Someone not too sure exactly who our Police and Crime Commissioner is ….

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Comment under the article about our PCC stopping a senior Fire Officer from doing his job at the Exeter hotel fire. Has she brought her office into disrepute? Hundreds of commentators on different sites seem to think so, saying what a stupid thing to do.

THE COMMENT

“The headline, “police and crime commissioner has been criticised for taking selfies at the scene of devastating Exeter fire”. Why has he been criticised? He has done absolutely nothing wrong! He did not take the selfie himself now did he? Alison Hernandez took the selfie of herself with the police and crime commissioner. I must also add that Alison Hernandez, the young lady who took the photo has done nothing wrong. I would say that this young lady simply wanted a picture of herself with our highly regarded police and crime commissioner. Give these people a break. What was he supposed to do….say no to the young lady and give a wrong impression? The poor man cannot win really can he? He, along with the rest of the marvellous support teams who have been dealing with this terrible inferno over the past 29+ hours, deserves a break and if he chooses to have time out by allowing someone to have a ‘selfie’ with him, then so be it. I am from Plymouth and have been watching the news intensely as I am devastated for the people of Exeter. I do not expect to see ridiculous headlines such as this. Please report the ‘news’ and not our police and crime commissioner taking some time out. I have never left comments before but felt the need to do so today.

Fortunately, someone later put the correspondent right:

THE REPLY

“@sreeve – Are you completely stupid or what? Alison Hernandez *is* the Police & Crime Commisioner. The bloke she’s seen with in the photograph is a fire officer.”

http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/police-chief-slammed-for-taking-selfies-at-scene-of-devastating-exeter-fire/story-29851133-detail/story.html

Latest developer housebuilding scam: cost of converting a house lease to freehold

“When Clare Budgen bought her first house in Ellesmere Port in 2009 for £155,000 the last thing on her mind was the lease. Taylor Wimpey, the developer, arranged the lease on a 999-year basis, so what could the then 22-year-old possibly have had to worry about?

But just seven years later, when she looked into buying the freehold (to enable her to sell the home more easily in the future) she was astonished to find that, first, Taylor Wimpey had sold her freehold to another company, E&J Estates, and, second, it wanted £32,000.

Paula Richmond is in a similar boat. In 2015, she bought a four-bed house built by Taylor Wimpey in 2011 for £122,000, thinking she had bagged a bargain. Again, the original lease was for 999 years and with 995 more years to go, it was the least of her concerns. At the time, she understood that buying the freehold would cost no more than £2,000-£3,000. But, like Clare, she has found that her lease has been sold to E&J Estates by Taylor Wimpey and has been told by surveyors that she will have to pay up to £40,000 for the freehold – one-third of the house’s value. Paula can’t afford it and says “the house is almost unsaleable”, with solicitors warning potential buyers to stay away.

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Like thousands of others in England and Wales, buyers like Paula and Clare (not their real names) have been trapped by a controversial trend among developers to sell homes as leasehold when they previously would have been freehold. The buyers are given reassuringly long 999-year leases – usually it is leases of less than 60 years on flats that are a worry – but later find that buying the freehold is prohibitively expensive.

One surveyor Guardian Money spoke to in Manchester said a client had just been forced to pay £38,000 to buy the freehold on their recently built home, despite its long lease.

The trap for unsuspecting buyers comes from the escalation in ground rent in the small print of long leases. Initially, it looks affordable. The developer gives the buyer a 999-year lease, with the ground rent set, in Paula’s case, at £295 a year. The contract says the ground rent will double every 10 years. This may look innocuous – after all, most people move every seven to 10 years. But to the company that buys the freehold, the income is valuable….

…Campaigners say issues around ­leasehold properties will be top of the agenda for an all-party parliamentary group on leasehold and commonhold next month. It has attracted 43 MPs and lords, and is chaired by Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick and Tory Sir Peter ­Bottomley. Members include Sir Keir Starmer, Emma Reynolds and Barry Gardiner.

