Local authority companies ” should not have many council board members” – so why run the company?

Owl says: If councillors and officers are no good at running commercial companies – why are they being created?

“Local authority-run companies should avoid having too many council members on executive boards to ensure commercial success, CIPFA’s annual conference was told.

The advice on governance was issued today by Mike Britch, chief executive of Norse Group, a firm with a £300m turnover wholly owned by Norfolk County Council, at a workshop on councils and commercialism.

He told delegates the presence of too many members on executive boards could hamper the agility that a small and focused board needed to efficiently deliver services in a commercial environment.

Britch said: “You can’t run a commercial service as a department of a local authority, that means you have to get yourself from under the shackles of a 151 [financial] officer, the monitoring officer and everybody else who wants to reduce what they perceive as the risk to their shareholders.

“You need to have commercial and operational freedom to trade and to make the decisions you need to make.” …”


Crime czar Alison Hernandez does U-turn and puts deputy plan “on hold”

“Crime czar Alison Hernandez has bowed to pressure and abandoned a plan to appoint a Tory colleague from her local council days as her second-in-command. The Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner asked the police and crime panel to rubber stamp the appointment of fellow Conservative and Torbay councillor Mark Kingscote on Friday.

Ms Hernandez wanted the 55-year-old NHS support worker, who specialises in mental health, to help her with the workload on a £30,000 salary.

But, amid concerns over his qualifications for the role and controversy over a tweet referring to lesbians as “lesbos”, the the panel of councillors rejected the proposal.

Mr Kingscote’s tasteless tweet was covered here by EDW:

The hearing heard how the attempted appointment “smacked of nepotism”.

After a private meeting, the panel concluded that Kingscote – a staunch Conservative who once chained himself to a set of railings to protest about the downfall of his hero, Margaret Thatcher, “does not meet minimum requirements of the post”.

The ruling capped a bruising week for Ms Hernandez, in which a council voted she should be removed from her role for making “stupid and dangerous” comments about guns.

Plymouth City Council’s Labour group tabled a vote of no confidence in Alison Hernandez, saying they are “extremely alarmed” at her stance on how to tackle terrorists.

Ms Hernandez was not bound by the panel’s decision, which was revealed to the commissioner in a letter received yesterday.

However, she risked making enemies of a group which is constituted to oversee her work, placing her a loggerheads for the final three years of her tenure.

In a statement released today, Ms Hernandez accepted the decision and said she “has put plans to appoint a deputy on hold”.

“I am disappointed that the Panel did not feel able to support my choice of deputy but I am willing to accept its recommendation,” she said. “I will now spend some time contemplating my next move and will await the appointment of a new chief executive before making a decision.”

“I would like to thank Mark Kingscote for being willing to consider taking on this challenge on behalf of the people of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and I believe he would have served the people of our counties and islands well.”

Read Alison Hernandez’s letter to the panel:

Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Confirmation Hearing Report

Thank you for your letter of 11th July following the confirmation hearing on 7th July.

I am disappointed that the Panel does not feel able to support my choice of deputy. However, while I feel there are some misunderstandings around both the role, and the process of appointment, I reluctantly accept the recommendation and will not be appointing Mark Kingscote as my deputy Police and Crime Commissioner.

The Panel represents our communities across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of
Scilly and I absolutely respect the views of its members but, if you will allow me, I think it would be helpful to respond to the points raised about Mark Kingscote’s suitability.

In relation to estates, I require someone who can assist with the strategic overview of the planning and investment part of the process not the day to day maintenance. So while I can see that you may doubt his track record in estate management, I did feel Mark had the necessary experience in estate development as he has successfully steered multi-million pound planning applications.

On the second point Mark has apologised for his poor choice of words while using Twitter. Please be assured he did not mean to insult, offend or be discriminatory and he is sad that he was unable to convince the Panel of this.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I must address your point about working councillors. I am determined to encourage more working people to become elected councillors so that our communities can be better represented. Elected roles cannot only be for the retired, unemployed or wealthy. I myself worked after being elected and I strongly believe that Mark would have been able to serve both Torbay residents and the wider population of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly well.

I will now spend some time contemplating my next move and will await the
appointment of a new chief executive before making a decision.

