“Floral tributes laid as hundreds say farewell to Exmouth Fun Park”

Floral tributes were left inside the iconic swanboat and messages of thanks were left as a family run seafront Fun Park closed after more than 60 years tomorrow.

The Fun Park on Queen’s Drive, Exmouth, closed for the last time on Thursday ahead of major multi-million pound plans that East Devon District Council has to renovate the seafront.

Hundreds of people came out for one last ride on the pedalos and a round of crazy golf at the Fun Park.

A vigil was also held by Save Exmouth Seafront campaigners and floral tributes were presented to the Wright family who have run the Fun Park for more than four decades.

Unless a motion that an extraordinary meeting of East Devon District Council to be held on September 13 to discuss the closure of the businesses as part of the Queen’s Drive redevelopment is agreed to give the seafront businesses a chance of an eleventh-hour reprieve, the Exmouth Fun Park has now closed for good.

The Harbour View Café is set to follow the Fun Park in closing at the end of September while several long-standing businesses including DJ’s Diner, the Arnold Palmer/Jungle Fun site, and the model railway have already closed. … ”

http://www.devonlive.com/whats-on/family-kids/floral-tributes-laid-hundreds-say-408634

“The real villains in Harvey flood: urban sprawl and the politicians who allowed it”

Houston has quietly become [the USA’s] fourth largest and fastest-growing city, due in large part to cheap housing. But the latter has come at an exorbitant cost to its safety. The swamps and wetlands that once characterized Houston’s hinterland have been replaced with strip malls and suburban tract homes.

Those landscapes once served as a natural flood protection system for the city. Research shows that, if they hadn’t been filled and developed, Harvey’s impact would have been lessened. Sam Brody and his colleagues at Texas A&M University in Galveston have been predicting an event like this for nearly a decade. That their work went unheeded by Texas policymakers should not be forgotten.

Worse, a generation of civic leaders have completely deregulated Houston’s land development market. In that process, they helped build a far-flung network of poor neighborhoods on top of a swamp. In Houston, there is a simple truth: the poorer you are, the closer you live to a petrochemical plant and the likelier your home is to flood.

There will be an impulse to elide past the political choices that led us to this point. We shouldn’t allow our politicians to use the use Harvey’s victims as human shields by pronouncing that now is not the time for criticism or blame. There’s never been a more important time to understand the political machinations that led to Harvey’s destructiveness, and to do everything in our power to dismantle them. …

Coastal infrastructure is incredibly expensive to build and nearly impossible to maintain, especially when you realize that the maintenance is borne entirely by local governments – none of which have the financial or technical capacity to do so effectively.

Some have already begun to point to Holland, where the world’s most complex flood control system operates, and to proclaim that if the Dutch do it, so can the United States. This simply isn’t true.

The Netherlands has a much higher tax rate, giving it more resources per person to invest in its infrastructure. Dutch storms are also less intense and bring lower surge heights and less rainfall than their American counterparts.

For a lasting recovery, Houston will need to supplement whatever barrier system it builds with a broader, regional network of wetlands, retention ponds, and green infrastructure to restore the once-robust, natural flood protection lost to a half-century of urban sprawl.

Designers have been calling for such an approach since Ike made landfall. Houston should look to New York’s landscape architect-led recovery process as a model worthy of consideration.

A half-century of bad design choices and impotent planning led Houston to this crisis. Now, it’s up to a new generation of Houstonians to do what their predecessors could not – prepare the Magnolia City to rise up and meet its wetter future head on. …

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/31/real-villains-harvey-flood-urban-sprawl

Warning bell on power-grab by Ministers excluding Parliament after Brexit

More than 70 charities, NGOs and trade unions have joined a formal alliance to scrutinise the “great repeal bill”, as major rights organisations such as Amnesty International, Liberty and Friends of the Earth say they are determined to halt a “power grab” by ministers.

Members of the alliance say it will be a platform to campaign for open and accountable lawmaking after the bill is presented. It will push for clear limits on the powers given to ministers by the bill and aim to ensure standards are maintained after the UK leaves the EU.

The alliance, which launched on Wednesday and is coordinated by Unlock Democracy, says it intends to scrutinise the legislation and offer legal and technical expertise from its members, who range from human rights lawyers to environmental scientists.

The European Union (withdrawal) bill will be the first major piece of Brexit legislation before the House of Commons, with its second reading next Thursday.

One of the most complex pieces of legislation in recent history, the bill ostensibly aims to transpose EU law on to the UK statute book via secondary legislation, which could then be gradually repealed or replaced as governments see fit.

Critics of the bill say it confers significant extra powers to ministers to make changes without parliamentary scrutiny, using so-called delegated powers.

Labour’s Hilary Benn, chair of the Brexit select committee, has previously suggested this could amount to a “blank legislative cheque”, although the government has insisted the powers will only be used to make technical corrections to make the laws translatable.

Concerns have been heightened because of the number of times ministers have used delegated powers to make highly controversial changes, including the so-called rape clause requiring women who have been raped to provide verification if they wish to claim tax credits for more than two children.

Lord Judge, the former lord chief justice, has been among those raising questions about the complexity of the repeal bill and its repercussions, calling Brexit “a legislative tsunami … the greatest challenge ever faced by our legislative processes”.

Funded by a range of charitable trusts including the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Lloyds Bank Foundation, the alliance has a permanent member of staff in place to coordinate public campaigns, although it insists it is neutral on Brexit. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/aug/31/brexit-charities-join-forces-against-repeal-bill-power-grab-by-ministers

Tories funded by rich few, Labour by poorer many!

