New nuclear plants in USA axed in situation eerily similar to Hinkley C

“Billions of dollars spent on two new nuclear reactors in South Carolina went up in smoke Monday when the owners nixed plans to finish them after years of delays and cost overruns, dealing a severe blow to the industry’s future.

South Carolina’s state-owned public utility has voted to stop construction on two billion-dollar nuclear reactors. The reactors were set to be among the first new nuclear reactors built in the U.S. in decades, but the vote by Santee Cooper’s board on Monday, July 31, 2017 likely ends their future.

The reactors were set to be among the first built in the U.S. in decades. While the decision will save customers billions in additional costs, customers of the two utilities — Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas — may get little to nothing refunded of the billions they’ve already paid for the now-abandoned project.

“I’m disappointed today not just for Santee Cooper and its customers but for our country and the industry as a whole,” said Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter. “If you really believe we need to reduce carbon, this was the way to do it.”

Energy demands are far less than the utility’s pre-Great Recession projections that factored into the initial decision to build.
But Monday’s decision may eventually result in the utility putting a coal-fired unit idled earlier this year back in operation. Another option for supplying power needs in the decades to come include building a natural gas unit.

“Absolutely, this pushes us back to more carbon, whether it’s natural gas or coal,” Carter said.

Santee Cooper’s board said the decision to end construction will save customers an estimated $7 billion. The utility had already spent about $5 billion for its 45 percent share of the project, and completing it would have cost an additional $8 billion, plus $3.4 billion in interest.
“I’m not celebrating,” said Tom Clements of Friends of the Earth, which has questioned the project from the outset. “This is a sad day for South Carolina. So much money has been wasted. Ratepayers are losers any way you take it.”

He said the group will work to “get to the bottom line of how this happened, who’s responsible” and what that means for customers.

Gov. Henry McMaster called for legislators to hold hearings to get customers’ questions answered.

The project has been shrouded in doubt since earlier this year, when primary contractor Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection.

The utilities have since determined the project likely wouldn’t have been finished until 2024. Under a timeline adopted in 2012, the first reactor was supposed to be operational earlier this year. Westinghouse hasn’t been forthright since, according to Santee Cooper.

South Carolina Electric & Gas, which owns 55 percent, announced its plans shortly after Santee Cooper’s unanimous vote. SCANA, SCE&G’s parent company, will seek approval from regulators Tuesday about their abandonment plans.
Under the approved Santee Cooper resolution, all work will end within six months. How quickly within that timeframe workers at the site will lose their jobs is uncertain.

About 5,000 people are employed at the site by contractors and subcontractors. SCE&G employs an additional 600 workers for the project, according to the utility.

The utilities announced last week that Westinghouse’s parent company, Toshiba Corp., agreed to jointly pay them $2.2 billion regardless of whether the reactors are ever completed.”

Times article: scrap Hinkley C, frack for shale and to hell with carbon reduction

Britain’s energy policy keeps picking losers

by Matt Ridley

The public have paid the price for years of missteps: it’s time to scrap Hinkley Point C and support the shale revolution

Shortly before parliament broke up this month, there was a debate on a Lords select committee report on electricity policy that was remarkable for its hard-hitting conclusions. The speakers, and signatories of the report, included a former Labour chancellor, Tory energy secretary, Tory Scottish secretary, cabinet secretary, ambassador to the European Union and Treasury permanent secretary, as well as a bishop, an economics professor, a Labour media tycoon and a Lib Dem who was shortlisted for governor of the Bank of England.

Genuine heavyweights, in short. They were in general agreement: energy policy is a mess, decarbonisation has been pursued at the expense of affordability and, in particular, the nuclear plant at Hinkley Point C in Somerset is an expensive disaster. Their report came out before the devastating National Audit Office report on Hinkley, which said the government had “locked consumers into a risky and expensive project [and] did not consider sufficiently the risks and costs to the consumer”.

Hinkley is but the worst example of a nationalised energy policy of picking losers. The diesel fiasco is another. The wind industry, with its hefty subsidies paid from the poor to the rich to produce unreliable power, is a third. The biomass mess (high carbon, high cost and environmental damage) is a fourth.

The liberalised energy markets introduced by Nigel Lawson in 1982, embraced by the Blair government and emulated across Europe, delivered both affordability and reliability. But they were abandoned and, in the words of the Lords committee, “a succession of policy interventions has led to the creation of a complex system of subsidies and government contracts at the expense of competition. Nobody has built a power station without some form of government guarantee since 2012.”

All three parties share the blame. Labour’s Climate Change Act of 2008 made Britain the only country with mandatory decarbonisation targets, a crony-capitalist’s dream. The Lib Dems who ran the energy department for five years, Chris Huhne and Ed Davey, negotiated the disastrous Hinkley contract. The Tories reviewed the decision in 2016, by which time it was clear we had managed the unique feat of finding a technology that was untested yet already obsolete. They decided to go ahead anyway, missing the chance to blame the other parties for it. As the energy analyst Peter Atherton put it, the three parties “have managed to design possibly the most expensive programme for delivering nuclear power we could have come up with”.

