“For every home built 2014/5 £60,000 went to landowner”

Thomas Aubrey of the Centre for Progressive Policy:

“Our system favours landlords over communities. The PM must side with the many, not the few.

Theresa May is right. Britain’s housing market is broken and needs fixing. Homelessness and rough sleeping are rising and owner-occupation levels for the young have collapsed because homes have become unaffordable.

The average private rent in London accounts for more than a third of household income. The bill for housing benefit has risen eight-fold since the early 1980s after inflation is taken into account. House building has risen since the lows reached during the financial crisis of a decade ago but needs to almost double to hit the government’s target of 300,000 new homes a year by the middle of the next decade.

Yes, the housing market is broken all right and for the Conservatives, a party that sees itself as the party of the homeowner, it is a serious political headache.

A crisis has been brewing for decades – and left unattended the problem can only get worse. Britain has a rising population and the trend is for smaller households, both of which mean demand for housing will keep on rising. The weak growth figures for the first three months of 2018 will keep borrowing costs on hold for now but sooner or later the Bank of England will raise interest rates. That will make it still harder for people in their 20s to get a foot on the housing ladder.

Yet sketching out the problem is one thing. Coming up with solutions is trickier.

Replace a regressive council tax with a land value tax? Labour is thinking about a LVT but there is no chance the Conservatives will introduce what they have dubbed a “garden tax” that would hit millions.

How about giving some of the anonymous farmland in the green belt over to housing development? The thin end of a wedge that will result in the south-east being turned into one big urban sprawl.

Make prime residences eligible for capital gains tax? Are you kidding? Politicians know that Britain’s housing market is broken but mess with it at their peril.

The problem is so big, however, that changes have to come. London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, wants to increase the supply of lower-cost homes in the capital, so under City Hall guidelines private development proposals where affordable units make up at least 35% of the total will be fast-tracked through the planning process. Under 35%, and developers can expect a much tougher time.
But as Daniel Bentley argues in a new pamphlet for the thinktank Civitas, the problem goes deeper than the planning system. Forcing councils to grant more planning permissions in high-demand areas doesn’t guarantee that the supply of new homes will markedly increase.

The reason for that, Bentley says, goes back to the 1961 Land Compensation Act passed by Harold Macmillan’s government. This enshrined in law the right of landowners, in the event of compulsory purchase, to be reimbursed not only for the value of their land as it stood but for its potential value if it were used for something else in the future.

A system so heavily weighted in favour of landowners had two consequences. First, it provided them with an incentive to wait, often for years, before selling their land for development because they would get a higher price. Second, house-builders had to recoup the costs of buying the land and did so by building more expensive properties that were drip-fed into the market to keep selling prices high.

If the aim is to build more affordable homes, this makes no sense. A site with planning permission for housing is worth more than a brownfield industrial site and 100 times more than agricultural land. Research by Thomas Aubrey of the Centre for Progressive Policy found that landowners made windfall profits of more than £9bn in 2014-15 on the sale of land. That meant for every home built that year, an average of £60,000 went to the landowner.

Bentley says the entitlement of landowners to this “hope value”, the prospect that it will be worth a lot more if used for something else, means public authorities are powerless to enforce development priorities that are in the interests of the community.

“This was not always the case. The new towns that were initiated before the 1961 act, and much of the local-authority output of the late 1940s and 1950s, was underpinned by a land values policy that meant landowners were compensated at values reflecting the existing use of the site,” he said.
“This meant land for new homes could be acquired at or close to its much lower agricultural or industrial use values. It also doused speculation and prevented the withholding of land.”

Reforming the 1961 act so that public-sector bodies can purchase land at less than its prospective residential use value makes sense because it would enable developers to get hold of land more cheaply and so build more affordable homes. Nor would it be an especially controversial move politically.

Judging by their 2017 manifestos, Labour and the Conservatives think the current system is weighted too heavily in favour of landowners, who see the value of their holdings increase not through their own efforts but through those of others.

Adam Smith and David Ricardo, darlings of the free-market right were critical of the “unearned increment” that landowners enjoyed. So was Henry George, who the left laud for coming up with the LVT.

May should seek bipartisan support for a rethink of the 1961 act. Sure, Conservative-supporting landowners would object but if the prime minister is to make good on her pledge to fix the housing market she has to side with the many not the few.”