Tories funded by big donations from the (very, very rich) few, Labour funded by the (very, very much poorer) many!

“Labour generated 10 times more in party membership fees than the Tories in 2016

Labour received ten times more than the Tories in party membership fees in 2016 as the scale of the difference between the number of rank and file supporters for each was laid bare.

The Conservatives generated £1.5 million in membership fees last year while Labour coffers were boosted to the tune of £14.4 million, according to new figures published by the Electoral Commission.

Meanwhile, the Tories brought in £800,000 through membership in 2015 while the Labour figure was £9.5 million.

The size of the membership money gap between the two parties is likely to reignite speculation about the current size of the Tory party membership after previous claims that it may have dipped below 100,000.

Membership figures for the Conservatives have not been made available since 2013 when the party had about 150,000 paid up supporters.

That figure represented a sizeable reduction on the size of the membership during the 2005 leadership contest when it stood at a reported 253,000.

In stark contrast the most recent estimate of Labour Party membership from March of this year was 517,000.

The cost of standard membership of the Conservative Party costs £25 and £48 for Labour but both parties offer other, less costly membership packages for certain groups of people like young people and armed forces personnel.

The Conservative Party declined to comment on the current size of its membership.

A Labour Party spokeswoman said: “Labour is a mass membership party, proud to be funded by our members and working people.

“It is this broad funding base that makes us the party of ordinary working people, while the Tories increasingly rely on a small pool of super-rich donors.”

While Labour enjoys a huge financial advantage over the Tories on the issue of membership income, it is the Conservatives who are ahead when it comes to donations.

The Tories received almost £19 million in donations in 2016 while Labour received £14.7 million.

In 2015, a general election year, the Tories received about £32 million in donations compared to about £19 million for Labour.

Both Labour and the Tories spent less than what they generated in income in 2016.

Labour’s total income was just shy of £50 million with the party spending about £43 million while the Tories’ total income was just over £28 million with expenditure totalling just under £28 million.

The Liberal Democrats ranked third on the list of party expenditure, spending £7.7 million, followed by the SNP on about £6 million and Ukip with just shy of £3 million.

The SNP spent more than it brought in, recording income of just under £5 million.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/08/31/labour-generated-10-times-party-membership-fees-tories-2016/

Councillor calls for Randall-Johnson resignation

PRESS RELEASE

Devon County Council’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Chair, Councillor Sara Randall Johnson, should immediately consider her position following the stinging rebuke issued to her by the Council’s Standards Committee. The Council should also act to restore the credibility of Health Scrutiny, since its failure to fully scrutinise the removal community hospital beds in Honiton, Okehampton and Seaton has destroyed public confidence in its activities across a large swathe of Devon.

At its meeting on 29 August, minutes of which are published today, the Standards Committee agreed that while Cllr Randall Johnson had not broken the Members’ Code of Conduct, she should ‘be strongly reminded of the importance of the work of scrutiny committees – reinforcing the value of neutrality in scrutiny both generally and in calling the “health service” to account – and the need to be seen to be even handed and scrupulously fair, recognising that failure to do so may be perceived as a deliberate act.’

The call for a Scrutiny Chair to ‘be strongly reminded of the importance of the work’ of her committee, and of the value of neutrality and being seen to be even-handed and fair, is unprecedented and should lead Cllr Randall Johnson to immediately consider her position. There is no public confidence that she will lead the committee to carry out full and impartial scrutiny of NHS decision-making.

The Standards Committee also ‘accepts that the events of the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee meeting on 25 July 2017 may not reflect well on individual Members or upon the Council as a whole, and further recognises that the perception gained by persons present at the meeting or subsequently viewing the webcast is not that which would have been desired’.

This stark acknowledgement of the damage done to Devon County Council’s reputation also requires early action by the Council to reassure the public that the Committee will do its job properly in future and protect the NHS in Devon.

The Scrutiny Committee ignored the views of local communities and their representatives and has allowed the CCG to get away with damaging cuts. The Council must now consider how to restore people’s faith that it will protect all our community hospitals in the future. I shall ensure that this is discussed when the Council meets on 5th October.

Martin Shaw
Independent East Devon Alliance County Councillor for Seaton & Colyton”

Nothing happening in Cornwall

“Cornwall Council says it won’t be having a full council meeting in September because there are “no substantive agenda items”.

In a statement, the council said: “The full council meeting planned for September has been cancelled as there were no substantive agenda items and the only standing items related to member and public question time.

“The council’s meetings are run so that its business can be carried out efficiently; considering the interests of the community, the importance of using members’ time effectively and the cost of holding a meeting.” …

The decision means there has been no full council meeting since 25 July, and the next one is scheduled for 21 November.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/live/uk-england-devon-41041118

Scrutiny in Parliament: “party loyalty inhibits criticism and evidence-based reasoning”

Owl’s summary: From top to bottom – party loyalty trumps common sense. And we, the voters, pay the price.

The author’s summary:

“Conclusions

Where once Parliament lurked almost completely impotently on the sidelines of policy-making, recent revisionist accounts have ‘talked up’ MPs’ collective influence, with some justification.

Yet the Commons is still far from having the ‘full spectrum’ and decisive influence that democratic criteria suggest are needed.

Party loyalties inhibit criticisms and evidence-based reasoning.

Budgetary consideration is largely a joke.

And legacy procedural practices plus MPs’ traditionalist attachment to inefficient and ineffective ways of working (like the witness system for select committees, instead of developing proper investigative staffs) have limited the legislature’s role, despite some positive recent developments.”