Knowle development – a Premier Inn adjacent to a Travelodge next to a Holiday Inn!

A new photo-montage reveals the size and scale of the proposed PegasusLife luxury retirement complex planned for the Knowle site when EDDC decamps to Honiton.

Owl thinks it looks rather like a Premier Inn adjacent to a Travelodge next to a Holiday Inn! With maybe a soupcon of Cranbrook thrown in for good measure!

Oh unlucky Sidmouth to have such a building foisted on it.

Anyone taking bets on Diviani and/or Randall-Johnson’s future plans?

Could our two most notorious local councillors Paul Diviani (Leader, EDDC but sitting as a co-optee on the controversial Devon County Council Health Scrutiny Committee) and/or its chairman, Sarah Randall-Johnson (see article below on secret DCC Standards Committee meeting on her conduct) perhaps be lining themselves up for lucrative and/or powerful jobs with our local Clinical Commissioning Group (or whatever its next incarnation will be)?

After all, they have ably demonstrated where their sympathy lies and there will no doubt be many opportunities over the coming months to put their sympathies into action.

Diviani already has form, being a councillor member of our Local Enterprise Partnership responsible for extra housing throughout Devon and Somerset and the many, many other pies in which he has his fingers. Including a leading role in “Greater Exeter” plans.

Randall-Johnson was Diviani’s predecessor as Leader of EDDC (until being ignominiously trounced by Claire Wright in local elections) but has failed to rise to such a dizzy height again at DCC (and may – or may not – have scuppered her chances of ever doing so with her recent behaviour).

Until her recent appointment as Chairman of the Health Scrutiny Committee she had to content herself with appointments to the DCC Pensions Board, East Devon Highways and Traffic Orders Committee, East Devon Locality (County) Committee and the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority.

And few of us can forget that she was the unsuccessful “Cameron’s Cuties” competitor for the Tory Totnes seat won by Sarah Wollaston?

Where better for both of them to spread their wings than our CCG?

Or, is Owl hooting up the wrong tree? Is Randall-Johnson’s behaviour designed to show her Tory councillor colleagues what a “strong and stable” leader she might make for DCC?

Or, and here Owl’s eyes widen to bulging, might she be gearing up for yet another bid to become an MP and flexing her muscles for such a bid?

RandallJohnson scrutiny behaviour – whitewash or justice today?

Owl’s prediction: a tiny, tiny tap on the wrist – barely contacting – then back to business as usual for her and her party.

“A standards committee is today meeting behind closed doors to consider whether a senior Tory broke the county council code of conduct, Devon Live understands.

Conservative county councillor Sara Randall Johnson, chair of the authority’s health scrutiny committee as well as the Devon and Somerset fire authority, angered campaigners at a public meeting last month.

The former leader of East Devon District Council was jeered by the public gallery when she ignored a tabled motion by independent councillor Claire Wright designed to halt hospital bed closure plans by making a referral to the Secretary of State.

Instead, she allowed party colleagues to seize the momentum by kick starting the debate and swiftly proposing the exact opposite, a motion which narrowly won the day by just one vote.

Ms Wright protested at the meeting and after the meeting, which attracted around 80 members of the public, a dozen people are thought to have complained.

The council’s cross-party Standards Committee met on Tuesday, August 29 to debate the issue but invoked a so-called Part 2 exemption which allows proceedings to be held in secret.

A formal report is expected to be published by the group, which also includes former councillors, after the meeting revealing, explaining the decision.

Ms Wright said she did not complain formally but submitted a statement of her concerns and has been interviewed by the committee chairman.

Ms Randall Johnson and Ms Wright clashed at the bad-tempered and at times rowdy Health and Wellbeing committee meeting in July.

Randall Johnson used her new power of chairmanship to thwart her long-time opponent, whose first electoral success at district level in 2011 cost Randall Johnson her seat and leadership of the council.

Some observers claimed the move was a settling of old scores.

In the months prior to the meeting, protestors had been opposing plans by the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group to axe 71 beds across four cottage hospitals in the Eastern locality.

Campaigners, angry that the case had 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.

Under the previous 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 support the move.

She refused to put Ms Wright’s proposal to the last vote at the June meeting and eventually members were persuaded to defer a decision to get more information.

Ms Wright again proposed that the plans be sent back to the Health Secretary, submitting a written motion before the meeting began.

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

Unfortunately for her, the legal advice from the council backed Randall Johnson, stating that motions needed to be proposed and seconded in the meeting.

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.

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.

The committee is now expected to rule on whether this departure from protocol breached the members’ Code of Conduct.

