“Westminster councillor received gifts and hospitality 514 times in three years”

Surely not the only one. So many councillors in Devon accept such hospitality …..particularly at sporting events …..

Full list of this councillor’s freebies here:

“Westminster city council’s deputy leader has emerged as a contender for the title of the most schmoozed politician in Britain, receiving entertainment, meals and gifts more than 500 times in the last three years.

From tickets to the hottest West End shows to exclusive dinners in London’s finest restaurants and trips to the south of France, the official declarations reveal an extraordinary lifestyle that included one day in Mallorca, when Robert Davis managed two lunches, the first at the home of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the second at the home of the Earl of Chichester.

Davis, the Conservative deputy leader of the central London borough and until last year the chairman of its powerful planning committee, was entertained by and received gifts from property industry figures at least 150 times since the start of 2015 – a rate of almost once a week.

His entertainment was paid for by some of the country’s wealthiest property developers including Gerald Ronson, Sir Stuart Lipton and Sir George Iacobescu, the chief executive of Canary Wharf Group.

The Cambridge-educated solicitor was entertained or received gifts on 514 occasions since the start of 2015, suggesting he received benefits worth at least £13,000 although then overall total is likely to be several times higher.

Councillors must declare gifts and hospitality worth £25 or more, but some of the hospitality would have been worth much more. For example, property developers twice flew Davis to the south of France and put him up for four-day stays.

He was also gifted a ticket to the musical Hamilton by the impresario Cameron Mackintosh, which can cost as much as £250. Steaks at the M steakhouse, where he dined 20 times at others’ expense cost up to £100 each. Other property figures treated him to lunch at exclusive restaurants including Sexy Fish, Scott’s, the Colony Grill Room, the Ritz and the Ivy.

Davis was entertained 15 times at the expense of the Westminster Property Association, which represents major developers, including an expenses-paid trip to the south of France and dinners at the Grosvenor House and Goring Hotels in London.

Labour said the extent of Davis’s register of interests was evidence of a “broken culture at Westminster council” and said there was a “clear perception that senior Conservative councillors have a very close relationships with developers”. It has accused the council of letting developers get away with building far fewer “affordable” homes than required under Westminster’s planning policy.

Between 2013 and 2016 only 12% of the new homes built in Westminster were classed as “affordable” while the target was 35%. Davis chaired the council’s planning committee, which approves deals with developers over how much affordable housing they must build as part of private developments, between 2000 and January 2017. …

… a spokesman for Westminster city council hit back saying: “The idea that any councillor has been ‘bought’ by the property lobby is demonstrably untrue.”

“Westminster is a target for investment for UK and national developers, so it is hardly surprising that the chair of planning for Westminster city council – the largest planning authority in the UK – undertakes a large number of meetings,” he said. “Where hospitality is offered, these meetings are all declared in the register of interests and have absolutely no sway on planning decisions.”

Davis added: “As planning chairman it was an important part of my job to meet groups ranging from developers to residents, property agents, heritage associations, arts groups and trade organisations. These meetings were all properly declared and open to anyone to examine. Their sole purpose was to ensure and encourage the right kind of development in Westminster and ensure that anything put before the council was going to benefit the city as a whole.”

The records show Davis also dined with several planning consultancy companies whose job it is to help their clients secure planning consent. When he was chairman of the planning committee he was given breakfast at the Carlton Club in St James by the consultancy Thorncliffe which boasts on its website: “We get clients planning committee approval.”

There is no suggestion that Davis breached any rules.

Davis’s declared entertainment dwarves that of the leaders of his own council and the neighbouring Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The current leader of Westminster, Nickie Aiken, has registered only nine instances of gifts or hospitality for the first half of 2017. Nick Paget-Brown, the leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea until the Grenfell tower disaster, recorded 43 instances since the start of 2015.

Hug said the extent of the entertainment Davis received during some periods was “ludicrous”.

On one day, while in Mallorca during August 2015, he registered two lunches: the first at the home of Madeleine Lloyd Webber, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s third wife, and the second at the home of the Earl of Chichester.

