“Tory stamp duty cut could cost first-time buyers twice as much as they save, leading think tank says”

“… Because this is a permanent reduction in stamp duty for first-time buyers, it will actually increase the price of properties by twice the size of the tax cut,” the think tank said. “As such prospective first-time buyers’ net costs will actually increase not decrease.

“In reality, a first-time buyer purchasing an average priced property would experience a £3,200 price increase to offset the £1,600 tax cut.”

Those buying cheaper properties, however, are likely to save more in stamp duty than the extra they have to pay in inflated house prices, it added. The stamp duty cut also means that more of a buyer’s savings can go towards a deposit, enabling more to afford a home.” …


More political donor sleaze

“The publication of Northern Irish political donors’ identities has been postponed to the new year because of a delay by the government in putting the necessary legislation before parliament.

The Electoral Commission had planned to publish information on donors who had given money to parties registered in Northern Ireland for the first time on Thursday.

Ann Watt, the head of the commission in Northern Ireland, said it was “extremely disappointed that we are unable to provide the public with the information they expected on how political parties in Northern Ireland are funded”.

“The continuing secrecy only serves to undermine trust and confidence among the public in the democratic process,” she said. “We were consulted by the Northern Ireland Office several months ago on draft legislation and provided detailed comments.”

The non-disclosure of information on donors to political parties in Northern Ireland dates back to the Troubles. It means that while Northern Irish political parties have to divulge donor information to the Electoral Commission, it cannot publish information identifying those donors.

The provision came under intense scrutiny when it emerged earlier this year that the Democratic Unionist party had spent £425,000 in the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum campaigning for Brexit.

Following questions from the media, the DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the cash had come from the pro-union Constitutional Research Council, chaired by the former Scottish Conservative party vice-chairman Richard Cook. The CRC’s donors are unknown.

The majority of the money was used to pay for a wraparound advert in the Metro newspaper, which is not published in Northern Ireland, while £32,750 was paid to AggregateIQ, a social media political consultancy based in Canada, also heavily used by Vote Leave, the official leave campaign.

Earlier this week, the Electoral Commission announced an investigation into Vote Leave over whether it breached the £7m EU referendum spending limit. The official leave campaign spent £6.8m itself and donated £625,000 to a fashion student’s campaign called BeLeave. At issue is whether BeLeave was genuinely independent of Vote Leave: the money it received was sent directly to be spent on social media marketing for AggregateIQ.

A government spokesperson said: “There remains widespread support for full transparency among the people of Northern Ireland.

“In line with that aim, we have brought secondary legislation before parliament that would provide for the publication of all donations and loans received by Northern Ireland parties.”

The Electoral Commission then updated its position in a second statement from Watt: “We are pleased that the UK government has acted to make this important change a reality. Transparency in how our political parties are funded is key to ensuring public trust and confidence in the democratic process.”


Some councillors on DCC scrutiny committee seem to have difficulty in grasping the concept of ………. scrutiny

Claire Wright’s blog:

Devon County Council’s solicitor, Jan Shadbolt, reminded the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee of its legal responsibilities at Tuesday’s (21 November) meeting.

I had asked for this agenda item following a disastrous meeting in July where a referral to the Secretary of State for Health on the closure of 72 community hospital beds in Eastern Devon was thwarted by the Conservative members of the committee, resulting in over 20 complaints from members of the public.

Mrs Shadbolt read out a paragraph from the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry, led by Sir Robert Francis in 2013. Many people had tragically died there as a result of poor care.

The local council’s scrutiny committee was deemed to have failed in its duty to effectively scrutinise the local health trust and identify problems.

Mrs Shadbolt said it was the first time that non-executive members of a local authority were held to account because they were deemed to have failed in their duty.

New regulations were brought in afterwards to beef up the legal powers of health scrutiny committees. These were that health scrutiny committees can:
– Require a local officer to attend to answer questions
– Expect to be consulted by an NHS body or service provider on substantial developments (although there is no definition of substantial developments)
– Refer to the Secretary of State for Health (subject to a series of constraints)

The county solicitor told the committee that we had a “very powerful role to play within the community” and that we were “unique in scrutiny committees” on that basis.

Conservative, Phil Twiss wanted to know who “scrutinises the scrutineers.” The county solicitor replied that the ultimate scrutiny was being called to account over the failure of a service provider, but that generally speaking councillors were answerable to the community.

Cllr Twiss then wanted to know how the committee knew it was performing properly. Mrs Shadbolt said that the committee’s role was to ask pertinent questions, call any officer to present. She added that there are all sorts of bodies who can give information to help with this, such as Healthwatch.

Conservative councillor, Paul Crabbe, wanted to remind the committee that this agenda item had been added because “some members felt we failed to scrutinise correctly…” He went on to say that a “chap from south Devon was fizzing with excitement over the success and how about how wonderful his new system was” then they were later asked to vote that it was “rubbish.”

Cllr Crabbe said that this struck him as a nonsense then and still struck him as a nonsense and just because the committee voted against “someone’s particular view” it didn’t necessarily mean that the committee was not fulfilling its role.

Liberal Democrat, Cllr Brian Greenslade asked the county solicitor to remind councillors that scrutiny is not a normal committee of the council in that it is not supposed to be political. He said that he thought it was worth underlining this point…”

Here’s the webcast – https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/302658

At least one person hasn’t had a stagnant wage!

Paul Diviani has helped at least one “hard working person” to beat the trend – Chris Garcia, CEO of our Local Enterprise Partnership who got a whacking 26% increase in his salary last year as reportd here:


and here:


and here:


Nice work if you can get it (unless of course you happen to have a university vice-chancellorship in your back pocket!).

