EDDC: “More open spaces to be closed for private events, say council”

And all for £35,000 … our PUBLIC open spaces paying for their new HQ?

Or planning a money-spinner for Grenadier?

“East Devon District Council agenda papers say the authority is planning to close public spaces like Manor Gardens and Exmouth beach for privately-rented events.

Exmouth’s beach, parks and gardens could be closed to the public for privately-rented events such as weddings and festivals, under new proposals.

According to East Devon District Council (EDDC) agenda papers, the authority is considering hiring an events officer to ‘actively market’ its open spaces.

Previously, Exmouth’s Manor Gardens has been closed to the public for private occasions such as weddings and an open-air cinema. An area on the seafront was also used for the observation wheel last summer.

Proposals in the joint overview and scrutiny committee agenda say that these sites could be used for a big screen to show sports and music events.

There could also be Christmas markets, food fairs, and beach volleyball or surf lifesaving championships.

The agenda, for the meeting taking place on Wednesday, January 17, also says £100,000 could be set aside from EDDC’s capital reserve and that charges would be ‘in line with the private sector’.

EDDC says all parks, gardens and beaches are being considered as host venues and that town and parish councils will be consulted.

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “As part of the council’s objective to develop an outstanding economy through being more commercial, we have been making steady progress in improving our events offer and rentals of our assets such as parks and gardens.

“Last year we increased events income from £10,000 to £35,000.

“This has already included a wedding in Manor Gardens, Exmouth, the Exmouth Observation Wheel and other ticketed events such as open-air cinema, where the park or area was closed to the public.

“We consult with the local town or parish council and elected members before such events go ahead.

“Any East Devon District Council parks, gardens, beaches or open spaces will be considered by the council for events bookings or private functions.

“Charges will be in line with the private sector and anyone interested in making a booking, should contact the council on 01395 517528 or visit http://eastdevon.gov.uk/events.”


Oliver Letwin in charge of investigating land banking! First target Tories identify – NHS land!

Owl says: A High Tory who adores privatisation in charge of investigating developers! Pull the other one! AND this is the man who:

“… Speaking to consultancy firm KPMG on 27 July 2011, Letwin caused controversy after stating that you cannot have “innovation and excellence” without “real discipline and some fear on the part of the providers” in the public sector. This was widely reported, with The Guardian headline stating Letwin says ‘public sector workers need “discipline and fear.”

This is the Tory Conservative Home press release says about this – and identifies NHS land as ripe for fast development:

“Sir Oliver Letwin is undertaking a review for the Government on “land banking” by property developers. It will seek to “explain the significant gap between housing completions and the amount of land allocated or permissioned and make recommendations for closing the gap”.

The delays are certainly a source of frustration. “Use it, or lose it,” is that great rallying cry – forgetting that planning permission routinely expires after three years under the current rules. In any case if property developers expect prices to be going up why would that be a reason not to build the homes – which they could then delay selling? I suspect delays are more usually caused by the planning system and difficulties raising the required capital.

We will see what Sir Oliver makes of it. But as he knows better than anyone, the worst culprit when it comes to land banking is the state itself – at least based on the broad definition of sitting on surplus land that could be developed. I have quoted from his memoirs, the examples of the Ministry of Defence and Network Rail. Even in London where we are all so squashed, Transport for London owns land equivalent to the size of Camden.

Another prime culprit is the National Health Service Chris Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, wrote on this site last month that:

“The NHS alone sits on enough surplus land for more than 500,000 homes.”

In his paper for the Centre for Policy Studies, Homes for Everyone, Philp elaborates:

“In its 2017 report on surplus land, NHS Digital identified 1,332 hectares of surplus land across a total of 563 sites. Just 91 hectares of surplus land had been sold previously, with 11 hectares of those sold during 2016/17 – less than 1% of the potential total. At that rate, it would take 112 years to dispose of all the surplus NHS land. (A further 135 hectares is set to be sold by 2020, which is still only ten per cent of the available spare land.) If the NHS was to release its entire 1,332 hectares of surplus land for housing, as many as 533,000 new homes could be created.”

Actually if you look at the data it is likely that the potential is much greater. The NHS Trusts were marking their own homework. They can always say that some bit of unused land isn’t surplus as they might think of something to do with it some time. Then we had 75 of the 236 Trusts that responded denying having any surplus land.

But anyway, the acknowledged 1,332 hectares (that’s 3,291 acres since you ask) is a useful starting point. Surely this is something that councillors should help to pursue? After all, the housing shortage and the financial pressure on the NHS are two of the biggest political concerns of our time – releasing this land for development could help with both.

Perhaps the scrutiny remit of Health and Wellbeing Boards could be extended to cover it. But council leaders should also be chasing the NHS about all these derelict sites. They should be actively encouraged to seek outline planning permission so that the proceeds from sales could be increased. Of course Philip is right that central Government should doing far more. But let’s also get some pressure going locally.”


“Thousands of homeowners earning more than £100,000 have been given at least £250 million in taxpayers’ money as part of the Government’s Help to Buy scheme”

“Thousands of wealthy homeowners in Britain are receiving hundreds of million of pounds from public money under the Government’s scheme designed to help first-time buyers.