Sebastian O’Kelly of support group Leasehold Knowledge Partnership says: “It is disgraceful that plc ­housebuilders are building leasehold houses that ­ordinarily – and until recently – would have had freehold title. This is an ­erosion of the wealth of ordinary people at the expense of the rich.

“Young people, after years of paying rent, finally buy a home and then find they are still, in fact, tenants – which is what a leaseholder is – with all the ­vulnerability that that implies.”

He adds: “The housebuilders are evasive over this issue and it beggars belief that the ­outrageous ground rent multiples come from household-name builders. There is no attempt to justify the adoption of leasehold tenure for these houses, which are not complex communal sites such as blocks of flats.

MP Justin Madders is calling for a ban on leasehold for estates of houses. “It is clear this system is being abused to drive huge profits at ordinary ­homeowners’ expense. There is no need for there to be leasehold properties, particularly those on an estate where the properties are mainly detached houses.

“They need to be banned – it may be a convenient way for developers to get extra profit from their building work, but once they get in the hands of these private equity companies the profit motive overrides any considerations that there are real people living in their homes, who are being asked to stump up eye-watering sums.”

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/oct/29/new-builds-house-buyers-leasehold-property-trap

Hernandez statement on that selfie visit to Exeter fire

“I went to Cathedral Green to offer my support, and to thank the police, firefighters and other emergency services. They did a fantastic job in extremely difficult circumstances throughout the day.”

http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/police-and-crime-commissioner-snapped-taking-selfie-by/story-29850086-detail/story.html

The bit she missed out: “Oh, and to get a selfie with the Fire Chief to show what a media star I am”.

Next – a fashion shoot in Hello magazine, perhaps?

One of her election “promises” was:

Co-Founder of Torbay Social Media Café – free events helping support organisations to better use social media. I will develop Cyber Crime Cafés to keep people safe online.”

Alison Hernandez

They say voters get what they deserve. Just about 22% of the electorate voted – THEY may have got what they voted for – the rest – well, you see now what a vote for someone else might have avoided.

Swire … working for … well, you decide

Written questions in Parliament- 25-26 October 2016


Hansard
Written Answers’ speaker:Hugo Swire
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Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Staff (27 Oct 2016)

Hugo Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what plans he has to increase the number of officials of his Department who work on issues related to the Commonwealth.

Written Answers — Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Agriculture: Subsidies (27 Oct 2016)

Hugo Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent progress she has made on resolving Basic Payment Scheme claims which include common land.

Written Answers — Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Agriculture: Subsidies (27 Oct 2016)

Hugo Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if she will take steps to improve the level of information provided to farmers on how claim payments under the Basic Payment Scheme are broken down.

Written Answers — Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Agriculture: Subsidies (27 Oct 2016)

Hugo Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if she will consider providing bridging payments to Rural Payment Agency claimants awaiting payment after 31 March 2017.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Maldives: Commonwealth (25 Oct 2016)

Hugo Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, if he will have discussions with the Commonwealth Secretary-General on the Maldives leaving the Commonwealth.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Commonwealth: Overseas Trade (25 Oct 2016)

Hugo Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what support officials of his Department are providing for the Commonwealth Trade Ministers’ meeting in London in 2017.

Written Answers — Home Office: Refugees: Calais (25 Oct 2016)
Hugo Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what criteria she is adopting to select refugees from the camp in Calais for resettlement.

Written Answers — Home Office: Refugees: Calais (25 Oct 2016)
Hugo Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, which local authorities have agreed to relocate refugees from the camp in Calais.

Written Answers — Home Office: Refugees: Calais (25 Oct 2016)
Hugo Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment she has made of the age of young refugees from the camp in Calais received into the UK.

Written Answers — Home Office: Refugees: Calais (25 Oct 2016)
Hugo Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps she is taking to pre-screen young refugees from the camp in Calais before they enter the UK.”

https://www.theyworkforyou.com

EDDC: Can’t tell us what they did – because someone else did it for them and they have no paperwork!