A council spokesman said the minutes will be published within the next few days.

“It’s too early to say whether this is a subject that will be discussed or raised by elected members at a future full council meeting,” he added.”

A chance to show Diviani exactly what you think of him for destroying our community hospital beds

Remember, anyone who votes AGAINST this motion, or ABSTAINS or is not at the meeting for spurious reasons, is guilty of destroying our local health service and killing off Axminster, Ottery, Seaton, Budleigh and Honiton community hospital beds – and cares not one jot what you may think.

“13 September 6pm, EDDC extraordinary meeting:

Motion – Vote of no confidence in the Leader

“On Tuesday 25th July 2017, Cllr Diviani chose not to represent the opinions of this Council or the people we represent at the DCC Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee meeting when he was clearly expected to do so. This Council no longer has confidence in Cllr Diviani’s commitment to represent our collective interests nor lead our East Devon communities as the figurehead for local government. We call for his resignation.’

Proposed by Councillor Ben Ingham, seconded by Councillor Val Ranger and supported by Councillors Cathy Gardner, Matt Coppell, Marianne Rixson, Rob Longhurst, Dawn Manley, Geoff Jung, Peter Faithfull, Susie Bond, Roger Giles, Matt Booth, Peter Burrows, Steve Gazzard, Megan Armstrong and Douglas Hull.”

Please attend to show how you feel and speak if you want to.”

Source: East Devon Alliance, Facebook

Why do poor people vote Conservative – from the horse’s mouth

Nick Schon, Creative Director, Saachi and Saachi explains:

I worked on the Conservative advertising for two general elections. This was a subject we gave a lot of thought to, and it’s actually simple: a lot of poor people don’t think they will always be poor. They have aspirations just like everyone. That’s a good thing, but it’s often taken to unrealistic levels. They think that “Ok, I’m not earning a lot now, but one day I’ll have a bloody great yacht”, so they vote for the party they think will help them most achieve that great leap to riches and the one they identify with in their imaginary alternative life.

It’s the principle behind shows like “Bake Off”, “X-Factor” and “The Voice” and a host of other contests where “ordinary” people suddenly strike it rich. It’s deeply rooted in human psyche, and the Tories know it.

The Conservatives are quite aware that they are pedlars of what is for most, false hope. They point out the Alan Sugars and Richard Bransons and say that you too can achieve this under their governance. Tories are really interested in maintaining the status quo and helping them and their core donors.

I’ve asked friends who aren’t well off but voted Tory why they did so. One is a teacher who is about to lose his job. The answers come straight out of the Daily Mail.

We have a poisonous right-wing press in this country, dominated by five billionaires who create a climate that persuades people to act against what is in their best interests. That monopoly has to change.”

Tory donor and tax avoider – go together like a horse and carriage

The Canary has provided a handy copy-and-keep list of the top Tory election donors, and it’s a real rogues’ gallery. Check out these creeps:

The Tories’ top donors included:

JCB Service – £1.5m. It’s owned by Anthony Bamford, who was not only named in the Panama Papers, but who operates JCB out of tax haven Bermuda.

John C Armitage – £1.1m. Armitage is the founder of Egerton Capital, a hedge fund that enables [xml] tax avoidance for investors.

John Griffin – £1.03m. Griffin and his private hire firm Addison Lee were caught up in a lobbying scandal in 2012.

Mark J. C. Bamford – £750,000. The younger brother of Anthony Bamford, owner of JBC Service, he was caught up in a row over a JCB subsidiary, JCB research, which, while only worth £27,000, was the biggest Tory donor in the run-up to the 2010 general election.

Andrew E Law – £525,000. Law is a hedge fund owner [paywall] whose firm Caxton Associates is registered in the US tax avoidance state of Delaware.
David J Rowland – £312,500. The Canary conducted a major investigation into Rowland in 2016, and described his offshore tax affairs as “mind blowing”.
Lord Michael Ashcroft – £500,000. Ashcroft has been involved in several tax avoidance scandals. He also co-authored the book at the centre of the David Cameron ‘Pig gate’ scandal.

Other Tory donors [pdf p3-5] during the election period included:

Sir Henry and Lady Keswick – £150,000. Keswick’s company Jardine Matheson was linked to tax avoidance via Luxembourg and has numerous subsidiaries in tax haven Bermuda.

Charles ‘Julian’ Cazalet – £10,000. Cazalet is a non-executive director of NHS private provider Deltex Medical Group.

