Now nurseries are following nursing homes and closing due to lack of government funding

“Tens of thousands of parents are still waiting to find out if they can take up a government offer of 30 hours’ free childcare days before the scheme is due to be launched.

According to the latest figures, revealed in a letter sent by the Department for Education to local authorities and seen by the Observer, 82,000 parents entitled to the extra childcare have not yet secured a place for their three and four-year-olds. The offer, which doubles the current government-funded allowance, was a flagship Tory election pledge and is due to be implemented on Friday. But the policy appears to be mired in confusion amid claims of a funding shortfall and technical hitches.

According to new research given to the Observer by the early years shadow minister Tracy Brabin, three-quarters of childcare providers expect the policy to have a negative impact on their business and fewer than 7% say it will be positive. The same research claims that the scheme is underfunded, and that as many as one in three nurseries have not yet decided to offer any free places.

“I’m deeply concerned that many children won’t have access to the quality childcare they deserve – and that parents were promised,” said Brabin, who received 660 responses after she set up an online survey of childcare providers over the summer.

The Pre-School Learning Alliance estimates there is a 20% shortfall between the amount the government is giving local authorities to fund the scheme and the actual cost to nurseries. It said that some nurseries will have to close as a result, and some have already gone under. …”

Straitgate Quarry – traffic light crossing for cows proposed on B3174

“An application to create a 100-acre quarry on the outskirts of Ottery has once again faced backlash from civic leaders.

Aggregate Industries’ (AI) proposals to extract up to 1.5million tonnes of raised sand and gravel at Straitgate Farm came before Ottery Town Council’s planning committee after the firm submitted further environmental information.

In the additional documents, the developer has suggested a traffic light-controlled cattle crossing on the B3174 to meet the farm’s grazing needs.

The quarry has been earmarked as an approved site, but has not received planning permission.

On Monday, the committee voted again not to support the application.

Councillor Roger Giles said the idea of a cattle crossing was ‘absolutely outrageous’ and ‘atrocious’. He added: “This is a planning application that is very detrimental to Ottery and the surrounding areas and here is an opportunity to express our views once again.

“There are going to be four movements of cattle a day across that road, just below Daisymount, with traffic lights.

“If we weren’t concerned enough about the hundreds of slow-moving vehicles going up and down and across that road, we are now facing the prospect of traffic being stopped for cattle coming across four times a day, 365 days a year.

“I think that is absolutely outrageous and atrocious and I can’t think of anything more damaging and dangerous.”

Cllr Giles reiterated his previous concerns from March, which included traffic, flooding, water supplies, wildlife and landscape issues.

He added: “The town council has very serious concerns about the proposals to have laden lorries exiting the site and turning right across a heavy flow of fast moving traffic and travelling slowly uphill along Exeter Road to Daisymount.

“And we have very serious concerns about the proposals for unladen lorries slowly executing a left turn from the B3174 towards the site with a heavy flow of fast moving traffic coming up behind, speeding downhill from Daisymount.”

Members supported the request to resubmit their previous concerns, as well as adding ‘very strong’ objections to the cattle crossing.

The fate of the application will be decided by Devon County Council.”

Forget Heart of the South West, hello Great South West!

Not much in the way of money passing through their hands these days, thanks to former heavy reliance on government handouts and EU money.

Now, forget the “Heart of th South West” LEP and the “Golden Triangle” LEP and look forward to … well leave you to make up your own minds by letting them explain themselves.

But they soldier on, making more invisible clothes for the emperor, bigging up projects that are grinding on, avoiding talk of those that are stuck or being downgraded.

Here’s highlights from their August newsletter where we find an interesting new development.

First of all, the LEPs are all struggling to achieve anything so they are trying to find safety in numbers:

“This message and strong business interest have been taken forward into the Great South West brand. The work is at an early stage and is yet to involve more partners in the region; it is meant to be a flexible concept which partners can use on a project by project basis when it adds real value. Importantly, it aims to give us added weight with Government and other key stakeholders when we need to communicate across a larger geography. The concept has been progressed by the South West Leaders’ Forum and will continue to be developed through partnership and consultation with local authorities, MPs, business and the education sector.”

