Cameron aides given massive pay rises before he left office

“David Cameron gave some of his special advisers bumper pay rises just months before they were given generous severance packages, it has been reported.

The former prime minister upped the salary of some of his advisers by as much as £18,000 – or up to 24%, according to an analysis by Civil Service World.

The double-digit hikes were ordered despite pay rises being capped at 1% across the public sector. Trade unions and taxpayer groups said the increases were “shameful” at a time when government departments have faced cuts. …

… Seven out of 10 of the Downing Street advisers reappointed after last year’s general election – and who therefore became entitled to bigger severance packages – received pay rises of up to 24% in 2015, according to Civil Service World. This far outstripped the 2% average pay award across the private sector in 2015.”

The huge pay rises also affected their redundancy packages, which were increased from four and a half months pay to six months:

We were NOT all in it together – only the cronies, many of whom also got gongs from Cameron (along with his friend Hugo Swire).

Further consultation on new documents submitted by Sidford Business Park developer

New documents to “provide further reassurance”. Er, further implies there was reassurance in the first place! More than a touch of spin speak PR there!

Consultation extended to 16 September 2016.

Owl wonders who told Ford’s “further reassurance” would be a good move …

Such a fraught and confusing road so far …

Tory Dorset MP slams council mergers as anti-democratic

Plans to reorganise local government in Dorset in a bid to save cash are an “attack against democracy”, an MP has claimed.

Chief executives from all nine councils in the county presented four shake-up options at a meeting on Thursday night.

Proposals include the possible merger of Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch and East Dorset.

Christchurch MP Chris Chope said merger plans would be “suicide” for residents.

Dorset’s councils said they receive £142m less per year in government funding now than in 2010-11, and need to cut spending by £200m a year by 2019-20, with further cuts of £30.4m estimated by 2025.

Anthony Alford, leader of West Dorset District Council and vice-chairman of the Dorset Leaders’ Growth Board, said considering change was “essential” in order to reduce costs “and ensure councils are sustainable for the future”.

Aahh, a “Dorset Leaders Growth Board” – shades of our old East Devon Business Forum and our Local Enterprise Partnership! True, no democracy there!

“Developers deliberately restricting housing supply to keep prices high”

“Developers have been accused of deliberately restricting the supply of new houses to keep prices high after figures suggested that planning permission has been granted for 750,000 homes which have not been built.

A report by Civitas, a respected right of centre thinktank, found that overall more than two million planning permits were issued between 2006 and 2015, a rate which would be enough to build average of 204,000 new homes a year.

However, foundations were only been laid on 1.26 million of them, suggesting that developers and land owners are sitting on the permissions rather than building new homes. …

… campaigners said that they should have included a “sunset clause” which would have forced developers to build on land granted planning permission within a set time period. …

… The analysis shows that between 2011 – the last full year before the changes were introduced – and 2015, the number of unused planning permits jumped by 88 per cent, while new housing starts increased by just 26 per cent.

One third of “unbuilt planning permissions” were thought to be held by non-builders, Civitas said, which “points to land hoarding in the hope of further rises in land values”.

Civitas accused housebuilders of reducing sales to a “drip-feed” to maintain profit margins.

Daniel Bentley, editorial director at Civitas, said: “David Cameron’s relaxation of the planning rules has so far only been to the advantage of developers, who have banked the additional planning permissions and topped up their pipelines for future years without increasing output.

“The challenge for Theresa May’s government now is to break the stranglehold that the major housebuilders are exerting on the supply of new homes.”

He added: “It is increasingly evident that the brake on development is being applied by those who are sitting on land which is ripe for new homes and has been given the all-clear by planning authorities.

“This includes land speculators, who are content to sit tight while their holdings spiral in value, but is mostly housebuilders, who lack any incentive to get on and build the homes the country needs.

“Housebuilders are drip-feeding the market in order to push up prices and maximise their profits.”

Last night MPs said they would investigate the figures as part of a new cross-party Parliamentary inquiry into the UK’s sluggish house building rates.

Clive Betts MP, the chairman of the Communities and Local Government select committee, said: “Planning reforms will be a failure unless the Government can act and turn planning permissions into completions.

Now it’s West Hill’s turn to go under siege from developers

“A PIECE of land in the centre of West Hill could be transformed into more than 30 homes, a satellite doctors surgery and a gastro pub.

A coffee shop, pharmacy, bowling club, land for the village’s pre-school, and underground parking may also feature in pending proposals for a two and a half acre site opposite McColls in West Hill Road.

That is what scores of residents have been told by Councillors Claire Wright and Jo Talbot, who fear development of what is known as Copper Trust land could see more than 200 extra vehicle movements in the area a day.

Any such move would come hot on the heels of widely derided Blue Cedar Homes plans to build 50 dwellings on land near Eastfield that have garnered controversy and hundreds of objections.

“Either scheme, if approved, is likely to prompt other developers to submit their own applications, citing these examples as a precedent for their proposals to be accepted,” warned the Ottery town councillors in a letter to Ashley Brake, Elsdon Lane, Ford Lane, Beech Park and West Hill Road householders.”

