EDDC wants us to donate to Sidmouth beach protection!

Presumably so their £10 million vanity relocation doesn’t have to be cut! Note: only Sidmouth beach management plan is being dealt with this way (so far) – no other town. We pay council tax – now we are expected to make donations! Though perhaps they will soon install a “make donations to our relocation” boxes in the Knowle reception!

“East Devon District Council is asking you to help fund a multi-million pound plan to protect the beach in Sidmouth. The council is appealing to residents and visitors to Sidmouth to help contribute financially to the town’s beach management scheme via a donation box on the seafront.

A £5.7million grant from central government will go towards delivering a scheme to protect the coastline. But a further £3.3m of partnership funding is required for the scheme.

A donation box and its accompanying explanatory sign has been designed to help visitors understand the role of the beach in flooding and coastal erosion and has been placed on Sidmouth seafront, and the public are being asked to donate to help fund it.”

http://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/donation-box-installed-on-sidmouth-seafront-to-help-raise-3-3million-for-coastal-protection-scheme-1-4984794

Hernandez “explains” why she continues as Police and Crime Commissioner

Owl says: if she were a police officer she would have been suspended on full pay pending the outcome of proceedings – so that he or she could not be accused of influencing decisions on the case and the employer could also be seen as doing the same thing. Suspension is NOT an admission of guilt, it is a responsible action to protect both sides from charges of exerting undue influence.

“… The parliamentary statute is very clear on when a PCC may be suspended. Any suspension decision is taken by the Police and Crime Panel but they can only consider suspension if a criminal charge has been made and that the maximum offence for that charge carries a two year prison sentence. Neither of those requirements apply in my case.

I know that some readers may still feel that I should stand down because I am under investigation, but we live in a system where you are innocent until proven guilty. I was elected to serve as your Commissioner and that is what I have done, and will continue to do.

I maintain that I have done nothing wrong and I acted honestly and properly throughout the election campaign 2 years ago. I have co-operated fully with the police investigation and I look forward to getting a decision on whether this will go any further in the next few weeks. ”

http://www.devonlive.com/alison-hernandez-why-i-am-continuing-as-your-crime-chief-during-the-election-expenses-investigation/story-30290000-detail/story.html

What can US and French elections tell us about East Devon?

The voters of the US and France have each sent out strong signals that people are not just tired of party politics but that they will seek actively to stop them by favouring candidates who promise that they will make independent decisions rather than follow party dogma.

Trump is decried by his own party – the Republicans – for not toeing their party line. The Democrats really wanted Bernie Sanders to stand – a man whose policies were a far cry from those of Clinton – but party grandees went for what they saw as the “safe” party choice. The choice that lost them the election.

The old “left” and “right” no longer speak to an electorate that sees that, in fact, they are the same side of the coin, both standing for the status quo.

The constituency electorate wants people who can think for themselves and do what they need locally, even more than nationally and internationally. They want people who will fight THEIR corner and only their corner. That means sometimes choosing “right wing” decisions and sometimes “left wing” because that is how they themselves see the world.

They see that parties are too hidebound and stuck in their ways, too rigid to think on their feet and support the correct course rather than the party course.

This will spread to the UK – maybe not in time for this election – but certainly for the next one.

In the Netherlands many parties have to work together in coalition. This means that each of them gets something but no party gets everything – horse trading goes on to ensure that each group in the coalition is prepared to work with others. They still choose a Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, etc but based on a wide variety of choices available, not just a party leader. Just one way that a wider political spectrum works.

Interesting times.

“Why a snap election? Ask the 30 tories facing criminal charges…” says Daily Mail article

If the Daily Mail says this, then it seems things are much worse than they appear with the election fraud scandL

“This is a flap election, not a snap election. It has been called to get the Government out of what might be serious legal trouble. I am amazed this has not attracted more attention.

It is this simple. The Crown Prosecution Service is now looking at the cases of 30, yes 30, Tory MPs and agents, who have been investigated for breaking spending rules at the last General Election.

The allegations have been probed by 14 police forces after claims that the Conservatives’ ‘battlebus’ campaign broke legal spending limits in several key marginal seats.

The Tories have already been in deep trouble over their new election techniques, where busloads of outsiders flood into winnable seats to round up crucial extra votes. This was a way of making up for the Tory party’s severe loss of active members, who used to do this donkey work. But it is sailing very close to the legal wind.

Last month they were hit by the Electoral Commission with a record £70,000 fine – the maximum – for failing to declare their spending. The forces involved are Avon & Somerset, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Devon & Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Greater Manchester, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, West Mercia, West Midlands, West Yorkshire and the Met.

These cases are likely to result in some charges (I have no idea how many) in the next few weeks, probably just before polling day. Trials, assuming these go ahead, will be much later in the year and might not reach verdicts until well into 2018.

If there had been no election, any convictions could have meant MPs found guilty being forced to stand down, and elections being rerun. A General Election makes this much less of a threat, especially if Mrs May manages to increase her meagre majority.

This menace has been worrying the Cabinet for some months, as it has become clear it will not go away. And it is a far better explanation of the Prime Minister’s change of heart than her rather weird and incoherent speech in Downing Street. I happen to think she is a naturally truthful person and meant what she said when she previously declared several times that she was going to stay on till 2020.