I look forward to seeing you in August at confirmation hearings for both the new Treasurer and CEO. Thank you for finding the time in your diary to enable this to happen outside of the normal schedule of meetings.

Yours sincerely
Alison Hernandez
Police and Crime Commissioner
Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly”


South West Water “in special measures” due to pollution incidents

The Environment Agency is introducing special measures for South West Water until it better protects the environment.

It comes after the firm came significantly below its targets for pollution incidents, the EA said.

The supplier must improve its performance according to a “Water and sewerage companies’ performance” report.

The EA says that last year the company was responsible for 115 major pollution incidents (including serious sewage leaks) – the next highest number from a supplier was 46.

The agency has ranked South West Water’s performance as significantly below target.

The Environment Agency also gave the company a two-star rating, meaning that it requires improvement.

An EA spokesman said: “We expect South West Water to make significant improvements to their environmental performance.

“They have not done enough to reduce pollution incidents and have repeatedly scored badly on this metric compared with other companies.”

South West Water said: “We continue to invest and innovate – for example, through using cutting-edge technology to monitor our sewerage network, and purchasing a fleet of fully-equipped rapid response vehicles to enable staff to undertake sewer cleansing, surveying and reporting in one visit.

“This will help our response times and management of pollution incidents as we seek to drive numbers down.”


Sidmouth Port Royal plans – improvement or defacement?

From Save our Sidmouth:

“Sidmouth seafront: improved or defaced by councils’ Port Royal plans? NOW is the time to make your views known

East Devon District Council (EDDC) and Sidmouth Town Council (STC) have progressed their joint Port Royal Scoping Study, to produce a single option for public consultation. As suggested in our most recent posts, the redevelopment proposed has caused controversy, with heavy criticism on planning grounds and on unsuitability. Various letters to the press have been copied to SOS, and will be posted on this website, for your information.

Two new web pages describe the situation, and include thought-provoking photomontages:




Local resident, Mary Walden-Thill, warns, ”The first meeting of Sidmouth Town Council after the Survey closes, is on the 14th of August. It is very likely that they will make their decision on the redevelopment at this meeting. Once the decision is made the ‘gateway’ closes and it will be extremely difficult to reconsider, it may even require a legal appeal.” (
The Terms are very clear … see:


Many agree with her that there seems ”no reason why the area could not be improved without resorting to a huge block containing apartments”, and are questioning why the consultation only offers one option.

NOW is the time to let your Councillor representative(s) know your views, by

a.contacting them directly . STC contact details from the council website are listed below, for your convenience.


b. completing the brief public consultation survey still open online until 5pm on 31st July 2017, at this link

Sidmouth Town Councillors
Chairman IAN MCKENZIE-EDWARDS, Sidford Ward, ijsmck_ed@hotmail.co.uk
Deputy Chairman John Dyson, South Ward, jdyson@eastdevon.gov.uk
Ian Barlow, Salcombe Regis Ward, wootans@aol.com
David Barratt, Salcombe Regis Ward, davidbarratt@btinternet.com
Sheila Kerridge, West Ward, martin.kerridge@btinternet.com
Jack Brokenshire, Sidford Ward, patandjack42@hotmail.co.uk
Louise Cole, West Ward, louisecolesidmouthtowncouncil@outlook.com
Kelvin Dent, South Ward, kelvinrdent@gmail.com
Michael Earthey, North Ward, michael.earthey@tesco.net
John Hollick, Sidbury Ward, john.hollick@uwclub.net
Stuart Hughes, North Ward, stuart.hughes@devon.gov.uk
Gareth Jones, Sidbury Ward, tgjones46@gmail.com
Marc Kilsbie, East Ward, marc-sidmouthtc@hotmail.com
Dawn Manley, North Ward, dawn.manleytownc@gmail.com
Frances Newth, East Ward, fnewth@icloud.com
Simon Pollentine, Primley Ward, simon_sheelagh_simon@tiscali.co.uk
John Rayson, West Ward, johnwrayson@btinternet.com
Jeff Turner, Primley Ward, jeffreyturner391@btinternet.com
Paul Wright, South Ward, paul_wright_sidmouth_town_council@hotmail.com

Estate agent boss slams government housing policy

“… Paul Smith, chief executive of Haart estate agents, said: “Affordability is clearly reaching a critical juncture as the average loan size increases whilst the average income decreases. Although rising first-time buyer borrowing demonstrates the appetite for home ownership in the UK, young people should not be left to stretch beyond their means, and government should intervene with a tax break as a quick and straight-forward way to help them get onto the ladder.

