Inequality in Devon

Devon amongst best places for pensioners to live:

Torquay one of the worst places to raise a family:


EDF staff reps go to court to get Hinkley C decision to proceed annulled

“Five staff representatives on the board of EDF have filed a legal complaint seeking to annul the utility’s decision to go ahead with its Hinkley Point nuclear project in Britain, EDF unions said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

On July 28, EDF’s board voted 10 to seven to proceed with the 18 billion pound project to build two nuclear reactors. All six staff representatives and one other board member voted against, while one board member resigned in protest against EDF’s strategy.

The unions argue that EDF Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy and representatives of the French state should have informed the board that they knew the British government wanted to take more time to review the contract.

Hours after EDF’s board approved the project, the UK government postponed its decision until early autumn. Days later, in an email to top EDF executives, Levy admitted that the night before the board meeting he had been told new British Prime Minister Theresa May wanted a bit more time.

The nuclear reactors carry huge risks for both France and Britain. EDF will assume the up-front costs, which unions say could jeopardise the firm’s survival, while Britain has committed to pay a price twice current market levels for the power generated by the plant.

“Some board members discovered they did not benefit from the same level of information as the CEO and government representative,” the CGT, CFE-CGC and FO unions said. The moderate CFDT union did not sign the statement.

The unions added there was no justification to push the board to vote on the project in a hurry.

EDF declined to comment on Wednesday.

Law firm Alain Levy, which represents the five union board members, said in a statement it had filed a complaint with the Paris commercial court, asking it to annul the vote because Levy had not shared essential information with all board members.

A first hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept 5.

Source: Reuters

Devon Tory election expenses conflict?

From a correspondent:

West Mercia’s Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Chris Singer was with Devon and Cornwall police until Dec. 2015, the Commander for Plymouth and before that Torbay.

Even if no Election Expenses offence was committed by Alison Hernandez and Kevin Foster, any outcome may be tainted by Devon and Cornwall Police passing that to a force whose ACC was with them at the time of the General Election in May 2015.

Does any potential conflict of interest in passing that investigation to West Mercia risk bringing both constabularies into disrepute?

Indeed, a very good question.

Council record- keeping – an EDDC example

A recent comment on the original article:

“This finding should come as no surprise to EDDC.

In a decision published in January 2004, the Ombudsman found against EDDC in regard to a number of complaints concerning planning matters in Exmouth at Camperdown Terrace. The Ombudsman noted that

‘material relating to the application was misleading and gave no indication that the council was being asked to approve a 6.8 metre high metal boat racking system at the end of their small gardens, nor that the racks would be used for the storage of large motor boats which are moved around the site by a gigantic fork lift truck.‘

Consultees were not provided with sufficient information to make informed comments.

The Council’s record keeping was very poor and there was a failure to give adequate consideration to the points raised by the consultees and others who commented on the application. The Ombudsman found maladminstration causing injustice and recommended that …..

(g) “undertake a review of the record keeping by planning officers and the delegated decision making arrangemnents to ensure that proper records are kept and delegated decisions are made on the basis of written reports, so that those affected may see how a particular decision has been reached.”

The most striking sentence for me is “Consultees were not provided with sufficient information to make informed comments”. Anyone knowing anything about the Exmouth Masterplan consultation, in regard to Elizabeth Hall v Premier Inn, will appreciate how EDDC said one thing meant something quite different, how wanting to see the EH site improved was taken as meaning approval for a Premier Inn. EH is but one of very many examples.

Also, anyone who is familiar with EDDC’s answers to FOIs will be all too familiar with EDDC’s failure to keep proper records of decision making.

The record of this Ombudsman’s finding is no longer available online but I have the 24 page report should anyone want it.”

Seaton Heights – due for completion June 2016 …

With Seaton seemingly on the up these days with its increase in “staycation” visitors, its newly-opened Jurassic Visitor Centre, a new Premier Inn on the way and a new leisure facility about to open, it is time to revisit – yet again – the one remaining large tourist development yet to be created – the hilltop Seaton Heights, the former motel with its breathtaking views down to the sea.

Lyme Bay Leisure – ?owners of Seaton Heights – revamped their website in March this year. They are busy people – offering consultancy services in how to achieve best results in the leisure industry, for example, so perhaps they haven’t had time to review their current web site.

They begin with their usual “buy off plan” spiel:

Lyme Bay Leisure are pleased to announce the release of the first phase of “off plan” luxury “Deck Houses” offered on 999 year leases at their luxury resort in Seaton Devon.

and go on to say:

Once complete the Deck Houses will be supported by “The Gatehouse” a luxury four star leisure facility (opening in June 2016) consisting of a gymnasium and swimming pool with glass fronted views over the bay. A luxury spa with five treatment rooms, sauna, steam and herbal suits (sic) with a therapeutic thermal pool for the ultimate indulgence. The ground floor has (?) a reception, coffee shop and sea facing restaurant providing a wonderful dining experience 7 days a week.”

