Profligate, cost-cutting council …

No (not yet) EDDC but Hounslow:

“Hounslow Council has spent more than £25million of taxpayers’ money employing external consultants to advise it over the past three-and-a-half years.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by the BBC Local Democracy Reporting Service shows the council spent £25,018,721 on consultant fees between the start of 2015 and the most up to date available in 2018.

The biggest area of spend was in consultancy on business matters which was £12,103,360 over the period, equating to more than £3million each year.

The second highest area of spend was £7,777,769 on property consultancy.

To put the figure in context, the council’s total spend for the 2018/2019 financial year will be £139million, whereas in 2014/2015 financial year it was £182.7m. …”

https://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/news/west-london-news/hounslow-council-spends-25million-consultants-14911545

“Harsh winter deepens pothole crisis for struggling councils”

“Councils are losing the battle against potholes, it is claimed today as the number of cars damaged by crumbling roads has reached a three-year high.

Figures from the RAC show that 4,091 call-outs were made over three months for damage commonly attributed to poor road surfaces including damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension and distorted wheels. The statistics, recorded between April and June, were the highest for the three-month period since 2015.

The RAC warned that local roads had been left in a terrible condition by freezing weather at the start of the year when the “Beast from the East” struck. Critics claimed that roads were already in a poor state because of years of underfunding and a backlog of repairs. The Asphalt Industry Alliance claimed in April that £9.3 billion was needed to bring all roads up to scratch.

The government is investing about £1 billion a year in local roads and said recently that another £100 million was being spent to repair routes affected by the severe winter weather.

The RAC has called for 2p a litre to be invested from fuel duty into local roads, in addition to existing budgets, saying that over a ten-year period it would give councils the money needed to “eliminate the backlog in repairs and preventative maintenance”.

David Bizley, the RAC’s chief engineer, said: “Councils have been working hard to fix potholes and general road surface degradation but despite further emergency funding from central government their budgets are even more stretched than in previous years.

“Our figures demonstrate they are not winning the battle and as a result the safety of too many drivers, cyclists and motorcyclists is being put at risk.”

He added: “Central government must now consider how we can develop a long-term plan to improve the condition of our local roads. We urge the Department for Transport to work with the Treasury to ring-fence a proportion of fuel duty receipts over a sustained period to fund this.”

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said that councils were being given more than £6 billion over six years for local roads. “This funding includes a record £296 million through the pothole action fund: enough to fix around six million potholes,” she said.”

Source: Times, pay wall

“More of Surrey is given over to golf courses than residential housing …”

“… not least because successive governments have been petrified of shifting green belt borders laid down in the late 40’s …”

BUT – what about those golf courses that are NOT in the green belt – most of England outside the London shires? Nature’s lungs, manicured green deserts or just habitats for rich (mostly) mens?

Source: Sunday Times Business and Money

Investigation launched at Greendale Business Park by the Environment Agency

The Environment Agency has announced they will be investigating a serious incident that happened at the Anaerobic Digestion Plant next to Greendale Business Park on Tuesday morning 03.07.2018.

The AD Plant at Hogsbrook Farm is owned by FWS Carter and Sons who also run Greendale Business Park but lease the plant to “Ixora Energy Ltd.” The plant uses farm crops harvested locally and livestock manure to produce biogas and bio fertiliser. The Gas is then used to produce Electricity that is fed into the National Grid and is used by Greendale Business Park.

The Grindle Brook has been impacted by the incident of a substantial leakage of “digestate” from the AD Plant. However, the impact was minimised by the direct action of bunding the watercourse and removing the effluent by vacuum tanker, actions which were taken almost immediately by the AD plant (and staff at Greendale Business Park).

The Environment Agency are confident that this action captured most of the discharge itself. However, it did result in a small stretch of deprived reach. Impact to this reach was minimised by tankering fresh water below the bund and frequent monitoring of the watercourse for any wildlife in distress by both the site and EA officers over the 3 or 4 days that this incident took place.

There was concern from members of the public, who saw operators discharging what appeared to be effluent into the stream at Greendale, however this was not the case. They were putting freshwater in at the point at which the discharge entered the stream, which helps provide oxygen to the stream and move any residual polluted water down towards the vacuum tankers to facilitate removal.

Water for this operation was taken from a lake between Honey Lane and the Greendale Farm Shop.