“MPs and peers in call to ‘age-proof’ homes in rural areas”

“Rural England needs more homes that are suitable for an aging population, an all-party parliamentary group has said.

Following a nine-month inquiry, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People, today published a report calling on local planning authorities to ensure provision of new homes for older people.

The inquiry found that 50% of rural households would be over the age of 65 by 2039.

The APPG’s report said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs needed to play a key part in the integration of policies for housing, health and social care in rural areas for older people.

Other recommendations were directed at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, suggesting all new homes be built to the Lifetime Homes standard of accessibility.

Inquiry chair Lord Best said: “For all the advantages of living in the countryside, life can be pretty miserable if your home is no longer right for you; if you can no longer manage the steps and stairs, if maintaining the property is costing too much, if keeping warm is a trial and your energy bill’s a nightmare, if you can no longer tend the once-beautiful garden.”

Best said that the APPG was concerned that older people would face “a huge challenge to their independence and wellbeing if their homes are no longer suitable.”

Izzi Seccombe, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “Councils want to see a desperately needed residential revolution in older people’s housing.

“It’s essential that housing for older people enables them to live independently at home for longer, by including adaptations which enable them to get around easily and support them at home.

“If councils are given the right tools, we could trigger that residential revolution and deliver the homes our older residents need, but with an ageing population, the clock is ticking.”

MHCLG has been contacted for comment.”


River Cottage HQ: controversial extension to be decided tomorrow

Daily Mail says yes:

Natural England seems not so sure and there seem to be unresolved drainage issues:

Click to access 010518combineddmcagenda.pdf

(page 107 onwards)

But all should be well as Oliver Letwin MP has written in support.

To be decided tomorrow

Links to the property industry? On the planning committee? No problem!

Does the reporter REALLY think this is only a London problem?


Alas not, as we have proved in East Devon:


Case law will impact on developers who say they can’t (now) afford affordable housing

Parkhurst Road Limited v Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government & London Borough of Islington. Case No: CO/3528/2017, in the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Planning Court, 27 April 2018.

“A High Court judge has backed Islington Council in a long-standing battle between the council and developer First Base (Parkhurst Road Limited), who refused to provide affordable homes on a former Territorial Army site in line with the council’s planning rules.

The developer bought the site on Parkhurst Road in 2013 and has attempted to secure planning permission for a residential development with little or no affordable housing, ignoring the long-standing planning requirements on the provision of affordable homes set by the council.

An initial planning application was submitted in 2013 by the developer who were assisted by Gerald Eve as viability consultants. The council refused planning permission for this development twice on the grounds of not providing enough affordable housing, as well as other matters.

The case centres around the viability assessment of development and, in particular, how the price of land should be determined in planning, which is a tool increasingly used by developers and their viability consultants in recent years, to avoid complying with councils’ planning requirements on affordable housing.

Two lengthy public inquiries were held, both of which were won by Islington Council. Each time the low level of affordable housing provided on the scheme was being justified by the developer on factors such as the purchase price paid for the site, and land transactions of other schemes. Following the second public inquiry held in early 2017, an Independent Planning Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State, upheld Islington’s refusal of planning permission in his decision of 19 June 2017.

The developer then mounted a legal challenge against the Planning Inspector’s decision at the High Court. The Planning Inspector’s decision was defended in court jointly by Islington’s legal team and the lawyers representing the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Normally, the role of the courts in planning disputes is very limited and restricted to legal technicalities only. However, in this case the Judge Justice Mr David Holgate allowed a fairly detailed examination of planning issues and the development viability evidence in particular.

Today (Friday, 27 April) he dismissed the legal challenge on all three grounds put forward by the developer, and concluded that he was satisfied with the Planning Inspector’s decision to dismiss the developer’s appeal and uphold the council’s decision to refuse the planning application.

Responding to the judgement, an Islington Council spokesperson said:

“We are delighted by the High Court judgement. This decision reinforces Islington Council’s long standing position that developers should abide by the councils’ planning guidelines – rather than overpaying for land and then trying to bypass our affordable housing requirements.

“There is a shortage of good quality, genuinely affordable housing in Islington and a significant unmet housing need. The council is doing everything it can to address this, because we believe that everyone should have somewhere to live that is affordable, decent and secure – and developers must respect these important priorities when they purchase sites in Islington.”