A staggering 5,545 homeowners earning more than £100,000-a-year have benefited from Help to Buy scheme which is aimed at helping people get on the housing ladder.

Data analysis also revealed that of the 5,545 homeowners earning more than £100,000-a-year, 1,287 of those already owned a property.

If householders earning above £100,000 received the same size loan as other groups on average, it would mean they are claiming at least £280m of public money in the past five years.

Richer households are likely to buyer more expensive homes, which could mean the true figure is much higher. …“


“Rogue landlords making millions out of housing benefits”

Owl says: Chances of this government legislating to stop this – zero. They couldn’t even pass a law saying rented housing should be habitable:


“Highly organised gangs of rogue landlords are making millions every year out of the housing benefit system by enticing desperate local authorities to place single homeless people in micro-flats in shoddily converted and dangerous former family homes.

Three-bed houses, where the maximum weekly housing benefit for flat-sharers is under £100 a person, are being converted into as many as six tiny self-contained studios – as little as 10 sq m in size. Each then qualifies for housing benefit of £181 a week, enabling a landlord to squeeze £56,000 a year in rent from a property on London’s fringes, all paid from public funds. The £56,000 compares with the typical £6,200 annual rent on a three-bed council house.

A previously unpublished government report into a £700,000 project to tackle the scam, released this week under freedom of information laws, shows that councils are struggling to contain the spread of the “lockdown” model, which has taken hold in at least 12 London boroughs since 2015.

It warns of “well organised but unscrupulous landlords” profiting despite some councils – including Hackney, Bexley and Greenwich – launching prosecutions, raids and prohibition orders. …”


John Lewis pension fund investing in controversial home leaseholds

“Thousands of young homebuyers remain trapped in virtually brand-new homes made unsaleable by spiralling ground rents and abandoned by developers such as Taylor Wimpey, despite a ban on the charges promised by the government.

Guardian Money can also reveal that the £5bn John Lewis pension fund is behind the soaring rents that have made the lives of some homeowners a misery. …”


“Councillor tries to undo resignation but council says no”

“A strange turn of events in Wigan:

Chaos reigned yesterday after Wigan Council insisted an independent councillor could not reverse his decision to quit the chamber.

Coun Steve Jones, independent representative for Bryn ward, performed a dramatic U-turn when he posted on Facebook that he was staying on. This came just a few days after he announced he was stepping down on February 20 for personal reasons.

However, the town hall has now insisted that he actually resigned on the day he said he would step down and a notice of casual vacancy for a new councillor has already been published…

Coun Jones [had told the council]: “With a lot of thought I have to inform you that as of the 20th of February 2018 I will be resigning my role as an elected councillor for Wigan Council.”

The law says that a resignation takes effect when received, but is a resignation that is described as being for a date in the future really a resignation before that date? I think the lawyers will have some fun with this one.

In the meantime, he has since turned up to a council meeting and insisted on taking his seat as a councillor. Only when the meeting was adjourned did he agree to move to the public gallery.

Councillor Jones’s vacillation over whether or not to resign may be connected with the run of controversies he has recently been in, with a caution for assault, a drink driving conviction, a series of aggressive social media postings about the council’s Chief Executive and a warning that he would not be able to vote on the council’s budget as he was behind with his council tax payments.”


“French hospital offers to do cancelled NHS operations”

“A French hospital has invited NHS patients whose operations have been cancelled because of winter overcrowding to be treated free in Calais.

Despite a flu outbreak even worse than the one in Britain, France has said it has plenty of space for British patients for routine surgery paid for by the NHS.

As NHS hospitals warn that people are dying on corridors, and abandon a three-month waiting time target for routine operations, Calais Hospital is trying to tempt Britons with private rooms, en suite bathrooms, free parking, English-speaking staff, wi-fi and waits of less than a month.

Under a deal struck in 2015, patients can opt for surgery in France and the NHS in Kent will pay standard rates to Calais Hospital. The hospital can take 400 NHS patients a year, it says. “When the NHS is forced to cancel all non-urgent surgery until February, NHS patients can turn to the Centre Hospitalier de Calais.”

NHS England told hospitals last week to cancel routine operations to make space for rising numbers of winter patients. This week the heads of half of England’s A&E departments told Theresa May that hundreds of patients were being treated in corridors.

Santé Publique France, the French health service, reports 423 GP consultations for flu-like symptoms per 100,000 people, more than ten times the rate in England. However, fewer end up on wards, with 1,265 admissions to hospital, compared with an estimated 4,000 in England.

Thaddée Segard, a businessman who helped to broker the deal with Calais, said he did not expect flu to cause difficulties. “The difference between UK and French hospitals’ capacity is merely a question of state policies,” he said.

South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group said it had yet to see an upsurge in referrals.

The Royal College of GPs said yesterday that flu had “taken off” in Britain, with twice as many consultations as last year. It warned that flu was so unpredictable it was impossible to know whether it would become an epidemic.

Pat Cattini, of the Infection Prevention Society, advised people who catch flu: “The best thing to do is take yourself away from other people until you feel better, which can take a week. If you do bring it into GP waiting rooms you’re potentially going to infect others.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)