“‘Twisted political ideology’ to blame for 130 job losses at Somerset County Council, opposition leader claims” (many parallels to our district)

“Twisted political ideology” is to blame for a potential 130 redundancies at Somerset County Council, an opposition leader has claimed.

Liberal Democrat councillor Jane Lock said the ruling Tories should “hang their heads in shame” over decisions which she says led to the latest round of redundancies at the authority.

In an email sent out on Wednesday (August 29), council chief executive Pat Flaherty thanked staff for their hard work over the summer before announcing that 130 jobs could be on the line as the council looked to balance its books.

“I am keenly aware that for those affected this will be a very difficult time, indeed for the whole authority this will be a tough process,” Mr Flaherty said.

“The relevant managers have been asked to speak to their teams in advance of the information being published, but in some cases it may not be possible, and for that I apologise.”

A consultation has begun and a final decision will be made by the council’s cabinet on Wednesday, September 12, Mr Flaherty said.

Council leader David Fothergill said the authority faced a “huge financial challenge” after losing 40 per cent of its budget over the past eight years.

The news will come as blow but not a shock to authority staff, who have been on the receiving end of redundancies for several years.

Liberal Democrat opposition leader on Somerset County Council, Jane Lock, laid the blame firmly at the feet of the Conservatives.

“It’s clearly devastating for the staff members involved,” she said.

“It’s a twisted political ideology that is backfiring on them badly now. They froze council tax for seven years and they’re now reaping the rewards of that. If they’d put it up 1.99 per cent we’d have had an extra £29M each year.

“The situation that Somerset is in is down solely to those decisions.

“It’s a disgrace, they should hang their heads in shame.”

[This is exactly what EDDC has done]

She also suggested Somerset could soon follow Northamptonshire County Council.

Council leaders there issued a Section 114 notice, which put a blanket ban on all unnecessary spending, before announcing they would be reducing services down to a bare legal minimum.

On Tuesday, a majority of councillors on Northamptonshire County Council voted to put forward a bid to secretary of state for local government for its replacement with two unitary authorities.

In July, Somerset County Council leader David Fothergill categorically stated: “We are not going to write a 114 notice.”

It came at a meeting where cabinet members voted to use £5M of an emergency spending fund to shore up children’s services, which at the time was due to overspend by £20M.

But Mr Forthergill has launched a consultation on replacing the county council with one or more unitary authorities.

https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/somerset-news/twisted-political-ideology-blame-130-1953341

Dominoes teetering on the brink – Somerset County Council proposes 130 redundancies and cuts

Owl says: Bear in mind that Somerset County Council is the lead financial and administrative authority for the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership.

“A council has proposed cutting more than 100 jobs and major services so it can balance its books.

Somerset County Council has begun a consultation on 130 redundancies and is proposing cutbacks to highways, public transport and special needs services.

The authority needed to save £19.5m in 2017/18, but only made cuts of £11.1m.

In an email to staff, the council’s chief executive said the latest cuts were being considered due to severe financial pressures.

Council leader David Fothergill said the authority had been open about its “huge” financial challenge and would formally consult with trade unions about the redundancies.

“The coming weeks will be very difficult for the council and its staff, but we have to achieve financial stability,” he said.

Liberal Democrat councillor Neil Bloomfield said Somerset was going the same way as Northamptonshire County Council, which is facing a funding shortfall of about £70m and has banned all new spending this year.

‘A ruthless process’

He said: “If Somerset were to issue a 114 notice and the government appointed special commissioners, the desire would be to create their vision of a unitary authority and then you lose control of your own, local, decision making.

“The commissioners’ job is to save money and bring you back on budget. It’s a ruthless process.”

In an email sent to staff, chief executive Pat Flaherty said severe financial pressures meant the council was considering a “reduction in services and changes to staffing structures”.

Other ideas for savings include cutting funds to services for children and support for vulnerable pupils.

More details on the proposals will be announced next week.

The authority said it was trying to balance its books after eight years of central government cuts.