In a highly unusual move, in a postscript to the judgment, Judge Mr Justice Holgate also recommended that the current, widely used, guidance on viability assessments by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) should be revised “in order to address any misunderstandings about market valuation concepts and techniques, the “circularity” issue and any other problems encountered in practice over the last 6 years, so as to help avoid protracted disputes of the kind we have seen in the present case and achieve more efficient decision-making.”

This is something that the council has been calling for over the last couple of years, due to serious concerns about how the RICS Financial Viability in Planning (2012) guidance note was being applied in practice.

Islington Council’s planning guidance on Development Viability is very clear and specifically cautions developers against overpaying for land and using the purchase price as a justification for providing little or no affordable housing. This landmark judgment reinforces what Islington (and many other councils) have been arguing for years that affordable housing requirements cannot be bypassed by using the “dark art” of viability assessments to ignore planning policy requirements.”



The government’s system of funding social care services is unsustainable and unfair for rural communities, the Rural Services Network has warned.

Service providers operating across rural areas face inequitable costs compared to their urban counterparts for both adult and child social care, said the network.

Rural council taxpayers also faced unfair costs, warned the network in response to an inquiry by MPs who are examining the long-term future of adult social care.

RSN chief executive Graham Biggs said: “Social care is a national issue but it is in crisis.

He added: “While continuing to be delivered locally with flexibility for councils to respond to local circumstances and priorities, it should be 100% funded by central government to provide an adequate core service level for all residents nationally – irrespective of where people live.

“Council tax is an unsuitable taxation vehicle for demand responsive services and means rural residents face a postcode lottery when it comes to social care provision.”

Mr Biggs said council tax should only be used to fund social care if a given local authority decided extra money was needed to boost services above a core level locally.

It should not be used to fund the core, national, service, he added.

Mr Biggs said: “It costs substantially more to provide social care in rural areas than it does in larger towns and cities – and there is higher demand for services in rural areas.

“As a statutory duty, services have to be prioritised and other budgets – such as rural transport support, for example – are being cut significantly as a consequence.”

This was because older people make up a higher proportion of the population in rural areas than they do in urban areas, said Mr Biggs.

At the same time, the twin challenge of isolation and distance made it harder and more expensive to deliver services to dispersed rural populations.

Such costs inevitably and unfairly penalised rural councils – and were compounded by issues such as poor economies of scale and poorer external markets for delivery.

Mr Biggs said: “A future formulae to fund social care services must fully reflect the different costs of delivery imposed by both geography and population.”


“The Times” hates potholes

Three different articles in the newspaper today:

“Thousands of roadworks a year will be shifted on to pavements under government plans to cut congestion and prevent roads from being plagued by potholes, The Times has learnt. …”

“Britain’s roads are worse than those in Chile, Cyprus and Oman despite motorists paying some of the highest taxes in the world. …”

“Potholes are being left untreated for up to a year as councils hide behind red tape to avoid dealing with them and save money. …”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

“Alarm rings over rising nuclear power plant bills”

Our Local Enterprise Partnership has much of OUR money invested in Hinkley C.

“New nuclear power plants are likely to blow their budgets and arrive late unless their designs are completed before construction starts, a report has warned.

Ministers, wary of cost hikes and delays, are wrestling with how to financially support replacements for ageing coal-fired and nuclear plants across the UK.

Hitachi is trying to strike a deal with ministers to build a £10bn-plus plant at Wylfa on Anglesey, where taxpayers are likely to take a stake.

Developers in Europe and America have been wounded by a series of nuclear projects, from Flamanville in France to Vogtle in the US state of Georgia, where costs have soared beyond budget. Plants in the Middle East and Asia have far better records on costs and schedules.

Researchers at Energy Technologies Institute found that most high-cost projects had started construction with incomplete designs, whereas work on low-cost plants had begun only once design and planning had been finalised.

The falling cost of renewable power such as offshore wind and solar has posed more questions about the financial viability of nuclear projects.

The institute’s report on costs in the nuclear industry says new plants could be affordable and help the country move to low-carbon energy, but only with better development and collaboration.

The institute calls for multiple reactors to be constructed at each site to achieve better value for money.

It urges government support for new plants, but only if the developers commit to cost cuts, efficiency and shared best practice. Government support could lower the cost of financing plants, it said, helping to cut the interest bill on a developer’s debts. Also, a new body should be set up to share information about technological innovations and lessons learnt from each project.

The institute is a collaboration between the government and industrial giants including BP, EDF Energy and Rolls-Royce. Its intervention is timely as ministers are demanding that any new nuclear plant must cost less than EDF’s Hinkley Point scheme in Somerset.