They seem to have a bit of a problem sorting out present tense and future tense here too:

The first phase of Deck House are [might one day be] a mix of two and three bedroom properties ranging from 93 to 122 square meters all with either integral balconies or roof top terraces to enjoy the wonderful views across the bay. The properties are [might one day be] finished to a high specification with all bedrooms having en-suite facilities and underfloor heating. The kitchen is [might one day be] finished with top of the range Miele appliances and all homes are [might one day be] air-conditioned have solid wood floors and the benefit of their own designated parking space.

and finally”

Discerning purchases (sic) can secure a plot of their choice now for an initial reservation fee of just £1,000, for further details of available plots, terms and conditions and time frames please email our dedicated sales team at

Those “discerning purchaseRs” (note: not purchases!) might want to give the company some very substantial lee-way on that time frame, given that June 2016 is long past with no sign of any development over the last several years, and might also wish to enquire as to the status of that deposit should the venture be further delayed ….

More South West pensioners return to work to make ends meet than anywhere else in England

With low levels of crime, good healthcare and an attractive climate the south coast and south west of England have long been parts of the country where thousands of Britons would love to retire.

But while many people aspire to live out their days in counties such as Dorset, West Sussex and Devon, figures show that fewer than half think they will be able to afford to do so comfortably on their current pensions. …

… The two regions [south and south west] have the highest proportion of pensioners who go back to work full or part time after their careers come to an end, with 34 per cent doing so in the south west and 32 per cent in the south east – more than in any other part of the country.

That contrasts to Yorkshire and Humberside, where only 25 per cent of pensioners carry on working after retirement. …”

“THE government has launched a food tourism grant scheme it hopes will boost the rural economy.

Launched by Defra, the Championing Great British Food Tourism funding scheme seeks to help improve the viability and profile of food businesses and rural tourism.

It is offering grants of between £5,000 and £25,000 to projects that aim to promote “stronger local food identities”.

The government believes the scheme will help to increase the attractiveness of rural destinations to tourists.

It also hopes to encourage greater expenditure within local economies and an extension to the tourism season.

Projects eligible for funding must be in the form of food and drink based attractions.

These could include as trails, festivals, markets or other initiatives providing opportunities to attract visitors at different times of the year.
The scheme follows the launch of an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee inquiry into rural tourism in July.

MPs said that while rural tourism provided around £17bn a year to the English economy, the countryside faced numerous obstacles to tourism growth.
Domestic overnight trips to rural areas fell from 22% to 18% between 2012 and 2014, according to Visit England statistics.

Meanwhile, 50% of international visitor spend is in London.

The scheme has been welcomed by rural leaders – including the Country, Land and Business Association.

CLA eastern region director Ben Underwood said it was important to raise the profiles of the people behind regional food and drink – as well as the aread in which they are based.

“Small-scale producers and rural tourism businesses do an enormous amount to generate revenue and create jobs in local communities,” said Mr Underwood.
“It makes perfect sense to encourage projects promoting an area’s food producing heritage or emerging strength.”

Mr Underwood said there was a “real need” to make rural tourism more effective and profitable.

He added: “It is crucial the government finds ways, such as through the Championing Great British Food Tourism Grant Scheme, to create opportunities for growth, encouraging the viability of rural communities.

“It is important that we get people, from home and abroad, seriously looking at our rural areas as attractive tourism destinations.”

The deadline for applications to the grant scheme is 9am Monday 26 September 2016.

More information regarding eligibility and the application process for the Grant Scheme is available here. For further details, visit

A comment on the site mentions the recent food festival in Sidmouth:

“I recently organized a food festival in my rural seaside town of Sidmouth – it was very well attended – by all accounts a massive success! I had funding from the East Devon Sustainable Development fund mainly because it was to promote the move of location of our Sidmouth Farmers Market which has been running once a month for the last 7 years. One stall holder reported that visitors came from Bristol especially for the festival. The funding ensured good promotional coverage which was key!!”

Councils need to keep proper records of contractual decisions

East Devon District Council does like its private, non-note-taking meetings …

“A judge has issued a warning to contractual authorities that might be tempted to minimise the amount of paperwork they keep particularly where they fear that a high profile procurement exercise might be challenged. Helen Prandy reports.

In finding in EnergySolutions EU Limited v Nuclear Decommissioning Authority [2016] EWHC 1988 (TCC) that a contracting authority had made “conscious decisions” in relation to sparse record keeping a High Court judge noted that serious consideration appeared to have been given to restricting the keeping of contemporaneous records of evaluation because it was known that these would be disclosable in litigation.

The court took the view that if the evaluation process is performed in accordance with the obligations under the Regulations then they would present no danger to the Authority because they would constitute an ‘audit trail of the decision making’.

He also went on to find that a proposed destruction of notes relating to the evaluation was extremely worrying given the express obligations of transparency on public authorities under the Regulations.

In the absence of adequate contemporaneous documents a court is forced to rely on the recollection of witnesses. Documents may be embarrassing but the memory of witnesses is extremely unreliable and is just as likely to lead to an ‘embarrassing’ revelation. In this most recent case the witness most closely involved with the evaluation admitted on cross examination that he did not accept that inconsistency in evaluation of bids might amount to unequal treatment.