Hinkley and the threat to marine life

“A combination of radioactivity and warming seas could make the waters of the Bristol Channel near the proposed Hinkley Point nuclear power station more dangerous for marine creatures, a new study has found.

EDF, which will build the Somerset power station if Prime Minister Theresa May gives the green light, already has an Environment Agency permit to release water containing tritium into the seawater.

Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen, found naturally in small doses, and at much higher levels in nuclear power stations’ cooling water.” …

Folkestone and Margate: a warning for East Devon’s seaside “regeneration” plans

” … The renovated pier is the first phase of a £337m redevelopment of the harbour, which will see 1,000 homes, restaurants, shops, sports centres and gardens built on the seafront over the next two decades. But experts on seaside regeneration warn that the project by local philanthropist and former Saga group tycoon Roger De Haan’s Folkestone Harbour Company risks a polarising gentrification of one of the town’s most deprived areas, with only 8% of the new homes classed as affordable.

James Kennell, a regeneration expert at Greenwich University, said: “It’s not a development for local people. All the primary benefits are for people moving in or for visitors.”

Over the past decade, De Haan’s Creative Foundation has transformed the town into an arts hub with a triennial art show, a new music and performance venue, a book festival and a public art collection featuring works by Tracey Emin, Mark Wallinger and Cornelia Parker.

Jonathan Ward, a sociology researcher at Leeds University, who recently published a report questioning the benefits of cultural regeneration in Folkestone and Margate, contends that the harbour development casts De Haan’s support for the arts in a different light. He said: “[It’s] a bit of cultural branding used to conceal what is basically a speculative property development aimed at elite consumers.”

Paul Sharp, senior branch manager at Ward & Partners estate agents in Folkestone, says there is a growing influx of wealthy out-of-town buyers, particularly from London, accounting for up to 40% of sales in the last 14 months. He expects the harbour development to bring local house prices more in line with Hythe, its more affluent neighbour, within five years. “We’re already seeing that with different people in the town,” he said. “Not so long ago I could walk down the street and bump into quite a few people I knew. That isn’t the case now.”

David Crump, director of the harbour development, said the homes on offer would range from “entry level apartments through to luxury detached beach houses”. He added that only 8% would be affordable housing due to the costs of converting the existing harbour, claiming the development was “utterly unattractive to a commercial developer”.

James Kennell said: “I’m quite positive about the harbour as a short-term intervention because of the jobs it will create in construction for local people. [But] 8% [affordable housing] is a clear statement of intent to gentrify an area of the town that has always been the most deprived. That brings it in line with controversial London housing developments such as those around the 02 or at the new Battersea power station site.”

He added that Folkestone was lucky to have a Victorian-style benefactor like De Haan but, despite the vast sums spent on cultural regeneration, the Office for National Statistics still rated the town as deprived. “It’s great to have a futuristic vision of the town being an entrepreneurial/creative hub with fantastic links to London but it’s all very outward-looking. Folkestone and Shepway have deeply entrenched social problems and the regeneration that takes place over the next 20 years has to bring those people in, otherwise what you’ll end up with is a very polarised town.”

Jonathan Ward said many low-earning artists who had been instrumental in the town’s cultural renaissance had been marginalised by the focus on attracting new consumers and investors.

Local artist Matt Rowe said: “Folkestone was on its knees before Roger’s money came in. The Creative Foundation does work. It’s now that there’s more demand that it is slightly different. The harbour arm and the housing development are going to bring in a much more mass culture audience. The people who come down are happy to spend £8 on a burger but they’re not happy to spend £20 on a print.” …

Election expenses probe to be concluded by November – and Hernandez talks about her past

Irrespective of whether the election expenses scandal was accidental or planned, rules dictate that those elections should be run again. Will this happen? Of course not – rules are made to be ignored when you are in government:

And where will this leave our Police and Crime Commissioner who recently did an interesting interview with a local radio station:

“The controversial police and crime commissioner who admitted smoking dope as a teenager has now confessed her love for hard-core gangsta rappers.

Alison Hernandez, who faces an investigation into the scandal over general election campaign spending, recently admitted smoking cannabis

Now the Tory police and crime commissioner (PCC) has revealed she was a one-time “fly girl” and a fan of California outfit NWA (Niggaz Wit Attitudes).

group’s debut album in 1988, Straight Outta Compton, began with the track “F**k tha Police”, a protest against police brutality and racial profiling.

Ms Hernandez, who grew up in Torbay – one of the most deprived areas in the South West – also told twitter followers she used to listen to Public Enemy, famous for the track Fight the Power, made famous in the Spike Lee movie Do the Right Thing.

The Exeter-based PCC’s revelations came during an internet discussion on the Cornish Truro Hour.

She chose the Beastie Boys’ (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) for David White’s BBC Cornwall show then explained how the New York trio sparked her love for Hip Hop.”

Well, that’s Torbay for you ..!