Government “Landscapes Review” call for evidence on AONBs and National Parks

“Overview

The Government has asked for an independent review of England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). You can find more about the work of the review and our Terms of Reference. Already the review team, led by Julian Glover and a panel with a range of experiences and interests, has carried out visits and meetings in many parts of England.

We will do more in the months ahead – but we want everyone to have a chance to contribute, whether you live in a National Park or AONB, run a business in them, enjoy visiting, care about landscapes and biodiversity, or represent an organisation with views that might shape and improve our findings. The questions (available as a list in the related documents section below) are a guide: please do not feel you must answer them all – or have to write at great length. We have not set a word length on answers, as we know some people and organisations will want to reply in detail on specific points. However, we ask that where possible you keep each individual answer to no more than 500 words. It is not necessary to reply to every question so please ignore those which you do not think relevant to you. You may find it easier to write your answers elsewhere before pasting them into the text boxes in the link below: …”

https://consult.defra.gov.uk/land-use/landscapes-review-call-for-evidence/

“Budget 2018: Big housing plan will supply only 9,000 extra homes”

“Theresa May’s plan to solve the housing crisis will result in only 1,500 additional homes being built each year, the government’s budget watchdog has said.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicts that the decision to allow councils to borrow extra money to build more social housing, which was the centrepiece of the prime minister’s party conference speech, will result in no more than 9,000 extra homes by 2024. It said that the plan would “crowd out” private sector construction as local authorities were forced to poach skilled tradesmen from house builders.

The analysis is likely to anger the prime minister because it contradicts previous predictions that the policy will help the government to meet its target of 300,000 new homes a year. “

Source: The Times (pay wall)

“The High Streets that missed out on millions: The Chancellor’s got £1.6bn to help shops but councils failed to make full use of his last helping hand”

“Struggling High Street shops have missed out on millions of pounds of vital emergency funding following a series of shambolic blunders.

On Monday, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a £1.6 billion lifeline for Britain’s High Streets, which included a £900 million relief package to help shops battling sky-high business rates.

It means that around 500,000 shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes are expected to see their rates bills cut by up to a third over the next two years.

The Treasury will also set aside £675 million to help councils rejuvenate their town centres.

But it is the Government’s second attempt at helping the High Street, after a £435 million business rates relief package was announced in 2017.

This was supposed to help businesses struggling to pay their business rates.

However, Money Mail can today reveal that millions of pounds from the first fund failed to reach the businesses it was intended to help, and was instead returned to Treasury coffers.

As many as three-quarters of councils failed to hand out their allocated cash to ailing local firms. In some cases, councils spent only an eighth of their budgets, while others helped as few as five shops.

One local authority failed to spend almost £800,000 of its extra funding.

Eighteen months ago, more than 500,000 shops, pubs and restaurants were hit by business rates hikes — a tax on bricks and mortar businesses.

Following a Money Mail campaign, ministers pledged to introduce a £300 million fund for councils to distribute to those worst affected over four years, as part of a wider £435 million business rates relief package.

Some £175 million of this had to be spent in the first 12 months — by the end of September — or be returned to the Government. But many councils misunderstood the rules, while others failed to promote the scheme or made it too complicated for small businesses to apply.

Some councils claim the Government did not give them enough time to distribute the money before it was lost.

Embarrassingly, the council in former Communities Secretary Sajid Javid’s own constituency, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, handed out only a third of the cash it had been given to help its High Street.

Mr Javid, now Home Secretary, was previously in charge of ensuring the fund was distributed by councils and had promised ‘absolutely no delay’ in doing so.

Yet figures collated by Retail Express and chartered surveyors Bankier Sloan reveal just £46,300 of the council’s £134,500 pot was given out in time — helping only 37 businesses.

Nearby Redditch Borough Council helped only 21 shops and spent just £15,800 out of £124,000, an eighth of its budget.

Stevenage Borough Council, Hertfordshire, gave cash to just five businesses in the town and awarded £18,800 out of a possible £100,000.

While Swindon Borough Council, Wiltshire, spent only £58,000 out of £314,300, helping 41 businesses — with more than a quarter of a million pounds leftover.

Fenland District Council, in Cambridgeshire, spent £21,277 out of almost £160,000, barely a seventh of its budget.

And Broxbourne Borough Council, in Hertfordshire, spent a fifth of its pot, distributing £38,000 out of £213,500 and helping only 31 shops.

Camden Council, North London, allocated 100 per cent of its fund, but said shop closures meant that, in the end, it was only able to hand out 86 per cent of it.

