Exmouth: Dinan Way extension ok’d by Minister

” …The road had previously seemed set to proceed when it was approved by county planners in January. However, the National Trust then protested to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) that the application should be ‘called in’.

Had it done so, a final decision on planning permission would have been made by the Secretary of State; however, DCLG has now decided to take no further action, which means the planning permission stands.

This does not mean construction is imminent, as Devon County Council (DCC) must first carry out further negotiations.

A DCC spokesman said: “Conditional planning consent has been granted for the scheme. The county council will now be looking to acquire the necessary land, and funding, but no delivery period has been identified as yet.”

The National Trust had opposed the scheme, citing the effect on the Grade One listed A la Ronde, in nearby Summer Lane.

In a statement following the DCLG decision, the National Trust said: “We hope that DCC will now redouble its efforts to work with Historic England and the National Trust to help ensure the long-term protection of A la Ronde and to pursue the safeguards they proposed during the planning consultation period.” …


“Local authorities launch legal action over plans to downgrade hospital”

Owl says: could you EVER see EDDC doing this? NEVER – while Diviani is in charge.

“A group of local authorities have launched a judicial review challenge over what they described as a “confusing and flawed” consultation process on plans to downgrade services at a local hospital.

The challenge over Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s plans for Banbury’s Horton General Hospital is being led by Cherwell District Council.
South Northamptonshire Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Banbury Town Council are acting as co-claimants. The legal action is also being supported by the Keep the Horton General campaign group.

The OCCG’s proposed changes affect services including maternity, critical care and hospital bed use.

The consultation covers five key proposals which include taking all of the most serious critical care patients and all stroke cases directly to Oxford.
It also proposes changing the way hospital beds are used and permanently closing almost 200 beds between the Horton and Oxford hospitals.

Cherwell said that a key aspect of the changes would involve changes to the maternity unit and replacing a consultant-led service with only midwives. “This would mean there would be no doctors or opportunity for epidural relief which means 90% of mothers will have to travel to Oxford or other hospitals.”

The only proposal which would increase availability at the Horton would relate to planned care services, it argued. These would be welcomed with the right investment, the council said.

Ian Davies, interim joint chief executive of Cherwell and South Northamptonshire Councils, said: “Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group has carried out a two-phase consultation into plans to downgrade key services at the Horton General Hospital. This approach has proved incredibly confusing and those who will be most affected by any changes – namely the residents of Banbury and surrounding areas – are still unsure as to exactly what is happening to their local hospital.

“For over two months we have struggled to help local people understand the implications of what is being consulted on and we have tried to answer the real concerns of real people. But there is still widespread confusion. We know the Horton General Hospital is a very valued and accessible hospital to people in north Oxfordshire, south Northamptonshire and parts of the Stratford district who regard it as their ‘local’ hospital of choice.
“These proposals have significant and permanent implications for future access to local services. Therefore we consider it entirely unacceptable that the OCCG is trying to move ahead with plans which have not been fully understood by those who will suffer the consequences.”

Cherwell said that a decision on whether it would receive permission to bring the judicial review challenge was expected next month.”


Teachers and pupils: bring your own toilet rolls to school (nurses and patients next?)

“Staff at the school provide their own tea and coffee in the staff room to help manage the budget.

A cash-strapped primary school has asked pupils to bring their own toilet rolls.

The appeal was sent out to parents at St John’s Primary School in Crowborough, East Sussex.

Parents at the school have been sent a letter requesting donations of ‘non essential’ items. This includes glue sticks, pencils, sellotape, envelopes – and even loo roll.

In an earlier letter headteacher Laura Cooper highlighted toilet paper as an expense which must be “rigorously monitored”.

She wrote: “The cost of resources such as toilet rolls now has to be rigorously monitored alongside the progress and achievement of the pupils.”

In her most recent letter Laura added: “We will be holding a non-uniform day on Thursday – instead of donating money we would like the children to bring in various ‘essential’ items such as stationary (e.g. glue sticks, pencils, blutack, boxes of tissues, sellotape etc) and of course loo rolls!”