The AD Plants at Hogsbrook and at Clyst St Mary were both run by a company called “Greener for Life”, until the company went into receivership last year after 3 years of trading. However, several the directors secured further funding for a new company “Ixora Energy Ltd” to buy the assets and contracts of Greener for Life Energy Ltd.

There has been a number of incidents relating to Greener for Life Energy Ltd, which was a Devon-based company producing energy from agricultural waste.

In 2015 the company and the site owner of a farm near Tiverton Nomansland Biogas Ltd, were fined over £10,000 and made to pay £7,019 in costs for negligently polluting a watercourse and contravening the requirements of an environmental permit.

The two companies were handed the fine at Exeter Magistrates’ Court in June 2015 after being found guilty of polluting two and a half kilometers of the River Dalch where the effects of the pollution were substantial, with the Environment Officer finding 100 per cent sewage fungus coverage for one kilometer from the discharge point and significant sewage fungus growth impacting a total of two and a half kilometers of the River Dalch.

An Environment Officer said at the time: “The effluent has a severely polluting effect – it is 100 times more polluting than raw sewage. Starving the river of oxygen has led to a significant adverse effect on water quality, animal health and flora.

The Environment Agency have said that the incident at Hogsbrook may result in regulatory or enforcement action with regards to how and why it happened and how it should be prevented from happening again.

They also say that it was fortunate that no wider impact was identified and therefore the pollution was contained within the bunded area – which is probably a best-case scenario given the nature of the incident.

Might there be a General Election soon? Swire’s e-bulletin might be a hint!

Swire’s “e-bulletin” messages have been few and far between recently. Perhaps his wife has been busy (as he says she helps with his digital presence).

We have seen the following e-bulletins:

Aug 2014, Nov 2014, Mar 2015, Aug 2015, Dec 2015
Apr 2016, Aug 2016, Dec 2016
Apr 2017, Nov 2017
and now
Jul 2018

So apparently now less than half-yearly.

Of course, now he is no longer a Cabinet Minister we can fully understand why he has LESS time to devote to constituents – it’s all those other jobs he has which take up so much time:

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmregmem/180702/swire_hugo.htm

But Owl does fantasise (just a bit) about whether issuing this now is actually a response to the deteriorating political situation for his party – or perhaps Claire Wright’s hard work locally and her recent activities in Westminster getting him increasingly worried.

If you want to read it, go to his web page but Owl has a few observations. However, here is Owl’s summary:

Whatever happened to the Sidmouth Survey he mentions?

He writes extensively about English Tourism Week – yet he does more and speaks more in more in Parliament for tourism in the Middle East.

He boasts about his army service – probably worth reminding people that it was both short and completely devoid of active service in e.g. Afghanistan or Kuwait or the Balkans or any other real hot-spot.

Then he has another boast about his Middle East work.

Next he boasts about his work with CPRE – and having attended one public meeting at their invitation.

Then, we get to THE MOST IMPORTANT TOPIC of his e-bulletin which is SO IMPORTANT it gets a boastful video rather than just a boring old boastful photograph. Yes – you guessed correctly – it’s unemployment? … health care? … social care? … infrastructure? … impact of Brexit? … tourism? … no actually its Protecting British Flora from Imported Diseases.

Next up, he has piggybacked on the efforts of Cllr Elli Pang and Philip Algar and other locals (including Claire Wright) in Ottery St Mary who have been campaigning ceaselessly about Ottery Hospital for decades, to claim to be vitally interested in what happens to it.

Then it’s back to nature topics again to use two columns to double up on his concerns about Sea Horses.

So, there you have it.

Owl’s suggestion: go here instead for a more comprehensive and meaningful view on local issues: http://www.claire-wright.org/

Good luck with that delivering of doubled growth, Local Enterprise Partnership!

And recall about EDDC and Exeter City Council wanting to make the Cranbrook “Growth Point” a digital miracle!

“Research has found that Exeter is the worst digitally connected city in the UK.

New data from GoCompare compares and contrasts 57 major business hubs across the country, taking into account an array of digital infrastructure such as WiFi availability, broadband speed and mobile/4G coverage.

Exeter ranked 57 out of the 57 cities with just 6.31 per cent 4G coverage, an average internet download speed of 26.84mbps and 1,166 people per public WiFi hotspot.

Unsurprisingly, some of the biggest cities in the UK ranked as the most connected including London, Manchester and Birmingham.”