THIS IS HOW EDDC DEALS WITH MANY OF OUR FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUESTS – A MASTERPIECE OF LAME EXCUSES, AVOIDANCE AND POSSIBLY WORSE.

The implication in the correspondence below raises serious questions.

1. EDDC does not appear to check what a third-party has done on its behalf.
2. It does not seem to ask for proof that the third party has done the work.
3. It seems to allow work that needs legal clearance to go ahead on the basis of 1 and 2 above with seemingly no proof that it IS legal.

FIRST YOU MAKE A CLEAR REQUEST:

Dear East Devon District Council,

“Following Cllr Moulding’s statement of today’s date (28.09.16) on BBC Radio Devon, that EDDC had ‘used a badger expert, and applied for the relevant license from Natural England’, in respect of the badgers identified as living on the site of the Jungle Fun and Crazy Golf, on The Queen’s Drive, Exmouth, I would like to request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Environmental Information Regulations 2004, the following additional information:

1. When were badgers first identified as living on the Jungle Fun and crazy golf site?
2. On what date was the ‘badger expert’, Dr. Brown, enlisted by EDDC in respect of the badgers on the Jungle fun and crazy golf site, and what was his brief?
3 – Please provide Dr. Brown’s report pertaining to the badgers on the Jungle Fun and crazy golf site in full.
4. On what date was a license to interfere with a sett applied for with Natural England?
5. Please provide full details of the application made (the original application form and all attached material, and any relevant communications).
6. On what date, if at all, was this license granted?
7. Following the Radio Devon report in which it was stated permission had been given to move the badgers to a new site, please confirm that date on which that has, or will, happen, and any related documentation.

Yours faithfully,”

THEN EDDC GIVES YOU A REPLY ON SOME POINTS – WITH CRUCIAL INFORMATION MISSING ON THE REST – THIS TIME SAYING IT IS BECAUSE ANOTHER ORGANISATION MADE THE APPLICATION ON THEIR BEHALF AND THEY HAVEN’T SEEN WHAT THAT ORGANISATION ASKED FOR OR THE LICENCE THAT ORGANISATION SAYS IT GOT FOR THEM:

[Points 1-3 are answered]

… In respect of parts (4-7) of your request, the application was made on behalf of the council and we do not hold a copy of the application or
licence itself
.”

SO YOU ASK AGAIN – ANOTHER DELAY FOR UP TO 20 DAYS TILL THEY REPLY

“I would like to further request under the FOI act 200 and Environmental Regulations Act 2004:

1 – Who made the application of behalf of the Council.
2 – On what date did they make this application.
3 – As the requested application was made on behalf of the Council I would like to re-request a copy of the original application, as I believe this is ‘information held by another person on behalf of the authority’, which as stated in the ICO report (https://ico.org.uk/media/1148/informatio… ) , is held for the purposes of the FOI act.”

A smell of badger poo somewhere?

Public toilets next for the chop in East Devon asks EDA councillor?

“Fears have been voiced for Sidmouth’s free public toilets as district bosses review their £800,000 cost in a bid to balance the books.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) is taking stock of its conveniences and is looking into paid access at some ‘key’ sites, leasing some to businesses and ‘innovative’ ways of reducing the cost of providing its StreetScene service.

Also on the cards is ‘rationalising’ its provision, but the authority insists that no decision has yet been made and residents will be consulted. Any changes are at least two years away, says the council.

Councillor Cathy Gardner, ward member for Sidmouth Town, said the result will be taxpayers paying more for less – and warned the authority will soon run out of ways to cut costs.

“A town like Sidmouth needs free public toilets,” she said. “An elderly population and lots of visitors with children need them, otherwise we have an increase in urination in public places.

“As well as cutting services that we’ve had as a mark of civilisation since the Victorian era, we will be paying more in council tax and getting less.

“This is what austerity means at a local level. It really does affect everyone and I doubt whether things will ever be put back.

“Once an asset is sold, it’s gone – never to be returned – and how do you balance the books next time?”

