Four arrests for bribery at developer Barratts

Cash-for-contracts scandal engulfing one of Britain’s biggest builders sees four people arrested on suspicion of bribery

The cash-for-contracts scandal engulfing one of Britain’s biggest builders has seen four people arrested on suspicion of bribery, it has emerged.
Alastair Baird, managing director for London at Barratt Developments, was arrested in October last year at his pig farm in Gloucestershire where his wife Irayne Paikin makes award-winning sausages.

The 52-year-old was arrested by the Metropolitan Police complex fraud squad along with a 47-year-old London woman who used to work for Barratt.

Last night the Met said two more arrests were made – a 47-year-old man and a 49-year-old woman– on November 8. They come after Barratt referred findings of an internal probe to the police in April following an audit relating to possible misconduct in the process for awarding and managing supply contracts in the London region.

Barratt began the investigation in August 2015, which also led to civil legal action against an employee who was sacked last February. Projects Baird has overseen include buying of West Ham United’s former home, to build 842 houses.

Barratt said: ‘While the Metropolitan Police and internal investigations are ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment.’

Save Exmouth Seafront response to Councillor Skinner and EDDC

“Representatives from SES were invited to attend the presentation from Cllr Skinner and EDDC Officers Richard Cohen and Alison Hayward at Ocean on 18th January, and SES would like to thank EDDC for this invitation.

While the event provided some information for those businesses and associations perhaps not so aware of the plans, the SES representatives found they left with many questions still remaining.

For example there was no answer given on whether the watersport’s centre will be run as a members only club and who is to manage this facility.

Unfortunately Cllr Skinner also fended off some of the questions with evasive answers, such as when asked how ‘phase three’ of the development is even to be funded.

SES would welcome the opportunity for an open public event so that all members of the public can hear what is planned for the seafront now and in the future, and ask questions, yet EDDC seem reluctant to do this.”

How refreshing – an MP who sees it as her job to represent her constituents!

“Shadow minister Tulip Siddiq has resigned from the Labour frontbench, telling Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that she could not reconcile herself to the party’s three-line whip to vote for triggering article 50.

In her letter to Corbyn, the shadow minister for early years, said voting to start the process of leaving the EU would be a betrayal of her north London constituents, three-quarters of whom voted to remain in the EU.

I have always been clear – I do not represent Westminster in Hampstead and Kilburn, I represent Hampstead and Kilburn in Westminster,” Siddiq wrote in her resignation letter. “I feel that the most effective place for me to counter Theresa May’s hard Brexit is from the backbenches.”

How refreshing – an MP who sees it as her job to represent her constituents!

Save Our Sidmouth press release on PegasusLife contract


EA/2016/0279-0280 East Devon District Council v Information Commissioner

It is well over a year since Freedom of Information requests were made to have key EDDC documents published – the contract with developer Pegasus to buy the Knowle site and the agent’s report on the bidding process and sale.

EDDC refused to publish these, even after being told to by the Information Commissioner. But, now that the case has gone to Tribunal, it has decided to release the documents.

But why now?

What is very clear is that the release of the contract and agent’s report is happening only now that Pegasus’ planning application for Knowle has been considered.

As the EDDC press release makes clear: “With the PegasusLife planning application having been refused, it is considered that this sensitivity has now been reduced and that publication of the information is acceptable.”

And this is very much the point.

Not only was the leadership at EDDC keeping this ‘sensitive’ information from the public – it did not want its own Councillors to know what was in the contract and the bidding process. What is particularly alarming is that the leadership at EDDC hid these details from the planning committee (the DMC) before it made its decision over Knowle.

Looking at the details, the documents reveal the following:

> The agent warned that the development might be perceived by the planning committee as ‘over development’. As they said: “If this is the case, then the application may lead to refusal, delay or in the worst case prevent the relocation of the Council’s offices.”

> The agent also said that “Pegasus is not making any allowance for affordable housing or 106 contributions, as they are classing it as C2”. In other words, the plans were always about classifying the development as C2 (a care home) and not C3, which would mean paying for affordable housing.