This is what our NHS taxes pay for … and trying to bamboozle us with

“NHS managers diagnosed with a rampant case of jargon

The NHS is riddled with jargon and gobbledygook and may even be using impenetrable language on purpose to hide plans from the public, the Plain English Campaign has warned.

“Sustainability and transformation plans” (STPs) that divide England into 44 “footprints” and make promises such as “system-wide quality improvements” as a consequence of “shared understanding of all the interrelated issues” was one example highlighted by the campaign. Steve Jenner, its spokesman, said: “If you use impenetrable language it means the public has no clue what is going on. I can’t help thinking that suits the NHS sometimes.

“What this jargon is describing is very important. It should be articulated very clearly. We expect doctors to clearly explain themselves. It should be the same for the NHS management.”

Health service bosses have been told to draw up STPs for their areas to show how they can save money and improve services. Many of the plans involve hospital or service closures and have drawn widespread opposition. But despite the importance of STPs, some officials have started referring to them as “sticky toffee puddings”, the BBC reported.

The campaign said that jargon terms were “an inevitable sign of trouble” and that references to “reconfiguring” were “suitably vague enough to hide all manner of potential changes”.

It added: “We all know what it means when think tank representatives and planners talk above, over and behind the backs of those whose lives they are meddling with.

“Simply put, it’s to keep those that might have concerns and justifiable complaints out of a debate. In this case, that’s completely unacceptable.”
Last year, NHS England ordered hospitals to stop referring to being at “red alert” or “black alert” as a result of winter pressures.

Instead, hospitals that were so busy that they had to cancel non-emergency operations, call in extra staff and divert ambulances — previously a black alert — were at “operational pressures escalation level four”.

The level down — formerly a red alert — is now “operational pressures escalation level three”.

Source: Times (paywall)

13th police force sends electoral fraud information to Crown Prosecution Service

“Another police force has sent a file on alleged Tory election fraud to prosecutors, it was revealed today.

The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that it had received a file from West Midlands Police – the 13th police to do so in recent weeks.”


“… That is the sort of thing which can not only destroy a government in the eyes of voters, it can wreck the party’s long-term standing too. Any serious prediction about the future has to factor in the possibility that there will be an even more destructive swamping with sleaze stories of Theresa May’s government than happened to John Major. That not only helped bring down a Prime Minister, it helped ensure his party failed to win an overall majority at the next four general elections in a row.

The odds of this happening are certainly a good way short of certain. But they are also far higher than the zero which so many pieces of coverage about how high the Conservatives are riding imply. … “


But you can be almost certain that no action will be taken until after the county council elections …

A warning for “Greater Exeter” as London council backs out of 3- council agreement due to lack of transparency and conflicts of interest

“The high-profile Tri-borough shared service arrangements are to set to come to an end with Westminster City Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea deciding to serve notice.

Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea said they had “reluctantly” taken the decision “in the face of uncertainty caused by.… Hammersmith & Fulham appearing to make alternative in-house plans without any formal engagement with the other two local authority partners about key services”.

The two authorities claimed this was causing anxiety to shared staff and placing potential risks to the joint services for vulnerable people in each borough.

In response the Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham, Cllr Stephen Cowan, said the council had had concerns about the value of Tri-borough and conflicts of interest.

Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea’s decisions will terminate the shared staffing arrangements in respect of Tri-borough Children’s Services, Tri-borough Adult Social Care and Tri-borough Public Health Services.

According to a paper on the Westminster website, the decision was urgent “because the tri-borough agreements require a year’s notice to terminate the shared arrangements; and ideally any new arrangements need to be in place before the next financial year beginning April 2018; and as soon as possible so that staff can be clearer about their future options”.

Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea said they were determined to continue to work together. They also maintained that the Tri-borough project, which was established in June 2011, had improved services and realised £43m in savings.

