“Toothless Environment Agency is allowing the living world to be wrecked with impunity”

No chance for Sidford Fields then.

” … The Environment Agency no longer prosecutes even some of the most extreme pollution events. In 2013, a farmer in Somerset released what the agency called a “tsunami of slurry” into the Wellow Brook. One inspector said it was the worst pollution she had seen in 17 years. But the agency dithered for a year before striking a private agreement with the farmer, allowing him to avoid possible prosecution, criminal record, massive fine and court costs, by giving £5,000 to a local charity.

New rules imposed by the government means that such under-the-counter deals, which now have a name of their own – enforcement undertakings – are likely to become more common. They are a parody of justice: arbitrary, opaque and wide open to influence-peddling, special pleading and corruption.

I see the agency’s farcical investigation of the pollution incident I reported as strategic incompetence, designed to avoid conflict with powerful landowners. Were it to follow any other strategy, it would run into trouble with the government.

These problems are likely to become even more severe, when the new cuts the environment department has just agreed with the Treasury take effect. An analysis by the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts reveals that, once the new reductions bite, the government’s spending on wildlife conservation, air quality and water pollution will have declined by nearly 80% in real terms since 2009-10.

It’s all up for grabs now: if you want to wreck the living world, the government is not going to stop you. Those who have power, agency, money or land can – metaphorically and literally – dump their crap on the rest of us.

Never mind that the government is now breaking European law left right and centre, spectacularly failing, for example, to ensure that all aquatic ecosystems are in good health by the end of this year, as it is supposed to do under the water framework directive. It no longer seems to care. It would rather use your tax money to pay fines to the European commission than enforce the law against polluters.

I’ve heard the same description of Liz Truss, the secretary of state for environment, who oversees the work of the Environment Agency, from several people over the past few months: “Worse than Owen Paterson”. At first, I refused to take it seriously. It’s the kind of statement that is usually employed as hyperbole, such as “somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan”, or “more deluded than Tony Blair”. But in this case, they aren’t joking. Preposterous as the notion of any environment secretary being worse than Paterson might seem, they mean it. …”


OK Hugo, who is your choice for PM? And Neil, what about you?

Will it be an old Etonian (Boris), a woman (May) a bloke from the working class (Crabbe) or Hunt – that chap you say you talked to a lot about our NHS but who doesn’t seem to have helped much?

How long will you sit on the fence? Or might you stand yourself? Or will you be campaigning to see which one will give you another ministerial post? Or the one offering you a peerage, perhaps?

Oh, the irony if you end up as just another common or garden constituency MP – who doesn’t have even a second home in it.

Owl feels your pain.

And Neil – now presumably so disliked by your Minister George Eustace for batting for the wrong side. And no hope of going back to the European Parliament!

Will the A303 now ever be completed … Will animal welfare continue to be protected by Brexiters? And forever destined to live with the fact that you were one of the 79 MPs who defied your party whip to force this Referendum.

But at least you do live in YOUR constituency.

Sidford: Environment Agency “not using new flooding figures to save developer money”

The Sid Vale Association is to take legal advice on the Environment Agency’s “incomprehensible” decision to support a planning application for a business park on a Sidford floodplain.

Here’s an extract from the Sidmouth Herald’s report :

” … The Environment Agency (EA) has defended its ‘incomprehensible’ support of plans for a 9.3-acre business park in Sidford – because using its new flood risk figures could cost the developer money.

A climate change report by the government body states that the region’s peak river flow is expected to increase by 85 per cent – four times more than anticipated – while surface water is likely to increase 40 per cent by around 2070, which is double the previous forecast.

In light of the increased risk to the flood-prone valley, representatives are calling for the agency to rethink its support of an outline planning application for the business park between Sidford and Sidbury, submitted by Fords of Sidmouth.

But the EA states it has not taken the new figures published earlier this year into account because the site is already allocated in the adopted East Devon Local Plan – a development blueprint to cover the next 15 years.

The EA’s policy states: “The advice will come into immediate effect. However, where local plans or development proposals and associated flood risk assessments are well advanced, the application of the updated allowances could significantly slow down completion or add to costs.”

An EA spokesman said: “We considered the plan and application to be well advanced and therefore reasonable to base advice on the existing allowances.”

The Sid Vale Association (SVA) has threatened legal action if the agency does not review its ‘short-sighted and potentially dangerous’ position on the matter.