The property developers that entertained or gave gifts to Davis include: the Crown Estate (13 times), Clivedale Properties, Capco, Irvine Sellar, Derwent London, Berkeley Homes, British Land, Land Securities, Grosvenor Estates, Soho Estates, Dukelease. Architects included Zaha Hadid, Make, Terry Farrell, Michael Squire and John McAslan.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of Davis or any other named individual.

Davis was also gifted seats at 10 theatre shows at the expense of the impresario Cameron Mackintosh and a further 51 performances at venues including the Royal Opera House and the Regent’s Park open air theatre. In 2016 he was entertained at the expense of Harvey Weinstein at the after-party for the Bafta awards.

Since January he has been in charge of council policy on theatres and major public realm schemes.

Labour said that if elected to run Westminster council in May’s elections its councillors will not accept hospitality from individual developers or their agents.”


Swire sees the light on hospital beds (because it could be a big vote loser?)

Owl is concerned that local MP Hugo Swire is very, very slow in the uptake. After resting on his laurels by seeing community beds in his constituency staying while those in Neil Parish’s patch of EDDC have all gone (except for Tiverton – not part of East Devon which can’t be closed because it is a PFZi hospital), he finally wakes up and realises that it has left a black hole that will stop many people voting for either of them next time! AND result in people switching their votes to Claire Wright (Independent, East Devon) and maybe Caroline Kolek (Labour, Tiverton and Honiton)!

Sir Hugo Swire said the area’s demographics are 20 years ahead of the national average and it was ‘absolutely ridiculous’ the two services should have separate funding.

This comes after Dr Mike Slot raised concerns to Devon’s health watchdog that carers are not available to implement ‘care at home’ – the model the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) moved to after it closed 140 community hospital beds across the county.

Dr Slot said: “The loss of community hospital beds was intended to be offset by increasing the capacity of community care so that patients could be cared for in their own homes.

“This may or may not have been realistic since many of the patients in the hospital system cannot be managed in the community, even with excellent community services.

“However, with or without community hospital beds, it is an excellent idea to expand community services so that all those patients who can be cared for out of hospital can remain at home.

“Unfortunately, there is not sufficient capacity in the home care services to do this job.

“When GPs ring the single point of access number asking for rapid response or night sitting, the carers are not available.”

In a joint statement, the CCG and provider trust the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital acknowledged that recruitment had been ‘challenging’ in a few places, but the bodies were working hard alongside other agencies to address the issues.

A spokeswoman said more than £2.5million had been redirected into growing and strengthening their community teams so more people can be cared for at home.

They added: “A large part of the reinvestment has been to increase the number of nurses, therapists and support workers and in most areas we have successfully recruited the additional staff.”

Social care was brought under the remit of health secretary Jeremy Hunt in the last cabinet reshuffle – a move welcomed by Sir Hugo, who said: “I think in future there will be far greater use of hubs.

“We must look to do the same with social care. It requires brave, strategic thinking. We have to get it right.

“The East Devon demographic is where the country is going to be in 20 years’ time. Sidmouth is even ahead of that. East Devon should be a template – use us as a guinea pig for integration of health and social care.”


Exmouth: Queen’s Drive “sinkhole”

Picture:  Exmouth Journal

The Bible says:

“Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

— Matthew 7:24–27, World English Bible

[Clinton Devon Estates] “Fence in Budleigh Salterton is branded ‘an abomination’ “

Picture: Sidmouth Herald


Owl says: check every word and letter of that do ument that promises ‘greater security’ for your what is left of your garden League of Friends – not to mention that of your building should the Hub not be successful …!

“A ‘substantial’ fence – around 6ft high and 100ft long – is causing uproar in Budleigh Salterton.

Residents are angry that it has gone up and a town councillor has described it as ‘an abomination’.

The fence has been erected by Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) on land that it owns and leases to the Budleigh Salterton Hospital League of Friends on an annual basis.

Running across the former Hospital Gardens opposite the new Community Health Hub in Boucher Road, it marks the boundary of the new hub garden and land that CDE has earmarked for development.

Last September, CDE had its outline application – for means of access, proposing two houses to be built on half of the land east of East Budleigh Road – rejected at appeal by East Devon District Council (EDDC).

Now, it appears, it may make a fresh application.