EDDC has difficulty explaining the difference between a gift and a loan

“… It follows a council document from 2015 about the Queen’s Drive development that says: “The people of Exmouth are being offered a gift of a new Watersports Centre that will operate as a community interest company (not a private facility) whereby a philanthropist is investing up to £4m of his own money in this national venue.”

But a council spokesman said that the debate is about what constituents a gift and that once the original investment without interest is recovered all income generated will be reinvested in Exmouth.

Save Exmouth Seafront spokesman Nick Hookway said: “We have a number of concerns about the arrangements that East Devon District Council has made with Grenadier.

“Grenadier is not gifting the Water Sports centre site to the people of Exmouth. Information supplied by both the developer and the Council shows that the cost of the project will initially be paid for by Grenadier. The whole cost of this development will then be paid back to Grenadier over a number of years with no interest except for the cost of inflation. Inflation is running at 3.9% as measured by the Retail Price Index. Wouldn’t it be nice if residents could get 3.9% on their savings accounts?

“In most people’s minds Grenadier is a making a loan not a gift. Why are Councillors unable to see this?”

But a council spokesman said: “Grenadier is investing £3m to £4m upfront in providing a water sports centre and we have seen the attractive plans that will enhance Exmouth’s seafront and attraction to visitors and residents.

“The developer is involved on a not for profit basis with a business model that involves recovery of their original investment (without interest). The water sports centre and associated facilities will then be operated by a non-profit making Community Interest Company. Income generated from that point on will be used to reinvest in Exmouth by the Community Interest Company.

“There seems to be some debate about what constitutes a ‘gift’. To be clear, the cost of building the asset will be paid upfront by Grenadier and this will be paid back to Grenadier by the CIC without interest using income derived from the operation of the facility.

“The specifics and priorities of that re-investment will be something that the Community Interest Company will decide and it will have local representation on the board. This varies considerably from the standard investment model that commercial developers would usually follow and, in fact, Grenadier has chosen not to make a profit on this project when they could have directed their funds elsewhere into a profit making venture as would normally be the case for a private developer.”

Questions were also raised by SES as to who exactly is behind the realignment of Queen’s Drive that will see the road move from its current position on the seafront to behind the proposed new watersports centre.

Mr Hookway said: “Why is the road being moved and who suggested this realignment? Grenadier has stated the realignment of the road was not something that they asked for. East Devon District Council will say that it was included in the Exmouth Masterplan which was adopted in 2011.

“However there was no explanation in the Masterplan for the proposed realignment, indeed recent changes to the design of the road are different from those proposed in the Masterplan. Save Exmouth Seafront wants to know why the road is being moved and who proposed these changes.”

But in response, the council spokesman said: “The road and car park move was recommended in the original masterplan and made a lot of sense in creating a new, accessible and safer space connected directly to the beach.

“There is no confusion here since the council marketed the site on that basis and Grenadier bid on the clear understanding that the road and car park were being moved. This was a council decision following the recommendation of the masterplan.”

Save Exmouth Seafront in response to the plans say that they would like the main buildings to be moved back eight metres from the current proposed location, is it necessary for it to be two storeys, and will there be a clearly displayed safety plan for kite surfers, but did say the consultation process funded by Grenadier was a most welcome change from the usual process of planning consultations.

A spokesman for Grenadier added: “We are currently reviewing all feedback received during the community consultation process. All comments are receiving our full attention and we will provide an update once we have completed our review. In the meantime we encourage the community to check back regularly at http://watersportscentreexmouth.co.uk/ for any updates.


Cranbrook: penny pinching causes problems at railway station?

A correspondent in Cranbrook writes:

“I went to park at the train station this morning and a car had got stuck trying to gain access to the parking area … Most of the cars were parked OUTSIDE the designated area due to the fact that the entry with those barriers is TOOOO narrow ..What a waste of money ..

A bit like many Cranbrook garages, where the passenger has to get out before the driver goes in as they are so narrow, or those roads that are too narrow so cars park half-on the pavement – a problem for years as this article from 2013 illustrates:

“… Kelly Curran lives in Mead Cross. She’s also witnessed poor parking.

“It’s a sore subject with a lot of people,” she says. “The builders park everywhere, taking up a lot of parking spaces. They park in front of people’s drives, sometimes they just park their vehicles right on the pavement, so you’re forced out into the road.”

Local residents have also started parking on the pavement, because the roads – especially the side streets, such as Mayfield Way, Henry’s Run and Mead Cross – are narrow. …

The police are concerned about poor car parking in Cranbrook.

“Some of the parking is fairly bad,” says Cranbrook’s Police Community Support Officer Jack Stannard. “If it’s horrendous, then I go and speak to the owner of the vehicle.”

The local police has also posted a Think Before You Park flier on a Cranbrook Facebook page, flagging up that ‘sensible parking could save a life’.

The fire service is also concerned.

“We have been visiting the area and working with the community to ensure there is adequate access for all emergency service vehicles,” says a spokesman. “When we see a vehicle that might cause an obstruction, we are either speaking to the driver direct or leaving a polite notice.

“It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that emergency vehicles are not delayed getting to incidents.”

Penny pinching gone mad.

“Growth” – shrinking fast!

Never mind OUR Local Enterprise Partnership appears to think that Devon and Cornwall (in spite of getting no budget goodies) will RACE ahead and do FAR better than any other area, not only in England, not only in the UK, not only in Europe but in the WHOLE world!

What busy bees we are in the south-west – or maybe just at Hinkley C!

“… Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, added that the economic forecasts published in the Budget made for “pretty grim reading”.

He highlighted that since 2014 growth in earnings has been “choked off”.
“We are in danger of losing not just one but getting on for two decades of earnings growth,” he said.

“Let’s hope this forecast turns out to be too pessimistic.”