The two authorities stressed that Tri-borough’s legal agreements “set out that with any termination of the arrangements all parties are obliged to minimise disruption to delivery of services and to staff during the period of notice”. They called for a joint project team with Hammersmith & Fulham to oversee the transition.

The Leader of Westminster City Council, Cllr Nickie Aiken, said: “We would not have chosen to end the Tri-borough arrangements which we believe have been a great success. When it was established in 2011 it was quite rightly lauded as an innovation in local authority service delivery.

“However, both the Leader of Kensington and Chelsea and I feel we are unable to continue with tri-borough when we have a partner that we do not believe is committed to it as we are and appears to be making their own plans to leave, without any formal discussions. We can’t have that uncertainty for staff and these vital services which is why, with much regret, we have taken the very reluctant decision to terminate the joint arrangements for children’s services, adult social care and public health.”

Cllr Aiken added: “We are confident that the future remains stable and positive for the continued sharing of services between Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea and our door remains firmly open should Hammersmith & Fulham wish to come and discuss a review of the current arrangements and find alternative ways of working together.”

Hammersmith & Fulham’s Cowan said: “We’ve had concerns for some time about the value of the ‘Tri-borough’, its lack of transparency and its built-in conflicts of interest.

“In our last two budgets, Hammersmith & Fulham Council found £31m in savings but the ‘Tri-borough’ contributed no more than £200,000 of that, less than 1%.”

Cllr Cowan claimed that problems with Tri-borough contracts had cost Hammersmith & Fulham more than £5m, including a contract for special needs transport that he argued had put its disabled children at risk.

He added that “senior Tri-borough officers have had to balance Hammersmith & Fulham’s determination to keep Charing Cross Hospital open with Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea’s support for closing it.”

Cllr Cowan said: “Triggering withdrawal is evidently a long-planned move by the two councils. I look forward to having sensible discussions with them about how we can all move on in the best way for our residents.”


“Private fat cats have got rich on the sale of our schools”

” … The invention of academies has involved a different kind of transfer of assets (schools) from public hands to private. In most cases, publicly owned schools are leased to academies and trusts on 125-year leases, with the local authority retaining the deeds. The academies must carry on educating children but can “maximise their assets” by using the premises to raise money. It is this area of money-making that has on occasions caused problems, as with Durand academy and its on-site businesses.

Academies can also flog off land and buildings, if the much weakened local authorities agree. Serious money can be made, management salaries are high, and hidden in all this is the long-term public subsidy in such sites.

The birth rate didn’t stay low. Children need schools. The very same councils that flogged off their prized school buildings are forced to squeeze children into overcrowded schools elsewhere in their districts. Fair enough: children from overcrowded homes should go to overcrowded schools, eh? Local authorities are not allowed to open new ones. The government solution is to use our money to send search squads to find and buy sites for new schools, some at enormous cost, such as £7.6m paid for a former police station, some within spitting distance of the ones now converted into flats.

I must remind myself that these new schools are called “free” and I do hope that these transactions and new arrangements have enabled a few thousand people to make some serious money out of the public sector. …”


“The government lacks the political will to fix the broken [housing] market

“If the price of milk had risen in line with average house prices over the past 40 years, consumers would now be shelling out more than £10 for a four-pint carton: a sobering reminder of just how broken Britain’s housing market is. With price increases like these, it is little surprise the number of first-time buyers relying on family loans is now at a historic high, according to new research from the Social Mobility Commission: one in three rely on family help, and the proportion of 25- to 29-year-olds who own their home has almost halved since 1990.

A world where a growing proportion of young people can only afford to buy a home with family support makes a mockery of equal opportunity. Home ownership matters in Britain: yes, as oft remarked, it is a cultural aspiration; but one that is underpinned by rational financial interests. Home ownership provides a stability and financial security simply unavailable to those who rent, thanks to house price growth that benefits owners but drives up rents, and our very weak framework of tenants’ rights.

The success of government attempts to improve housing policy should be judged by a simple indicator: price. For decades, governments have rolled out policies aimed at improving affordability and helping people to get on the ladder, but at the same time long-term house price growth has far outpaced any increase in wages. What’s gone wrong?