> Finally, Pegasus were not prepared to offer significant ‘overage’ – meaning that EDDC would not be able to ‘claw back’ any excess profits Pegasus might make.

But what is particularly disturbing is what these documents reveal about how EDDC operates:

> From the outset, Planning Officers challenged the C2 designation and the scale of development and clearly wanted to give the site C3 status – but later they changed their mind and recommended approval of the Pegasus plans.

> In which case, the DMC have been totally vindicated in their decision to reject the planning application. But we only know this now that the contract and bidding process have been revealed.

> Had the Full Council been aware of the terms of the deal with Pegasus – for example, no significant overage – then then their approval of Pegasus as the ‘preferred developer’ might not have been forthcoming.

> The Information Commissioner insisted that EDDC reveal the contract and negotiations to the public. But what is particularly reprehensible is that the leadership at EDDC refused to reveal these crucial details to their own Councillors.

We now have to ask how the Council will respond – in particular, whether they will want some answers as to how the whole process was mismanaged.

And we have to ask why once again the leadership at EDDC continue to be so secretive in their dealings over the Knowle relocation project – and whether they are going to act on their promise to be truly open and transparent – with both the public and their own Councillors.”

South Devon community hospitals bite the dust

“While Exeter and East Devon anxiously awaits the outcome of public consultation to close community hospital beds, residents of South Devon and Torbay are today coming to terms with the loss of five hospitals.

South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group’s governing body today voted to switch resources from hospital bed-based care to community-based care which they say will improve health services and meet increasing demand.

Members agreed that by strengthening community-based services, more people will be looked after at home, so fewer people will need to be admitted and kept in hospital unnecessarily.

As a result, hospitals in Ashburton and Buckfastleigh, Bovey Tracey, Dartmouth and Paignton will close.

Members also agreed three additions to proposals first published last April:

Ashburton and Buckfastleigh Hospital will be evaluated as a base for the area’s local health and wellbeing centre, which would include GPs.

A proposal to establish an urgent care centre on the Torbay Hospital site to provide an MIU service to the Bay should be pursued.

Specialist outpatient clinics will continue in Paignton, where the volume of patients makes this a more appropriate option to travelling to Brixham, Totnes or Torbay.

Dr Nick Roberts, CCG chief clinical officer, said: “Evidence locally and nationally shows that supporting people in or near their own homes provides more effective outcomes for many patients, and this has to be one of our key priorities.

“Some £5.1m is being invested in health and wellbeing teams, which will bring together nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and social care support to look after people closer to home.

“We believe that these changes will meet the demands of our modern society – but I want to stress that high-quality hospital care will still be available when needed for patients. That’s essential.”

The aim is for the changes to be implemented as soon as parameters are met to ensure that new services operate safely. The parameters include for example:

the remaining community hospital inpatient services meet the requirement for safe staffing standards for sub-acute bed-based care

Newton Abbot and Totnes MIUs to be open 8am-8pm 7 days a week, and that these MIUs to have radiology at least four hours a day, seven days a week
intermediate care (for patients who need care but don’t need a hospital) operating at least six days a week.

Thursday’s meeting came after a 12-week public consultation. Feedback from the consultation was independently collated by Healthwatch, and the resulting report provided an overview of common themes, comments and criticisms, as well as listing a range of suggestions made by the public.”

“Positive and passionate discussions for future regeneration of Queen’s Drive” says EDDC

Somehow, Owl thinks ” the community” might see things somewhat differently to EDDC – and Councillor Skinner’s remark that it “just wants EDDC to get on with it” when the fact that EDDC just getting on with it has been the problem, not the solution.

Not to mention that EDDC “just got on with” appointing Moirai Capital as their preferred bidder – and just see where that led!

This press release seems designed to pre-empt a judicial review on lack of consultation. BUT a press release does not constitute evidence … pudding … proof …

EDDC press release:

“Regular meetings between council and community to discuss improvement plans for Exmouth’s Queen’s Drive will be an ongoing feature of the project

East Devon District Council, local businesses and community organisations of Exmouth came together at The Ocean last week for a lively discussion about Exmouth’s regeneration and, in particular, the vision for its seafront development.

