“Don’t let over 55s decide elections”

Owl says: With SO many over-55s in East Devon influencing voting, we certainly do need younger voices to be heard.

“Labour’s election campaign chief has expressed fears that Jeremy Corbyn’s army of young supporters may not turn out to vote in the local elections, meaning the party might fail to live up to high expectations.

Andrew Gwynne, who is also the shadow communities secretary, said there was a danger that the young voters who backed in Labour at the general election would stay at home.

“That’s why we’ve been trying to make the case that local councils have a big impact on young people’s lives,” he said. “It is so important for young people not to leave local elections just to the over-55s.”


“Devon councillors allowances set to rise by an inflation-busting 15 per cent”

“An inflation-busting 15 per cent hike in allowances for Devon County councillors has been proposed.

The independent remuneration panel has recommended that a rise from the current figure of £10,970 to £12,607 to be implemented by the council. It comes as no rise in allowances for members have taken place in the last nine years.

… Devon County Council’s procedures committee on Wednesday morning voted to recommend to full council that the 15 per cent rise should be implemented, but councillors from all parties will be given a free vote when it goes before them. … “

[There then follows a long justification from a Tory councillor about why this is acceptable and a table of the new allowances]


“GRUBBY CORRUPTION’ Tax officials refused to investigate money laundering at telecoms company ‘because they donated cash to the Tories’ “

“TAX officials are under fire after it emerged they refused to investigate a company for money laundering – saying the firm was a massive Tory donor.

HMRC was asked by French authorities to raid the offices of telecoms firm Lycamobile, but turned down the request.

BuzzFeed revealed that in an email to the French officials, a senior civil servant said: “It is of note that they are the biggest corporate donor to the Conservative party led by Prime Minister Theresa May and donated 1.25m Euros to the Prince Charles Trust in 2012.”

HMRC has admitted the reference to Lycamobile’s political links was a mistake – but insisted that was not the reason they refused to probe the firm.

Furious MPs accused the tax authorities of “grubby corruption” and demanded an explanation from Philip Hammond.

Prosecutors in France launched an investigation into claims that Lycamobile uses its phone business to launder money two years ago.

They asked HMRC to help out by raiding the company’s offices in London, but the British officials refused in an email sent in March last year.

The email included the information about the links between Lycamobile and the Tories – who have now stopped accepting donations from the company.

Asked about the letter, HMRC initially denied it was authentic, saying: “This is the United Kingdom for God’s sake, not some third world banana republic where the organs of state are in hock to some sort of kleptocracy.”

But they later admitted it was real and said it was “regrettable” that the line was included.

A spokesman told The Sun today: “HMRC always investigates suspected rule breaking professionally and objectively and is never influenced by political considerations.”

HMRC added that the reason the request to raid Lycamobile was refused was that French officials didn’t provide enough information.

Labour MP Wes Streeting blasted the revelations today, saying: “This sort of grubby corruption cannot be tolerated.”


“Buyers in despair at badly built new homes” [particularly Bovis]

“One of the country’s biggest housebuilders is misleading buyers and “deliberately” delaying essential repairs to poorly built homes, according to an investigation by the Times. Bovis Homes, which builds about 3,500 properties a year, is also the only national builder to have been awarded a two-star rating out of five in the Home Builders Federation’s annual customer satisfaction survey for the year ending September 2017, meaning that between 30-40 per cent of customers would not recommend the company to a friend.”

Times p1, Sun p29

Claire Wright fights for proper scrutiny and transparency at DCC

Owl says: it beggars belief that (a) councillors are banned from asking public experts any questions and (b) minutes do not reflect PUBLIC anxieties!

And what would we do without INDEPENDENT councillors like Claire Wright!

“A recommendation will be put before Devon County Council Chairs of Scrutiny Committees on relaxing the rules around asking questions of members of the public, following today’s Procedures Committee meeting.

I proposed that there should be flexibility in the rules relating to public speaking in allowing questions from councillors on the committee. This was after I was prevented from asking a local GP a question following his submission relating to concerns on care at home, at January’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee meeting.

There was some discussion at today’s meeting and it emerged that other scrutiny chairs (Cllr Rob Hannaford in this instance) exercise discretion for points of clarification. I asked that this be made into a formal policy and it was agreed that the issue would be put before the next Chairs of Scrutiny meeting, which I will attend and make my case.

It is difficult to see a reason to argue against this modest change! My proposal to reduce the length of time that members of the public must register, from four days to two days, was not supported, unfortunately.


However, my request for more detailed recording in the minutes of members of the public submissions was backed by the committee this morning – after a bit of persuasion! This is important for the sake of balance. I argued that the committee exists to investigate matters of public concern. And it’s also important for the audit trail if the local health service did (heaven forbid) catastrophically fail and the health scrutiny committee was held to account.

Currently, the NHS presentations are recorded in detail, but members of the public representations are so glossed over in the minutes that no one would have a clue what their position was on the subject or what they said. With a simple tweak this will hopefully now be altered, which I believe more fully reflects what we are are here to do as councillors … which is represent members of the public.”


“Funding for poorest children used to plug school budgets, say teachers”

“Schools are cutting back on staff, IT, equipment and day trips while funding for the UK’s poorest children is being used to plug budgets, teachers have claimed.

More than a fifth of teachers and school leaders believe pupil premium cash – the money aimed at the most deprived youngsters – is instead being used to make ends meet, a poll by the National Foundation for Educational Research found.

Almost half told the study that academisation – removing schools from local authority control – had a negative impact on the classroom, or no no impact at all.

The findings come amid widespread concerns from teachers, unions and parents about a squeeze on school budgets in England, though ministers have insisted more money is going to schools.

The survey of 1,246 primary and secondary teachers and senior leaders, working in English state schools, found that 22% said money from the pupil premium – extra funding to support the most disadvantaged youngsters – is being used to plug gaps elsewhere in their school’s budget.

Just over a third (36%) said this was not happening and the rest did not know.

Among the senior leaders polled, 34% said pupil premium funding was being used elsewhere, with 57% saying no.

Those surveyed by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) were asked whether their school was cutting back on certain areas for financial reasons.

Some 63% said their school was cutting back on teaching assistants, making it the most popular answer, with 50% saying there had been cuts to support staff, and 39% saying teaching staff.

In addition, 44% said trips and outings had been cut back and 41% said there had been cuts to IT equipment.

The survey was commissioned by the Sutton Trust ahead of its education summit in New York. …”