“Judge agrees costs capping in action over NHS accountable care organisations”

“Campaigners including scientist Professor Stephen Hawking have secured a costs order for their judicial review of the government’s planned creation of accountable care organisations (ACO) in the NHS.

In January the claimants gained permission to bring the case against Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the National Health Service Commissioning Board.

Cheema-Grubb J held that the crowd funded campaign met the statutory test for a costs capping order, being a group of responsible individuals acting in the public interest without a personal interest in the outcome.

The campaigners will challenge the lawfulness of accountable care organisations, which they argue Parliament has not given the Department of Health the power to create.

During the January hearing the court declined to cap costs and the campaigners feared they could face a £450,000 bill were they to lose.

Cheema-Grubb J said it was highly likely that some of the concerns raised in the judicial review had a high degree of public interest and accepted evidence that the case would be dropped in the absence of a cost order.

The claimants could not be criticised for being unreasonable in not proceeding in a case with open-ended potential liabilities, the judge said.

She also noted that Mr Hunt and the NHS were publicly funded through taxpayers’ money in defending the case.

Under the order, if the campaigners lose their liability for Mr Hunt’s and the NHS’s costs would be capped at £80,000 each.

If they won, the two defendants’ liability to pay their costs would be capped at £115,000.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php

New coastal communities fund open

“A further bidding round has opened for the government’s fund to promote regeneration and economic growth in coastal towns.

Successful projects in round 5 of the Coastal Communities Fund will share £40m among them. The money will be available to spend from April 2019 to March 2021.

The fund has allocated £174m to 295 projects since it began in 2012. It is for projects over £50,000 that will directly or indirectly lead to safeguarding and creating sustainable jobs.

Communities minister Jake Berry said: “Coastal communities up and down the country from Barrow-in-Furness to Brighton have been boosted by this funding which has spurred inward investment, sustainable growth, new jobs and exciting economic opportunities for local businesses.”

The fund has generated £8 for coastal area economies for every £1 invested, the minister said.

Successful projects have included a £1.95m grant to Cornwall to repair and re-launch the Grade II Listed Art Deco Jubilee Pool in Penzance as a year-round visitor attraction, a £2m allocation for Blackpool’s Lightpool project to improve its seafront Illuminations and Northumberland’s £1.8m award to turn Amble into a destination for devotees of seafood. …”
http://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2018/02/coastal-communities-benefit-ps40m

Swire’s questions

Swire has put in another Parliamentary question about East Devon – this time saying wouldn’t it be a great idea if tourism could attract less VAT.

However, Owl isn’t printing it. It’s been asked before, appreciative noises made and, of course, nothing changed.

So why isn’t Owl more positive about Swire’s bid to help the East Devon economy?

Well, it’s coming up to local election time (though not in East Devon this year, the closest being Exeter) and ALL Tory MPs are (coincidentally, of course) popping up all over the country asking similarly closely-targeted questions in THEIR constituencies …..

Next question?

“Tory ministers decide not to spend £72 million set aside for affordable homes despite housing crisis The money will now be spent on building houses for sale worth up to £600,000”

“Tory ministers decided not to spend £72 million set aside to build affordable homes because it was “no longer required”, despite the housing crisis gripping Britain.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid was forced to “surrender” the cash and send it back to the treasury, as part of £817 million his department failed to spend last year.

Some 115 million people are on council waiting lists in England, almost a quarter of whom are in London.

But a government memo, explaining the department’s underspend to the Treasury, states: “Part of the funding allocation for the Affordable Housing programme has not been required in 2017/18.”

The document also notes that the £817 million figure – much of which would have been intended for social or affordable homes – will now be spent on funding the Help to Buy programme.

In 2016-17, just 41,530 affordable homes were built, the second lowest figure for a decade.

The majority of affordable homes are so-called ‘affordable rent’, where the monthly rent is set at up to 80% of private market rent.

The number of cheaper, “social rent” houses built each year has plummeted from 39,560 in 2010-11 – the year the new “affordable rent” definition was introduced – to just 5,380 last year.

Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey said: “Feeble ministers are selling families short by surrendering much-needed cash for new homes.

“If the Secretary of State can’t defend his Department’s Budget from the Treasury he should give the job to someone who can.”