The £19.6bn project has been underpinned by a “strike price” that guarantees the state-owned French energy giant a set price of £92.50 for every megawatt hour of electricity for 35 years.

The Somerset plant has soared over budget and is about a decade behind schedule. Its former boss had predicted households would be cooking their 2017 Christmas turkey on Hinkley’s electricity.

The government will soon announce a sector deal for the nuclear industry — one of the programmes designed to boost the country’s key industries, from automotive to life sciences.

The business department said: “This independent report is helpful in looking at cost reduction in the nuclear sector.”

Source: The sunday Times (pay wall)

“Millennial housing crisis engulfs Britain”

“Home ownership among young families has plummeted across every corner of Britain over the past 35 years, according to a devastating inquiry into the housing crisis facing millennials.

The proportion of families headed by a 25- to 34-year-old that own their own home has more than halved in some regions, showing that the crisis goes far beyond London.

Analysis conducted as part of a two-year investigation into intergenerational fairness in Britain, chaired by a former Tory minister, found that millennials are being forced into increasingly cramped and expensive rented properties that leave them with a longer commute and little chance of saving for a home. It also finds an increasing proportion of the young living in overcrowded housing.

The commission, which has been overseen by the Resolution Foundation thinktank and includes the former universities minister David Willetts, is expected to conclude that new taxes on property wealth may be the only way to restore fairness and prepare the country to pay the care and support costs of an ageing population.

Ownership among 25- to 34-year-olds has plummeted in Greater Manchester from 53% in 1984 to 26% last year. It has fallen from 54% to 25% in south Yorkshire, from 45% to 20% in the West Midlands, from 50% to 28% in Wales and from 55% to 27% in the south-east. In outer London, the proportion has collapsed from 53% to just 16%. Out of 22 regions analysed by the commission, in only one – Strathclyde in Scotland – has home ownership among the young remained stable. It stood at 32% in 1984 and 33% last year, having peaked at 45% in 2002.

Ownership in London has fallen consistently over the past 30 years, whereas rates in some other parts of the country declined more slowly before the early 2000s, but very rapidly thereafter.

Even favourable economic conditions are likely to result in millennials catching up with the home ownership levels of the previous cohort only by the age of 45. Fast-growing inheritances will help some, but nearly half of young non-homeowners have parents who do not own either.

Millennials, classed as those born between 1981 and 2000, are half as likely to own a home at the age of 30 as baby boomers because of higher prices, low earnings growth and tighter credit rules. In the 1980s it would have taken a typical household in their late 20s around three years to save for an average-sized deposit. It would now take 19 years, the analysis shows.

Almost two-fifths of millennials rent privately at 30, double the rate for Generation X, born between 1966 and 1980, and four times the rate for baby boomers – born after the war until 1965 – at the same age.

Millennials are now spending an average of nearly a quarter of their net income on housing, three times more than the pre-war generation, now aged 70 and over.

Their living space is also declining. Each person living in the private rented sector now has on average eight square metres less space than they did in 1996. Meanwhile, those who own their own homes enjoy an extra four square metres each. Since younger households are more likely to be private renters than owners, they now have less space on average per household member. Just under one in 10 households headed by millennials in their late 20s now live in overcrowded conditions.

They are facing longer commutes than older generations endured. If current differences continue, millennials will spend almost three full days more commuting in the year they turn 40 than the baby boomers did at the same age.

The Resolution Foundation says that a combination of an ageing population and an increased demand for services which governments are committed to deliver means that welfare spending looks likely to increase very substantially in the coming decades.

It says that one way of addressing some of the generational implications of tax rises would be to change the age profile that these additional revenues are drawn from. The tax treatment of property and pension wealth may also have to be considered….”


“Local Elections: Diverse voices are being drowned out by the undemocratic voting system in England and Wales”

” … Across England, local elections are non-proportionate i.e. the diverse way in which people vote is not accurately reflected in the results.

Many council wards elect multiple councillors – but the opportunity this presents to increase the level of proportionality isn’t being taken. Instead, councillors in such wards are generally elected in one of two ways: all-up or by thirds.

In Newham, East London, for example, the council elects all at the same time. There are 20 wards each electing three councillors. When voters there go to the polls, they can vote for up to three candidates. Parties will typically put forward three candidates each and the three candidates with the most votes win.

