Bend those rules till they break, Mrs May – get YOUR cronies into top jobs

“Theresa May’s government has been accused of changing the rules on public appointments to make it easier in future for ministers to pick their political allies for senior jobs at the BBC and regulators such as Ofsted.

The new code on public appointments will give ministers greater powers over who oversees a raft of agencies, watchdogs and advisory committees, while weakening the involvement of the independent commissioner for public appointments, who scrutinises the system.

Labour said the changes, which will come into force on 1 January, represent a “power grab” by ministers and risk returning to the days of patronage and cronyism in public life.

Ministers have always had the final say over appointments to senior public sector jobs, advised by a panel that shortlists “appointable” people. However, independent assessors, chosen by the commissioner to oversee the most important competitions, will be abolished in favour of independent senior panel members picked by ministers.

Labour warns of return to cronyism amid public appointments review
The members will have to be independent of the departments and not currently politically active, but the commissioner will only have a consultative role.

Ministers will also be able to overrule the panel by choosing candidates not deemed to be appointable and have the right to dispense with an open competition without the permission of the commissioner, although they will have to consult with the watchdog and openly justify the decision. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/dec/27/government-accused-power-grab-new-public-appointment-rules-bbc-ofsted

Hinkley C safety – can it be guaranteed? Who will guard the nuclear guards?

The watchdog that oversees nuclear safety has been accused of playing down the seriousness of hundreds of serious mistakes at power plants and military bases.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation [ONR] is responsible for the regulation of safety at nuclear sites and grades incidents with an International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) score.

Between 2012 and March 2015, the ONR gave 973 incidents a score of ‘zero’ – meaning there had been ‘no nuclear or radiological safety significance.’
This included an incident where a vehicle carrying nuclear material on the M1 hit a lorry and instances where workers at the main nuclear warhead base at Aldermaston in Berkshire were contaminated.

The ONR only issued an INES score of one – which amounts to ‘minor problems with safety components’ – 90 times during the same period. … “

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4068010/Nuclear-safety-watchdog-downplayed-hundreds-mistakes-including-road-crashes-involving-vehicles-carrying-radioactive-material-fires-power-stations.html

How will our Local Enterprise Partnership resolve this one – with so many of its board having conflicts of interest with their own nuclear interests!

AONB – pah, build, build, build!

“A loophole in planning rules is allowing developers to build housing estates in England’s finest countryside.

Ministers are waving through applications for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) despite promising to protect them.

The High Weald in Sussex, the North Wessex Downs and the Cotswolds are among the protected areas being built on.

Six hundred homes, a hospice and a school were approved last month near Pease Pottage in the High Weald despite objections from Natural England, the government’s advisory body on protecting the natural environment.

Campaigners said that the rules were being swept aside in the rush to meet housing targets. Ministers are threatening councils with a “presumption” in favour of development unless they allocate enough land.”

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/protected-beauty-spots-are-sacrificed-to-build-houses-tw2jjrk5r

Recall that, when EDDC dragged out its Local Plan process for years and years (abandoning the first secret attempts run by Councillors Brown and Skinner and starting again) developers had a free run in East Devon.

Should we find that we do NOT have a 5 year land supply when the Local Plan comes up for review (due every 5 years so we should be starting now) then, presumably, that will happen all over again.

Recently (November 2016) EDDC brought up the idea of external auditors being consultants for the review, but the auditors themselves quickly pointed out that they had no experience in such projects and it should be led by an organisation with proper expertise:

“Problem (page 134 of agenda papers):
“Undertake a Review of the process for writing the Local Plan in future”

The solution
“A meeting has been held with our external auditors to scope out this review but it was quickly determined that they are not the right people to undertake this review due to their lack of knowledge of the plan making process. Other options including using the Planning Advisory Service (PAS) are now being pursued.”

Click to access 241116-scrutiny-agenda-combined.pdf

Things seem to have gone quiet again since then, with no public announcement of a new consulting organisation.

Questions: Shouldn’t external auditors anyway be at “arms length” from council business? Which bright spark thought of offering them the job?

Home ownership statistics con?

It seems statistics count the percentage of people rather than the percentage of homes when calculating how many people rent or own. This then includes people like lodgers or, say three people sharing a mortgaged home as “home owners”. On that data the percentage of home ownership is said to be about 64%, renting 36%.

When you do it by HOUSEHOLD then the percentage drops to about 51%, with 49% renting.

“… The Resolution Foundation said conventional housing data, as measured by the ONS, missed 5.8 million families or individuals who lived in somebody else’s home. The vast majority of these (eight in 10) were adult children returning to live with their parents, it said.

The same think tank reported in August that major English cities – particularly Manchester – had seen the sharpest falls in home ownership since a peak in the early 2000s.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38415213