The chief Lib Dem mistake was to ignore the shale gas and oil revolutions under way in America and assume that fossil fuel prices would rise from already high levels. By 2011, influenced by peak-oil nonsense and lobbied by professors of “sustainability”, the department of energy and climate change was projecting that the oil price would be between $97 and $126 per barrel in 2017. Today it is about $50 a barrel, roughly half the lowest of the 2011 projections. Gas prices were expected to be about 76p per therm by now, whereas they are actually about half that: 37p.

The shale revolution is gathering pace all the time. Britain has very promising shales and could prosper and cut emissions if it joins in, so let us hope the first wells about to be drilled in Lancashire by Cuadrilla, against the determined opposition of wealthy, middle-class protesters, prove successful. (No, I don’t have a commercial interest in shale.)

American industry pays about half as much for its electricity as we do
This forecasting mistake is behind much of the rising cost of Hinkley. In 2015 the whole-life cost of its power was expected to be £14 billion. Now it is £50 billion. Because consumers are on the hook to pay the difference between the wholesale price of electricity and the “strike price” for Hinkley, we must hope that the project is badly delayed, because that way our children will at least spend fewer years paying inflated electricity prices.

These bad forecasts, widely criticised at the time, make all strike prices horribly expensive, for onshore and offshore wind and solar as well. Lib Dem ministers kept saying at the time that subsidies for renewables and Hinkley would protect the consumer against “volatile” gas prices. Yes, they have done so: by guaranteeing high prices. Oh for a little downward volatility!

Britain’s industrial and commercial users now have some of the highest electricity prices in the developed world, which find their way to households in cost of living and a downward pressure on wages. American industry pays about half as much for its electricity as we do, and everyone benefits. Energy prices are not just any consumer price: they determine the prosperity of the entire economy.

It is just possible some new arrangement could be salvaged

Well, no use crying over spilt future money. What are we to do? Here is where it could get interesting. Almost nobody wants Hinkley to go ahead, apart from the contractors who get to build it. EDF and Areva, the French owner and developer, are in trouble over the only two comparable reactors in Europe. The one at Flamanville is still to start working, many years behind schedule. The French unions want Hinkley cancelled. Lord Howell of Guildford, the former energy secretary, wisely pointed out in the Lords that the key player is China, a partner in the project. Rather than cost, the government’s excuse for revisiting Hinkley last year was partly worries about security. This was a silly worry and bad diplomacy. However, it is not clear China wants to go ahead, and subtle negotiation could tease this out. The great prize for China was regulatory approval through Britain’s gold-standard “generic design assessment” process, which could unlock foreign markets and give a green light for a Chinese-built reactor at Bradwell in Essex.

But Lord Howell says the Chinese increasingly realise that the Hinkley design is a dead end, as costs escalate and delays grow. And they know that the future for nuclear power must lie in smaller, modular units, mass-manufactured like cars rather than assembled from scratch like Egyptian pyramids. Their “Nimble Dragon” design could slot into both the Hinkley and Bradwell sites, perhaps beside the larger Hualong design.

Cancellation would cost some £20 billion. But if the initiative comes from Beijing it is just possible that some new arrangement could be salvaged from the certain wreckage of the EDF scheme, without seriously damaging both livelihoods and our relations with China.”

1 in 5 MPs still employ family members – including both our MPs

Swire employs his wife as his researcher on about £35,000 a year, Parish employs his wife at a lower salary as a junior secretary on about £15,000 (but we don’t know how many hours that is for):

“One in five MPs are still using taxpayer-funded expenses to employ members of their family – despite the practice being banned for new Members of Parliament.

Official data shows that, of the 589 MPs who returned to Parliament after the June election, 122 have declared the employment of a relative in the latest Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

Yet under new rules, none of the 61 new MPs elected for the first time on 8 June are allowed to do so.

Alexandra Runswick, the director of campaign group Unlock Democracy, said: “The ban on new MPs employing family members reflects the public’s concerns about nepotism and the potential abuse of public money.

“If MPs employing family members is wrong in principle, then when the MP was first elected is irrelevant.”

Among the MPs who have continued to employ spouses following the June election are several members of the Cabinet, including Tory chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

Several of Jeremy Corbyn ’s top team also employ spouses, including Labour chairman Ian Lavery and shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner.

There is no suggestion any of the existing MPs who continue to employ family members have done anything wrong.

Ms Runswick said it was ‘reasonable’ to give MPs’ families time to prepare for a new clampdown – but said a ‘time limit’ was needed on how long the current situation could continue.

“A transitional period is reasonable, particularly as the snap election means that these rules have come into force three years earlier than expected,” she said. …

… Darren Hughes, acting chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said it was fair to phase out the practice over the coming years.

“Given the high rate of turnover of both MPs and staff, it is clear that within the next few electoral cycles it will apply to the vast majority of Parliamentary staff,” he said.

“Voters must be able to have confidence that our democracy is resourced in an open and transparent way, so it’s welcome that Parliamentary authorities have taken steps to reform the system.”