A final decision will be made by the cabinet on 12 September, Mr Flaherty said.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

East Devon has more than £5 million of unspent money from developers – topping Exeter and Plymouth for non-spending

A Freedom of Information request revealed East Devon has received nearly £8.4 million from developers of Section 106 money, of which it has spent only about £4.4 million.

The exact amount not spent is £5,139,000.

Section 106 contributions are paid to local authorities by developers when planning permission is agreed. The contributions are discussed and agreed before developments are given the go ahead. The money is ringfenced for certain projects and has to be spent within a time period – usually five years [after that the money is lost and can never be reclaimed, any interest on the money is presumably retained by EDDC].

It is by far the highest amount of all the local councils which responded.

Exeter has £872,183 unspent; Teignbridge nearly £4 million; Plymouth nearly £2.5 million.

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/councils-millions-pounds-developers-cash-1951395

“Council in legal bid to force disclosure of Brexit impact”

“Plymouth City Council has claimed to be the first to use the Sustainable Communities Act to try to force the government to reveal the impact of Brexit.

It will also encourage other local authorities to take similar steps. Leader Tudor Evans has used the act to ask the government share with the council what it knows about Brexit’s affect on the city, even if the information concerned is considered confidential.

In a letter to communities secretary James Brokenshire, Cllr Evans demanded: “Immediate receipt by Plymouth City Council of all government departmental information and analysis pertaining to the impacts upon Plymouth’s communities and businesses of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, including any information deemed by the government to be confidential.”

The Sustainable Communities Act 2007 allows local authorities to ask central government to remove legislative or other barriers to the improvement of the economic, social and environmental well-being of their area.

Plymouth’s use of it is based on the council’s fears about the impact of Brexit on the city’s economy.

Cllr Evans said: “Brexit is going to have an impact on Plymouth, that is for sure. But for this council to do the job of protecting businesses and residents, we have to know exactly what the government has planned for us because at the moment, we don’t know.

“We’ve seen various dossiers released in the last few weeks. They have been at best woolly and do not address what Brexit means for individual communities.”

He said Plymouth relied on imports and exports, and half of its 20 largest companies were foreign owned and had invested there because of the direct access to the EU market.

“Although we are the first council to use the [sustainable communities] act in this way, I don’t expect us to be the last,” Cllr Evans said. “I will be speaking to colleagues all around the country in the next few days to help put pressure on the government for answers.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=36539%3Acouncil-in-legal-bid-to-force-disclosure-of-brexit-impact&catid=59&Itemid=27

Clyst St Mary and the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan – the EDDC position

This was the addendum to the post below – the East Devon District Council case for the extra 57,000 homes it has been agreed must be built around Exeter. Do note that government funding is NOT guaranteed by any current budgetary measures nor are there any major job creation schemes in the pipeline.

ALSO NOTE: these are paragraphs from the report, not the full report, chosen to reflect the particular issues for Clyst St Mary:

“The purpose of this report to Strategic Planning Committee is not intended to pre-judge any Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) detailed assessment and evidence gathering but simply to start the debate to establish broad principles and locations for growth.

The continued growth of the district and the future incentives form a vital element in the mitigation of the future financial pressures anticipated in East Devon from 2020/21.

GESP gives an opportunity for councils to negotiate deals with the government to fund additional infrastructure in association with growth.

Much infrastructure funding comes from development, central government grants and the Councils themselves. Other Councils have worked with the Government to agree ‘infrastructure deals’ to provide more and higher quality homes in return for infrastructure investment e.g. Oxfordshire have agreed a deal where the Government provides up to £215 million towards infrastructure and housing in return for a commitment to a specific number of homes being built. We realise that new development, transport and infrastructure need to be thought about together and more detail on those issues will be identified and consulted on in the draft GESP in the summer of 2019.