Malcolm Healey – £100,000. Healey was fined by HMRC in 2015 for making £8.6m [pdf] by using a tax avoidance scheme.

Bruce Hardy McLain – £100,000. McLain’s private investment firm CVC Capital Partners is currently embroiled in a £5m bribery and tax avoidance scandal involving Formula One.

Ayman and Sawsan Asfari – £100,000. Ayman is currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. He also runs oil company Petrofac, which avoids tax via Jersey.

Rainy City Investments – £100,000. Owned by Peter and Fred Done, who were fined £800,000 by the Serious Fraud Office over money laundering allegations.

Investors in Private Capital Ltd – £150,000. Co-owned by James ‘Jamie’ Reuben, family friend of George Osborne, it paid no UK corporation tax in 2014 [pdf p13], despite a turnover [pdf p17] of £35m.

Transparency: can’t see it

“Claims that this government would be the most transparent in history have been exposed as a sham after it emerged that nearly half the papers it was supposed to release for public scrutiny have been held back.

Departments are expected to publish details of spending as well as information on the gifts, hospitality, meetings and travel of ministers and officials.

But research shows that 92 out of the 202 “transparency” publications that ministers pledged to release are either late or missing.

Only three departments have met a new requirement to publish the gender pay gap between male and female officials.

Nine out of 22 departments are late publishing lists of civil service staff moving to business appointments or have never published them. These rules are designed to prevent abuse of the “revolving door” between Whitehall and business.

Nineteen out of 22 are late to publish lists of civil servants who are in “off-payroll arrangements”, often used to reduce tax.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has never released details of its spending, even though Whitehall has been told to cut waste by publishing records of items costing £25,000 or more, or more than £500 if purchased on a government credit card.

Liam Fox’s international trade department has not published six out of the nine transparency publications it should have released since it was formed in July 2016.

Jon Trickett, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said: “The Tories promised us ‘the most transparent government ever’, but Theresa May has broken that promise. The prime minister has failed to ensure proper scrutiny of government business. This risks breaching public trust.

“The government is doing all it can to hide their actions from the public. The question which people will naturally ask themselves is ‘What has Mrs May got to hide?’ ”

A government spokesman said: “We are releasing more information than ever before.The World Wide Web Foundation recently ranked the UK government first on its global Open Data Barometer, putting the UK at the forefront of open government.”

Source: Sunday Times (pay wall)

Government and developers creating NIMBYs

“The biggest housebuilders are creating growing numbers of nimbys by trampling over communities and building ugly, unaffordable homes, the head of a homelessness charity has warned.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, said that developers were putting profits before people and ignoring concerns about the quality and price of new homes.

She blamed the builders for “a huge loss of public faith in our housebuilding system” and called for reforms to planning laws to put people’s needs before corporate profits. “Even when communities create detailed plans for housing developments, these developers brush them aside and build unattractive, unaffordable homes,” she said. “This means many [people] choose to oppose new homes rather than go through a long planning process, only to be ignored in the end.”

The three biggest housebuilders, Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Developments, completed more than 46,000 homes last year and shared revenues of more than £11 billion. They made profits of £2.2 billion.

“The government needs to bring in a new way of building homes which listens to local people to build the high quality and genuinely affordable homes they need, along with schools, parks and other amenities,” Ms Neate said. “We once had a proud tradition of housebuilding in this country, as seen in our popular postwar new towns and garden cities, and it is now critical this is revived for the 21st century.”

Her comments came after a survey of more than 3,500 people found that only 13 per cent felt that developers listened to them. Almost 60 per cent said that they would be more inclined to support the building of new homes if they were listened to more keenly. The southeast had the highest proportion of nimbys, at 38 per cent, while the West Midlands had the lowest at 23 per cent.

The Times revealed last month that a consortium of housebuilders behind a new garden town in Devon had watered down its strict design code. The Sherford development on the outskirts of Plymouth was designed by the Prince of Wales’s architects to prove that his model village of Poundbury in Dorset could work on a larger scale.

The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community said that the builders, Bovis Homes, Linden Homes and Taylor Wimpey, used arcane planning laws to renege on their commitments to quality. Ben Bolgar, the foundation’s director, said they were determined to build a “normal, rubbish housing estate” instead. The consortium said the quality of the homes would not be affected.

Stewart Baseley, chairman of the Home Builders Federation, an industry body, insisted that his members “work closely with councils and residents to ensure the homes being built are what communities need”.

“Housebuilders have dramatically increased output to provide desperately needed homes,” he added. “Constructive debate is needed to develop policies that allow more homes to be built as opposed to baseless claims.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)