“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? ‘

“How Tory Sara Randall Johnson took down rival Claire Wright’s health campaign”

Owl says: So, Honiton and Seaton hospitals sacrificed to Randall-Johnson’s anger?

By P Goodwin, Western Morning News

“As the old saying goes: revenge is a dish best served cold.

For Conservative county councillor Sara Randall Johnson the wait to gain the upper hand on old rival Claire Wright stretched to six years.

When she did, the result was painful and public.

At this week’s bad-tempered and rowdy council health scrutiny meeting, Ms Randall Johnson used her new power of chairmanship to thwart the independent rebel and stamp her authority on the newly-elected authority.

In a move which prompted jeers and cries of “fix” from the public gallery, Randall Johnson ignored a tabled motion to halt hospital bed closure plans and instead allow a fellow Tory, Rufus Gilbert, to seize the momentum by kick starting the debate and swiftly proposing the exact opposite.

She then dismissed Ms Wright’s protest by telling her the power to choose was entirely at her discretion as chair, before moving to a vote against referring the proposals, which was won by a majority of one, with one abstention.

It was a swift and brutal piece of politics. The result: bad headlines averted, no need to trouble Jeremy Hunt with the protests of a rebellious council and the upstart put firmly in her place.

Former Lib Dem county council leader and respected political veteran Brian Greenslade remarked after the meeting that the move had been highly unusual.

He considered that not mentioning or circulating a table motion – one submitted before the meeting begins – was rare: not against procedure but definitely a departure from protocol.

In other words: a low blow but not quite below the belt.

It was clear from the tetchy exchanges during the meeting that there is little love lost between the two women and this is perhaps no surprise.

Wright pulled off a shock victory when she ousted Randall Johnson from her East District Council seat and her position as leader, relegating her into third place in a race for two seats, by the slender margin of just 25 votes.

The defeated leader put on a brave face, claiming she had got her life back after 20 years of public service, but this hardly sounds like the words of a woman who just two years earlier was vying with Sarah Wollaston to become MP for Totnes.

Since that victory, Wright, an outspoken independent campaigner, has become a painful thorn in the side of local Tories at district and county level, particularly around the NHS, where she worked in PR before launching her political career.

She has led the opposition ever since, including two general election campaigns in which she gave MP Hugo Swire a run for his money.

But the campaign to halt bed cuts and hospital closures has been a major factor in her rallying call to local people, the jewel in her campaigning crown.

The recent background to Tuesday’s meeting went like this:

Plans by the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group to axe 71 beds across four cottage hospitals sparked anger in the Eastern locality.

Amid fears the NHS is planning to sell off the hospitals, relations between the public and NHS officials deteriorated with many accusing executives of lying about their true intentions.

Campaigners, angry that the case has still not been made for the Your Future Care model of home visits, labelled the consultation a sham and turned to the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Group for help.

It could refer to Mr Hunt though in reality it the plans would have gone to an independent reconfiguration panel who would make recommendations.

What many people wanted was a change in the way the CCG operates and communicates. they wanted a more open approach and they felt this might give the health trust a jolt.

Under the chairmanship of veteran Labour councillor Richard Westlake, the scrutiny group was poised to refer the plans to the Secretary of State if 14 documented points were not addressed.

But he stepped down at the election and Ms Randall Johnson took up control.

At the first meeting of the newly constituted committee in June, it became clear that she did not intend to let this happen.

Ms Wright had proposed to the last meeting that it was time to vote to refer to the Health Secretary and the chair repeatedly came under fire for not putting this to a vote.

There was a lack of clarity among one or two members about the whole process and eventually, members were persuaded to defer a decision until yesterday to get more information.

It appeared that the Conservatives had their ducks in a row on Tuesday.

Wright cried foul when her tabled motion was ignored, claiming she had never seen it happen in six years of committee meetings.

Unfortunately, the legal advice from the council backed Randall Johnson: Motions needed to be proposed and seconded in the meeting.

Would it have changed the vote? Maybe not. It was close though. East Devon leader Paul Diviani rebelled against his members and voted not to refer and one Tory did admit he was wavering.

The way the meeting was handled did little to foster good relations between the council and the community.

Ms Randall Johnson may have done nothing wrong but she certainly didn’t make any new friends in the public gallery.

As for old foes among the membership – no change there.”


Housing crisis still – 10 years after original crash it’s still shaping “the market”

Britain’s housing market remains distorted 10 years on from the global financial crisis, with first-time buyers struggling to scrape together the much bigger deposits they need today, existing owners unable to “climb the ladder” and a gaping price divide between London and regional cities, according to a report out today.

The average house price has grown to £478,142 in London compared with the national average of £209,971. A decade on from the 2007 crash, prices have only just started gaining ground in Wales, Yorkshire and Humberside and the north-west, while values in the north-east are down 9%, according to analysis by the real estate company Savills.

Nationally the typical deposit has doubled to £26,224 while in the capital it has quadrupled to nearly £100,000. In the year to the end of March, about £4bn out of £10.2bn in first-time buyer deposit money came from either the “bank of mum and dad” or government help-to-buy schemes. Interest-only mortgages – which were key to going up the housing ladder – have become a thing of the past, and owners are staying put rather than selling.

The market has slowed overall with a “dramatic slump” in transactions. The HomeOwners Alliance says little more than a third of houses put on the market in London are selling. Those that do sell are taking longer, and owners are having to accept a bigger cut to their asking price. Overall the 2007 crash is “still shaping the UK housing market” and will for years to come, Savills predicts.”