Make sure you are registered to vote says EDDC Electoral Registration Officer

And will those who don’t return their forms be canvassed for follow-up? Your guess as good as Owl’s since Mr Williams believes it isn’t necessary to follow up and told a parliamentary committee that phone calls (how you get the phone number is a mystery) will suffice:

“East Devon residents will soon receive a form asking them to check whether the information that appears on the electoral register about their address is correct.

East Devon District Council is asking residents in East Devon to look out for the form in the post and to make sure that they respond as soon as possible.

The aim of the form is to make sure that the electoral register is up to date and to identify any residents who are not registered so that they can be encouraged to do so.

Being registered to vote gives you the right to vote in elections and can also improve your credit rating

Mark Williams, Electoral Registration Officer at East Devon said: “It’s really important that residents respond as soon as possible, so we can make sure we have the right details on the electoral register for every address in East Devon. Simply check the form when it arrives and respond as soon as you can.”

If you’re not currently registered, your name will not appear on the form. However if you decide to apply to register, you will still need to complete the form and then send it back to us. The easiest way to get yourself registered is to go online to apply to register at

or we’ll send you information explaining how to do this in the post. You can also provide the information over the telephone.

It’s particularly important that anyone who has moved address recently looks out for the form and checks whether they are registered.

Research by the independent Electoral Commission indicates that recent home movers are far less likely to be registered than those that have lived at the same address for a long time. The research showed that across Great Britain, 94 % of people who have been at their property for more than sixteen years will be registered compared to 40% of people who have lived at an address for less than one year.

Any residents who have any questions can contact the registration team on 01395 517402 or”

Report recommends capping cost of all judicial reviews

The protective costs rules in environmental cases should be adapted and extended to all judicial review claims, Lord Justice Jackson has recommended.

In his Review of Civil Litigation Costs: Supplemental Report Fixed Recoverable Costs the judge said: “Whilst those rules were originally introduced to achieve compliance with the Aarhus Convention, they are in principle suitable for judicial review cases in general, all of which are of constitutional importance. Citizens must be able to challenge the executive without facing crushing costs liabilities if they lose.”

A report was written for the judge by Martin Westgate QC of Doughty Street Chambers on how the Aarhus Rules might be developed for general application across the whole landscape of judicial review.

Lord Justice Jackson wrote that government lawyers were “perhaps unsurprisingly….less enamoured of the idea” and had suggested that there was no access to justice problem which needed to be addressed.

His recommendations were based on his conclusions that:
“(i) Even though many JR cases fall into a standard pattern, costs are too variable to permit the introduction of a grid of FRC [fixed recoverable costs].
(ii) CCOs [costs capping orders] are of little practical value, because the procedure for obtaining such orders is too cumbersome and too expensive. The criteria for granting CCOs are unacceptably wide and the outcome of any application must be uncertain. Also, that outcome will not be known until too late in the day.
(iii) There would be merit in extending the Aarhus Rules, suitably amended, to all JR claims. The fact that most JR cases fall into a standard pattern makes it possible to set default figures as caps, even though it is not practicable to draw up a grid of FRC.
(iv)The discipline of costs management should be available in larger JR claims, at the discretion of the court.”

Lord Justice Jackson went on: “I accept that it is both tiresome and expensive for hard pressed public authorities to face (as they do) (a) a stream of unmeritorious claims and (b) and a much smaller number of meritorious claims. The fact that most claims are knocked out at the permission stage is not a complete answer. By then the defendant authorities will often have incurred significant costs in investigating the facts and drafting the acknowledgement of service.

“Despite those unwelcome burdens falling on public authorities, the ready availability of JR proceedings in which public bodies are held to account for their actions and decisions, is a vital part of our democracy. Both JR and a free press are, in their different ways, bulwarks against the misuse of power.”

Under the proposal:

The regime should be available in any case where the claimant is an individual (or an individual who is a representative of a number of natural persons with a similar interest) without legal aid.
The regime should be optional. Any judicial review claimant should be able to opt in.
There must be some form of means testing for those claimants who opt in.
Any investigation of means should be in private and the claimant’s disclosure should be made only to specified individuals within a defined confidentiality ring.
The default figures of £5,000/£10,000 for claimants and £35,000 for defendants should remain, but be subject to three yearly reviews.
Any application to vary those figures should be made by the claimant in the claim form and by the defendant in the acknowledgement of service. Such applications should be dealt with at the permission stage. Such applications should only be entertained later in exceptional circumstances, for example a fundamental change in the case or the discovery of dishonesty in the claimant’s disclosure.
If the claimant’s costs liability is increased above the default figure, they should be permitted to discontinue within 21 days and (if they do) only be liable for adverse costs to the extent of the previous figure.
Lord Justice Jackson argued that the fact that the defendant would not normally be liable for more than £35,000 in costs would protect the public purse against open-ended liability.