“Theresa May’s legacy on home ownership has so far been a disaster. The ‘just about managing’ are further away from owning their own home than they ever have been, and the government’s feeble housing white paper did not go anywhere near enough to get housebuilders building and the market moving.”​


Barratt: 12% rise in profits yet only 76 more homes sold!

“Britain’s largest builder Barratt posted a better-than-expected 12 percent rise in 2016/17 profit as selling prices rose but it only built 76 more homes than its previous financial year, despite government efforts to tackle a chronic shortage.

Britain needs to deliver up to double the roughly 200,000 new properties arriving on the market each year just to keep up with demand, which has pushed up prices and rent, stopping many younger people from getting onto the property ladder.

Barratt, which built 17,395 homes in the 12 months to the end of June and posted pretax profit of 765 million pounds ($982 million), has previously said it wanted to focus on quality, with rivals such Bovis being criticised for poor workmanship.”


Er, “quality” – don’t they mean “eye-wateringly expensive”?

“Watchdog concern over “inherently complex” structures of combined authorities”

“The introduction of combined authorities has meant that inherently complex structures have been added to England’s already complicated local government arrangements, the National Audit Office has said.

The evidence that investment, decision-making and oversight at this sub national level was linked to improved local economic outcomes was “mixed and inconclusive”, it added.

In a report, Progress in setting up combined authorities, the watchdog did acknowledge that the Department for Communities and Local Government had worked “speedily” to make sure combined authority areas were ready for the mayoral elections in May 2017.

It also accepted that there “is a logic to establishing strategic bodies designed to function across conurbations and sub-regional areas, and there is a clear purpose to establishing combined authorities especially in metropolitan areas, as economies and transport networks operate at a scale greater than individual local authority areas.”

The report also found:

There was a risk that local councillors would have limited capacity for the overview and scrutiny of combined authorities.

In May 2017, six mayors were elected to combined authorities in England, with candidates having campaigned on manifestos which frequently made policy commitments beyond the current remits of these organisations. “This raises the question of whether mayors can be credible local advocates if they only deal with the limited issues under the remit.”

Combined authorities were not uniform, and varied in the extent of the devolution deals they had struck with government.

If the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union resulted in reductions in regional funding, the economic regeneration role of combined authorities would become more pressing. “Combined authorities are generally in areas which receive the most EU funding,” the NAO noted.

The NAO highlighted how a number of authorities had been unable to bring local authorities together to establish combined authorities, while areas with a long history of working together had often found it most straightforward to establish combined authorities.

“The capacity of most combined authorities is currently limited and the lack of geographical coherence between most combined authorities and other providers of public services could make it more problematic to devolve more public services in the future,” the watchdog warned.

The NAO’s recommendations were:

The DCLG should:

(a) continue to support combined authorities as they put in place their individual local plans for assessing their impact, including demonstrating the value they add;

(b) review periodically all frameworks and guidance in place for combined authorities and other bodies with joint responsibilities, to ensure that accountability for the delivery of services is clear to stakeholders in local communities; and

(c) continue to work with combined authorities as they develop sufficient capacity to:

deliver the functions agreed in the devolution deals;
support economic growth and the government’s industrial strategy; and
provide sufficient scrutiny and oversight to their activities.
Combined authorities should:

(d) work with the DCLG to develop their plans for assessing their impact, including demonstrating the value they add; and

(e) develop and maintain relationships with key stakeholders in delivering economic growth and public services in their areas.

Areas planning to establish combined authorities should:

(f) make sure they have and can clearly articulate a common purpose;

(g) form an area with a clear economic rationale, mindful of existing administrative boundaries; and

(h) develop relationships across areas where there is no history of joint working.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “For combined authorities to deliver real progress and not just be another ‘curiosity of history’ like other regional structures before them, they will need to demonstrate that they can both drive economic growth and also contribute to public sector reform.”


“Committee on Standards in Public Life to review local government standards”

Oooh – now this will spoul breakfast for some people! Wouldn’t it be interesting if the watchdog got a few teeth!

Get that evidence folder started now.