Up to 2040, extra large-scale infrastructure is likely to cost more than £1 Billion. This will be determined to a large extent by future development sites in the plan but these sites are not yet determined. The infrastructure we may need to provide up to 2040 in the GESP area are:

New primary and secondary schools; Relief to major junctions on the M5; Improvements to the A30/A303; A number of new Park and Ride sites on the main roads into Exeter; Walking and cycling routes in and between towns and Exeter; Improvements to rail and bus routes and buses; Low carbon energy generation and a smart grid; New, accessible green space; Healthcare facilities; Community facilities; Internet connectivity and mobile communications and this is likely to cost around £700m.

Projects are funded in part but there is still a large ‘funding gap’.

Providing more, better and a wider variety of new homes is the main way to improve the present unbalanced housing situation. New NPPF policies require a baseline of a minimum of 844 homes per year to be accommodated in East Devon although this is less than the 950 new homes per year already agreed in the East Devon Local Plan to 2031. However, the baseline of 844 homes does not account for any additional need that the Council may agree to accommodate with neighbouring authorities in GESP which may lead to an increase in the overall number.

Therefore, if Councils deliver more than the minimum total provision of 2,600 housing per year for the combined GESP areas, then the Government will provide more funding for infrastructure. Prompt housing delivery could also be Government funded for affordable housing lost through right to buy sales in our high value housing Districts which continues to be problematic. Additionally, East Devon’s aspiration of one job per home will also need to deliver enough employment space to accommodate a minimum of 844 jobs per year with Councils in the South West agreeing that they will also try to double the size of the local economy by 2036 to increase local prosperity. Evidence suggests that the area has a high number of entrepreneurs and small businesses and encouraging these businesses and providing suitable accommodation for them to expand and grow will be an important factor for accommodating growth.

The NPPF recommends the effective use of previously developed or ‘brownfield’ land for meeting development needs but avoiding low density to make optimal use of sites with allocated sites and those with outline permissions being commenced within five years.

The government intend that viability assessment work is primarily undertaken at the plan making stage. The onus is on local authorities to undertake robust viability assessments which are open and transparent and publically available. The revised NPPF addresses the importance of good design (“Paragraph 124. The creation of high quality buildings and places is fundamental to what the planning and development process should achieve. Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development, creates better places in which to live and work and helps make development acceptable to communities”).

However, decision making in relation to flood risk and heritage assets remains unchanged in the revised NPPF with one of the Key Issues in the Report to Committee stating

· Flood zones – Clearly we should not be planning for new homes in areas at high risk of flooding and so areas within flood zones 2 and 3 should be excluded from any search for locations to accommodate growth.
Two of the main principles for growth are to
· Accommodate growth outside of areas within flood zones 2 and 3 and ensure that sustainable drainage systems are incorporated to ensure that surface water is wherever possible dealt with on site.
· Locate growth in locations well served by jobs and services to minimise the need to travel and encourage the use of walking, cycling and public transport to promote sustainable travel.

Suitable locations for accommodating growth recommend the west end of the district as it is less constrained. There may be some scope for further growth at Cranbrook but it is not likely to be close to the scale of growth accommodated in the last two local plans in this area.

9. Options for growth in the North West quadrant of the district
The western most quadrant of the district to the north of Exmouth and west of Ottery St Mary is the least constrained part of the district for accommodating growth. The land is relatively flat with no landscape designations. It is well served by main roads with good vehicle access via the M5, A30, A3052 and A376 and has good existing public transport links with the railway line and existing bus routes. The main constraints in this area of the district are the airport safeguarding and noise zones but these cover a relatively small part of the area and development could readily be accommodated outside of these zones.

9.1 Centre growth around one or more existing villages ​

This scenario would identify a number of key villages with scope for significant expansion based on factors such as access to public transport, road infrastructure and the services and facilities available within the village. This option has the benefits of helping to support existing businesses and services potentially helping to secure the future of existing village shops, schools, pubs, churches etc. It could also encourage new services and facilities to be provided which are then beneficial to existing residents as well as new residents. This is something that the new NPPF encourages, however these issues would require further consideration on a village by village basis as in most cases growth would have to be quite substantial (in the region of 400 – 500 homes) to make it viable to deliver the required services and facilities to make the settlement suitably sustainable for growth and in the process could harm the character of the village and the existing community.