“The opportunity to vary the default figures at an early stage provides (a) an additional opportunity for claimants to secure access to justice, as well as (b) an opportunity for defendants to protect the expenditure of taxpayers’ money in litigation brought by wealthy claimants,” he added.
Lord Justice Jackson said the proposals could not be made by rule change alone, and legislation would have to be amended or repealed.

The judge also called for costs management to be introduced, at the discretion of the judge, in ‘heavy’ judicial review claims.
He proposed that in any judicial review case where the costs of a party were likely to exceed £100,000 or the hearing length was likely to exceed two days, the court should have a discretion to make a costs management order at the stage of granting permission.

Lord Justice Jackson rejected the courts being given a discretion to override agreed judicial review budgets.

“Both public authorities and claimants must be assumed to act rationally,” he said. “The defendants have a duty to conserve taxpayers’ money. Claimants and interested parties have their own commercial interests to protect. It would be a waste of scarce judicial time for judges to pore over the details of agreed budgets in JR cases.”

Elsewhere in his report the judge recommended a grid of fixed recoverable costs (FRC) for all fast track cases. Above the fast track, he called for a new ‘intermediate’ track for certain claims up to £100,000 which can be tried in three days or less, with no more than two expert witnesses giving oral evidence on each side. This intermediate track will have streamlined procedures and a grid of FRC.” …

Are Cranbrook’s streets too narrow?

The fire service has already said so:

and a highly critical report mentioned the problem of cars parked in streets – one which has not gone away:

Now the bus company with the near monopoly in Devon, and which sends only single-decker buses through the town, issues a warning:

“Residents on newly built housing estates are being cut off from the bus network because developers are failing to construct wide enough roads, according to public transport bosses.

One of Britain’s biggest operators warned that buses were being forced to avoid many estates amid concerns over narrow roads, sharp bends, overzealous traffic calming and parked cars.

Stagecoach said that high-density developments were being built with roads only 6m wide, when operators needed 6.5m to allow two buses to pass without clipping wing mirrors.

It blamed planning rules that have cut road widths or pushed the layout of sharp bends to keep car speeds down.

The company also said that national guidelines introduced by Labour 17 years ago intended to clear roads of cars by providing less off-street parking had backfired, with many motorists leaving vehicles on the street.

Stagecoach has issued its own guidance to councils, urging them to build roads at least 6.5m wide, with sweeping bends and off-street parking provided.

It also said that “shared space” schemes that seek to declutter streets by stripping out kerbs, road markings and traffic signs should be redesigned to “avoid buses straying into areas intended mainly for pedestrians”.

Nick Small, Stagecoach’s head of strategic development for the south, said examples included the Shilton Park estate in Carterton, Oxfordshire, where the company could not operate a full-size bus, and the Kingsway development, Gloucester, which had areas “impenetrable by buses”.

Daniel Carey-Dawes, a senior infrastructure campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Bad design will lock our towns and countryside into toxic congestion and car dependency for decades.”

Martin Tett, housing and transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “We will be looking closely at this blueprint and continuing to work hard to deliver places where our communities can thrive.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

“Taxpayers still footing the bill for non-existent ‘ghost’ schools locked into £100m ‘PFI swindle’ “

Imagine how this money could benefit current pupils – and we are powerless to stop these payments:

“Taxpayers will foot a bill of over £100 million over the next two decades for “ghost” schools, as local authorities are held to ransom over outstanding Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts.

The Sunday Telegraph has identified schools across the country, built under the Government’s PFI scheme, which closed down just a few years after opening due to declining pupil numbers, poor performance or structural flaws.

But local authorities must continue to pay until the end of the contract – amounting to millions of pounds for empty or demolished buildings.”

See your Police and Crime Panel in action – in Plymouth – and how to ask a question

Owl thinks the Police and Crime Commissioner is getting an easy ride when it comes to accountability. And thinks the Police and Crime Panel (which can make recommendations to her but cannot do anything else if she disagrees with them) is getting an even easier ride.

It is very hard for people in East Devon to get to Plymouth, where the panel always meets (time for an Exeter venue?) but for anyone who wants to attend and ask questions of the panel, here is the relevant information:

Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel
Next meeting: Friday 18 August 2017 10.30 am

The agenda will be displayed in the week before the meeting

Proposed venue: Council House (Next to the Civic Centre), Plymouth

How to ask the panel a question

Members of the public can attend panel meetings (except where confidential or exempt information is likely to be discussed) and may ask questions at each meeting (up to two questions per person per meeting and up to 100 words per question) that are relevant to the Panel’s functions.

At the start of each meeting 30 minutes will be allocated to questions asked by members of the public. Responses may be oral or written.

Questions must be put in writing to the Democratic and Member Support Manager at Plymouth City Council at least 5 clear working days before the panel meeting.

Democratic and Member Support Manager
Plymouth City Council
Civic Centre

Budleigh Neighbourhood Plan group apologises for being unable to save hospital garden after being outmaneuvered by Clinton Devon Estates

“A neighbourhood plan focus group has apologised to the Budleigh Salterton community after a bid to save the entire hospital garden from development failed.

The former hospital garden, in Boucher Road, had been listed in the draft neighbourhood plan as one of the key green spaces to be protected from future development.