The judge found the almost complete absence of documents relating to a critical dialogue phase of the procurement and a reliance solely on the memory of witnesses to “verge on the incredible”.

The case arose under the 2006 Regulations and there is a requirement now under Regulation 84(8) of the 2015 Regulations to keep “sufficient documentation to justify decisions taken in all stages of the procurement procedure…” and to do so for a period of at least 3 years from the date of the award.

This case is not the first where a deliberate failure to keep documents has created problems for a contracting authority. However tempting it might be it is always far better to have a clear audit trail of reasons for evaluation decisions at every stage, including moderation, and for that audit trail to be in writing.”

NHS Property Services stitches up Dr Sytch’s Sidmouth surgery

“Plans to completely redevelop Sidmouth’s Blackmore Health Centre – adding new flats and a pharmacy – have left GPs fearing for its future.

Sid Valley Practice partners have been denied the chance to buy their town-centre building – taken over in 2013 – and say owner NHS Property Services (NHSPS) seems to be on a ‘commercial drive’ to squeeze profit from the site.

GPs say they are struggling to work in the rapidly deteriorating premises – branded ‘non-fit for purpose’ by the Care Quality Commission in July 2015. They have spoken of concerns that current proposals do not future-proof the site or leave any room to expand as the population grows.

The GPs remain ‘absolutely committed’ to retaining the town-centre surgery and are appealing for support from the community.

Doctors say the company responsible for managing NHS property has hiked up charges to the practice by around 50 per cent, despite so far failing to make the six-figure investment needed in the building.

An NHSPS spokesperson said the company is ‘committed to delivering improvements’ and recognises the concerns raised by GPs.

Dr Joe Stych, one of the practice partners, told the Herald: “The plan at the moment includes 10 residential flats on the squashed site. The implications of this will be quite large.

“A concern is that if the site is developed into flats and sold off, this facility would lose future expansion space available to the NHS as the town grows. Practice partners have been desperately trying to buy the building to protect it long-term, but have been turned down. Since NHSPS took ownership, costs passed on to the NHS and GPs for running this facility have increased to a level it may not be financially viable for the surgery to continue to practice there long-term.

“One of the big concerns for us is future-proofing the practice. The plans that are there do not future-proof the practice for the town in the short-term, let alone the long-term. “

The practice partners personally shouldered a £2.1million loan to build the new Beacon Medical Centre off Stowford Rise – and say they are ‘absolutely committed’ to retaining a town-centre surgery.

Dr Stych added that doctors do not feel their concerns are being listened to, so they have resorted to appealing for public support in efforts to safeguard the future of the Blackmore Drive surgery.

Chairman of the Sid Valley Patient Participation Group, Di Fuller, called for the community to get behind a campaign to save their surgery. She says the NHSPS is making it increasingly difficult for the practice, adding: “From a patient perspective, we already know there is a lot of anxiety in the town about the security of the Blackmore Surgery. Our anxiety is that, once it’s redeveloped, it will be great, but the rent they will demand will possibly make it unsustainable.

“At the moment, I understand that they are not planning to make the accommodation large enough for expansion, which is really cause for concern. They are trying to maximise profit and income from the property.

“We are a patient group that works hard to bridge the gap on behalf of patients, but we need the community to get behind us on this.”

East Devon’s MP Hugo Swire agreed it would it be ‘wholly inappropriate’ for people in Sidmouth to experience a reduction in healthcare provision. He said he will seek a meeting with relevant parties to discuss the future of Blackmore Health Centre.

A spokesperson for NHSPS said: “We are committed to delivering improvements to this surgery, including draft proposals for a scheme which could provide homes and a brand new surgery on the site.

“The GPs raised concerns about the car parking and we have revised the proposal, but discussions are continuing on this, or the option to refurbish.

“We clearly want to ensure the best possible outcome for the practice and local patients. We are listening to the GPs and fully recognise their concerns. We will continue to work with them to address these, including queries about their billing.”

(Re)location, (Re)location, (Re)location

Dorset has announced a decision to work towards mergers of its councils:

It does rather beg the question: what is to happen to West Dorset Council’s brand new HQ, built at a cost of more than £10 million?

It was always going to be a risky venture, when mergers and reorganisation were even at the time of the planned move being spoken of as a possibility.

To be fair to WDDC, their existing premises were very poor, very old and haphazardly arranged on three sites. They expected to sell the sites for £2.5 million, but in the end only achieved £1 million.

We do hope that our district council – in its desire to move to a spanking new set of offices in Honiton – has taken note of Dorset’s (un)intended consequences.

If such talks are abroad in Devon (which is already pretty much merging with Somerset if our Local Enterprise Partnership has its way) then it surely would be a dereliction of duty or even a misfeasance in office to consider such a move when it could be almost immediately redundant.

But, as in all important decisions in East Devon, we the residents will be the last to know what is being decided behind those closed doors in our names.