Electing councillors in this way can be even less proportionate than in single-member wards using the same ‘First Past the Post’ style system, because a ward may have, for instance, two bits that are supportive of one party and one bit that is supportive of another – and the two bits will always overpower the third.

Newham has seen one party (Labour) hold every single seat on the council since 2010, last time winning 60% of the vote. While this is clearly deserving of a majority, it should not be without opposition.

The other way councillors in multi-member wards are elected are in staggered ballots, which will take place in 107 councils this year. Typically, this sees a portion of members up for election, usually in three years out of every four. So a ward will often have councillors elected in different years.

This not only creates disproportionality, but the constant cycle of elections tends to reduce turnout, from a combination of electoral fatigue and because of the reduced power of the ballot box. If a council is say 85% controlled by one party, and a third of seats go up for election, then even if the opposition take every seat that party will still control 52% of seats.

The situation could not be more different North of Hadrian’s Wall, however. Until 2007 Scotland was very familiar with the problems of majoritarian voting in local government. Councils were distant and unaccountable. And there were one-party states with just a handful of opposition councillors, or none at all.

But a change to the Single Transferable Vote (STV) brought proportional representation to Scottish local government.

Overnight every council and ward in Scotland became competitive, forcing a renewal of local democracy.

Scottish local government is now not only more competitive, it is better functioning. In 2003 (before the reform) 52.3% of voters saw their vote elect their chosen candidate. By 2012 (after the reform) 76.7% saw their first preference elected.

Councils have since been governed by coalitions, minorities and parties with absolute control. And turnout in 2017 was strong by local council standards at 46.9% – which compares favourably to the 38.9% in the last locals in London.

There are now moves towards giving Welsh councils the chance to choose to change to the system.

So while the Electoral Reform Society and other civil society groups are rightly campaigning for people to cast their votes on May 3, it is also recognised that change is desperately needed to spread the use of a proportional system across the United Kingdom.

This democratic reform must be extended to England too so that its local government be revitalised in the same way. “


“Concerns raised over plan for Exmouth seafront temporary car park”

Owl says: This is what happens when you run a council as a business and not as a public service.

“East Devon District Council (EDDC) is seeking to create 13 spaces on land behind the rowing club, in Queen’s Drive.

The plot, owned by the authority, has previously been used by Exmouth RNLI for storage.

Tony Crowhurst, vice-chairman of Exmouth Rowing Club, has questioned the financial viability of the car park, adding: “There is a lot of work that needs to be done to create a safe car parking space which I don’t think they will recoup.

“The fact that they are going to be using the duck pond for events – we’re going to have a double whammy of people parking to use that area and those parking behind us.”

Mr Crowhurst also questioned the impact the plan will have on the club’s ability to transport their boats across the road to the beach.

He said: “We’re a local club and have got around 80-odd members. We do a lot of things in the community but this will make our ability to transport boats across the sea even harder.

“Already, people will park in front on the club and go dog walking for one or two hours and we can’t get our boats out.

“I would say at least once a week we’re in a situation where we have to ask people to move their cars from the front of our gates.”

An EDDC spokesman said it is aware of the rowing club’s concerns and believes they can be resolved.

Exmouth Town Council’s planning committee is set to discuss the application on Monday (April 30).

EDDC’s cabinet is due to decide whether or not the proposed facility should be included on the authority’s parking places order.

According to agenda papers for the meeting to be held on Wednesday, May 2, at Knowle, Sidmouth, officers are recommending that councillors approve this.

EDDC say they have sought cabinet approval prior to planning permission as they intend to have the car park operational by this summer.

A spokesman for EDDC said: “We are hoping to be able to offer the car park for public use this summer so we are running both of these processes in parallel to save time.”

EDDC planners will make the final decision on the application.”


“Millennials don’t need living rooms, says leading architect”

“In a briefing paper, Patrik Schumacher, who worked on the London Aquatics Centre built for the Olympics, argued that centrally-located “hotel room-sized” studio flats are ideal for busy young people.

“Those who are now making the hard choice between paying 80 per cent of their income on a central flat versus commuting from afar, will in the liberalized future appreciate new options and perhaps choose to pay only 60 per cent for a smaller but more central flat.

“For many young professionals who are out and about networking 24/7, a small, clean, private hotel room-sized central patch serves their needs perfectly well,” he said.