“The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) is to undertake a review of local government standards during 2017/18.

In its Annual Report and Forward Plan 2017/18, published this week, the watchdog said it “maintains a longstanding interest in local government standards, and regularly receives correspondence from members of the public expressing their concern about this issue”.

The CSPL added that it was actively conducting research and engaging with partners on this subject throughout 2016-17.

It said the review would be based around a consultation that will be launched in early 2018. “Based on the submissions to this review and meetings with key stakeholders, we intend to publish our findings and recommendations in 2018.”

The CSPL revealed that it would be publishing in late 2017 the findings of research it had conducted as a follow-up on its 2014 report and 2015 guidance on ethical standards for providers of public services.

“We will use this opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of ethical standards issues in the delivery of public services across all providers.”

Other areas the watchdog plans to cover include how developments in social and political communication and media are shaping public life. It also plans to keep a watching brief on issues surrounding conflicts of interests and good governance in academies, and on standards issues in the NHS.”


“Inspector to decide if developer should pay more Sidmouth community cash”

Recall that PegasusLife is calling it’s plans for the Knowle “assisted living accommodation”. Why? Because it doesn’t then have to contribute to affordable housing.

Does anyone recall EDDC making a fuss about that? No – they left it to local objectors to point it out!

“A government planning inspector will decide whether a developer will have to pay a share of its profits from 36 proposed sheltered apartments to the public coffers.

The matter was the subject of an inquiry this week after Churchill Retirement Living and East Devon District Council (EDDC) could not agree terms for an ‘overage’ clause.

Churchill hopes to demolish the former Green Close care home in Drakes Avenue to make way for the development. The firm launched an appeal due to non-determination of its application.

The delay in EDDC deciding the fate of the scheme was due to officers trying to apply an ‘overage’ clause that would require Churchill to pay up if its profits exceed current expectations.

EDDC documents argue plans to create the apartments for the elderly should be worth nearly £1million to the Sidmouth community – but the developer has shown it is ‘unviable’ to pay more than £41,000.

Churchill’s five-figure offer towards off-site ‘affordable’ housing was last year slammed as an ‘insult to Sidmouth’ by town councillors, who suggested the developer should pay at least £360,000.

Papers submitted to the appeal process from EDDC say there is a policy expectation that half of the site should be provided as ‘affordable’ housing and that there is a ‘substantial’ need for one- and two-bedroom units in Sidmouth.

If 18 ‘affordable’ homes cannot be provided on-site, a payment of £935,201 would be expected so the properties can be built elsewhere.

Churchill said a viability assessment showed building ‘affordable’ homes on the site was ‘impractical’ and ‘unrealistic’.

It added: “It has been demonstrated that the application development is not sufficiently viable to permit the imposition of any affordable housing or planning gain contributions above £41,208.”

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “Unfortunately, the development is not sufficiently viable to pay this [£935,201] sum and, following an independent assessment of the viability of the scheme, it was reluctantly accepted that the scheme could only afford to pay £41,208 towards affordable housing.

“Under government guidance, we are required to reduce our requirements where a development is unviable and so we have no real choice but to accept this position.”

EDDC also expected Churchill to pay £22,536 for habitat mitigation, plus an £18,400 public open space contribution. The total is nearly £1million.

At the hearing on Wednesday, a representative for the developer said a viability report showed it could not offer more than £41,208 if it wanted a competitive return of 20 per cent.

He argued such developments, both locally and nationally, did not have an ‘overage’ clause like the one proposed and added that it was not in line with national guidelines.

“We need to ensure there are competitive returns for the developer and the landowner,” said the representative.

“If the developer, through his own skill or from fortuitous circumstances, makes a larger profit than intended, then the council wants to have a proportion of it and, if they are not so fortunate and make less than 20 per cent, the entire downside is to be borne by the developer.”

Town councillor Ian Barlow argued that the £41,208 contribution was only agreed to because councillors were told it was subject to an ‘overage’ clause. He added: “If they make an obscene amount of money from our community, then they should put it back into the community. They are now saying it is not plausible.

“We only deal with common sense.

“Theoretically, if someone builds a £5million-ish place and they are only giving around £41,000 back, at the end of the day, that does not seem right.”

Cllr Barlow argued that he found it hard to believe such a successful company would make an investment which was not financially viable.”