This meeting marked an important opportunity for dialogue and discussion, which will be an ongoing feature of the next phases for the improvement plans for Queen’s Drive.

There were presentations by the council detailing how Exmouth is growing and moving forward, the challenges it faces and the vision for this much-loved seaside town as it evolves into a 21st century destination with attractions for everyone to enjoy.

Council officers set out in as much detail as is currently known the journey and timelines for Queens Drive, emphasising the need to move forward with the reserved matters planning application process and, most importantly, setting out clearly opportunities for public consultation, which will continue to underpin each phase.

Officers also underlined the need to take a measured approach in terms of timescales to ensure that Grenadier, the provider of the watersports centre, secures the necessary planning permissions before the council commits financially to the necessary works to the road and car park.

Councillor Philip Skinner, chairman of the Exmouth Regeneration Board, said: “These discussions demonstrated a shared and very deep affection for the town. Most people there were overwhelmingly optimistic, passionate and positive and the message coming through loud and clear was get on with it!

The reserved matters planning application to extend planning permission will go before the council’s development management committee in the next few months.”

Devon Wildlife Trust wants to open a “free” primary school

“PLANS have been unveiled to build Devon’s first nature school aimed at nursery and primary school children.

Devon Wildlife Trust has revealed it wants to open the school for 3 to 11-year-old using the free school model widely adopted elsewhere.

The nature school would be a mainstream school, open to all, following the National Curriculum, but one which the charity says would put outdoor learning and the natural environment at the heart of a high quality education for local children.

Okehampton has been put forward as the proposed location for the school because it has been identified by Devon County Council as an area where there is an urgent need for more primary school places.

If the trust’s proposals are successful the nature school would occupy new premises to be built on the north-east outskirts of the town close to Crediton Road .

The application is planned for spring 2017 with a scheduled school opening estimated as early as 2018.

Devon Wildlife Trust is now talking to local authorities, people and schools in the West Devon market town to gauge their support for the proposal. The trust’s chief executive Harry Barton said: “We are seeking support from members of the community across Okehampton, in particular from parents whose children would be eligible to attend primary school in 2018 or 2019 and who live in the Okehampton area or nearby.”

Those LEP Board jobs …

“Board Members must declare any involvement with any of the delivery partners or roles or interests with beneficiaries and operate in accordance with the Nolan Principals of public life and the company’s Articles of Association.

This will involve taking no part in any decision votes where an interest exists. The adoption of the Nolan Principals ensures full openness and integrity in the way the Board sets its priorities.

These roles are un-remunerated. Expenses are only paid for exceptional expenditure for LEP commitments outside our area.

Click to access HotSW-LEP-CIC-Director-Final.pdf

The only problem is – we don’t get to know who voted on what, who declared an interest and why and who abstained – as the public record of meetings ( notes rather than minutes) do not record them.

Not to mention that agendas are not explicit – try to find the agenda item or minutes of the 26% salary increase for the LEP CEO – good luck and good hunting!

Your LEP needs you … but only if your face fits

“The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership is seeking up to seven new private sector non-executive directors.

The positions will become vacant this year when a number of existing directors come to the end of their six-year terms.

Since its establishment in 2011, the LEP has developed a £500million investment pipeline to support its mission to deliver better jobs and prosperity across Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay. [Take this with a pinch of salt … it is LEP member companies rather than the LEP board]

The business led partnership includes representatives of the private sector, local authorities, universities and colleges.

It is now looking for candidates with a strong business background at a senior level, with the skills and vision to help shape the economic prosperity of the area.

LEP chairman Steve Hindley, of Midas Group, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for local business leaders to actively contribute to the next phase of our development and benefit our economy and communities.

“If you are a business or social economy leader with passion and expertise, please contact HotSW LEP with a view to joining us on our journey towards delivering prosperity for Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay.”