SVA conservation and planning committee chair Richard Thurlow said: “Our letter [to the EA] reflects the comments of many Sidmouth and Sidford residents. We find it absolutely incomprehensible that the Environment Agency is not using its own regulations which came into operation in February. … “

Increased flood risk: SVA calls for Environment Agency rethink on the Sidford planning application.

Telegraph journalist on how to survive Brexit: longer working hours and plenty of immigrants!

Be careful what you wish for but be even more careful to check what you think you are voting for.

In an article in today’s Telegraph entitled “Now the vote is over, let’s move on with six steps to a bright future” here are a couple of the proposed steps journalist Matthew Lynn suggests:

… “We should scrap EU-mandated labour market regulations and social protections as fast as possible. There is no reason why we should accept European limits on how many hours people do in the office – so long as we have a minimum wage in place, which we do, then it is up to every individual how long a shift he or she wants to put in. Issues such as parental leave can be freely agreed between companies and staff. Employers who want to hire lots of young women, the best educated, most skilled part of the workforce, will be generous; others less so. But business can decide for itself.

… Finally, keep immigration at high levels. Many people who voted for Brexit wanted it to come down, but that is a debate for another day. Right now business is structured around a constant flow of new workers and although it can change that by improving productivity and using more robots, it can’t be done quickly.

For the first five years, the Government should aim to keep net migration around the 300,000 mark every year, even if it wants to change the mix to allow in more Canadians and Indians and fewer East Europeans.”


Matthew Lynn is a financial columnist and author. He writes for WSJ Marketwatch, The Spectator and Money Week as well as The Telegraph, and has worked as a columnist for The Sunday Tines and Bloomberg.

Oliver Letwin (2) – privatise, privatise, privatise – including the NHS

The man David Cameron just put in charge of the government’s Brexit policy (see post directly below)

Oliver Letwin books andpamphlet:

Oliver Letwin and John Redwood. (1988)

Britain’s Biggest Enterprise – ideas for radical reform of the NHS

“… four out of five main recommendations made in the 20-page pamphlet are already being put into place.

Britain’s Biggest Enterprise :

– calls the NHS “a bureaucratic monster that cannot be tamed”.
– says the NHS needs “radical reform” and “revolutionary ideas”.
– claims waiting lists were caused by the “system itself” rather than a lack of funds, and that spending more money would simply increase waiting lists.

It makes these five recommendations:
1) Establishment of the NHS as an independent trust.
2) Increased use of joint ventures between the NHS and private sector
3) Extending the principle of charging

Source: http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/06/03/revealed-the-pamphlet-underpinning-tory-plans-to-privatise-the-nhs/


Oliver Letwin (1988)

Privatising the World: A Study of International Privatisation in Theory and Practice

Amazon Books 1 star Review:

This is the well spring of what they are doing to our country. The owners of the snouts in the trough that cannot bear to think of any money, any transaction happening without a profit being made for a shareholder or a bank, or Letwin’s friends like Cameron, Osborne and Hunt. An appalling treatise on how greed is right and the public interest is wrong. How to dismantle the stuff that glues us together and sell it off to corporate cartels – the failure of the fuel market, the chaos of our “privatised” railways, the reluctance of bus companies to run unprofitable routes, zero hours contracts – all of these should be warnings of where this sort of poisoned, anti social thinking can lead. Read this book and be afraid.


Oh Lord No: Letwin to head Brexit unit in Whitehall!




Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin is to lead a cross-Whitehall unit to prepare for Brexit ahead of the election of David Cameron’s replacement as prime minister.

Cameron told MPs yesterday that the EU unit would bring together officials and policy expertise from across the Cabinet Office, the Treasury, the Foreign Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

He said the Brexit negotiations would be the “most complex and most important task that the British civil service has undertaken in decades”, so the unit would report to the whole Cabinet on delivering the outcome of the referendum. This will include objectively exploring options for the UK’s future relationship with Europe and the rest of the world from outside the EU.

This will ensure the new prime minister, who is set to be chosen by 2 September, would have the best possible advice from the moment of their arrival, he told MPs.”



“According to official government documents from 1985, released in December 2014 under the 30 years rule, Letwin recommended the Prime Minister to “use Scotland as a trail-blazer for the pure residence charge”, i.e. the controversial Community Charge or ‘Poll tax’, having trialled it there first, and to implement it nationwide should “the exemplifications prove… it is feasible.”

