“Lack of transparency threatens English devolution and LEPs, warn small firms

“Local bodies responsible for economic growth and business support across England need to become more accountable and transparent to gain full support from the country’s small firms, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). The call comes ahead of the 100-day anniversary this weekend of elections for six new Combined Authority mayors.

A previously unreleased FSB survey finds that the majority (70%) of small firms in England with an opinion on devolution support the principle of giving more powers to local leaders. Two thirds (64%) feel devolution deals are good for their individual businesses.

However, small firms are concerned about their ability to feed into devolution deal making. Only one in seven (15%) feel they have been consulted on the devolution process in their area. More than half (57%) feel they cannot contribute to ongoing decision-making and a similar proportion (53%) believe there are not means to hold locally elected leaders to account.

Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: “The success of devolution deals will hinge on effective collaboration between new and existing local leaders. Transparency is key. Combined Authorities must clearly demonstrate how they are promoting growth and establish channels through which they can be held accountable. No doubt they’ll be heeding the NAO’s warning about becoming ‘a curiosity of history’.

“With new devolution proposals in the pipeline, future deals must be established on the basis of need. What we can’t have is the political affiliations of negotiators playing any role in fresh agreements.

“It’s encouraging to see that our new mayors are already engaging with small businesses in some areas. A number have established business advisory groups, and we urge those that haven’t to follow suit, ensuring they bring together representatives from all sections of the business community.”

Small businesses also flag the need for greater accountability among Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). Less than half (45%) of those with an opinion on the issue believe they are able to communicate directly with their local LEP.

More encouragingly, the majority (53%) believe their LEP represents the interests of their local business community, though only one in three (32%) feel LEPs represent the views of their individual firms.

Mike Cherry added: “LEPs do some great work across England and it’s crucial that they’re equipped to maintain their vital business support services beyond Brexit and play a key role in delivering an ambitious Industrial Strategy. That being said, reform is urgently needed.

“All LEPs are obliged to have a small business champion in place and that obligation needs to be met right across the country. Equally, the Government should produce comprehensive business data, including unregistered businesses, at a LEP level so Partnerships can tailor local growth strategies effectively.”

“LEPs need to be beyond reproach in terms of their governance, overall transparency and representativeness. They should be channels for economic growth and targeted business support, not old boys’ clubs.”


Clinton Devon Estates and Budleigh Hospital Garden – a PR nightmare for today and tomorrow!

In May 2017 Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) ran an online survey which was covered by Owl. Questions were heavily weighted towards suitably glowing answers, such as:

“How credible do you think “We pledge to do today what is right for tomorrow” is as a statement from Clinton Devon Estates?”

In July 2017 Owl then ran the story of how CDE had made a last minute land grab by submitting an outline planning permission to develop half of the Budleigh Hospital Garden for two small houses. The Neighbourhood Planning team had nominated the garden as an historic open green space and the new health hub hoped to use it as an outdoor therapeutic area. As stakeholders in the Neighbourhood Plan CDE had been consulted at all stages but had not divulged their plans for the space.


CDE followed this by launching an appeal on the grounds that EDDC had not determined the application within the prescribed time. This appeal has now been roundly rejected.

A planning inspector has ruled against CDE on the appeal, and it seems CDE might now have to think of other ways to wheedle their way our hearts and minds.

Here is the text of a Budleigh Journal article on the appeal:

“A controversial planning application which sought to build houses on a section of Budleigh Salterton green space has been rejected at appeal.

The outline application, for means of access, proposed two houses to be built on half of the former hospital gardens, in Boucher Road.

Applicant Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) appealed to the planning inspectorate against the length of time it had taken East Devon District Council to reach a decision on the plan.

But planning inspector Andy Harwood ruled that the appeal should be dismissed and that the proposal was rejected.

In his report he said: “The retention of the remaining garden would continue to meet some needs for local people. It would continue to be a pleasant landscaped area. “However, it is not demonstrated how the space would be enhanced by the proposal.”

Mr Harwood also pointed out that under the East Devon Local Plan, development should not involve the loss of land of recreational value.

The whole garden had been earmarked for activities relating to the health and wellbeing hub, due to open at the former hospital later this year.

In response to the ruling, a CDE spokesman said: “We have noted the inspector’s report and will be considering our options in due course.”