The non-executive directors will be required to attend board meetings once every two months and periodic meetings or events across Devon and Somerset.

The deadline for applications is Tuesday, February 14. Details at

Here are a few of the attributes you need, gleaned from the”Candidate Pack”:


You will possess credible business links and relationships in our area, ideally including working at a senior level alongside or with business representative organisations, business growth or skills partnerships and / or relevant business support service businesses or voluntary or social enterprise groupings.

You will have senior / owner level business experience within one of the HotSW area’s largest business sectors (such as Business Services, Tourism or Agriculture) or in a growth sector identified in our Smart Specialisation strategy (such as Marine, Aerospace, New nuclear, Agri-tech, Environmental Technologies, Big-data, High Tech / Manufacturing industries). Housing, transport, innovation, people, environmental, health or rural agendas as well as commercial and infrastructure development also form key focuses for our work and would be an equally valuable background.

Throughout the Selection Process, you will be required to provide relevant examples of where you can contribute to the needs of the LEP and its sub-committees (as outlined above) by bringing your expertise to the NED role and so demonstrate the specific value you can bring to the LEP.

You will have a proven track record of organisational leadership and experience of being a Board Member or in a leadership role of a private sector business or social enterprise that is significant in its field or of having actively contributed to a business representation organisation or voluntary or social enterprise groupings.

You will have a demonstrable association or interest with the HotSW economy and act with a collaborative approach able to develop and maintain effective business relationships to deliver strategic vision.

You will possess a strong political acumen with a clear understanding of both local and national politics to help promote the HotSW LEP.

In addition to the above we will be looking for 2 specific directors with experience of:

Chairing audit committees and managing risk, large projects, transformational change or programme finances

Marketing and promotion – and the utilisation of new / social media.”

Click to access HotSW-LEP-CIC-Director-Final.pdf

200 PCSO’s out, 100 police officers, 50 investigators and 30 online staff in, says Hernandez

“Devon and Cornwall Police plans to spend £24m on 100 new constables, 50 investigators and 30 online staff, but PCSOs will be cut by about 200 over the next four years.

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer said: “The front-line has become very stretched over the past years of austerity.

“At the same time demand has increased and the need for specialist capabilities, such as firearms officers and public order trained staff, has grown to meet the national and international threats.

“The redesign and reprioritisation of our workforce will require us to move some staff from existing roles, such as PCSOs, to other police staff roles, new staff investigation roles or to join up as police officers depending on their career aspirations and suitability.”

Source” BBC Devon website.

PCC Hernandez has authorised the release of £10m from police reserves (currently £70m) and expects the rest to come from council tax contributions.

“Number of benefits claimants in South West up nine per cent since Brexit vote”

“Newly released employment figures for the South West of England between June and December 2016 suggest that the public are losing confidence in the job market following the historic decision to leave the European Union.

The percentage of people claiming unemployment benefits has risen by 9% in the South West of England, suggesting that the public are finding it difficult to succeed in the job market as the uncertainty of Brexit looms.

South West MPs have recently condemned Theresa May’s plan to leave the single market during her Brexit speech. Ms McCarthy and Ms Debbonaire labelled the approach, “one of self-harm, not statesmanship” and went on to state, “Businesses large and small in our constituencies would suffer, jobs would be lost and prices in the shops would rise.”

The coming months will be key for the prosperity of the job market in the South West, as the Government outline their ‘hard’ Brexit strategy.”

But worry not! Our Local Enterprise Partnership, charged with ever-increasing growth, will no doubt have a plan – probably involving Hinkley C!

Another assault on democracy – academy schools

“As more and more schools are removed from local authority control and become academies, the role of governors has diminished – and with it a school’s accountability to local people, argues Andy Allen.

Contrary to the aim of the ‘school revolution’, multi-academy trusts are not autonomous at all, but answerable to a few unelected trustees. He calls for a new model in which local membership groups would elect forums to advise governing boards.”

In these days of schools having their funds cut, this is critical – with no-one in government to fight our corner – quite the opposite, in fact.