EDDC cannot be sure what assets it owns and whether it is maintaining assets they no longer own

Some input from the Scrutiny Committee here, thinks Owl!

The following paragraphs detail all findings that warrant the attention of management.
The findings are all grouped under the objective and risk that they relate.
The Authority is not aware of all assets/land owned.” …

…The Principal Estates Surveyor believes EDDC could be maintaining assets that is no longer owned by EDDC because of a lack of interface between different systems. We understand that the Strategic Lead – Housing is currently looking at reducing the amount of cost/time spent maintaining land that is Devon County Council’s jurisdiction. …

… there is no senior officer with overall responsibility for managing the asset management system including the required changes needed to improve usage of the system. There is a risk that limited actions are undertaken to imp
rove the usage of the Uniform system as a result of lack of responsibility and ownership at a senior level. …

… 2.
Land or assets owned by the Authority cause injury or harm to a member of staff or member of the public due to insufficient inspection, record management and actioning of work.

Click to access 010916amfcombinedagenda.pdf

Hinkley C”not essential”

Well, maybe not to the country as a whole but our LEP members with their nuclear interests would be devastated with most of their eggs in its basket!

“The Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant is “not essential” for the UK to meet its energy and climate change targets, according to a think tank.

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) also said opting for “established” approaches instead would save bill payers £1bn a year in total.EDF Energy, which has agreed to back Hinkley, said the ECIU report did not offer “credible alternatives”. 

The government is due to make a final decision on Hinkley in the autumn. …”

Definition: Efficiency savings vs. Cuts

In the news today, NHS “efficiency savings” and NHS “cuts”. So what is the difference?

“Efficiency savings” – Delivering the same service for less money by being more efficient i.e. training enough nurses, avoiding using expensive agency staff, reducing the cost of administration etc.

“Cuts” – Delivering a poorer service for less money – by closing beds, shedding front line staff etc.

Judge for yourself where Jeremy Hunt’s proposals are “Efficiency savings” or “Cuts”.

“NHS plans closures and radical cuts to combat growing deficit in health budget”

As if here in East Devon we didn’t already know it – yet our LEP still sees Hinkley C as its main priority in Somerset and Devon- a project that will make a lot of money for many of its members – with mere platitudes about our health services.

“NHS bosses throughout England are quietly drawing up plans for hospital closures, cutbacks and radical changes to the way healthcare is delivered in an attempt to meet spiralling demand and plug the hole in their finances, an investigation by the Guardian and campaign group 38 Degrees has revealed.”

How many beans make 5?

Not to detract from the obvious success of the Seaton Jurassic Centre, but is it REALLY 20,000 visitors (see below)  if you count those on return visits –  when a one year tickets allow multiple entry?

If it is 20,000 UNIQUE visitors that’s brilliant, but if it includes multiple return visitors – who do not pay an entrance fee and so do not add to entry fee income – is it quite the same thing?  Perhaps EDDC could be more transparent here:

“The £4million visitor attraction, which welcomed more than 20,000 visitors since opening in April, is proud to promote a taste of Devon to its customers.” …

Post-fact politics and accountability

The UK’s referendum and post-fact politics: How can campaigners be held accountable for their claims?

Both sides of the UK’s EU referendum campaign were criticised for presenting misleading information to the public. Alan Renwick, Matthew Flinders and Will Jennings write that the referendum highlighted the inability of the British political system to enforce standards of factual accuracy in how politicians campaign. They argue that while legal or regulatory changes could alter this picture to some extent, the real issue is a cultural one.
Boris Johnson campaigning for VoteLeave, in front of the battlebus with the writing: “We send the EU £350m a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead”. Via totalpolitics.com
Boris Johnson campaigning for VoteLeave. (via totalpolitics.com)

Will the EU referendum be remembered as a golden moment in British democratic history? Was it really an example of how to ‘do’ democracy in the Twenty-First Century? Or was it an example of fairy tales and falsehoods that tended to create more heat than light and a dysfunctional system that was unable to enforce truthfulness?