It meant that, despite distributing £4.84 million to businesses, it had £790,000 leftover.

By contrast, around 30 councils spent all of their funding. Barnsley Council, for example, spent every penny of its £276,000 and helped an incredible 2,135 businesses.

Jerry Schurder, head of business rates at consultancy Gerald Eve, branded the distribution of the grant ‘shambolic’.

He says: ‘It was a poorly designed fund by the Government and a knee-jerk response to the backlash against the rates revaluation.

‘It was then badly implemented by some councils which did not pay sufficient attention to the criteria.’

The fund was supposed to help the smallest businesses facing the greatest rises.

The Government decided how much money to allocate to each council by calculating the total increase in bills for firms facing a minimum 12.5 per cent rate rise and with a rateable value of less than £200,000 — the rental value on which business rates are based.

But many councils used this same rigid criteria when deciding which firms should receive cash —awarding it only to those hit by rate rises of more than 12.5 per cent.

In fact, councils had total freedom to spend the cash however they wished, as long as it went towards reducing business rates bills.

Some councils excluded businesses they felt did not need the cash as desperately, such as schools, banks and estate agents.

Meanwhile, multinational firms and Government bodies were typically excluded because they had exceeded state aid limits via other grants.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government refused to say how much cash had not been spent.

But research by Retail Express suggests it was as much as £17.5 million — 10 per cent of the budget.

A series of Freedom of Information requests showed that 159 out of the 195 councils that replied had failed to spend all of their grant by the end of April.

The deadline to hand out the cash was actually September 30, but many councils stopped distributing the 2017/18 grant at the end of the financial year.

News editor of Retail Express, Jack Courtez, who led the research, says: ‘I think it is incredible that councils claim they are being squeezed by a lack of central Government funding, but when they do receive money they fail to distribute it.

‘Many councils have let down local businesses which depended on this funding.’

Chartered surveyor Ian Sloan, of Bankier Sloan, who contacted councils to warn them they faced a massive under-spend, says: ‘The distribution of this fund has been a mess. Local businesses have lost out on money they really needed and now the money is gone.’

Councillor Matt Dormer, leader of Redditch Borough Council, says that as the funding is drawn from general taxation, the council has ‘a duty to spend it in an appropriate manner, and not to simply seek to spend as much of it as possible.’

Bromsgrove Council says it had to bear in mind that ‘any relief given to people facing an increase in their rates gives them a competitive advantage.’

Broxbourne Borough Council said that ‘100 per cent of businesses who completed and returned application forms were granted the relief.’ Swindon Council says it had to award cash automatically when few firms applied.

Stevenage Borough Council said it has already granted £32,392 of the £36,000 it has been allocated for the coming year. And Fenland Council says it would give higher amounts to successful firms this year as a result of the low take-up of the relief in 2017/18.

Camden’s Councillor Richard Olszewski says the council awarded all of its funds but ‘due to businesses moving in and out of the borough and a substantial number of successful rating appeals’ it was then unable to distribute it all before the deadline. This year it has over-allocated funds to allow for business turnover.

A total of £175 million was supposed to have been handed out in 2017/18, followed by £85 million this year, then £35 million in 2019/20 and £5 million in 2020/2021.

A Government spokesman says: ‘To help local businesses thrive, we have introduced over £10 billion worth of business rates support so nearly a third of all business pay no rates at all.’ “

https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-6335101/The-Chancellors-got-1-6bn-help-shops-councils-failed-make-use-helping-hand.html

Will hospitals be sold off to US interests after Brexit?

One pundit thinks so:

“Leading Brexiter Tories have revealed their plans to allow private US firms to take over NHS hospitals. They are also planning for the UK to adopt lower US environmental and food safety regulations and allow imports of things that are presently banned for health reasons such as chlorinated chicken into the country.

The radical plans were revealed in recommendations by a think tank called ‘The Initiative for Free Trade’.

The IFT was launched in September 2017 by a small but influential group of right-wing Conservative figures.

Who might those figures be?

None other than Tory party leadership contender Boris Johnson, Tory International Trade Secretary Liam Fox who both launched the think tank along with IFT president, Tory MEP Daniel Hannan.

https://tompride.wordpress.com/2018/10/31/tories-reveal-plans-to-sell-off-nhs-hospitals-to-us-firms-after-brexit/

with back information here from 2017:
https://tompride.wordpress.com/2017/04/23/theresa-mays-secret-plans-to-replace-nhs-england-with-private-us-healthcare-system-kaiser-permanente/

Twiss gets his words into a twist – ANOTHER reason we need independent councillors!

