EDF recalled to Parliamentary Committee to explain further delay to Hinkley C

26 April 2016

“The Energy and Climate Change Committee has called senior representatives from EDF back to Parliament to explain the further delay in making an investment decision on a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C.

Inquiry: UK new nuclear: status update
Energy and Climate Change Committee
Angus MacNeil MP Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee:

“When EDF appeared before us in March, company bosses were insisting that a decision would be made in May. At that hearing we said that we would call them back in if that timetable slipped again and that’s what we are doing now.

If Hinkley does not go ahead it could have huge implications for our future energy security and efforts to cut climate-changing emissions. We will therefore be watching progress on this closely. If we have to see EDF back here in September as well, we will.”

Dates and times for the hearing will be confirmed in due course, but it is expected to take place in late May.

On 23 March, the committee took evidence from EDF regarding the status of the plans to build two new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point C. EDF Energy Chief Executive, Vincent De Rivaz, told the committee that the final investment decision would be taken “very soon” and confirmed that the French Minister of Economy had suggested it would be “early May”.”

“Blow for Pope as audit into Vatican finances forced to halt”

“… The first external audit of Vatican finances by an internationally respected accountancy firm has been halted.

In what will be seen as a blow to Pope Francis’ reforms, a letter on 12 April was sent to Holy See departments informing them the work of PricewaterhouseCoopers has been “suspended immediately”.

The letter, reported by Crux, was written by Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, one of the top officials at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. It explains that any permission to hand financial data to PwC has now been revoked.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, had commissioned PwC to review the Vatican accounts, work which had previously been done by an Italian firm. The audit by PwC was the first of its kind and was going to provide a complete picture of Holy See finances, including a valuation of all its assets.

But in his letter Archbishop Becciu said that Cardinal Pell’s instruction for Vatican bodies to co-operate with the firm had been overruled by “superior provision”. A spokesman for Pell said he was “surprised” by the suspension of the audit and expects it to resume shortly.

It leaves open the question as to whether this came from the Pope, his advisory body of cardinals or the 15-body council for the economy, led by German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, which oversees the work of Cardinal Pell’s department.

Crux reported that the point of contention by those opposed to the PwC audit was not transparency but a concern over the nature of the contract with the firm.

There has, however, been sustained resistance to the Pope’s reforms of Vatican finances which blew up when documents were leaked showing mismanagement of money. Those who leaked them, and the journalists who reported the material, are now being prosecuted in what is known as the “Vatileaks 2″ trial.

Cardinal Pell has also become something of a lightning rod for opposition with accusations of dirty tricks being made when the cardinal’s expenses were leaked.

Some of the strongest opposition to Pell’s work has come from within the Holy See’s Secretariat of State, traditionally the most powerful body in the Vatican, and APSA (Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See), which manages Vatican assets. Both are believed to have resisted attempts to come under the oversight of Pell’s department.

The position of the cardinal, who reaches retirement age of 75 in June, is under pressure – things were made worse for him following four days of uncomfortable cross-examination by an Australian inquiry into clerical sexual abuse.

Pope Francis met with Pell this morning.”


Maybe they need the South West Audit Partnership …

Guardian editorial slams devolution secrecy and lack of democracy

You can’t devolve powers to local people if they don’t know anything about it. The Tories need to come clean on what powers are on offer and how they will pay for them”

“Is the government’s “devolution revolution” stalling? The National Audit Office’s new report on English cities’ devolution deals, published last week, suggests it could be. The report makes clear what council leaders have been telling the government for months: many councils don’t know what powers are on offer to them, when they may get them, or how they will pay for them.

All these concerns should have been addressed much earlier in the process. Last year, the Tories blocked Labour amendments to the cities and local government devolution bill that would have made devolution work much better.

We called on the government to let areas choose whether they wanted a mayor or not, to publish a full list of services available for devolution, and to devolve resources alongside powers, so local areas aren’t just left to take the blame for government-imposed cuts. We also called for more devolution, beyond town halls to communities, giving people more control over the services they use.

Despite demands for more transparency, government ministers have become ever more secretive. In the past month alone, the communities secretary Greg Clark has refused two parliamentary questions and a Freedom of Information request to publish a list of which councils he’s talking to about devolution.

Transparency matters because you can’t devolve powers to communities if they don’t know anything about it. Involving communities will lead to better devolution deals because local people understand their own communities better than Whitehall does.

Polling by Ipsos Mori demonstrates a close link between awareness of devolution and positive attitudes towards it. Being open about devolution builds support, while doing deals in secret breeds opposition. That’s why the most successful transformations in public services are coming from local, not central, government. Plymouth council, for example, has set up more than 30 energy co-ops working with their community; Rochdale has recently mutualised its housing stock to give tenants a real stake in ownership, and Oldham council has improved care for older people and better conditions for care staff in its ethical care company.

Rochdale joins staff and tenants together as biggest mutual in housing
As leader of Lambeth council until 2012 I learned that giving communities a bigger voice leads to better public services. A tenant management board gave residents the power to lead the transformation of Blenheim Gardens housing estate in Brixton, improving repairs and rent collection, and cutting crime. A community-led youth trust is creating new opportunities for young people and tackling gang crime in some of the south London borough’s most disadvantaged communities.