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “The council recognises that public toilet provision is a very important service for our residents and visitors – however, it is not a statutory service and we provide it because we know how much it is valued.

“As part of the council plan, we need to look at ways of operating services differently in order to help meet our budget deficit of £2.6million.

“We spend around £800,000 per annum on our toilets, so we need to assess them responsibly for quality, level of provision in any given area and possible options for different ways of operating.

“However, we would like to stress that no decisions have yet been made – it is far too early and is still a work in progress.”

The spokeswoman said the provision is being reviewed and the options will be discussed by EDDC’s asset management forum and cabinet. She added: “As and when proposals come forward, there will be full engagement, including consultation, with all interested parties.

“We anticipate that any changes would not come into place for at least two years.”

http://www.eastdevonalliance.org.uk/cathy-gardner/20161027/sidmouth-herald-concern-public-toilets-across-east-devon/

EDDC’s knuckles thrashed three times by Information Commissioner

From Save our Sidmouth website today. Coruscating condemnation of their secrecy over Knowle relocation.

“Knowle relocation project: BREAKING NEW

Information Commissioner tells East Devon District Council to publish documentation

News just in that the ICO have released three Decision Notices. They will be available on their website shortly:

https://search.ico.org.uk/ico/search/decisionnotice

Meanwhile, here is an overview:

Case: FER0626901
Pegasus agreement re Knowle

The ICO are telling EDDC to come up with all of this:

“I would like the Council to disclose the details of the agreement it has entered into with Pegasus for the Knowle site.
I would like to see the full, unredacted version of the agreement.
I understand that the information at issue would not be exploited by a competitor and that disclosure would not place either party at a commercial disadvantage.
All parties, including Pegasus, will have known that they would be subject to the FOIA when the agreement was signed.
To reiterate, I would like the full publication of the commercial terms of the agreement.
I would like you to provide me with all of the documentation I have requested: in their original electronic versions and not in their scanned versions.”

From: Pegasus agreement re Knowle – a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council – WhatDoTheyKnow

Case: FER0608237
Projected maintenance costs for relocation project

The ICO say EDDC don’t have to produce spreadsheets but have to publish the following re the new-build at Honiton:

“To disclose the price that the developer is prepared to pay for the land from the cash flow documents which the council withheld.”

The ‘Conclusions’ are interesting, however:

“53. There is a public interest in protecting the public purse, in this case this is balanced in this case against the public interest in allowing the public to scrutinise the council’s decisions and financial assumptions about the project to develop new offices for itself. This latter aspect clearly raises the level of transparency which would be expected as the council could be seen to be spending public money on its own facilities, for its own purposes. It has argued that it needs to change offices as overall, doing so would save the public money compared to staying in its current offices. The public however cannot know whether this is true without further information being open for them to scrutinise.”

With ref to:
Projected maintenance costs for relocation project – a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council – WhatDoTheyKnow

Case: FER0623403
Decision process which led to the award of the conditional contract with Pegasus re Knowle

The ICO are telling EDDC to come up with the last from this list – EDDC having given the first 5, but not the 6th:

“I request information on the decision to award a contract to PegasusLife for the development of the Knowle site in Sidmouth, including, but not limited to:
1. Bid documentation provided to prospective bidders;
2. process for and criteria for selection of successful bidder;
3. Number of organisations who expressed an interest in bidding;
4. Number of organisations who submitted a bid;
5. Names of organisations who submitted a bid;
6. Minutes of meetings and correspondence on the subject.”

From:
Decision process which led to the award of the conditional contract with Pegasus re Knowle – a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council – WhatDoTheyKnow

Home care instead of hospital? Forget it

Care providers in Cornwall say there’s a crisis in the care of elderly and disabled people at weekends because there are just not enough workers.

One relative called every care agency in Cornwall but could not get weekend help for her grandfather.

South West councils pay the highest average hourly rate in the country, but its still not enough to attract new carers.

BBC Devon Live
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-37697692