing to devolution

“Town hall leaders in the North East are making a series of demands on George Osborne on a number of key issues as talks to devolve powers to the region continue after councillors in Gateshead failed to endorse the latest deal.

An agreement would see the North East handed a raft of new powers and an extra £30m in regional funding in return for establishing an elected mayor as part of the Chancellor’s Northern Powerhouse agenda.

But Gateshead Council’s cabinet voted last week to reject the proposals, sparking doubts about whether the deal could be made.

The region’s six remaining local authorities are now looking to press ahead, but are calling for “clarification and commitment” from the Government on a number of “outstanding issues” from the Government before deciding whether to give their seal of approval to the multi-billion pound covenant.

The North East Combined Authority has set out a list of these issues ahead of further talks with the Government and has delayed making a final decision until May.

Newcastle Council’s leader Nick Forbes, whose council has endorsed the deal, said at a meeting of the authority’s leadership board: “None of us would have had this deal as a starting point, but it is important that we take this first step.”

Helen Golightly, North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s chief operating officer, said the meeting “underlined the region’s continued support for devolution”.

She said: “There are still matters where the local authorities feel they need more clarification from Government. The North East LEP remains fully supportive of the devolution process.”

She added: “Devolving powers will give us more opportunity to help drive the economic growth our region needs to contribute our full worth to the UK economy.”

Outstanding issues include a lack of certainty over £30m a year funding over 30 years and the need to “rural proof” investment to ensure rural areas are not left behind. The councils are also awaiting confirmation on how the Government plans to devolve funding for sustainable transport. Leaders also want further commitments to ensure the North East is not put at a financial disadvantage in relation to Scotland.

Jeremy Middleton, North East LEP board member and a mayoral candidate for the region, said the North East Combined Authority’s politicians were “holding the region back”.

He said: “This delay means there is a very real risk that the North East will be left behind again.”

A Government spokesman said: “The Government is making huge progress towards rebalancing Britain’s economy and empowering local areas through the devolution of powers and resources away from Whitehall.

“This is a bottom up process and if any local authority in the end decides it no longer wants to be part of it, then we will continue to work with those local partners who do, in order to make this historic opportunity in for the North East a reality.”