“We are in discussion with the league of friends to agree a more secure long-term lease to provide the hub with a generous, tranquil garden with mature trees on approximately half of the site,” said a CDE spokesperson.

“This will provide easy access for all ages using the hub, as well as an attractive outlook from the building itself.

“We have recently put up fencing to mark the boundary of the new hub garden and any proposals we may have in the future for the remainder of our land at Boucher Road will go through all the required processes and approvals.”

David Evans, chairman of Budleigh Salterton Hospital League of Friends, said: “There is no doubt that our local community will be very disappointed at the erection of a substantial dividing fence down the middle of the greatly-valued hospital garden.”

However, he said the new lease would give ‘greater security’ than before.

“Whilst the league of friends would ideally have preferred to have been able to make use of the whole garden, it has been able to secure long-term access to a valuable and useful green area for the benefit of many,” said Mr Evans.

Councillor Courtney Richards – speaking at a town council planning meeting on Monday – said his phone had been ‘buzzing’ with complaints about the fence.

“I don’t know if Clinton Devon are having a fit of pique, but they are really emphasising that ‘this is ours’,” he said. “There’s very little as a council we can do about it, which is a shame because it borders straight onto a piece of land that’s designated in the Neighbood Plan as an open green space.

“Frankly, I think it’s an abomination, but that’s Clinton Devon’s latest attempt to improve Budleigh Salterton – he said, with his tongue firmly in his cheek.”


Auditers – what are the good for? Papering over cracks?

“Carillion’s investors fled the failing company as it headed for disaster, according to MPs.

The construction firm’s annual reports were a worthless guide to its financial health and raise major questions about corporate governance, the MPs say.

The comments come in a joint report published on Monday by the Work and Pensions and Business committees.

Carillion’s former auditor, KPMG, will be questioned by MPs on Thursday.
Britain’s second largest construction company collapsed last month, with the loss of almost 1,000 jobs. There were also job cuts and widespread disruption among sub-contractors. …

… Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee, said there was a “disconnect” between what Carillion directors told MPs and the information from shareholders.

“On one hand, the Carillion directors told us all was sunny” until a major contract in Qatar went wrong.

“On the other hand, investors were fleeing for the hills, and it appears those who looked closest ran fastest,” Mr Field said.

It has emerged that one leading investor – Kiltearn Partners – considered suing Carillion. …

Rachel Reeves, who chairs the Business Committee, said: “Investors spotted that Carillion was heading for disaster and fled.

“The company had unsustainably high levels of debt, weak cash-generation and was saddled with a widening pensions Rachel Reeves, who chairs the Business Committee, said: “Investors spotted that Carillion was heading for disaster and fled.

“The company had unsustainably high levels of debt, weak cash-generation and was saddled with a widening pensions deficit.

Carillion’s annual reports were worthless as a guide to the true financial health of the company.”

She said the fact that it was impossible to get a true sense of Carillion’s financial health “raises serious” corporate governance issues.

“KMPG will have to explain why they signed-off on accounts which appeared to bear so little relation to reality,” Ms Reeves said. …


“Persimmon increases freehold sales after Government pressure”

Persimmon – whose boss got a £110 million bonus. And note the headline doesn’5 say “stops” leasehold sales of houses … Why isn’t this illegal?

“Persimmon has upped the number of homes it is selling freehold in a sign it is bowing to Government pressure over the sale of leasehold properties.

The company is understood to have changed its sales tactics on a number of sites where it is currently developing homes after concerns were raised about the potential for third party firms to buy up tranches of freeholds, and the high cost of ground rents.

Homes being sold at a development in Melksham, Wiltshire, where a four bedroom house is available for £234,995, are now being offered freehold, where previously only a leasehold sale had been available. Other sites in Penrith, Crewe, Crawley and Bracknell are also now being marketed for freehold sales.

Persimmon, which builds around 15,000 new homes each year, has come under fire for selling houses on leasehold terms to then hold onto the freehold for future sale as an extra source of income. Some leasehold homeowners found themselves on punitive terms with rapidly increasing ground rents and extra charges, or facing spiralling costs to buy the freehold at a later date. There are around 1.4 million leasehold households in the UK in total. …”