It had also previously been earmarked for health and wellbeing activities for a new hub being built on the site of the former hospital.

In February this year, landowner Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) put in a planning application to build two houses on half of the site, keeping the other half as a public-access garden.

An independent examiner assessing the town’s draft neighbourhood plan requested more information clarifying the importance of the hospital garden.
Chartered town planners Bell Cornwell, on behalf of CDE, wrote a letter to the examiner confirming that the planned public access garden would be “more than adequate” for hub activities.

One of the examiner’s alterations to the plan, ratified by the district council, was that the area of protected green space in the garden be reduced by half.

Nicola Daniel, on behalf of the Budleigh Neighbourhood Plan Built and Natural Environment Focus Group, has apologised for not being able to secure the whole garden for the town.

In a letter to the Journal (see page 20), she said: “By the time we saw this letter it was too late to challenge it. We were outmanoeuvred.
“Bell Cornwell was given more weight than the expert knowledge of the medical practitioners involved in setting up the hub, who know the full benefits of having the entire garden as a facility for the health and wellbeing hub and its success.”

In response, a CDE spokesman said: “CDE has for many years supported the NHS in Budleigh Salterton and, more recently, the Budleigh Salterton Hospital League of Friends, by making available the garden area off Boucher Road.
“We submitted proposals to East Devon District Council which include keeping half the garden, nearest the site of the new health hub, as a garden which would be open to the public for the first time.

“Our position has not changed since the application was submitted.”

Prince Charles gets his own (beautiful?) way with his new south-west town

Owl says: bet this wouldn’t happen in the Republic of East Devon! And wonders if a “zombie town” of which they speak might be on our own doorstep!

Jerome Starkey

“Three of Britain’s biggest housebuilders have lost an attempt to change the plans for a garden town designed by Prince Charles’s architects, amid claims that the builders’ proposals would have created a “zombie town”.

The Sherford Valley, on the outskirts of Plymouth, had been earmarked for 5,500 new homes and was designed by the Prince’s Foundation to create an eco-friendly pedestrian community like Poundbury in Dorset.

Bovis Homes, Linden Homes and Taylor Wimpey, which bought the site in 2014, had applied to Plymouth council to water down the design rules and change Prince Charles’s plan so that they could build cheaper homes more quickly.
Councillors said that the move would have created a “zombie town” with “years of planning thrown out of the window” and rejected their application.
The builders had built fewer than 300 of the homes when they applied to amend the town code and master plan.

“Instead of having the highest standard of new homes, we will instead have a rather large housing estate,” Vivien Pengelly, a councillor, said.
The housebuilders said that they were asking for minor changes that would not have affected the quality of homes. However, Ben Bolgar, a director of the Prince’s Foundation, said that they were trying to strip out commitments to quality.

He said that Sherford was designed to prove that Prince Charles’s model village of Poundbury, near Dorchester, could work on a larger scale but that the builders were determined to “build their normal boxes”.

The design code meant that the builders had to produce a range of houses, built from local materials, which were not more than 500m from the shops. Cars had to be parked in hidden courtyards rather than on the street to encourage people to walk.

Mr Bolgar said that the builders’ plans would have transformed Sherford into a “rubbish housing estate”.

Jonny Morris, a councillor, said that he did not want Sherford to end up like the sort of place you would see “in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse”.

Housing companies applied to ditch a town code drawn up 13 years ago and replace it with a set of “fundamental principles” which they said allowed them greater flexibility over materials and construction methods.

“This is simply far too premature to take such a radical act, disregarding all those measures that allowed permission to be granted in the first place,” Nick Kelly, the deputy lord mayor, said. “We want development but everybody thinks, ‘This is what we’re going to get’, and at the stroke of a pen years of planning and assurances go out of the window.”

Lord Taylor of Goss Moor, who wrote a report in 2015 calling for dozens of new garden villages, said that Sherford had an excellent town plan and was “overwhelmingly supported by the local community” because of its commitment to quality. “The housebuilders knew what they were signing up to. There should really be no question about what will be delivered,” he said.”

Times (paywall)

Hinkley C: more bad, bad news – and they are moving to renewable energy!

Not looking like a good idea …

“Earnings at energy giant EDF have plummeted by a fifth in the first half of this year due to ongoing woes in its French fleet of nuclear reactors and lower profits from those in the UK.

The French state-backed group behind the UK’s first new nuclear plant in a generation, Hinkley Point C, has suffered a major setback to its domestic reactors, some of which have been closed for safety checks since October.

French nuclear power output fell by 3.9pc from the first half of last year to 197.2TWh in the six months to June 30, the group said. Despite a 4.2pc rise in UK EDF’s nuclear generation to 32.2TWh, the fleet of reactors were still a drain on earnings due to the weaker market price for electricity.

The slump in its two core markets wiped more than 20pc from its underlying earnings before interest, tax, debt and amortisation to €7bn (£6.3bn) but the group has assured investors that it remains on track to meet its guidance of between €13.7bn to €14.3bn for the year.