9.3 Establish a further new town – This scenario would involve the creation of a new community similar to Cranbrook within the western part of the district. Cranbrook has been successful in delivering a high number of new homes in a relatively short space of time and has delivered some significant infrastructure alongside such as schools, a community centre and the railway station. There is however still much to be delivered at Cranbrook and the creation of a similar new town in the district could harm delivery at Cranbrook. Cranbrook benefited from substantial government investment to get development started and there is no guarantee that such resources would be made available again. It has also been a private sector led development and there is some uncertainty whether the private sector would commit to a further new town delivered on a similar basis in the district. Cranbrook has also been criticised for delivering one type of housing which has successfully met the needs of young families but it has not to date provided a wide range of choice to meet the broad range of housing needs that exist in the district. The delivery of a town centre and some other key facilities at Cranbrook is still pending with the town needing to reach a critical mass to support these things. This in itself illustrates the scale a new community needs to achieve before such facilities can economically be provided.

9.5 Establish a number of new villages – This scenario would involve the creation of a series of modern Devon villages that could reflect to some degree the form of existing villages within the district. This option would potentially be the most sensitive option in landscape terms. If the villages were designed so that they had different characters and form then there would be the greatest potential to broaden the choice of housing in the district and maximise delivery rates by having several developers delivering different types of housing simultaneously across the area and is favoured in terms of delivery as there would be scope to have several builders delivering simultaneously with each village providing opportunities to develop their own form and character. A significant concern with this option is the ability of new villages to deliver the required service and facilities as well as jobs alongside the housing. Existing villages are struggling to maintain such facilities and providing new within a new village is likely to be even more difficult unless the villages are quite large and facilities are somehow shared with neighbouring settlements and good transport links provided between them.

Exmouth – Options for growth at Exmouth include sites that are locally sensitive and would potentially involve incursions into the Maer Valley or expansion of the town out into the Lympstone ward.

9.7 Each of these options raises issues but the new NPPF acknowledges that “The supply of large numbers of new homes can often be best achieved through planning for larger scale development, such as new settlements or significant extensions to existing villages and towns, provided they are well located and designed, and supported by the necessary infrastructure and facilities. By working with the support of their communities, and with other authorities if appropriate, strategic policymaking authorities should identify suitable locations for such development where this can help to meet identified needs in a sustainable way.”

9.8 The assessment of each of the options is at an early stage but Members views are sought on these options and any clear preferences that Members may have.

Recommendations:

· A significant proportion of growth to be accommodated within the western part of the district.
· Accommodate growth in the existing towns focusing strategic growth around Axminster, Exmouth, Honiton and Ottery St Mary with the remaining towns taking more modest growth to meet the needs of those settlements.
· Villages to bring forward modest levels of growth to meet their own needs through neighbourhood plans.
· Focus development around main transport corridors where possible.

11. Conclusion

It is early days in terms of understanding how growth could be accommodated in the district and this report is not intended to pre-empt this work which will establish an evidence base to inform detailed consultation and discussion in the future. The principles included in this report are proposed as a baseline position to inform strategy development and work only but hopefully help to aid understanding of the issues and start the debate.

Greater Exeter Strategic Plan – Update and Vision

Since the previous consultation the GESP team has been busy analysing the consultation responses, the sites suggested and exploring issues for preparing the Draft Plan. A consultation will be held between 5 October and 30 November 2018 on a new vision for the plan, separated into three sections covering ‘the plan, ‘the place’ and ‘the priorities’ and includes the key areas of housing, a potential transport strategy and required infrastructure but no details about specific proposals will be published until the summer of 2019 (after the Local Elections in May 2019).”

Save Clyst St Mary Summer 2018 Update

“It’s been a while since I was last in touch with you regarding proposed future, large scale developments in Clyst St Mary and I’m aware that there are a number of residents interested in our Campaign who are new to the village, so I am writing to provide a brief summary. I hope you find this helpful.