In its report published at the end of May 2016, the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee complained that ‘The public debate is being poorly served by inconsistent, unqualified and, in some cases, misleading claims and counter-claims.’ It added, ‘Members of both the ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ camps are making such claims.’ But the standard of public debate did not improve, and the former Prime Minister, Sir John Major, felt forced to state publicly that he was ‘angry about the way the British people are being misled’. Such claims resonate with a public letter signed by over 250 leading academics that suggested that the level of misinformation in the Referendum campaign was so great that the democratic legitimacy of the final vote might be questioned.
Now that the Referendum has happened and the storm has somewhat abated the question that demands urgent attention is how any future referendum might be conducted on the basis of a more rigorous – dare we suggest even fact-based – public discussion?
If the problem that the EU referendum exposed was the inability of the British political system to enforce even the most basic requirements in relation to publicly-funded information campaigns, there are at least four reforms that could be considered to prevent such situations arising in future. The first is a legal response in the form of new legislation that would state that, just as some lying in election campaigns is against the law, so too should lying in referendum campaigns be against the law. Campaigners who violate such provisions could then be subject to criminal sanctions. The risk is that this may create significant unintended consequences in the form of far-reaching concerns about freedom of speech and the transfer of powers from elected politicians to unelected judges.
Tighter press regulation would be a second option. The Independent Press Standards Organisation has upheld at least four complaints relating to inaccuracy that related to the Referendum. But its rulings typically take two or three months and there is a case for insisting that not only are rulings delivered more quickly but, where those complaints are upheld, retractions or corrections should have a prominence commensurate to that of the original article.
If statutory measures are deemed too draconian and press regulation too harsh then the official campaign organisations could be obliged to recognize their civic responsibilities, in the sense of promoting engaged and informed citizenship, in return for their civic rights, that come in the form of public funds, free mailings, broadcasts, etc. The mechanism in this case might be an enforceable code of conduct, which the Treasury Committee’s report (at paragraph 235) seemed to favour. Once again, the devil would be in the detail: who or what would be the arbiter of when the facts strayed from tenuous but legitimate into the terrain of deceit and political lying? Would they be able to act quickly enough to work effectively? How would penalties be decided and enforced?
A final option would be to alter the statutory role of the Electoral Commission to include a duty to enhance public understanding of the issues at stake in the referendum. The extensive materials the New Zealand Electoral Commission produced for that country’s 2011 Referendum on the voting system, for example, included detailed explanations of each option, statements of the criteria against which the options might be evaluated, and analyses of how the options perform against these criteria. In what was (it should be acknowledged) a much less intense or politicised campaign than the current one, journalists frequently relied heavily on the Commission’s guide as a basis for their reporting.
There is also a rather awkward question concerning the meaning and delivery of public service broadcasting in the UK, notably in relation to the BBC. If major broadcasters have a public service obligation, if they are maintaining high quality ‘fact-checkers’ and ‘myth busters’, then why are they required to maintain a degree of impartiality and balance between both sides of the debate when the expert analysis, on certain specifics, overwhelmingly favours one side of the argument over the other? Impartiality in this context risks simply facilitating the promotion of falsehoods, fig leaves, fantasy and fairy tales as fact.
The twist, sting or barb in the tale is, however, that institutional change is unlikely to prevent future storms without a complementary shift in the cultural foundations of British politics. This is a critical point that the EU Referendum brutally exposed. The operating culture of British politics appears increasingly infused with a form of attack politics in which negative campaigning, personal slurs and populist declarations are dominant. The paradox is that this form of politics risks achieving little more than fuelling anti-political sentiment and the emergence of ever-greater numbers of ‘disaffected democrats’.
In this context, there is a danger that any policing of the standards of claim and counter-claim in future referendums could simply be used to fuel a populist fire: that injunctions against certain claims could be turned around and presented as further evidence of the perfidy of ‘the establishment’. Fighting falsehoods therefore requires fundamental change in how we think about and structure our democracy. That is a challenge that we should all seek to address now the referendum is over. Failure to do so may do more than render future referendums unhealthy. If the degree of mendacity witnessed in this campaign were to become commonplace in our electoral politics as well, one of the crucial foundations of our democratic system would be badly damaged.”

