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 – https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/293466

Seaton councillor, Cllr Martin Shaw, wrote an excellent account of the meeting here – https://seatonmatters.org/2017/07/26/the-health-scrutiny-committee-which-didnt-scrutinise/

My row with Cllr Randall Johnson has led to a local newspaper running a story about revenge… – see http://www.devonlive.com/tory-sara-randall-johnson-derails-claire-wright-s-health-campaign-six-years-after-election-defeat/story-30457493-detail/story.html”


“[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. …”