Developers get another easy ride budget

“In a boost for U.K. homebuilders, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond will introduce a new Help to Buy program that will run from 2021 until 2023.

The scheme extends the original program, which has drawn criticism for boosting prices. It will be limited to first-time buyers and regional price caps will be introduced, limiting the value of the home to 1.5 times the price for an average debut home purchaser.

The government gives home buyers an interest-free loan of 20 percent to 40 percent of the purchase price under the program. The announcement was made alongside the publication of an independent, government-commissioned review of the original program. Some had feared the review might result in the policy being scrapped, but it confirmed the policy has boosted house building.

Persimmon plc, the U.K.’s largest home builder, has gained about 107 percent since the introduction of Help to Buy in April 2013. About 60 percent of the company’s home sales are through the Help to Buy program, according to research by analysts at Liberum. The policy, which has already been extended once, was due to expire in 2021.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-29/u-k-to-start-new-help-to-buy-program-for-first-time-buyers

Homeless sent from London to cheaper far away areas

“The number of households being moved out of London by councils has increased dramatically, rising by almost 50% in the first half of this year as town hall leaders blame rising homelessness, tightening public finances and a chronic lack of new cheap homes in the capital.

Councils have sent homeless households as far away as Glasgow, Newcastle and Cardiff in the last year, according to figures collected by local authorities and seen by the Guardian. Seven hundred and 40 households have been relocated to Kent, 574 to Essex, 30 to the West Midlands and 69 to Surrey.

More than 1,200 households were sent out of the capital in the first six months of this year – a 46% rise in the number of out-of-London placements. Six hundred and eighty-eight households were sent away between April and June alone, the highest rate in at least six years, up from 113 households in the first quarter of 2012-13. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/29/number-of-homeless-households-moved-out-of-london-soars

Hospitals should not be used as “weapons”

Here are some images of a few of the responses in the Sidmouth Herald to Hugo Swire after his claims that campaigners for Ottery St Mary Hospital are “anti-Tory” and have “weaponised” their campaign (click on images for better view):

  

     

The secret life of an MPs assistant [including those like Swire and Parish who employ their wives]

“Former parliamentary assistant Margot was thrilled to get a job in politics a few years ago, when she was in her mid-20s, but soon found herself a personal lackey, often doing private work instead of the constituency casework she was hired for – something that is against parliamentary rules. She spent three days designing a website for her MP’s wife’s company, and was then sent to the couple’s home to show his wife how to use it. At other times, she was told to run an online auction to sell her MP’s livestock collection and find people to write references so he could apply to a private members’ club. “It would have been so hard to say no to whatever I was asked to do,” she tells me. “I assumed it was par for the course, although I recognised it was outside of my duties. Had I wanted to complain, I would have had no idea how.”

Her boss, who is still an MP, shouted and swore at staff and told racist and sexist jokes, she and other members of his team tell me. With four full-time assistants paid from his parliamentary staffing allowance (this is £153,620, or £164,460 for London MPs), who helped with his personal life and political work, the MP spent significant time consulting for private businesses and attending board meetings. More than once, staff opened his office door and found him playing computer games in the middle of the day. “All I could really do was roll my eyes,” Margot says. “Because these people are more powerful, you just have to put up with it.” …”

… It also helps to be related or married to your boss [as Hugo Swire an Neil Parish do]: more than 100 MPs currently employ their relatives with public money, according to parliament’s register of members’ financial interests. Among them is Labour’s Margaret Beckett, whose husband Leo, in his 90s, has worked for her for decades. In a rare instance of intrusion into staffing, last March parliament’s standards authority banned MPs from hiring family members, saying it hindered diversity and transparency, although relatives who were already employed can remain. Archy Kirkwood tells me he “made no secret” of employing his wife, that she worked hard and “would never let me down”, but acknowledges some MPs have been less conscientious. “The only person in the world I would trust to handle constituency business in London in my absence would be my wife,” he says. “But [the system] was abused. It was.” Emma, another former researcher for an MP, says her boss employed his wife on the highest pay band (currently almost £50,000 a year), but it was unclear how much work she did.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/oct/27/sworn-at-belittled-fired-at-will-the-truth-about-working-for-an-mp

(Another) self-serving own goal for our Local Enterprise Partnership?

Our LEP is padded with business people who have heavy direst, indirect and subtle links to the nuclear industries and housing development around Hinkley C, so the longer they can keep this white elephant limping along the better. Eggs … basket …. though if the eggs fall out of the basket WE will be clearing up the financial mess, of course.

“France has postponed a decision on whether to order more nuclear reactors in an indication that it may be losing faith in the technology it has sold to Britain.

François de Rugy, the ecology minister, rejected calls for the swift launch of the construction of new French-designed European pressurised reactors (EPRs).

He said no decision would be taken before 2021 and hinted that the authorities might rule out more EPRs altogether. “That is a question which remains open,” he said.

His comments were a blow for EDF, the mostly state-owned French electric group that is building two EPRs at Hinkley Point in Somerset at a cost of £19.5 billion.

Hinkley has faced continued criticism and calls have been made for the project to be halted because of its spiralling costs as well as fears over the technology.

EDF, which is struggling to build France’s first EPR at Flamanville, Normandy, hoped to have a second one up and running by 2030. That is now highly unlikely, given the reluctance of President Macron’s government to place an order. An internal French government document leaked to Agence France-Presse said ministers had told EDF to show that it could limit construction costs before a new order would be considered.

Doubts about the EPR programme have grown amid a series of setbacks at the five sites where they are under construction.