This time from the blog of DCC EDA councillor Martin Shaw.

“Conservative County Councillor for Honiton, Phil Twiss told Devon County Council on 4th October that ‘Sonja Manton [Director of Strategy for the Devon Clinical Commissioning Groups] said at the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee the other week that there no plans to close any community hospitals in our area. We were talking about Seaton, Honiton and Axminster at the time.’

I was surprised that he should give us this good news in passing, and that the CCG had made no announcement of something so obviously important. So eventually I watched the webcast of the Health Scrutiny meeting on September 20th. Although Sonja Manton spoke several times, I couldn’t find her saying anything like what Phil said – indeed anything about community hospitals at all.

So I emailed Sonja and she confirms she didn’t speak about the hospitals. As for the issue, all she would say was, ‘I can assure you that our continued focus remains on planning and commissioning services and support to meet the needs of the Devon population in the best possible way. We recognise how strongly communities feel about community hospital buildings and will continue to work with communities and stakeholders to modernise and evolve the way our services are delivered and where they are based to make sure we make best use of all our resources and public estate.‘

So was Sonja more forthcoming at another, presumably private, meeting, Phil? Or was what you said wishful thinking?”

@philtwiss’claim that @SonjaManton said ‘there are no plans to close any community hospitals in our area’, not backed up by @NEWDevonCCG. What’s the explanation, Phil?

Why we need independent councillors

From the blog of Claire Wright. The review would NOT be happening without Claire’s dogged persistence (and similar action by EDA Independent Councillor Martin Shaw. Without them these issues would be kicked into the very, very long grass!

“A Devon wide review of how carers are coping will take place, following my successful proposal at last month’s Devon County Council Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee meeting.

I had been carrying out research into this area since January, when I asked for more information on a scrutiny report, which suggested that carers may be struggling.

I had a meeting with officers and asked for a report of a focus group that was carried out last autumn (2017). …

The results (which I was asked not to publish) were worrying. In almost all areas carers who took part indicated that they were worse off, or saw services being poorer.

What came out strongly to me that the three key areas of health, financial support and respite care, were all deemed as being poorer, according to the carers who took part.

I proposed a review at the June scrutiny committee meeting but chair, Sara Randall Johnson suggested a meeting with Devon Carers staff first, at the Westbank League of Friends. Devon Carers is commissioned to provide support for carers in the Devon County Council area.

This was a useful meeting. What emerged for me, among other issues, was that under the Care Act 2014, the bar has been raised by the government for both financial support and for respite care so it is now harder to access. I am quite certain that this is partly the reason that carers are finding things tougher.

I asked for a further agenda item for the September Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee meeting. I invited two carers who had asked for my help – Maureen Phillips and Mary Hyland, who gave powerful and moving presentations of their experiences of caring. Maureen, for her father and Mary for her partner.

Mary said there is no respite care available. And that overnight she became a carer, she was thrown into it, she knew nothing about it and had to give up her job. She has no support and finds it hard to even leave the house. Previously, she was a very outgoing person, even having her own programme on BBC Radio Devon. She said she was there on behalf of all local carers. Everyone is finding things hard.

The committee was silent.

Maureen said she had been the carer to her father for eight years. Life is exhausting, demanding, frustrating and isolating, she said. Maureen said specialist support workers are required. She said both she and her father need emotional support. She asked who she should turn to when things get tough. There is a shortage of care workers. In the last eight years she had one holiday. She had to take her father with her. Maureen said she had to fight for every bit of support. She has turned to the services of a solicitor in desperation.

When I made the proposal for a spotlight review at the September meeting, it was seconded by the chair and agreed by the committee. I hope to have a date for the first meeting soon.

We need your help! If you would like to take part by giving your story to the spotlight review, please get in touch at claire@claire-wright.org – many thanks

Here’s the webcast: You can see Mary’s and Maureen’s presentation under public participation – https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/359701

The agenda item itself is under number 12..”

http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/scrutiny_review_to_take_place_into_how_devon_carers_are_coping

Some better news – reduced winter car parking charges start on 1 November

Winter parking tariff starts this week:

£2 all day in all East Devon car parks compared to £1 per hour summer parking charges. BUT this applies to CASH paying parking only – parking permits and Parkmobile tariffs are NOT included.

No excuses not to do your Christmas shopping in your local East Devon towns.