Jean-Bernard Lévy, EDF’s chairman and chief executive, underlined the “unfavourable market context” but said the group’s move towards renewable energy was accelerating.

The roll-out of subsidised renewables in the last decade has effectively driven the wholesale price of power down, cutting revenue for existing nuclear power plants, which sell their electricity into the market.

The decline in income highlights the need for a guaranteed set price for the new Hinkley Point plant in order to recover its eye-watering costs.

Earlier this month EDF confirmed that the cost of developing Hinkley had gone from £18bn to £19.6bn but was quick to point out that this would not be borne by customers because of the fixed price of £92.50 per megawatt-hour already agreed with the Government.

However, the declining wholesale market price means the top-up payment needed to meet this set price, which is paid by consumers, has spiralled to £50bn over the lifetime of the project from the £6bn bill estimated in 2013.”

Seaton DCC Councillor on that shameful DCC Health Scrutiny meeting – and Diviani’s disgraceful behaviour

“Councillor-Sara-Randall-Johnson (from this article):

Why did Devon’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee block the proposal to refer the closure of our beds to the Secretary of State?

The idea that the Chair, Councillor Sara Randall Johnson (left), was settling an old score with Claire Wright makes a nice story but overlooks the concerted Conservative position. The collusion between Randall Johnson and Rufus Gilbert – who rushed to propose a ‘no referral’ motion before Claire could move her motion to refer – was obvious to all, as was her keenness to persuade her colleagues not to have a recorded vote.

Equally striking, however, is that only one out of 12 Tories on the Committee – Honiton’s Phil Twiss – voted against Gilbert’s motion. The other 7 Tories who voted were all for allowing the beds to be closed; 2 who had reservations abstained; 2 more were (diplomatically?) absent. Whipping is not allowed on Scrutiny committees, but this gives a strong impression of a Tory consensus. Members who were uncertain of their support were unwilling to defy it beyond abstention. Twiss was obviously a special case, as the one committee member whose hospital will lose its beds.

Clearly the Conservative Group on DCC gave their East Devon members the main role in dealing with the Eastern Locality hospital beds issue when in May (with its return to Scrutiny looming) they made Randall Johnson chair and nominated two Exmouth members, Jeff Trail and Richard Scott, as well as Twiss as members of the Health Scrutiny Committee. With East Devon Tory leader, Paul Diviani, representing Devon’s district councils, 5 of its Tory members were from East Devon and only 7 from the other five-sixths of the Tory group.

East Devon Tories on the committee certainly lived up to their role on Tuesday. All except Trail voted, making half of all Tory votes cast on the committee and 3 out of 7 on the pro-CCG side. In contrast, only 4 of the 8 Tories from elsewhere in the county cast a vote on this crucial issue: East Devon’s Tories may have convinced themselves, but not their colleagues.

Paul Diviani spills the beans

With Randall Johnson preoccupied with timekeeping (except when the CCG were speaking), Scott silent and Twiss asking questions, it was left to Diviani to express the Tory rationale. He claimed to speak for Devon district councils as a whole, but has acknowledged that he had consulted none of the others. He was happy to defy his own Council, which has voted to keep hospital beds, and spoke for himself – and East Devon Conservatives.

Diviani’s caustic little speech deserves more attention than it has been given.

He started by saying that those who decide to live in the countryside expect diminished service, and must cut their cloth accordingly in current times – forgetting that many have lived here all their lives, or moved here long before the present Tory government arrived to savage the NHS.

‘Costs will always rise without innovation’, Diviani continued, forgetting that the ‘costs’ of community hospitals are rising particularly because of the Tory innovation which gave them over to NHS Property Services and its ‘market rents’.

‘Local decisions should be made locally’, he averred, overlooking the fact that Sustainability and Transformation Plans, Success Regimes and NHS property sales are all national initiatives forced on the local NHS – while NEW Devon CCG is so unrepresentative even of local doctors that only full-time managers (Sonja Manton and Rob Sainsbury) are allowed to present its case in public while its ‘practitioner’ figurehead, Dr Tim Burke, hides in a corner.

When, however, Diviani warned that ‘attempting to browbeat the Secretary of State to overturn his own policies is counter-intuitive’, he expressed the truth of the situation. The closure of community hospitals results from the determined policies of the Conservative Government. (Referral would have served the purposes of delaying permanent closures, embarrassing the Government and forcing its Independent Reconfiguration Panel to give an assessment of the issue.)

East Devon Tories are the Government’s faithful servants. ‘Don’t trust East Devon Tories’ over the hospitals, I warned during the County elections. How right have I been proved.”

East Devon Tories were central to ditching Seaton and Honiton hospital beds

Claire Wright’s report on the shameful behaviour of DCC Health Scrutiny Committee Tories

“The Conservatives on Devon County Council’s health and adult care scrutiny committee on Tuesday, torpedoed local people’s views and any possibility of a referral to the Secretary of State for Health for a decision to close 71 community hospital beds.

I will keep this blog post short and instead post three articles that explain things just as well as I could have explained them.
Suffice to say that I am deeply disappointed.