Thanks to the support of so many residents from all parts of our village, we have managed thus far to fight plans to substantially increase the number of homes in the village (by over 100%!). We have fought this on the grounds of the proximity to flood plains, significant traffic and safety concerns, issues regarding pollution and the lack of existing infrastructure. We have never been against all future development, but feel that any future growth needs to be sustainable.

As I write, the situation regarding the Friends Provident site is that twenty one months on from the submission of the planning application for 150 dwellings and employment space at Winslade Park, these proposals are still awaiting a decision from East Devon District Council.

As you may have seen in the press this week, there are plans to develop a ‘second Cranbrook’. This could have significant implications for Clyst St Mary because this village has been earmarked for future development but without substantial road infrastructure improvements any sizeable development will be accessed via our roundabout, adding to the already excessive level of traffic congestion that so many of us have to face on a daily basis!

Worryingly, there is also a rumour that East Devon District Council plan on connecting sizeable development (in the region of 12,000 houses) to Clyst St Mary stretching along the A3052. The report goes before the District Council Strategic Planning Committee on Tuesday 4th September.

Our East Devon District Councillor is Mike Howe. You may also be interested in the following article from Devon Live

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/second-cranbrook-new-town-more-1944438

or the 70 page link to the Council’s report below

Click to access 040918strategicplanningcombinedagenda.pdf

Thanks to one of our Campaign’s members, I am able to attach a much more detailed summary of these plans (see separate post above) focusing on how they relate to our village.

May I take this opportunity to thank you, once again, for your continued support. Please spread the word if you meet new residents who may not be aware of the Council’s intentions for the village. We are always grateful for more hands-on support from residents, so if you would like to get more actively involved, please do let me know.

With best wishes,

Gaeron

https://saveclyststmary.org.uk/

What will happen in Cranbrook and Sidford if pavement parking is made illegal?

“Motorists should be banned from parking on pavements to prevent pedestrians having to walk on the road, ministers have been told.

A coalition of charities is calling on the Department for Transport (DfT) to fast-track legislation designed to bar drivers from mounting the kerb.

In a letter to The Times, the groups criticise the government for “stalling” over the issue and say that action is needed to stop cars on congested streets spilling over on to the pavement.

The issue is particularly pressing for parents with prams, the elderly, those with disabilities and people who are blind and partially sighted, they say.

The letter is signed by 20 charities including the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, Living Streets, Age UK, British Cycling, Scope and The Ramblers. An open letter to the prime minister signed by 16,000 members of the public has also been delivered.

It follows a statement from the DfT this year that it was considering an overhaul of traffic laws to prevent vehicles from blocking paths. This would bring the rest of England into line with London, which has banned pavement parking, except where specifically allowed by councils, since 1974. Outside the capital, local authorities have long pushed for the change, saying it was a “nonsense” that those outside London were treated differently. It could allow councils to make it illegal to park on the kerb unless they expressly grant permission, potentially carrying fines of £50 or £70.

Almost three years ago the DfT suggested that a review of the law would be carried out as part of reforms designed to promote more cycling and walking, but it never materialised.

Today’s letter notes that it has been 1,000 days since ministers first proposed to take action. “Cars parked on the pavements force people into the road to face oncoming traffic, which is particularly dangerous for many, including blind and partially sighted people, parents with pushchairs and young children, wheelchair users and others who use mobility aids,” it says.

Xavier Brice, chief executive of Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity, said: “We strongly support a banning of pavement parking. It is particularly dangerous for those who are blind and partially sighted, other less able people and people with push chairs.”

The DfT said: “We recognise the importance of making sure that pavement parking doesn’t put pedestrians at risk, and believe councils are best placed to make decisions about local restrictions.

“Councils already have the powers to ban drivers from parking on pavements and we are considering whether more can be done to make it easier for them to tackle problem areas. It is important to get this right for all pavement users.”