And so, our LEP will now aim to be part of a conglomerate called – wait for it


to rival the (currently rather dead in the water) “Northern Powerhouse”.

Here’s how they explain it:

“In order to compete with other UK and international regions, ‘Great South West’ aims to bring together a wide range of stakeholders from across the whole of the South West including Local Authorities, LEPs, MPs, Business and Education. It’s being created as a vehicle to promote all that is great about the region and to act as a common banner to communicate a clear focus on the opportunities to deliver prosperity.

With over £100bn of business opportunities, the South West has much to contribute; a dynamic and progressive South West economy can generate the critical success factors needed for a successful national economy.

As a region, the South West is diverse with different priorities covering different geographies. By working together, we will develop strategies and actions to secure enhanced funding and investment creating a prosperous region for all of us.”

AND it even has a brand new web page!

But don’t worry, the current and former members of our LEP are not neglecting their nuclear interests:

“In response to the Government’s commitment to work on an ‘early sector deal’ with the nuclear industry in the Industrial Strategy, NSW (made up of HotSW, West of England, Dorset and GFirst LEPs together with the private and academic/skills sectors) and its equivalent partners in the North West, have set out an approach to the Nuclear Industry Council to making the UK a global lead for the nuclear industry. …

The approach is an early stage and we will refine this through continued dialogue with Government on an effective nuclear sector deal. NSW believes it’s a major step forward and a testament to its integrity and profile that the North West consortium supported this joint approach.”

Lots and lots of scope for wasting more and more money there!

And last, but very much not least our LEP finally seems to realise that Brexit is upon us! And it has ANOTHER new sub-group:

The Brexit Resilience and Opportunities Group continues to draw together intelligence to understand the threats of Brexit in our area and maximise any opportunities.

Good information is crucial and the Group is still looking for more businesses to give their views on how their business will be affected by leaving the EU. The more people that respond, the better the results will be in building a meaningful response across all sectors.”

Summary: Heart of the South West LEP quietly morphing into …. drum roll… another iteration of the

South West Regional Development Agency

originally cut off in its bureaucratic prime by – the Conservative Government in 2012:


And still as unaccountable and non-transparent as ever – just BIGGER!

Hinkley C: do contractor changes signal problems?

” … On 21st August 2017, Balfour Beatty announced that it had now been awarded that very contract from under Costain’s nose.

Today Costain chief executive Andrew Wyllie said this on the matter: “Costain continues to undertake a number of enabling works contracts at Hinkley Point C. However, the group will cease its involvement in the marine works contract at Hinkley Point C following completion of a further circa £20m of existing obligations, anticipated to be concluded by the end of December 2017. Since Costain announced its initial appointment in October 2013, there was a significant delay in the approval for Hinkley Point C. While Costain has worked closely with EDF through the £40m of early contractor involvement phase to date, it was not possible to reach agreement on the final terms and conditions for the overall completion of the works.”

Mr Wyllie said that the company was still committed to, and involved in, the nuclear sector. “Costain remains involved in the planned UK new nuclear power plants and has started to develop opportunities in the small modular reactors market,” he said. “At Sellafield the Evaporator D contract is near completion and we have fully mobilised our team in support of the Decommissioning Delivery Partnership Framework. We have recently been awarded a major construction and programme management contract for AWE in the development of one of its nuclear facilities.”

and it seems workers at the site prefer to rent cheaply rather than buy in the area – not a sign of confidence:

“… workers on site at Hinkley seemed to be looking to rent as cheaply as possible, with many of them even travelling home on weekends.

… The people working on Hinkley at the moment are mainly construction workers and they are mainly opting to rent rather than buy,” Mr Zorab said.

“This has pushed up prices for buy to let properties but house prices in general have not been affected in a major way yet.”

He said the majority of the people who would be on site in the long term had not arrived yet, and expected a more noticeable increase when they started to arrive in year three of the project.”