The most central homes should be given to people “whose productive lives are most enhanced by being thus positioned, i.e. those who operate at the centre of our network society, attending early morning meetings, after work networking events,weekend conferences, and professional lectures”, he said.”

Mr Schumacher argues in the paper published by the Adam Smith Institute that the minimum size of 38 square metres on newbuild flats is “paternalistic” and stops poorer young people from getting on the housing ladder.

He said: “Units half that size, built at an earlier time, are rare and thus at the moment overpriced, hotly desired commodities, for rent or for sale.

“Lifting this prohibition would allow a whole new (lower) income group, which is now excluded, to enter the market. This move would both boost overall unit numbers and affordability.” …

He said planning regulations have been “unduly politicised and thereby paralysed”.

In 2016 the controversial architect told an audience at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin that public spaces such as streets and parks in London should be privatised and social housing should be abolished. …


THIS is how you hold a CCG to account!

“The NHS will face calls from leading county councillors to publish a comprehensive plan for public consultation on its controversial proposals for a major shakeup of health services in Lincolnshire.

Concerns have been raised by the county council over the lack of progress on the Lincolnshire Sustainability and Transformation Plan since an initial draft was first published in December 2016.

At the time, the plans outlined a required £205 million investment to improve the facilities at Lincoln County Hospital, Boston Pilgrim Hospital and Grantham Hospital.

The proposals revealed that Grantham A&E could be downgraded to an urgent care centre and maternity services centralised to Lincoln.

Over 500 jobs are also set to be lost by 2021 under the plans.

Lincolnshire County Council unanimously voted against the STP at a Full Council meeting in December 2016, just over one week after the report was first leaked to the press.

County council leader Martin Hill wrote to NHS chiefs in March 2017 adding his criticisms, claiming that “making things better for most people, at the detriment of others, is not good enough”.

Since then, the county council said that there have been delays in publication of the STP plan, with further concerns raised about the lack of answers to the financial struggles of the NHS in Lincolnshire as well as fears about the changes themselves.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which covers the three main hospitals in the county, was put in special measures by the Care Quality Commission for performance failures and in financial special measures by NHS Improvement in 2017.

Even this month, ULHT has forecast an end of year deficit of £82.4 million, £5 million more than its deficit control target agreed with NHS Improvement.

In addition to asking the NHS to publish a plan for public consultation “without delay”, Lincolnshire County Council will also call for a review of governance arrangements for the STP to provide clarity over decision-making, accountability, democratic engagement and oversight of the process.

Glen Garrod, Executive Director of Adult Care and Community Wellbeing at Lincolnshire County Council, said in a report to councillors: “The county council has a long and successful track record of working with NHS partners in Lincolnshire. More recently and with the development of the STP programme the nature of the relationship has changed and, given the quality, performance and financial imperatives facing NHS services in Lincolnshire, more profiled.

“Disappointingly little progress has been made to address underlying budget deficits, performance continues to be poor at ULHT and successive inspections by the Care Quality Commission have reported on serious quality issues.

“This has been the picture for a number of years with little sign that ‘the tide has turned’ and these critical issues are getting better.

“Change is likely, indeed necessary and improvements critical if Lincolnshire residents are to receive NHS services that they deserve.”

In response, John Turner, Senior Responsible Officer for the Lincolnshire STP said that Lincolnshire County Council is a key partner for the NHS in the county but refused to be drawn on when it would publish its plans for public consultation.

He said: “We are fully committed to working together with Lincolnshire County Council in the best interests of patients and the people of Lincolnshire. The level of our integrated services between the NHS and Lincolnshire County Council already compares well nationally.

“There is much to be proud of in our local NHS, with our dedicated staff and partners working to provide the best care for our patients. At the same time, it is widely recognised that health and care services in Lincolnshire are very challenged – we struggle to provide consistent care and meet all quality standards, to recruit clinical staff in key areas, and we are currently overspending by £100 million a year.

“In recent months the STP has reported progress in areas such as mental health, GP services, integrated community services and operational efficiencies and improvements have been delivered for patients.

“In addition, the STP is also undertaking an acute services review which is examining what would be the future configuration of acute hospital services for the population of Lincolnshire.

“We look forward to discussing this openly across the county in due course.”

Councillors on the council’s Executive will consider the next steps to take at a meeting in Lincoln on Tuesday, May 1.”