Town council planning committee chairman Courtney Richards said: “That land was designated an open space in our Neighbourhood Plan. I am glad to see that will be retained for open space in the town.

“Having that open space available for people at the hub will be of tremendous benefit.”

See the full Inspector’s decision here:

Click to access obj.pdf

The somewhat chilling phrase that CDE are now “considering their options” should no doubt include taking the views of the local community into account when making decisions and pledging to do today what is right for tomorrow.

Owl recollects the First Law of Holes that states that: “if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”!

Budleigh: Hearing to take place in Knowle over Lilyfarm planning appeal

“A hearing will take place on Wednesday (September 13) on the planning appeal by the owoners of Lilyfarm Vineyard, Budleigh Salterton.

The future of a controversial planning application to build managers’ accommodation on land in Budleigh Salterton is set to be decided.

An ‘informal’ hearing has been set to hear arguments for and against an application to extend Lilyfarm Vineyard, in Dalditch Lane, and to build separate managers’ accommodation on site.

The hearing will take place at Knowle Village Hall on Wednesday (September 13) from 10am.

After East Devon District Council’s development management committee voted to reject the application and Budleigh Salterton Town Council opposed the application.

Business owners Alan and Faye Pratt were disappointed when the proposal to improve facilities was rejected.”

Faye said: “We believe our vineyard makes a positive contribution to the area and we now need to live on the site to sustain and grow the business”.


Tiny, tiny taps on the wrist: now Parish gives one to Tesco

BAD Tesco – go and sit in the naughty corner for 30 seconds!

Tesco topped the list of plastic bags sales but no other company in the top 10 made administration deductions, including Asda, Morrison, the Co-op, Marks and Spencer, Aldi, Iceland and Waitrose.

“The legislation for the 5p plastic bag charge is clear that the money raised should go to good causes,” said Mary Creagh MP, chair of the environmental audit committee. “Five years after the horsemeat scandal and three years after a false accounting scandal, Tesco finds itself again in the spotlight for doing the wrong thing. They should drop this ridiculous charge immediately.”

Neil Parish MP, chair of the environment, food and rural affairs select committee, said: “As much money as possible from the plastic bag tax should be going to charitable causes. It would be great to see Tesco follow the lead of other retailers and not deduct admin costs. That would be a very positive step for Britain’s biggest supermarket to take. … ”

Deprived seaside towns: residents have their say

“Analysis by Social Market Foundation found that UK communities living by the coast have higher rates of unemployment compared to inland area. In 85% of Britain’s 98 coastal local authorities in 2016 people were paid less than the national average, with those living by the seaside earning £3,600 less. We asked readers to tell us about the areas they live in and how things have changed over the years. …

[Great Yarmouth]
… Then there are the road networks, in particular the infamous A47 Acle Straight which needs work to stop the consistent traffic problems. MP Brandon Lewis is rarely here or shows any interest unless there is an election. All new housing is unaffordable to buy and rent is high everywhere; a lot of people live in cramped, unsafe properties. The excuses change, but everything stays the same and has done for many years. …

… A former mayor of Copeland described Millom as “a place of despair”. Redundancies in local industries (for example, Vickers shipyard which was made defunct in 2007) have led to more unemployment. Local shops have closed as larger nationwide stores such as Tesco have opened. Some local transport links have been shut down and already infrequent local buses have reduced their services. The train service is bad, with trains being regularly cancelled at short notice, and the roads are narrow and poorly maintained. This all increases the isolation communities and individuals feel.

Two bank branches have closed, as well as several pubs and the job centre. The local food bank has more demand and fewer donations. A family member and a school friend of mine committed suicide. Another two school friends have died from complications from alcohol dependency. Then there are holiday homes in the Lake District which price locals out of house purchases. People are hopeless and depressed. The situation will deteriorate without some form of intervention.”


“The Conservatives’ solution for unaffordable care? No care”

“Seventy thousand older people with complex needs left to fend for themselves: Tory apathy on social care funding could turn a crisis into a catastrophe

• Barbara Keeley, Labour MP for Worsley and Eccles South, is shadow minister for social care and mental health

“Despite evidence that life expectancy may be stagnating, the century-long rise should be a cause for celebration. However, for too many people – unsure whether they will be able to afford the care they may need or to plan for the future – their later years are proving to be a time of fear and uncertainty.