A DCLG spokesperson said: “We are delivering the homes our country needs and since 2010 we have built over 357,000 new affordable properties.

“But we are determined to do more and we are investing a further £9bn, including £2bn to help councils and housing associations build social rent homes where they are most needed.”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/tory-ministers-decide-not-spend-12098770

Are EDDC Tory councillors having broadband problems?

Written Answers – Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Broadband: East Devon (26 Feb 2018)
https://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2018-02-07.127464.h&s=speaker%3A11265#g127464.q0

Hugo Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what estimate his Department has made of the number of homes that have access to superfast broadband in East Devon.

Written Answers – Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Broadband: East Devon (26 Feb 2018)
https://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2018-02-07.127464.h&s=speaker%3A11265#g127465.q1

Hugo Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what estimate his Department has made of the number of businesses that have access to superfast broadband in East Devon.

“east devon” : 1 Written Answer
===============================

Written Answers – Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Broadband: East Devon (26 Feb 2018)
https://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2018-02-07.127464.h&s=%22east+devon%22#g127464.r0

Margot James: According to Thinkbroadband, currently 90.02% of premises in *East Devon* can access superfast broadband. This is up from 9.4% in 2012. DCMS does not hold data on broadband coverage which distinguishes between homes and businesses.

“The plan to cut MPs looks suspiciously like a power grab”

“Are we witnessing a power grab?

Six months ago, reports suggested that the Prime Minister had dropped plans to force through a cut in MPs, a cut linked with the ongoing review of constituency boundaries.

It turns out there has been a u-turn on the u-turn, with news emerging that the PM is set to reduce the number of MPs.

That’s despite the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee warning that moves to cut numbers to 600 are unlikely to secure the backing of MPs.

But why the fuss?

The issue comes down to a very ill-thought plan for new constituencies – alongside some clear democratic dangers when it comes to reducing voters’ representation.

The cut in MPs actually represents a cut in backbenchers if there are no plans to cap/cut the size of the executive or ‘payroll vote’ correspondingly.

Parliament will gain more powers after Brexit yet will have less capacity to scrutinise legislation. At the same time voters lose their representatives in Europe. That places a greater burden on the Commons and a lack of capacity poses significant risks.

The democratic dangers are clear. ERS research in 2016 showed that in a smaller, 600-seat Commons, nearly one in four (23%) MPs would be on the government payroll if the parties’ proportion of MPs – and the total number of ministers and whips – stayed the same – an all-time high, and up from the 21% at present (figures as of November 2016).

The more you look at it, the more cutting backbenchers at the same as bolstering the executive looks to many like a worrying power-grab.

But there’s another factor – the unelected Lords. It’s just common sense that the cut in democratically elected representatives cannot go ahead while the House of Lords remains the second largest chamber in the world, with around 800 members.

If the government are concerned about reducing the cost of politics, they would do well to deal with the over-sized second chamber.

Voters need real representation in the Commons to provide the essential scrutiny and capacity we need: both for now and when we gain new powers after Brexit.

But there are problems with the boundary changes regardless of the cut in MPs. For a start, the new boundaries will be based on highly incomplete as well as out of date data. For example, people who registered to vote for the EU referendum won’t be counted for the new boundaries – skewing representation.

At the same time, the government has set an arbitrary 5% maximum difference in the size of the new constituencies. That risks awkwardly splitting up communities or grafting very different towns/counties onto each other – just look at the controversial Devonwall proposals.

Finally, unregistered but eligible voters are not being considered when drawing up these constituency boundaries – even though they will still need support and representation from their MP. This disadvantages poorer constituencies – they end up with lower representation, often despite greater need.

Far from reducing political representation and weakening voters’ voices, the Prime Minister should cancel the proposed cut in MPs – and move forward with fair boundaries based on a properly resourced Commons.

Read the ERS’ full views on the boundary changes here:

https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/campaigns/upgrading-our-democracy/fair-boundaries/ and here https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/cutting-the-number-of-mps-will-have-consequences-lets-get-this-right/

Black mud in Teignmouth – is it from Exmouth marina dredging?

The photographs/videos on the Devon Live website do seem to show very dark-coloured material in the dredger that is licensed to dump it at Sprey Point:

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/fight-continues-stop-catastrophic-effect-1269626

The Marina is owned by F C Carter & Co, who also own the Greendale Business Centre.