It costs twice as much to buy energy, water, council tax and insurance in Devon as it does in London

“It costs almost twice as much to live in Devon as it does to live in the heart of London – and the county has the country’s worst broadband speeds and highest water rates.

New research reveals the 10 most expensive places for home insurance, energy bills, water rates and council tax are in the county – and part of Devon has come out worst.

The study by price comparison site uSwitch found South Hams residents pay an average of £332 a month on utility bills and insurance compared with £185 for those in Westminster.

The county also has the slowest broadband speeds in the country and the highest water rates, reports The Mirror.

Devon and Cornwall pay the most for water with average monthly bills of £71.

South West Water, says the steep cost is because of thousands of miles of pipes are needed to reach a large area of land, with only a small number of households to cover the costs. …”


Deliberate government policies … NOT unintended consequences

“… Either the home secretary ignored the inevitable cruelty in chasing her targets – or she was too dumb to ask. True, Border Force staff told me that Rudd had had the wool pulled over her eyes about its state of dereliction. When she first visited Heathrow, managers bussed in apprentice tax-collectors from Newcastle to staff the passport kiosks, with passengers held back in another hall so that she saw no queues.

… Breaking this government’s stone heart has proved impossible over the years. As £30bn and then another £12bn were gouged from the social security budget, the devastating effects on families, on disabled people, on children, had no impact. Instead the government heaped abuse on victims, as Iain Duncan Smith vowed to end the “something-for-nothing culture”. Never admitting most people on benefits are in work, he liked warning them: “This is not an easy life any more, chum. I think you’re a slacker.” He denied his strict targets for knocking people off benefits: but jobcentre staff showed me what were called ”spinning plates” monthly targets, with one telling me: “You park your conscience when you work here.” Staff missing their quota were disciplined. The easiest hits were people with learning disabilities or mental illness, and benefits were stopped for tiny infractions. Did anyone in government break their heart over diabetic ex-soldier David Clapson, who starved to death when his benefits were stopped?

George Osborne relentlessly sneered at households sleeping on with “closed blinds while honest citizens set off to work”. Now his Evening Standard begs for charity for London’s hungry children, impoverished by him: the Institute for Fiscal Studies warns that another 1.2 million children are falling into poverty.

It never broke their hearts to punish families with more than two children, or cut rent support, or evict anyone with a spare room, sending them sometimes hundreds of miles from schools, jobs, friends and family. It didn’t break their hearts to see more than 50,000 Motability cars taken from disabled households. Would it break their hearts to see people with children using food banks?

Tory MPs know all this. I have sat in their surgeries to see how they react to the stream of human suffering they are inflicting. They look sorrowful, and promise to write (useless) letters to ministers. They get pleas for help from people being evicted and frail old people neglected at home for lack of care. They see children’s centres closing, and the soaring numbers of children taken into care because no one caught family problems early. They hear from patients in pain or danger through operations postponed. Maybe they complain about 600,000 lost young people, hanging around neither in education nor employment, with youth services having been abolished.

A “hostile environment” is what the government has deliberately created. Calculated cruelty has been policy, not accident. Writing about all this state-inflicted suffering can feel like banging your head against a brick wall: Guardian readers know it already, while government ministers don’t give a damn. Is Amber Rudd’s “heartbreak” a moment of great collective epiphany? Will a frozen dam of tears suddenly be unleashed? Theresa May’s “burning social injustices” burn brighter than ever, with no sign yet of an outbreak of howling repentance along the government benches.”


Swire: asking those questions East Devon needs answers to …. no, his other interests

Recent parliamentary questions from Swire:

Customs and Borders (26 Apr 2018)
Hugo Swire: I am listening closely to what the right hon. Lady is saying, but there are already cameras for number plate recognition at all the ports on the UK mainland, recording traffic to and from the island of Ireland.

Customs and Borders (26 Apr 2018)
Hugo Swire: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Customs and Borders (26 Apr 2018)
Hugo Swire: As we head towards our departure from the European Union in just under a year, I believe that our future trading arrangements are more important than ever. As deputy chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, I was involved in last week’s Commonwealth business forum, before the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, which was an important event for discussing…”

County council refuses to spend business profits on affordable housing

“Liberal Democrat councillors have criticised Surrey County Council for failing to spend profits from its £298m commercial property portfolio on council services.

In November, the council transferred £3.8m of rental income from the properties into its revolving infrastructure and investment fund.