Now we learn there will be insufficient care home places, even if people could afford them: 71,000 more care home beds will be required within eight years – according to a Newcastle University study – to meet the demands of an ageing population living longer, with complex care needs. But there is little hope that these places will materialise.

Residential and nursing homes are already under unprecedented pressure. By the end of this financial year, £6.3bn will have been cut from social care budgets since 2010, with local authorities facing a £2.3bn care funding gap by 2020. These severe cuts, along with rising costs and problems of retaining and recruiting staff, mean that one in six care homes is now displaying signs of financial stress, and across England residential homes are closing.

And in the coming months, the signs are that things will get worse. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has reported that councils will have to cut social care budgets by a further £824m this financial year alone – meaning fewer older people getting the help they need with basic tasks such as washing, dressing and eating.

The Conservatives’ policy of cutting funding and leaving people to fend for themselves is simply not working. It has left us with 1.2 million older people living with unmet care needs, one in 10 facing catastrophic costs, and relatives forced to give up work to look after them. Although the Tories backed down from their “dementia tax” plans, more than 70% of people in residential care have dementia, and they face the highest care costs.

These harsh realities are brought home through the many cases I hear about, both in my constituency and in parliament. Cases like the woman whose homecare was cut suddenly from 10 hours a week to nothing. Her son had to step in to care for her, risking his job, which financially supported them both. Or the elderly people left without food or help with bathing when care staff did not turn up.

If this apathy towards the social care crisis continues, there is a risk not only of insufficient care beds, but of serious care failures.

In Labour’s manifesto, we set out comprehensive plans to tackle the short-term funding gap in social care, promising £1bn this year and £8bn over this parliament to stabilise the sector. This would enable us to close the funding gap, implement a living wage for care workers and enable an extra 36,000 people with high levels of need to receive publicly funded social care.

But we also recognised the need for a long-term funding solution to meet the needs of an ageing population. Labour’s national care service would be based on the principle of pooling risks, so that no one is left to face catastrophic care costs alone. A care cap would ensure those unlucky enough to develop conditions like dementia would not be penalised for doing so. And we would raise the asset threshold, so that no one loses everything they own, as well as introducing free end of life care.

Enough is enough. This government has had ample wake-up calls. Now it must give social care the funding it needs and develop a long-term plan to put the sector on a sustainable footing – so that today’s generation of older people and those to come get the care they need and deserve.”


Budleigh Salterton mail gets eaten by snails

Royal Mail apology after Budleigh Film Society letter ‘damaged’ by snails

Budleigh Film Society recently discovered why it hadn’t received a particular membership letter – it was attacked by snails.

An envelope which contained a cheque for the membership fee of the club was devoured by hungry snails in one of Royal Mail’s post boxes.

The group’s membership secretary Fiona Hennah was surprised to discover a letter from Royal Mail explaining the issue.

In the letter, Royal Mail Exeter said: “The item was found during a scheduled collection from a posting box and has been damaged by snails.

“Unfortunately, we find that slugs and snails still occasionally manage to creep into the apertures, fall down into the box and start eating the glue/adhesive on the stamps and envelopes.”

Fiona said she was surprised to receive the letter from Royal Mail and that most of the envelope was eaten away but the cheque remained intact.”


Seaton to twin with Siberia?

Rumblings in Seaton and Beer, where direct buses to Exeter (X52) via RDE have been cut to two a day – 10 am and midday from Seaton and 11.20 and 13.20 from Exeter and no X52 on Sundays.

The only alternatives for those wanting to go to the hospital is the lengthy journey (30-40 minutes longer) 9A via Sidmouth, which will require a change of bus in Exeter, or an expensive taxi.

Youngsters (are there any in Seaton?) will be unable to take advantage of metropolitan education, jobs and activities unless they get up very, very early and come home by teatime and those with jobs outside Seaton will definitely need their cars.

And should guests checking-in at the new Premier Inn fancy leaving their cars behind for a day out after they have exhausted the offerings in the sleepy town on a rainy day – well, at least they will be back in their hotel in time for very early dinner and they can be tucked up safely in their beds by 9 pm!