Not just with the behaviour of chair, Sara Randall Johnson, who appeared to do her utmost to prevent any referral, both at the previous meeting last month and at Tuesday’s meeting.

But also with the attitude of the majority of the Conservative group, who used a variety of ill-informed views and remarks, to justify their determination not to refer, refusing to hear or see any member of the public’s distress, frustration and disbelief at the proceedings.

The chair’s attitude made me angry and led to a protracted row where I repeatedly asked her why she had allowed a proposal to be made and seconded at the very start of the meeting by her conservative colleague, Rufus Gilbert, NOT to refer to the Secretary of State for Health, when I already had a proposal that I had lodged with her and the two officers, before the meeting.

I had been indicating to speak since the start of the meeting, yet, Cllr Randall Johnson chose to call four councillors before me.

When I was finally called to speak I challenged her on why she had not made my proposal, which she had a copy of in front of her, known to the committee at the start of the meeting, which is the usual practice.

Cllr Gilbert’s seconded proposal before questions or the debate had even started had nullified my proposal, which was why I was so angry.

Cllr Randall Johnson admitted that it was her decision not make my proposal known to the committee and her decision on who is called to speak.

When they did what they did at Tuesday’s health scrutiny meeting, the Conservatives betrayed thousands of local people.

As I said in my final speech, local people had written letters, organised petitions, replied to public consultations, attended meetings, spoken at meetings, attended demonstrations, some had even spent significant sums of money on a legal challenge.

Time after time, month after month, the committee has asked questions which have not been properly answered on issues such as evidence that it will work, the staffing required, the finances, care of the dying. Local GPs are up in arms, staff have objected… yet the Conservative group knew best.

The vote was agonisingly close – six votes to seven, with two abstentions. All those who voted with Cllr Gilbert’s motion were conservative. Cllr Randall Johnson also voted with Cllr Gilbert – another unusual move at such a highly charged and significant meeting.

I am quite certain, that with a different approach by the chair, that the outcome would have been different. And local people’s views would have been respected and acted upon.

Councillors are elected by local people to represent their views.

Why was it so important to the chair and her colleagues that my proposal failed on Tuesday?

A whip at scrutiny committees, much least a legally constituted committee such as the health and adult care scrutiny committee of Devon County Council is strictly forbidden.

Yet to the members of the public present, who were repeatedly shouting “fix” it certainly appeared that way.

Since the meeting I have been inundated with messages from people who are disgusted at what happened.

Alongside two other councillors, I am seeking advice on what took place at Tuesday’s meeting.

The debate can be viewed on the webcast here –

Seaton councillor, Cllr Martin Shaw, wrote an excellent account of the meeting here –

My row with Cllr Randall Johnson has led to a local newspaper running a story about revenge… – see”

“[Devon County] Council announces ‘harmful’ special needs funding cuts without consultation”

“Cuts which will affect children with special needs in Devon’s schools and colleges have been described as “harmful”.

On Wednesday – just two days before many schools break up for the summer holidays – Devon County Council (DCC) announced from September 1, significant funding cuts are being implemented for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) across Devon.

Devon Live asked DCC why the cuts have been made; why it was announced two days before the start of the summer holidays; why there was no consultation; what alternative provisions will be in place for the children affected by the cuts, if any, and how much the cuts will save the council.

“We therefore have to ensure that the high needs budget does not continue to overshoot. In consultation with headteachers and governors, a decision was made in the past week to concentrate our support from January 2018 on vulnerable children who have a statutory plan in place. All schools will be able to choose to apply for a statutory assessment of each child’s needs and no funding will be withdrawn until any non-statutory school plans have been reviewed. This means that by December 2018 we expect to have a single, transparent system of funding our most vulnerable children.”

The announcement has sparked anger not just because of the impact it will have on children’s education and job losses, but also because of the timing of it just before schools and colleges break up for six weeks.

In a letter sent to headteachers of all Devon mainstream schools by Dawn Stabb, DCC head of education and learning, it states that to date, Devon has been unique in providing a non-statutory route for schools and colleges to access SEND funding. However, due to increased need and entitlement it need to bring its high needs spend back within budget and that the continuation of the element three funding is “no longer sustainable”.

Hannah Rose, a teacher at Bradley Barton Primary School, said: “These changes will affect all children in all schools in Devon. Furthermore, there has been no consultation regarding these changes with any party, least of all those who matter most, the families of, and children with, special educational needs.

“The local authority’s duty is to, ‘when carrying out their functions, to support and involve the child and his or her parent, or the young person, and to have regard to their views, wishes and feelings’, as stated in the SEN code of practice, section 8.3.”

Hannah Rose is calling for the changes to be independently reviewed and, if necessary, legally challenged.

Dawn Stabb from DCC said: “The local authority recognises, following discussions at Schools Finance Group (SFG), that this has been a difficult but necessary decision if we are to avoid the budgetary challenges of last year. We ask for your support and understanding in implementing this new way of working to avoid ongoing significant overspend within the High Needs Block.”

