Privatisation: Virgin gaming the rail system – lising money, paying dividends

Virgin: leading the pack in health service privatisation.

“… The East Coast franchise was to be terminated three years early in 2020 under a controversial rail strategy announced by Grayling in November, potentially letting Virgin-Stagecoach off the hook for more than £1bn in promised payments to government. The announcement on Monday brought forward the termination of the current contract.

Virgin Trains East Coast admitted overbidding after it pledged to pay £3.3bn to run the service until 2023, with passenger numbers failing to rise in line with expectations. Cancelled infrastructure upgrades by Network Rail meant that a significant number of additional seats on new trains expected after 2020 would not be operating, making the government partially responsible.

However, Grayling risked stoking further anger on Monday by announcing that Virgin would be granted a further direct award, or contract without competition, to run the lucrative InterCity West Coast service, potentially until 2020. The Department for Transport had announced in 2016 that it was expecting to extend Virgin’s contract from this April for a further 12 months, until April 2019, before a new “West Coast Partnership” franchise was awarded, to include the introduction of HS2 high-speed trains from 2026.

Virgin has now retained the contract without competition since the proposed award of the franchise to rival First Group collapsed under a legal challenge in 2012. The west coast has consistently returned large dividends to Sir Richard Branson, who owns 51% of the joint venture, and to Stagecoach, which own 49%, topping £100m in the last two years alone.

Grayling’s announcement prompted fierce denunciation from Labour. Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said it was an insult to taxpayers: “What makes me want to weep is he’s giving more gifts to Richard Branson and [Stagecoach founder] Brian Souter. Let’s not forget that these are companies who extracted hundreds of millions of pounds in rigged compensation payments from taxpayers during the upgrade of the West Coast mainline … Similar tactics are now being deployed. Virgin games the system. It’s done it before and it’s doing it again.” …

Oh no! EDDC pledges to become “more commercial” – HELP!

“East Devon District Council say they are taking a ‘more commercial approach to generate income’ as they tackle a predicted budget deficit of £735,000.

A Council Tax increase of £5 a year, giving a Band D council tax of £136.78 a year for 2018/19, is recommended for approval by the council’s cabinet committee when they meet on Wednesday night.

But Cllr Ian Thomas, the council’s portfolio holder for finance, said that as only 25 per cent of income is generated through council tax, they need to find alternative ways of raising money.

Cllr Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon District Council, said: “The council is developing a more commercial approach to generate income for key council services but as we take our various ideas forward, consultation will be key – for example, consultations about various car parks and public toilets and consultations about other initiatives including how we can make our assets more commercial and income generating.” …

… Future reductions combined with other budgetary pressures mean that the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) is currently predicting a budget deficit of £0.735m in 2018/19, rising to £3m by 2020/21 and potentially to £5.4m by 2027/28. …”

Clinton Devon Estates: a very chequered development history

Comment added as post:

““Responsible stewardship and sustainable development are at the heart of everything we do.” So says Clinton Devon Estates web site. If only!

John F. Travis in his book “The Rise of the Devon Seaside Resorts” writes:

“The case of Exmouth serves to show that genteel landowners did not always ensure that resort development was of a superior quality. At Exmouth almost all the land was concentrated in the hands of the Rolle family,… but they tended to grant leases without exercising proper control over the subsequent development. In 1850 the Board of Health inspector castigated the Rolle family for not having concerned themselves with the “class or disposition of the houses erected” on their estate, with the result that properties were “chiefly of the second and third class . . . built without much attention to regularity and uniformity of design”….. In 1895 the Exmouth Urban District Council found it was powerless to prevent the spread of houses across Wythycombe Marsh, despite the fact that this low-lying area was frequently flooded and was contaminated by sewage.

Exmouth is an example of a resort where the landed proprietor failed to exercise proper control over development. Small developers were allowed to pursue their own interests without regard to the overall quality of the resort they were creating. The quality of development was generally inferior to that at Torquay, partly because there was less upper-class demand for housing at Exmouth, but chiefly because Exmouth lacked the large landowner’s personal involvement in the planning process which so characterized the development of Torquay. By 1907 one travel writer was grieving over Exmouth’s sprawling mass of mediocre housing, which he felt had clothed the resort “with a sad shabbiness”.”

Profit before responsible stewardship, is history repeating itself?”

Sidmouth: Swire fancies flats and car parking at Port Royal – or getting Prince Charles in!

He says Prince Charles’s architects would be “non-political” But in the absence of the Prince he says:

“My view of the Ham is that we could do multi-storey car parking there. It could be wrapped in retail or starter flats. There’s terrible parking pressure there already. You could have more people living in that part of the town.

“I think it would be a missed opportunity to just do something with the Drill Hall and not the rest of it. It requires an ambitious approach.”

And that’s not political? Pull the other one!

What do you bet Diviani comes to the same conclusion – by coincidence, of course!

Claire Wright wins debate at Exeter University – majority of students voting on her side!

From Claire Wright’s blog:

“Exeter University students attending a debate on Friday (2 Feb) voted overwhelmingly that they had no confidence in the government.

I was arguing the case for, with law student, Kyle Spencer, a member of the Conservative Party, who has become disillusioned with the government over Brexit and Theresa May’s leadership.

Arguing that people SHOULD have confidence in the government were former Exeter Conservative candidate in last year’s general election, barrister, James Taghdissian with his debating partner, Matthew Broughton, also a member of the Conservative Party.

Matthew reminded me more than a little of a young Jacob Rees Mogg….

There was a considerable amount of eloquent posturing between the two students, but fortunately, no reports of any scuffles in the bar afterwards …. !

My second political debate at the university, it was great fun, I really enjoyed it … and it was even better that we won so decisively (not that I am in the least bit competitive of course).”

Clinton Devon Estates desperately tries to justify quarry industrial units

Owl says:

Surely, with EDDC having industrial areas aplenty at the East Devon Growth Point (where businesses enjoy a business rate holiday as a perk) there is no excuse for encouraging a heavy industry engineering company to remain at Blackhill Quarry to interfere with previously agreed remediation (already put back once) and a return to a wildlife habitat?

Given its large subsidy to Thelma Hulbert Gallery, should EDDC now save Exmouth museum?

“Exmouth’s museum faces a race against time to raise £200,000 if it is to secure the town’s heritage.

If the six-figure sum cannot be raised, the museum’s Sheppards Row home could be sold on the open market and the town may lose some of its historic artefacts, such as the original mechanism from the seafront clock tower.

Landowner South West Water (SWW) is looking to sell the Victorian building after the museum’s lease expired at the end of 2017.

The Museum Society of Exmouth has been told it needs to raise at least £130,000 to buy the building, but has set its sights on £200,000 to allow them to undertake ‘much needed’ renovation works.

Brian Leader, steward organiser at the museum, has warned that if the money isn’t found, the artefacts could either be transported to other museums out of town or may even have to be ‘dumped’.

He said: “The museum contains a unique collection of artefacts and documents dating back hundreds of years to the present day – to lose this would be unthinkable.

“If we were not able to raise the funds, we would probably have to distribute the artefacts to other museums.

“The town would definitely lose them and they could be dumped because we haven’t got anywhere to store them.

“We’re pushing for £200,000 because we need to do a lot of work to it. …”