Another 1985 internal memo released in December 2015 showed Letwin’s response to the Broadwater Farm riot, which blamed the violence on the “bad moral attitudes” of the predominantly Afro-Caribbean rioters, claiming that “lower-class, unemployed white people lived for years without a breakdown of public order on anything like the present scale”. It also criticised some of the schemes proposed to address inner-city problems, suggesting David Young’s proposed scheme to support black entrepreneurs would founder because the money would be spent on the “disco and drug trade”. Letwin later apologised, saying that parts of the memo had been “both badly worded and wrong.”

Letwin coauthored Britain’s biggest enterprise: ideas for radical reform of the NHS, a 1988 Centre for Policy Studies pamphlet written with John Redwood which advocated a closer relationship between the National Health Service and the private sector. This is regarded as providing a theoretical justification for NHS reforms carried out by subsequent governments, particularly the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

Letwin unsuccessfully stood against Diane Abbott at the 1987 election for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and against Glenda Jackson for the Hampstead and Highgate seat in the 1992 election.

He went on to win the historically safe Conservative seat of West Dorset at the 1997 general election, although he only achieved a majority of 1,840 votes over the next candidate. …

… May 2005, Letwin was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The Times reported that he had requested a role less onerous than his former treasury brief so that he would have time to pursue his career in the City. Until December 2009, he was a non-executive director of the merchant bank NM Rothschild Corporate Finance Ltd.

Following the decision by Michael Howard to stand down as Conservative Party leader after the 2005 election, Letwin publicly backed the youngest candidate and eventual winner David Cameron.


The Daily Telegraph reported in 2009 that Letwin agreed to repay a bill for £2,145 for replacing a leaking pipe under the tennis court at his constituency home in Dorset, which he had claimed on his parliamentary expenses.

Public Sector Reform
Speaking to consultancy firm KPMG on 27 July 2011, Letwin caused controversy after stating that you cannot have “innovation and excellence” without “real discipline and some fear on the part of the providers” in the public sector. This was widely reported, with The Guardian headline stating Letwin says ‘public sector workers need “discipline and fear”‘.

Government Document Disposal
In October 2011 the Daily Mirror reported a story that Letwin had thrown away more than 100 secret government documents in public bins in St. James’s Park, with no real care to dispose of them properly.[31][32] Enquiries made by the Information Commissioner’s Office found that Letwin did not dispose of any government documents; they were in fact his constituents’ personal and confidential letters to him and did breach data protection rules.[33] Letwin later apologised for his actions.

In 2003, The Independent reported comments Letwin had made saying that he would “go out on the streets and beg” rather than send his children to the state schools in Lambeth where he and his family lived.

After two strangers on his London street had asked if they could use his lavatory in 2002, and he agreed to let them do so, they then stole his credit cards and other belongings. He retrieved his credit cards after chasing the accomplices in his dressing gown and pyjamas.


“Progressive Alliance”

“… the best or only prospect for victory in the onrushing general election could be a broad progressive alliance or national unity platform of citizens and parties from the centre to the left. Such an idea has been floated before, and usually founders on the rocks of party tribalism. But the stakes have never been this high, and the Achilles heels of the status quo parties have never been so spotlit.

Such an alliance could only succeed if it embraces the lessons of new politics and establishes itself on open principles. A coalition of sore losers from Westminster is unlikely to appeal. But if an open primary was held in every constituency to select the best progressive candidate, that would provide unprecedented democratic legitimacy and channel a wave of bottom-up energy into this new alliance as well as its constituent parties.

In England, such an alliance could gather together many of those who have campaigned together for Remain in this referendum and opposed Tory policies, from Labour to Greens and Liberal Democrats. It might even appeal to Conservative voters or politicians who are disenchanted with the Leave movement. In Scotland and Wales too, some form of engagement with the SNP or Plaid Cymru might be possible.

An electoral alliance built on open and democratic foundations would provide a new entry point to politics for the millions of young people who voted to stay in the EU and today feel despairing and unheard. Vitally, it could also make a fresh offer to Labour heartland voters, enabling them to elect candidates who are free to speak to their concerns on immigration as well as economic insecurity. I believe it could win a thumping majority.”


Claire Wright: even more important that MPs represent their constituency

“Brexit: It is now more important than ever that this country has MPs who will represent the people

Tuesday, 28 June 2016 1 Comment by Claire

Since Friday events have moved so fast I haven’t even written a blog as each time I think of an angle it gets superseded by another major news story!

The only clear thing among all the chaos and confusion, is that this country has probably never been more divided – politically and socially – and in my view, more in peril than at any other time in living memory.