The biggest problem is a land market that serves landowners and developers at the expense of buyers. Land is a fixed commodity and a public good: its sale should be highly regulated. Yet our planning system delivers huge windfall gains to landowners in areas of high demand: giving agricultural land residential planning status increases its value on average by a factor of 328. Landowners sell to developers offering the highest price, who maximise profit by slowly releasing houses on to the market to fuel further price growth, skimping on build quality and affordable housing.

This is a distortion relatively easily fixed. As Shelter has argued, local authorities and public development corporations should be given the power to buy undeveloped land based on its existing value: a power widely used across much of Europe. They could then sell land on to developers who commit to building affordable housing of better quality for quick release. This should be accompanied by tax reform – council tax is a hugely regressive property tax based on property values from 1990 – and stronger rights for tenants in the private rented sector, including caps on rent rises and longer-term minimum tenancies of at least five years.

This package of reforms would slow house price growth while increasing security for renters. But it is one the government shied away from in its recent white paper: it took only the most tentative of steps towards land market reform and improving tenants’ rights. Instead it has lifted regulations on minimum home sizes, paving the way for a flurry of tiny “rabbit hutch” homes to come on to the market. It is focusing the bulk of its political capital on deregulatory planning reforms, unlikely to have much impact given that planning permission has already been granted for almost half a million homes yet to be built.

The problem is not a lack of solutions, but a lack of political will. This is an area where ministers fear their own success. What government truly wants to preside over years of flatlining house prices at the expense of relatively affluent homeowners in the south-east? Almost 10 years after the financial crisis, economic growth remains too fuelled by the consumer debt enabled by rising house prices, and too little by long-term investment. And so the charade continues: politicians tout over-ambitious house building targets while tinkering at the margins, avoiding the market intervention needed to truly put a brake on price growth. It is young people without family wealth who will pay the price.”


‘Dog kennel’ flats 40% smaller than Travelodge room!

Hundreds of tiny studio flats, many smaller than a budget hotel room, are to be squeezed into an eleven-story block in north London as its developer takes advantage of the government’s relaxation of planning regulations.

‘Rabbit hutch’ homes should be consigned to the past, say architects
Plans for Barnet House, used by the London borough of Barnet’s housing department, reveal that 96% of the 254 proposed flats will be smaller than the national minimum space standards of 37 sq metres (44 sq yards) for a single person.

The tiniest homes will be 16 sq metres – 40% smaller than the average Travelodge room. They are legal because of government deregulation designed to promote the conversion of underused office space to help meet housebuilding targets.

Local residents have labelled the Barnet scheme “ridiculous” and “immoral”, comparing the planned homes to dog kennels.

Once kitted out with basic furniture, such as a small kitchenette, bed and wardrobe, the smallest flats will have very little room to move around. There appears to be little space, for example, for a sofa or a washing machine, unless it is stacked on top of the fridge.” …


First UKIP MP charged with election fraud

“Former Conservative MP Bob Spink, who defected to Ukip and became its first MP, has been charged with electoral fraud.

The 68-year-old has been charged alongside a second man, 38-year-old James Parkin, over allegations that they submitted false signatures on Ukip nomination papers.

The accusations relate to the local election for Castle Point Borough Council in south Essex, England in 2016. [Irish Times]”


“NHS bosses ‘spent half of extra Autumn Statement cash on outside services’ “

“About half of a £2bn cash boost from the 2014 Autumn Statement for frontline health services in England was spent outside the NHS, research has found.

The Health Foundation analysis for the Financial Times showed £901m was spent on buying services from private and non-NHS providers in 2015/16.
It said £800m was spent buying the same kind of care from NHS trusts.

The government said it showed the NHS was “making clinical judgments about delivering high-quality care.

Ex-chancellor George Osborne said in his final Autumn Statement before the 2015 general election that the money for NHS England was a “down payment” on a plan drawn up by NHS bosses, which called for an extra £8bn a year above inflation by 2020.