This is real devolution – people getting the chance to influence decisions that affect them, and making the professionals who run those services listen more carefully to the people they serve.

The NAO raises concerns that devolution has been so tightly controlled by the chancellor, George Osborne, excluding even other government ministers, that it could go into reverse if there is a change of chancellor. How ironic that an agenda based on letting go is being so tightly gripped by a single over-controlling individual. And there is no consistency to the government’s approach. At the same time as the devolution bill was going through parliament last year, the government was pushing through a housing bill that centralised more than 30 powers in Whitehall.

Labour has argued for more ambitious devolution that shapes a new relationship between citizens and the state and redefines the relationship between local and national government.

We believe in devolution by default. That means a new approach that assumes powers will be devolved unless there is a compelling reason not to. We want to see resources devolved alongside powers, with fiscal devolution that ensures funding follows need. And we want devolution to mean something more than a transfer of power from one set of politicians to another – communities need a new right to request control.

Last week’s NAO report backs Labour’s charge that the government’s approach is too limited, too centralised and too controlling. This is a moment to be bold, to let go and let communities shape the devolved future they want for themselves.


Two more u-turns on the Housing Bill to add to the 17 previously reported

Ministers agreed to review planning laws relating to basement developments amid fears councils cannot control the growth of “subterranean development”

The Government will look again at private landlords being able to reclaim properties when the become vacant after concern that it was open to being used as a “back-door” way to evict tenants.

BHS fall out

“As the clothing chain BHS goes bust with the loss of nearly 11,000 jobs, it’s worth recalling the hand of Sir Philip Green, the man who will share a part of the blame for its bankruptcy.

Green bought BHS in 2000 for a sum of £200 million and controlled it for 15 years, though it was registered under the name of his wife Tina, who lived in Monaco.

When he bought BHS, its pension scheme was in surplus. By the time he sold it – it was in deficit. It is estimated that his family received more than £400m in dividends from the company.

In 2004 alone, Green’s family got a £40m dividend from BHS.

A year later, he collected a £1.2 billion dividend from Arcadia – the group that owned BHS – making it the biggest paycheque in British corporate history. It was more than four times Arcadia’s profits, and Green claimed the company was in great health and BHS had plenty of opportunities to grow.

To add insult to injury, the £1.2 billion payout wasn’t taxed, since it went to his wife in Monaco. The couple were accused of tax avoidance.

All this came after Sir Philip Green was appointed by David Cameron to ‘lead a review of government waste‘, in 2010.

And just a few weeks ago – as BHS teetered on the edge of bankruptcy and a pensions scandal was about to erupt – Sir Philip Green bought himself a third luxury yacht.

By that point it was no longer his concern – he had washed his hands off BHS a year earlier for just £1.

He said at the time:

“The business is handed over in a sound financial position with significant cash balances and banking facilities in place.”

If BHS goes bankrupt, it likely won’t meet pension commitments to 20,000 people. Clearly, Green doesn’t care now.

What advice on spending money did the government get from this man?”


National Trust on AONBs and planning policy

The last hundred years:
The National Trust and planning. Part One: the last hundred years

and why they are worried now:
The National Trust and planning. Part Two: Why we’re worried

The second article concludes:

The country needs more homes and there’s no reason why the planning system shouldn’t change to help deliver those homes. But fiddling with the system without a coherent approach threatens more sprawl rather than ensuring delivery of new communities where they are needed. The result is the careless loss of countryside and of the distinctiveness of England’s towns and villages.

“We need a planning system for that delivers the homes we need, and works for the economy, society and our environment. Instead, we’re in danger of ending up with a service for big developers to get housing past local communities. No one is ever going to love planning but there are good reasons why it was invented over a hundred years ago, and those reasons haven’t fundamentally changed.”

The meaning of “housing supply policies”

“The Court of Appeal may have brought clarity to what are relevant housing supply policies (at least until the Supreme Court has its say), but it is not open season for housebuilders, argues John Pugh-Smith.

On 17 March 2016 the Court of Appeal gave judgment in the linked appeals Suffolk District Council v Hopkins Homes Ltd & SSCLG and Richborough Estates Partnership LLP v Cheshire East Borough Council & SSGLG [2016] EWCA Civ 168.

The issue before the Court concerned the meaning of the phrase ‘relevant policies for the supply of housing’ in paragraph 49 of the National Planning Policy Framework (2012) (‘NPPF49’) …”

Postscript: On 14 April the two unsuccessful authorities applied for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

see article for more information:


“Anywhere but Westminster” newspaper column want to hear from us

Worried about the ever-widening democratic deficit in East Devon? Enraged by the secrecy and vagueness of our devolution deal? Fed up with an MP who will not speak about his constituency in Parliament and won’t even live in it? Celebrating the rise of independents at every level of local government in the district? Here is how you get it to a wider audience:

“Anywhere but Westminster is travelling the country to get a sense of British politics away from the Westminster bubble. During this period old fashioned two-party politics has been diminished and a palpable sense of unrest with the status quo has emerged.

For their new series, the pair are back on the road, hunting out radical new politics in some unlikely place. We would like you to tell us where you think they should go?

Share your views in the form linked on the webpage below or get in contact with John Harris (@johnharris1969) and John Domokos (@JohnDomokos) via Twitter.”