However, Liberal Democrats complained that the original investment strategy, agreed by the council in July 2013, promised to use income to support the delivery of functions and services.

Cllr Hazel Watson, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council, said: “I am deeply concerned that none of the income derived from the county council’s extensive property investment portfolio so far has been used to support council services.

“This contradicts previous assurances from the Conservative administration that the purpose of their investment strategy was to support the county council’s budget.

“The county council is proposing millions of cuts to services this financial year and it is simply unacceptable for them to use precious resources to purchase more property, when that resource should be used instead to protect services for Surrey residents.”

Responding to the criticism, Tim Oliver, Surrey’s Conservative cabinet member for property and business services, said: “The investment portfolio created under the investment strategy consists of property investments which have been made by the council in order to deliver economic regeneration or to provide for long-term future service use, whilst delivering an investment return.

“These assets provide flexibility in the estate whilst producing a net revenue.”

He said that the total net income delivered to date by the strategy will be used to support spending on council services in the future and was expected to have reached £5.3m by March 2018.”


“Staircase tax” WILL apply to business rates despite government promise to drop it

Owl says: so nos small businesses will get their own version of the council house “bedtoom tax” …

“Housing minister Dominic Raab has confirmed a government u-turn on a budget promise to compensate councils for the new “staircase tax” resulting from a 2015 Supreme Court ruling on business rates.

In last year’s budget, chancellor Philip Hammond announced that businesses would be able to claim a rebate on bills based on the way they were calculated before the ruling – backdated to 2010.

However, speaking in the House of Commons this week, Raab said that the government no longer intended to honour this promise.

“I do not think it would be right to compensate local authorities for what would effectively be an inadvertent windfall resulting from a judicial determination,” said Raab. “From the point of view of government policy, that was not something we wanted to see, and we have moved as swiftly and reasonably as we can to correct this.”

The Supreme Court ruling reversed more than 50 years of practice that businesses operating in separate units, or rooms, accessed from a connecting staircase received a single rates bill.

Following the judgement, the Valuation Office Agency has changed its practice to issue separate bills for each floor — with businesses able to claim a rebate back to 2010.

This means that some rates payers previously eligible for small business rates relief have lost some, or all, of their relief.

In addition, rateable value per square metre is sometimes lower for large properties due to landlords offering discounts to fill space.

Raab said that only a small number of businesses — fewer than 1,000 — are affected adversely by the change.

Raab made his announcement on Monday, during a debate on the tax, held during the second reading of the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill.

Also speaking in the debate, Clive Betts, chairman of the housing, communities and local government select committee, said: “We accept that the legislation takes the position back to what people thought it was before the court decision.

“In the meantime, however, we have had the court decision and local authorities will have done their estimates based on that decision, so the government are effectively changing local authorities’ financial positions from what they thought they would be a few months ago.”

Raab said that local authorities had been informed of the change of direction “as soon as was reasonably possible”.

In a briefing criticising the u-turn, the Local Government Association said: “It is disappointing that the government has reversed their autumn budget decision on the financial implications of this measure, and has indicated that no compensation will be payable to local government.

“We support the housing, communities and local government committee’s recommendation that the government needs to reassure councils that they are not going to be worse off financially because of this legislation, and that the government should bear the associated costs as a result of the reforms.”


“18 month delay on the draft Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP)”

Owl says: Seems those traffic jams into and out of Exeter are not going to get better any time soon.

“… The preparation of the GESP has been held up by a number of factors. These include a significant and ongoing review of national planning and housing policies, a very high response to the “call for sites” with over 700 sites made available, and the need to resolve complex transport issues associated with the plan, particularly in the Exeter area, including extensive modelling, roadside interviews and scheme assessment.

“This work is still ongoing and will inform a key element of the GESP strategy. It is not expected that the transport work will be ready before the end of 2018, given the complexities and in particular the need to ensure that Highways England are content with the work.

“The NPPF review is expected to be complete in the summer of 2018. These factors mean that the draft plan is not likely to be ready before spring 2019.

“In order to avoid issues of Purdah associated with the local elections in May 2019 it is therefore now proposed that the draft plan should be published in June 2019.”

The purpose of preparing the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan is to have a joined-up vision and aspirations for the area.

The local authorities are working together, engaging with stakeholders and communities, to prepare a new joint plan.

The GESP will sit above District-level Local and community Neighbourhood Plans, taking a long-term strategic view to ensure important decisions about development and investment are coordinated. …”