But the expenses allegations, which started as a cloud on the horizon no bigger than a man’s hand, have grown and grown. I suspect her advisers have been telling her she cannot risk them coming into the open late in a Parliament when, perhaps, the economy is not doing well, or EU negotiations are going badly or Labour has a new leader.

As a result of this semi-secret crisis, the Tory campaign this time will have to be a good deal more cautious about such things, which may weaken it, especially if the campaign goes wrong – and this is not impossible.

Even now the affair could be highly damaging – but early in a new Parliament, with a secure majority, the Government should be able to weather it far better than if Mrs May had soldiered on. But all elections are risks. It is amazing how often governments lose control of them.

Politics in this country are a good deal less solid and stable than they seem.”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-4436518/PETER-HITCHENS-snap-election.html

NHS: were Swire and Parish’s “talks” with Jeremy Hunt worthless?

It appears Jeremy Hunt may be for the chop if Mrs May get her way with the next government.

Swire and Parish boasted that they had “conversations” with Hunt over local hospital bed closures – such talks seemingly preferable to actually voting against them in Parliament.

Now it seems that Hunt is not one of Mrs May’s favourite people – and we also know that she is not always disposed to take the advice of people she doesn’t rate.

So how useful were these talks?

Given that Hunt contributed to a book on how to privatise hospital services, even if he gets his old job back – would he listen anyway?

Beware retirement properties

“An investigation has exposed systematic ‘abuse’ in fees for retirement properties.

According to the Law Commission, which has just completed a two-year probe into the practice, retirement home residents are being charged ‘event fees’ triggered by one-off occasions, like sub-letting the property.

It warned that there are “major problems” with the way these fees are charged – and how they are hidden in the small print.

When older people buy a retirement property, it is generally on a leasehold basis. My own grandfather lives in a lovely complex just over the road from my parents.

As with normal residential leasehold properties, there is a host of additional fees to worry about, and they come with all sorts of names – exit fees, transfer fees, contingency fees, etc.

And according to the Law Commission they are open to abuse. Its investigation found that these fees can be hidden within the small print of complex lease documents, or are disclosed too late in the process for the buyer to take them into account.

Bad timing

There is also a significant issue about exactly when these fees are charged, which the Law Commission said may come as a “surprise” to the owner because of how broadly drafted the fee is.

For example, it is reasonable to expect that an event fee might be charged when you sell the property.

But the Law Commission’s investigation found numerous examples of the fee being charged when the property was inherited or mortgaged, when a spouse, partner or carer moved in, or when the normal resident moved out.

These fees aren’t small change either – they can work out as much as 30% of the property’s value!

What’s most irritating about all this is that it is nothing new. Back in 2013 the Office of Fair Trading (remember them?) also looked into the issue, and found the exact same problems, suggesting that a number of the fees being charged were unfair and actually a breach of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations.

Yet here we are, four years later, and the same fees are being charged, hitting older people in the pocket.

Hurting the supply of retirement homes

These fees are bad enough just from a moral point of view, but some believe that they are actually serving as a barrier to more retirement homes being built.

Nicola Charlton of law firm Pinsent Masons suggested that the “legal uncertainties” over the status of event fees “have in the past dissuaded developers from building the homes older people need and investors from providing the required funding”.

Now that the Law Commission has published its views on the fees, this uncertainty is removed, which could possibly mean extra investment of as much as £3.2 billion into new – and badly needed – specialist retirement housing.

There are currently only around 160,000 retirement properties like those reviewed by the Law Commission, which simply isn’t enough.

Is regulation the answer?

The Law Commission has declined to call for event fees to be scrapped entirely, as it argues that they can actually make specialist housing affordable precisely because some of the payments for services are essentially deferred until the property is sold.

Instead, it wants regulation with the introduction of a new code of practice overseen by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

This code of practice would limit when a fee can be charged, and in some cases exactly how much can be charged.

It would also impose “stringent obligations” on landlords to provide transparent information about exactly which fees may be charged early in the process.

This idea has had a warm welcome from the industry. A statement from the Associated Retirement Community Operators said: “It’s been long overdue, and we believe that an event fee that has not been transparently disclosed should not be charged.

In other countries, event fees are a well-established mechanism that can enable older people to use their housing equity to ‘enjoy now and pay later’, for example by reducing their service charge or deferring some of the costs of building communal facilities.”

However, the Campaign Against Retirement Leasehold Exploitation (CARLEX) described the report as “tokenistic”, adding: “Pensioners and their families who feel they have been blatantly cheated in retirement housing have reason to feel let down.”

What to consider when buying a retirement property

Clearly, if you are thinking about buying a retirement property it pays to look carefully through the contracts to ensure you fully understand what fees you are likely to have to pay and precisely when they may be charged.

It isn’t just these event fees you need to consider either – there will also be service charges to cover maintenance and upkeep of the property to account for. These are often higher than the service charges you may face on a normal property, as retirement homes tend to come with more services included.

Critics claim that the managing agents and maintenance firms are often offshoots from the freeholder, meaning there is no actual competition for the role, resulting in eye-watering overcharging.

It also pays to do your research on the resale value. Have similar retirement properties in the area been resold at a decent price?

These properties can be more difficult to sell than a normal home, while you will want to check the small print of your contract to ensure you are free to choose who you market the property through – some freeholders insist that you resell it through their own company, with a higher fee to pay than selling through an estate agent.

Given how difficult it can be to resell a retirement property, you may prefer to rent instead.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-39678859