‘Diverted’ patients

The Health Foundation report also found that £1 in every £8 of local commissioner’s budgets in England is spent on care provided by non-NHS organisations.

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: “Rising demand for emergency care meant that NHS providers haven’t had the capacity to deliver planned care and patients had to be diverted outside the NHS.

“NHS hospitals were left squeezed by sharply rising drug and staff costs with little additional funding.

“The result was big deficits that had to be covered by raids on investment budgets.”

She said the NHS had to “urgently” consider how to ensure additional funds reach NHS providers.

“The health service needs to plan better for emergency demand, fund emergency care fairly and make sure it gets the best possible price for care provided outside the NHS,” she said.

The Department of Health said it spends less than 10% of its budget on independent providers.

A spokesman said: “This report simply shows the NHS is making clinical judgments about delivering high-quality care for patients.

“The truth is that for many years the independent sector has made a contribution to helping the NHS meet demand, now amounting to less than eight pence in every pound the NHS spends.”


Surprise! Government says one thing and does exactly the opposite – this time rural pharmacies

“Ministers are planning to allow hundreds of rural chemists to close across the country despite repeated assurances to MPs this would not happen, The Telegraph can disclose.

In private letters to Theresa May, last August Philip Hammond and Jeremy Hunt warned that pharmacies would have to close because of the cut in a subsidy worth hundreds of millions of pounds a year to the hard-pressed pharmacies.

The Cabinet ministers’ warnings appear to be at odds with ministers’ repeated public claims in Parliament and in official documents that no closures are likely.

They also appear to confirm that Mrs May is concerned about the plans and had to seek reassurances from Mr Hammond, the Chancellor, and Mr Hunt, the Health secretary.

Campaigners said the letters amounted to a “smoking gun” which laid bare the Government’s indifference to saving rural pharmacies. …

… According to letters disclosed in a High Court challenge to the plans, and seen by The Telegraph, Mr Hammond and Mr Hunt warned that the cut will result in the closure of pharmacies.

Mr Hunt told Mrs May on August 2 the cut would mean that “500-900 pharmacies will close”, in a letter that was copied to Mr Hammond.

Mr Hunt said: “We cannot know exactly how individual pharmacies will be affected by the funding reductions and there is a risk that some pharmacies may close as a result of these changes, although this has never been our objective.”

Mr Hammond went further in a second letter on August 11, telling Mrs May he supported the subsidy cut to what he described as an “inefficient and over-subsidised market” to move chemists “away away from the traditional bricks-and-mortar business model”.

He told the Prime Minister: “Longer-term I would like the community pharmacy market to follow trends we have witnessed in other retail markets.

“This might include a shift away from the traditional bricks-and-mortar business model towards scaled-up, innovative supply solutions employing digital technology, where Government expenditure is minimised.”

The Government announced revised plans in October that increased the number of chemists that can access a special fund from 900 to 1,300, only half as many as the up to 900 that Mr Hunt expected to close.

Weeks later Pharmacies minister David Mowat told MPs three times that no closures were likely. He told MPs on October 17: “We do not believe that community pharmacies will necessarily close as a result of these cuts.”

The department’s own impact assessment was based on a scenario “a scenario where no pharmacy closes” as a result of the cut.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said Mr Hunt should explain to MPs “why he was saying one thing to the Prime Minister while Mr Mowat was telling the House of Commons something different”.

He said: “Someone in Government needs to get a grip and clarify the future of these hundreds of community pharmacies, the staff who work in them, and the patients who depend upon their services.” …”


Transparency for developer viability appraisals must be published

Owl says: EDDC makes it seem that THEY decided these appraisals should be made public – but government directives, fights with the Information Commissioner and case-law have meant that they really have no option on this!

6.28 There is a strong public interest in financial viability appraisals being made available for scrutiny when relied upon to secure planning permission and, for this reason, the council will make this information publicly available.