Source: Times, pay wall

How much do you really know about the UK? Are you just making it up?

What is the immigration level (what percentage if people living in the UK are immigrants), crime rates (how many crimes per 1,000 population), teenage pregnancy rates (per 1,000 women under 18) and obesity rates in the UK (percentage of adults). Write down your answers, read the article and see correct answers at the end,

“We looked across 13 countries and over 50,000 interviews on 28 questions – asking people to guess at immigration levels, crime rates, teenage pregnancy, obesity levels and more.

Italians are the most likely to be wrong on key social realities about their country, with the US the next worst. At the other end of the spectrum, the Swedes are the most accurate, followed by Germany.

Those are the findings from our exhaustive ‘Misperceptions Index’, published in a forthcoming book on ‘The Perils of Perception’.

We looked across 13 countries and over 50,000 interviews on 28 questions – asking people to guess at immigration levels, crime rates, teenage pregnancy, obesity levels, how happy people are, unemployment rates, smartphone ownership, and many other social realities – to find out who was most and least wrong.

And the Italians are worthy ‘winners’. They guessed that 49% of working-age Italians were unemployed, when in reality at the time it was 12%. They thought 30% of their country were immigrants, when the actual figure was 7%. They guessed 35% of people in Italy have diabetes, when in reality it’s only 5%

The US is not much better. Americans thought 17% of their population are Muslim, when the actual figure is around 1%. They guessed 24% of girls aged 15 to 19 give birth each year, when the actual figure is 2.1%

At the other end of the spectrum, Sweden is very accurate on some facts: for example, they guessed that 32% of prisoners in Sweden were immigrants, when the actual figure was 31%. But even the Swedes get a lot wrong: they guessed that 24% of the population were unemployed, when at the time it was 8%.

We also asked people who they think has the least accurate view of their own society. And the country that people picked out most often was the US, with an impressive 27% of the vote, way ahead of any other country.

And this is not just an unfair image from outside – Americans think this of themselves too: 49% of Americans expected their fellow country-folk to have the least accurate view of facts about their society.

The immediate question that springs to mind is… why? Why are some countries worse on these realities than others?

The main message from the book is that we’re wrong not just because of what we’re told – by the media, politicians and social media – but also how we think, our own many biases, for example, in looking for information that confirms our already held views, how we’re drawn to negative information and the way we think the past was better than it was.

But that still leaves the question of why misperceptions vary so much between countries. To help answer this, I looked at how measures of all sorts of national characteristics – on the quality of the media in each country, the openness of government, ratings of education systems, trust in politics and the media, and many others – related to our Misperceptions Index.

And the honest answer starts with a shrug – there are no clear-cut, full explanations for this global variety.

But there is one factor that does seem to be related: how ‘emotionally expressive’ people in the country are. This index was developed by Erin Meyer in her book The Culture Map and measures things like whether people in different cultures around the world tend to raise their voices, touch each other or laugh passionately when talking.

This may seem a strange set of characteristics to be related to how deluded we are about, for example, immigration levels. But we need to remember that our guesses at these questions are partly emotional – they send a message about what’s worrying us. If immigration is a big concern, we automatically pick a big number, even if in reality immigration levels are much lower.

Our misperceptions are about our emotions as much as our ignorance of the facts, and therefore it’s not surprising that more emotionally expressive countries have more exaggerated guesses. It’s the mental arithmetic equivalent of wild hand gestures and loud arguments.

Of course, we need to strenuously avoid stereotyping all Swedes and Germans as calculating and rational, compared with voluble and gesticulating Italians and Americans. Our emotional expressiveness is far from a complete explanation, and there are many exceptions.

Our errors are not completely set in our national culture, and we can do something about them. This is reinforced by one other possible explanation for why Sweden is the least wrong.

Sweden is of course the home of late, great Hans Rosling, where he is a national figure, and where his Gapminder foundation has been taking their teaching material on global realities into schools and workplaces for many years, to ‘dis­mantle misconceptions and promote a fact-based worldview’.

