Tory Council is anti-academy

West Sussex’s Conservative-led county council has joined the chorus of opposition to the government’s plan to turn all state schools into academies, saying it could hurt provision for vulnerable children and undermine the local economy.

In a letter to the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, West Sussex county council leader, Louise Goldsmith, said the council was united in opposing the proposals in Morgan’s education white paper, with no evidence that the county’s schools would be improved.

“I have reservations that the ‘one size fits all’ academies approach that ministers are proposing does not seem to promote any benefits to pupils and parents in West Sussex,” Goldsmith wrote. “We have very specific concerns about how vulnerable children will fare under the proposals – a statutory responsibility that will rightly remain with the council but with very few powers to help us to fulfil that duty.”

Greendale pub causing concern in Exeter – fears it may be base for squatters

Uncertainty surrounds the future of a city centre pub – almost four months after it closed. The Mint on Fore Street shut its doors on New Year’s Eve and is yet to reopen. Signs in the windows say it will remain closed “until further notice”.

Owners Greendale Leisure Ltd, based at Woodbury Salterton, have remained tight-lipped about their plans for the venue.
Nearby businesses are unclear about what will happen to the pub.

David O’Callaghan, of Gentry barber shop, said: “There have been all sorts of rumours, but no one is any the wiser. “We have seen people taking out pumps, coolers, chilling units, the fruit machine and pool table. So maybe they aren’t going to keep it as a pub.
“It’s an eyesore, and I’m concerned squatters are going to get in there.”

Greendale is host to Hugo Swire’s constituency office in Woodbury and he recently opened one of their leisure venues for them. Hugo would surely wish them to be conscientious and public-spirited businessmen.

It isn’t just Knowle where civil servants refuse to provide taxpayers information – MPs suffer too!

” The chairs of two parliamentary select committees have accused the top civil servant at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) of misleading MPs over the closure its biggest office outside London.

Iain Wright, chair of the business committee, and Meg Hillier, chair of the public accounts committee, have written to Martin Donnelly, the BIS permanent secretary, calling on him to release information on the department’s estimate of the costs of the closure of its St Paul’s Place office in Sheffield, which employs around 240 people. …

… this week the department was forced to admit that employing people in its Sheffield office costs less than a third of what it costs in London.

In an answer to a written question from the MP for Sheffield Central, Paul Blomfield, the universities and science minister, Jo Johnson, said the annual cost of rent, rates and maintenance for an employee at the office in Sheffield was £3,190, compared with £9,750 at the headquarters on Victoria Street in London. …

… In the letter, the two committee chairs said the information relating to the reorganisation of the department that the permanent secretary had provided was “wholly unsatisfactory” and his answers in oral evidence to their committees had been “obfuscatory, if not misleading”.

“Your refusal to disclose the information we have sought is unhelpful, unjustified and is impeding our ability to fulfil our scrutiny functions,” they said.

“[We] are asking for precise information about the work done to estimate the costs of different scenarios in relation to the closure of the Sheffield office and transfer of posts to London. Specifically, could you please provide us with a copy of the document entitled BIS 2020 Finance and Headcount Outline, and any other document which has informed decisions relating to the Sheffield office.”

The letter asked that the information be provided before Donnelly appears before the public accounts committee on 27 April. …

… “Taxpayers deserve better from those working on their behalf. We expect the permanent secretary to respond swiftly and with clarity on the points of concern raised by our committees, which includes releasing the information we have requested. Only then can the decision to close the BIS Sheffield office be properly scrutinised.”

Wright, the business, innovation and skills committee chair, said: “The permanent secretary is accountable for the use of public funds and needs to demonstrate the financial rationale and evidence-based business case for the decision to cut jobs in Sheffield and centralise policymaking in London. The permanent secretary has a responsibility to enable us to scrutinise the running of his department and disclose this information.” …

… Donnelly stressed that the department had not yet reached final decisions about the number of roles in the Sheffield office that would be made redundant and the number that would be moved to London. He said there had, therefore, been no formal cost-benefit analysis of the decision to close the Sheffield office.”

Hinkley C: “Power for 60 years” … in your dreams!

Our Energy Minister, Amber Rudd, has written a public letter (i.e. press release) that states that one benefit of Hinkley C is that ” … it will power homes for 60 years … and we are only paying for 35″.

Oh, Amber, Amber, your innocence pains Owl!

In year 36 (if we ever get there) EDF and Chinese investors will almost certainly suddenly find massive unanticipated and unplanned-for major difficulties that will, sadly, mean that Hinkley C must close.

That’s politics, Amber.

Knowle: EDDC helping Pegasus to get its ducks in a row

“An EDDC spokeswoman said: “We have received an application from Pegasus, but we will require some additional information before we can validate it. Once we have everything that we need, the application will be advertised, posted on our website and the community consulted in the usual way.”

The developer said ‘major changes’ had been made to its original vision ahead of the plans being submitted. Under the plans, the site’s 19th century former hotel and 1970s offices will be demolished to make way for dwellings for over-60s. The Caretaker’s Cottage will remain. Much of the parkland will remain in public ownership. A restaurant and gym facilities also feature in proposals.”

Exmouth: 95% of those who voted want more consultation on seafront plans

Which means we return to the question: who does a council represent – its developers or its voters? What should a council’s over-arching aim be: economic growth at all costs or social and environmental representation?

Back to the drawing board, EDDC. Or ignore your voters?

Community Hospitals: the more you raise to improve them, the more rent the NHS will charge …

Sidmouth GPs are outraged about what they call the Catch 22 on community hospitals: the more the community has raised to improve the facilities, the more the commercial rent will be; so the less affordable it will be for health providers; so the owner (ie Jeremy Hunt) will be required by law to close it down and sell it off as real estate.

Meanwhile Mr Swire is delightfully rattled. Until he started to protest too much most people did not really care where his family’s £250 million income last year came from or how much tax was paid on it. Claire [Wright] is right… this one will run and run.

Robert Crick

Whose standards?

In the list of complaints received about councillors published recently by the Standards Committee is this one:

Town Councillor

Complaint regarding not declaring a personal interest
Passed to MO for assessment

The subject member is a member of Axminster Lodge of Honour & Virtue and participated in and voted upon an approved payment for Axminster Freemasons.

Click to access 190416standardscttecombinedagenda.pdf

page 15

Fat cats getting fatter

“… A financial elite plunged the country into calamity and effectively got away with it unscathed, while workers suffered the longest period of reduced pay since the Victorian era. Meanwhile public services, social security and secure jobs were slashed. It has become increasingly clear – as the Panama Papers underscored – that a significant chunk of our economic elite simply do not like paying tax in this country.

The problem is that this injustice is met with resignation, rather than anger. While rage at the smaller misdemeanours of the poor – such as benefit fraud – seems easy to stir, destructive behaviour on this far greater scale is discussed like the weather. The rich pay themselves ludicrous sums of money, major corporations avoid tax, sometimes it rains …”

GPs get cash injection

“NHS chiefs in England have announced a five-year plan to help GP surgeries “get back on their feet” and to improve access for patients.

The rescue package will see an extra £2.4bn a year ploughed into services by 2020 – a rise of 14% once inflation is taken into account.

It will pay for 5,000 more GPs and extra staff to boost practices.
It comes after warnings from the profession that the future of general practice was at real risk.

Rising patient demand coupled with a squeeze in funding has led to patients facing longer waits for appointments and increasing difficulties getting through to their local surgeries.

Both the British Medical Association and Royal College of GPs have been increasingly vocal about the pressures over the past year.”