We consider that transparency is extremely important and the public benefit of publishing all aspects of a viability appraisal will generally outweigh any potential commercial harm to the applicant.

If an applicant feels that some or all of the information should be kept confidential, then it will be necessary for the applicant to show how disclosure of that information would cause specific harm (in this context this means that ‘it is more probable than not that some harm would be caused’ – it will not be sufficient to say it might cause harm) to a legitimate economic interest.

Applicants will need to identify to the Council what the economic interest is and how specific harm would be caused to it when the viability information is provided. This view will be taken into account, and balanced against the wider public interest in disclosure, when the council makes its decision about the publication of the viability appraisal.

Click to access 290317-combined-strategic-planning-agenda-compressed.pdf

page 107

Another broken Tory manifesto promise: starter homes

“The Tories have quietly ditched their manifesto pledge to build 200,000 starter homes.

The party promised to build the homes five times in their 2015 manifesto.

The manifesto promised the Tories, if elected, would “build 200,000 new Starter Homes – 20% below the market price, for first time buyers under 40.”

Later it pledged they would: “Build more homes that people can afford, including 200,000 new Starter Homes exclusively for first-time buyers under 40.”

It went on to say that at the 200,000 figure was a “clear objective” and was at the “heart” of the party’s housing plan.”


Now THAT’S how you do spin!

Wonder what Swire and his Conservative Middle East Council think of this?

“Britain is now the second biggest arms dealer in the world, official government figures show – with most of the weapons fuelling deadly conflicts in the Middle East.

Since 2010 Britain has also sold arms to 39 of the 51 countries ranked “not free” on the Freedom House “Freedom in the world” report, and 22 of the 30 countries on the UK Government’s own human rights watch list.

A full two-thirds of UK weapons over this period were sold to Middle Eastern countries, where instability has fed into increased risk of terror threats to Britain and across the West. …

… Ministers, who must sign-off all arms export licences, say the current system is robust and that they have revoked permission to export defence equipment in the past – for example in Russia and Ukraine.

But the Government has also ignored calls to stop selling weapons to repressive regimes, including Saudi Arabia, which has been accused by UN bodies of potentially committing war crimes in its military operation in Yemen against Houthi rebels.

Both the European Parliament and the House of Commons International Development Committee have called for exports to the autocracy to stop, but the Government says it has not seen evidence of Saudi war crimes. …

… Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade warned that the dependence of British exporters on unsavory regimes could make the UK less likely to intervene against human rights violators.

“These terrible figures expose the hypocrisy at the heart of UK foreign policy. The government is always telling us that it acts to promote human rights and democracy, but it is arming and supporting some of the most repressive regimes in the world. The impact of UK arms sales is clear in Yemen, where British fighter jets and bombs have been central to the Saudi-led destruction,” he told The Independent.

“These regimes aren’t just buying weapons, they’re also buying political support and legitimacy. How likely is the UK to act against human rights violations in these countries when it is also profiting from them?

“There is no such thing as arms control in a war zone and there is no way of knowing how these weapons will be used. The fact that so many weapons were sold to Russia and Libya is a reminder that the shelf-life of weapons is often longer than the governments and situations they were sold to.”


EDDC Exmouth Visitor Survey- a flaw

The survey says that by far the largest proportion of visitors (31 per cent) were aged 65+ years:

15% – 15 years or under
6% – 16‐24 years
8% – 25‐34 years
10% – 35‐44 years
14% – 45‐54 years and
15% – 55‐64 years
31% – 65+

16-64 year old are broken down into decades
Under 15’s span 15 years
Over 65’s span around 35 years

So obviously over 65’s are the largest group as they cover the largest number of years.

But, if you wished, you could say the largest group was 35-64 year olds (39%) as they also span 3 decades and are a higher percentage than the over 65’s!

Plus, it should be fairly obvious that people 65 – 74 are just about as fit and active as the 55-64 year olds. Lumping them in with centenarians is just a tad ageist!

AND it skews figures by comparing unequal groupings.