The UK’s referendum and post-fact politics: How can campaigners be held accountable for their claims?

What locals like least about the Sid Valley

“… In total, 88 people said the thing they liked least about the town was transport, which included parking, cars, traffic and speeding.

The second most-disliked response was East Devon District Council, said some 45 residents. This included topics such as planning, the Local Plan and Knowle.

Housing and inflated prices due to wealthy retirees, along with elderly residents and too much emphasis on their needs, were next on the list with 25 votes each.


Devolution Mayors – in or out? Who knows!

“Mayors can provide an answer to the questions of accountability raised by devolution, but they are not the only solution. These decisions should be informed by what works for local places, not by the demands of national politics.

The Times has reported that Theresa May is to abandon George Osborne’s plans for imposing regional mayors. The reported reason for the change of policy? The prime minister’s wish to avoid establishing ‘new powerbases’ for the moderate wing of the Labour party.

This is not a sound basis for policy making and plans for local devolution should not driven by national party politics. We should remember that a sensible devolved settlement is not just about what works for Westminster, but what works for areas like Manchester, Liverpool, Tees Valley and all the other regions around the country that are set to benefit from increased powers.

So far, DCLG has denied the claims, saying that mayors “remain the best way to make [deals] work”. Though the government stopped short of forcing it on local authorities, directly elected mayors were a core part of George Osborne’s strategy, and government attitudes seemed to be hardening on the issue over the course of 2016. But the DCLG statement does seem to leave room for the government to row back on the mandatory element of the mayor programme.

LGiU has always argued that the decision to establish a directly elected mayor should be a local one and that different models might be appropriate in different areas of the country.

Directly elected mayors can be very positive for a region: they can provide a figurehead and political voice for a region and speak on a national platform for the local community. They have lots of soft convening power and direct accountability to their electorate. Mayors could use their powerful local mandate to ensure that those operating within the local state are accountable and transparent while maintaining acceptable standards.

Mayors therefore provide one answer to questions around leadership and accountability at a local level – but they are not the only answer. There are plenty of other models for regional governance, from a rolling chairship to a committee structure. And there is certainly appetite for different models. Two-tier rural areas in particular have found it difficult to reconcile their ambitions for devolution with the introduction of a mayor. Other parts of the country have already voted against the idea of mayors in a local referendum. LGiU is continuing to explore these options.

It is not surprise that Labour MPs have realised that running a city is a bigger draw than spending years in opposition. However, Theresa May’s reasoning for a u-turn on mayors shouldn’t be politically driven – it should be about sharing prosperity and growth as well as increasing democracy and local accountability.”


Planners get antsy

Continual changes in the planning system have left planners without the powers they need to drive public sector-led development, the Royal Town Planning Institute has warned.

It said 73% of planners in England felt changes to the planning system had reduced their ability to deliver, and 53% thought the numerous changes had made it more difficult to ensure sufficient housing was built, while 70% felt their position was worse than it was a decade ago.
The report, Delivering the Value of Planning:

Click to access rtpi_delivering_the_value_of_planning_full_report_august_2016.pdf

[Don’t hold your breath: the authors think Cranbrook is an example of good planning!]

warned that deep budget cuts and continual changes had left England with a system that was complicated and uncertain, with planners possessing too few powers to ensure that development is well-planned and connected to transport and facilities.

RTPI president Phil Williams said: “For too long planning has been relegated to a reactive, bureaucratic function, instead of being able to plan strategically to drive development, jobs and growth.

“Public sector planners’ ability to be proactive is especially important in these uncertain times. It is absolutely crucial we resource councils’ planning teams properly, so that planners can operate strategically.”
He said planning should be more closely integrated with councils’ economic development teams, with stronger public sector-led management of land supply but also a stronger private sector role in development partnerships.
Mark Smulian