And this does seem to work, for some Swedes at least: in a follow-up survey among Swedes who got various facts correct, asking how they knew the right answers, ‘Hans Rosling’ was a common response.

Of course, not every country can have their own Hans Rosling, and it’s probably no coincidence that a culture like Sweden was lucky enough to produce one. But it suggests we can improve our understanding of our countries and the world, with effort and invention. Our misperceptions are important to understand, but they’re not inevitable.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/peril-perception_uk_5b86be25e4b0511db3d3cb50

For comparison:

At the last census 8.3% of the UK population were immigrants, West Yorkshire came top with 88.6 victim-based crimes per 1,000 people living there. Meanwhile, Dyfed-Powys was the safest place to live in the UK last year, with 36.6 offences per 1,000 people. Among under-18s, the conception rate has halved in eight years, to 21 per 1,000 women in 2015, data from the Office for National Statistics shows. In 2016, 26 per cent of adults were classified as obese. This has increased from 15 per cent in 1993 but has remained at a similar level since 2010.

“Land now 51% of UK’s net worth – a huge transfer of wealth to landowners, say campaigners”

“A dramatic rise in land values pushed Britain’s wealth to a fresh high of more than £10tn last year, highlighting the huge gains made by developers in property hotspots across the UK.

From London and the home counties to Cambridge and popular parts of Devon and Cornwall, land values have become the single largest element of wealth, dwarfing household wealth locked up in property and financial savings.

Official figures showed that the UK’s net worth rose by £492bn between 2016 and 2017 to £10.2tn, with the lion’s share of the increase accounted for by a £450bn jump in the value of land.

The rise continues a trend since 2012 that has pushed the average assets held by each Briton to £155,000, up £6,000 from 2016.

The Office for National Statistics said consistent increases in the value of land meant it accounted for 51% of the UK’s net worth in 2016, higher than any other G7 country that produces similar statistics.

In France, which has a land mass twice the size of the UK, land values account for 41% of wealth while in Germany they account for only 26%.

This week several landowners have outlined plans for developments, including the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Group, which said it was taking a growing interest in residential property outside central London.

It said it would build thousands of homes on greenfield sites around Oxford and Cambridge, which are to benefit from Treasury plans to connect the two university towns with a cross-country rail link.

Analysts said much of the increase in land values was in response to Britain’s rising population, which has put pressure on the government to back house builders seeking to develop green field sites and farmland in south-east England and other development hotspots around the country.

The price of farmland can increase by 100 times when developers succeed in persuading ministers to re-designate it for housing. Areas of London that were previously derelict, especially in the east of the capital, have seen huge rises in values as regeneration efforts and improved transport links have fed into property prices.

Commercial property has also enjoyed an upswing in value since Britain’s recovery following the 2008 banking crash, more than offsetting recent declines in much of the retail sector.

The ONS figures go beyond a study last year by Lloyds bank that showed that Britain’s net worth had climbed above £10tn for the first time, but did not single out the value of land.

The steady increase in land values is expected to trigger further calls for a land value tax or new rules allowing local authorities to reap the rise in values by allowing them buy land earmarked for development.

A growing number of thinktanks and politicians support imposing a tax that would take a slice of rising land values.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has urged the Treasury to develop a scheme, while the Green party co-leader, Caroline Lucas, has tabled a private member’s bill proposing a land value tax. Labour said in its 2017 election manifesto that it would consider a similar tax.

Mark Wadsworth, the head of the Campaign for Land Value Taxation, said: “The minority with a vested interest in high land values will no doubt celebrate higher values, saying that is shows the importance of land to the UK economy.

“In truth, land values are not a net addition to national wealth, they merely represent the benefits that accrue to landowners because of government spending on public services funded out of general taxation; land values are actually just a measure of ongoing transfers of wealth from taxpayers to landowners and a zero-sum game.”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/aug/29/uks-wealth-rises-as-land-values-soar-by-450bn-in-a-year