The party system seems to have totally fractured. Not only has the Conservative parliamentary party become bitterly broken, the Labour party is also at war.

Last Friday morning I felt shellshocked and upset that we had left an institution I believed worked for the greater good, despite its many faults. Since then I have watched fascinated as the subsequent dramatic events unfolded.

The economic fallout came swiftly and is very worrying. The value of the pound has plummeted to a 31 year low, we are told that the UK’s credit rating has been downgraded from a triple A to a double A rating, we have dropped from being the fifth largest economy in the world to the fourth and the Bank of England is on standby to pump £250bn of public money into the markets to reduce the jitters currently reverberating across the globe from our EU exit.

More than £200bn has been wiped from the value of the UK stock market – equivalent to 24 years worth of EU contributions.

A general election is now looking possible in October, to tie in with the selection of a new prime minister.

Lies and exaggeration were undoubtedly the order of the day for both the Leave and Remain campaigns, but what is really galling to me is that the Leave movement won people over on false pretences. On the NHS and immigration in particular – two major planks of their operation, their claims have been found to be resoundingly untrue.

The Remain campaign focused too much on scaremongering and too little on how the EU helps us, which only riled people and forced them into entrenched positions , setting family member and friend against one another.

The conservative IN bandwagon, seemed to be blinkered on issues mainly linked to the economy and immigration, discounting all the positive things that the EU does for us, for example on employment, the environment and human rights for example. I believe that this was because these are the issues that are not valued by the right wing political elite that we currently have governing this country.

David Cameron’s supposedly one nation conservative cabinet, which campaigned WITH big business against a ban on bee killing pesticides, has already scrapped or weakened as many environmental protections as it can get away with. Planning regulations are now as relaxed and in favour of developers as they have been since the introduction of the Town and Country Planning Act in 1947.

With a future hardline right wing government on the cards, possibly led by the current favourite Boris Johnson, the likelihood of the current protections remaining for our seas, clean air, recycling, waste and for rare species, landscapes and plants – the Habitats Regulations – is remote.

Over the past few years the Conservative government has lobbied to scrap the EU Habitats Regulations – tough laws which protect some of our most precious landscapes here in East Devon, such as Woodbury Common, Aylesbeare Common, the Exe Estuary, as well as large swathes of Dartmoor.

However, despite the Habitats Regulations protecting our most rare and precious species such as the dartford warbler and the nightjar, our government announced the laws were “gold plated,” and lobbied the EU hard to get them scrapped.

The EU has so far held firm to these regulations, which also mean strong planning rules in these areas , as well as the surrounding countryside.

But I now can see on the horizon an inevitable and horrible ‘bonfire of red tape’ as a new right wing conservative leadership sets about dismantling anything that it views as in the way of “growth.”

So what is the future of East Devon now most of the country has voted to leave?

In my own council ward of Ottery, there must now be question marks for a controversial quarry proposed at Straitgate Farm, which was quietly looking less likely, due in part to the strict Habitats Regulations Protecting Woodbury Common, where Blackhill Quarry is based and where stone and gravel processing currently takes place. It was due to cease as of the end of this year because of these laws.

What will Brexit mean for East Devon’s two biggest industries? Agriculture and tourism? And what will it mean for education? What does it mean for our cash strapped NHS and our local very much at risk
community hospitals?

What will it mean for the most vulnerable people in the constituency and those on low incomes?

Certainly, both agriculture and education are forced to rely on EU subsidies and grants.

Prolonged economic hardship will surely mean even deeper public spending cuts, yet deeper cuts to public services, which as always, will have the biggest effect on those people who have the least.

If a general election does take place in October, the future of our district – and the rest of the country – rests with those politicians examining thousands of pages of EU law and policy with a view to changing, scrapping or tightening it.

The future of our vulnerable residents also rests with MPs who have a duty to stand up for people who need help and support.

East Devon’s MP needs speak and vote in favour or against new laws and policies based on how they affect local people. That’s voting FOR the people of East Devon, not his party.

Each MP has a duty, in my view, to be a diligent scrutineer of this process.

What laws or policies do we want in East Devon that will benefit us, our communities, our wildlife and our businesses? Now is the time to consider this very carefully.

If democracy is working effectively people in East Devon should have the opportunity to influence such discussions through our MP.

And our MP has a responsibility to stand up for the people of East Devon and what they see as their priorities, especially at this very turbulent time.

The question has to be as ever. Is Mr Swire up to the job?”