Does our LEP have a plan B to replace European funding? And will it be a “functional economic area”?

“The Conservative manifesto earlier this year promised the government would use structural fund money that comes back to the UK following Brexit to create a UK “shared prosperity fund”.

However, deep concerns have been voiced about the replacement of EU structural funding. This week, Humber Local Enterprise Partnership chairman Lord Haskins aired doubts about the scale of the proposed fund.

He told the Hull Daily Mail that “so far, there is no indication it will match the sort of money we are currently getting from Europe”.

He added: “Long-term, I think we will have to start looking at other sources of funding for vital infrastructure work.”

The LGA also wants a new approach to distributing Westminster money that replaces EU regional aid, calling for a “single pot” for all domestic growth funding.

The association outlined three options for the future of funding currently sourced from the European Union. Its preferred method would see European Union structural funding, all other European funding streams and 70 UK funding streams supporting growth and regeneration pooled together.

The document said: “Under the single pot principle, local areas would be afforded maximum flexibility to target need and tailor provision, to stimulate growth in local areas and contribute to the national economy .”

The pot would be most effectively distributed to regional “functional economic areas” (FEAs) in England, and “appropriately identified” bodies in the devolved nations, the report said.

“In England, the FEAs could arguably follow the funding distribution geography of the current European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) programme,” the report added. It argued this would offer “much greater control over funding decisions , which would be devolved to all local areas.” …”

Exmouth DCC councillor ignores his own rule about “keeping your nose out and sticking to your own business”

Councillor Richard Scott yesterday voted for closure of Honiton and Seaton hospitals.  Yet on 26 March this is what he wrote about councillors from outside an area voting on matters that had “nothing to do with them”:

Is money spent on free schools at expense of local authority schools good value?

Would a school under local authority governance have got to this level unnoticed?

“A free school in north Devon has been put in special measures after inspectors rated it “inadequate”.

Route 39 Academy at Higher Clovelly received the worst Ofsted rating in all four categories including “quality of teaching” and “pupils’ outcomes”.
The school opened in 2013 and has 131 pupils aged 11 to 18.

Route 39 has complained to Ofsted saying: “We strongly refute the judgement and the manner in which the inspection was handled.”

Ofsted’s report on its June visit said the school had not entered any pupils in Year 11 for exams and was “in breach of statutory requirements and the school’s own funding agreement”.

“Teaching has not prepared pupils in Year 11 well enough for the next stage of their education” and pupils’ progress across Key Stage 3 was “inadequate”, the report said. …”

“Being ethical puts people off government service”

Owl remembers the case of disgraced ex-councillor Graham Brown and other scandals close to home:

and wonders if the world will ever change.

“White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Thursday suggested that filling out financial disclosure forms and having them released to the public discourages qualified people from serving in government ― despite the fact that the procedure is a basic measure of transparency in government.

Appearing on “Fox & Friends,” Conway aimed to defend new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, after he falsely claimed that his financial disclosure form was leaked to Politico.

“There are so many qualified men and women who wanted to serve this president, this administration and their country who have been completely demoralized and completely, I think, disinclined to do so, based on the paperwork that we have to put forward, divesting assets, the different hoops you have to run through,” Conway said. “This White House is transparent and accountable, and we’ve all complied with those rules, but it has disincentivized good men and women. I hope it doesn’t disincentivize Anthony.”

Who exactly does EDDC Leader Diviani represent? And who does he consult?

Questions at last night’s Full Council meeting at Knowle shed some light on this. Members of the public pointed out that Councillor Paul Diviani had voted against both his own EDDC council and public opinion, at Devon County Council just two days previously (25th July), by supporting the decision that ‘Your Future Care’ should not be referred to the Secretary of State.

The EDDC Leader’s vote on this occasion could be regarded as crucial, as the decision had been narrowly carried by 7 votes to 6, and was met by cries of “Shame on You” from the public, as reported on BBC Spotlight tv the same evening.

Last night at Knowle, Councillor Diviani replied that he had to vote the way he had at the DCC Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee because he was representing the views of the eight Devon District Councils. But when Cllr Roger Giles, Chair of EDDC Scrutiny Committe, then asked him if he had consulted Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge and West Devon, the answer was no.

So is the oft-repeated phrase from Cllr Diviani and close colleagues, “We are where we are” , the consequence of poor leadership? Fortunately in democratic Britain, our leaders are not permanent fixtures.

Footnote: For reference, one of the questions asked last night, is copied below. All can be heard on the audio recording of the Full Council meeting, soon to be available on the EDDC website.

‘At the 17th May 2017 EDDC Full Council meeting, Councillor Mike Allen said, and the council formally agreed, that care in the community had not yet been proven to work.

Yesterday (25th July 2017), the EDDC Leader voted at Devon County Council Health and Adult Welfare Scrutiny Committee that ‘Your Future Care’ proposals be NOT referred to the Secretary of State. (This decision was made by 7 votes to 6).

Through the Chair, will Councillor Diviani kindly explain how voting against his own Council fits with his leadership of it? ‘