EDF says the one at Flamanville will not be operational before the end of next year.”

Source: The Times

Clinical Commissioning Group merger for Devon – good or bad?

Owl says: a bigger group fo DCC NOT to scrutinise – right….

“There are claims a planned merger between two NHS bodies in Devon will result in a less accountable system with no guarantee of improved healthcare for patients.

At present, there are two clinical commissioning groups – or CCGs – which plan and buy healthcare for local people. There’s one covering the North, West and the East of the county – NHS NEW Devon CCG – and the other covering Torbay and the South – NHS South Devon & Torbay CCG. Health bosses want them to merge into one big organisation, claiming this will save money and result in a stronger service. They say there’s already been benefits from the two organisations working more closely together.

But GPs in Torbay have voted against the move and local councillor in the Bay, Swithin Long, is also worried…”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-45865015

Coastal communities at high risk within a generation

“Rising sea levels will claim homes, roads and fields around the coast of England, the government’s official advisers have warned, and many people are unaware of the risks they face.

The new report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said existing government plans to “hold the line” in many places – building defences to keep shores in their current position – were unaffordable for a third of the country’s coast. Instead, the CCC said, discussions about the “hard choices” needed must be started with communities that will have to move inland.

“There genuinely will be homes that it will not be possible to save,” said Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee. “The current approach is not fit for purpose. This report is really a wake-up call to the fact that we can’t protect the whole English coast to today’s standard.”

She added: “We could see as much as a metre of sea level rise before the end of the century, so within the lifetime of today’s children, and that has a major impact on coastal flooding and erosion.” Prof Jim Hall, another member of the committee, said: “We are not prepared.”

The regions affected include areas with soft, eroding shores in the south and east, as well as low-lying areas in East Anglia, Lincolnshire, parts of the south-west such as the Somerset Levels, and the coast between Liverpool and Blackpool in the north-west.

The entire coast of England is already covered by shoreline management plans, developed by the Environment Agency and local councils. These would cost £18-30bn to implement, but have no funding and no legal force. The CCC analysis found that, for more than 150km of coast, the plans to hold the line would cost more than the property and land that would be protected.

For another 1,460km of coast, the benefit of holding the line was twice the cost, but the government only currently funds defences with at least a sixfold cost-benefit ratio. “Funding for these locations is unlikely and realistic plans to adapt to the inevitability of change are needed now,” said the report.

The report also found that 520,000 properties are already in areas with significant coastal flood risk. However, this may treble to 1.5m by the 2080s without action.

Currently, 8,900 properties are at risk from coastal erosion and in 2014 the Environment Agency calculated that 7,000 homes, worth more than £1bn, would fall into the sea this century. But the CCC report found that in the 2080s another 100,000 properties would be at risk of sliding into the sea.

As well as properties, key infrastructure is also at risk from the sea level rise and bigger storms being driven by climate change. In the 2080s, 1,600km of major roads, 650km of railway line and 92 stations will be at risk, the CCC found. Ports, power stations and gas terminals are also in danger. A further risk is toxic waste from old landfill sites falling into the sea as the coast is eroded; a 2016 study found 1,000 such sites at risk.

Pollution risk from over 1,000 old UK landfill sites due to coastal erosion.

Brown said people living in coastal areas do not have access to good information about the risks they face. “A retired couple could buy, with cash, a house with a fabulous sea view without being given any information about whether it was at risk of erosion,” she said.

Making better information easily available would alarm people but was vital, said Hall. It would also affect property values, he said: “If it was better communicated, as we think it should be, then that would have a [negative] impact on house prices.”

The government must work with local councils on long-term, funded programmes that engage people and help them move if necessary, the CCC said. “Those are very difficult decisions,” said Brown. “Local councils are in a very tough situation having to raise those kind of issues with their communities. There may be a bit of denial going on in local authorities.” …”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/26/rising-sea-levels-will-claim-homes-around-english-coast-report-warns

Cranbrook town councillors attempt to block mobile catering vans is defeated

Owl says: This is what happens when you fail to build a proper centre in a new town.

“Members differed in their opinions when deciding whether to support a request for annual street trading consent from Richard Filby, who runs popular chip van Flippy Chippy.

Councillor Ray Bloxham said granting consent would go against Cranbrook’s ‘healthy’ image, as it is just one of ten sites selected to join NHS England’s national Healthy New Towns programme. He said: “We are trying to do something about the health of our town.

“We need to, at some stage, make a stand against this type of thing because it is not good.”

Cllr Bloxham said there is a ‘proliferation’ of mobile businesses coming into Cranbrook, which do not pay business rates and sell ‘unhealthy food’ to the community.

Cllr Sarah Gunn said a fish and chip shop is set to open in Cranbrook soon and the council needed to support it. She added: “It is not cheap rent or business rates – there are no concessions.

“A chip van up the road is going to make that very hard.”

Cllr Matt Osborne said Flippy Chippy is ‘well known and liked’ in Cranbrook, and had been involved with a lot of community events held in the town.

He said: “If we take that away when there is a chip shop opening, the backlash will be quite severe – because we are the reason people can not have fish and chips in town anymore.

“I think we will get some kind of movement against that.”

Cllr Bloxham proposed the council objects on the grounds that Cranbrook is a Healthy New Town and the council is ‘trying to promote healthy living’.

He added: “It is unfair competition for businesses trying to set up shop in the town. [Flippy Chippy] has no overheads apart from a bit of petrol.”

Cllr Bloxham’s proposal was defeated by four votes to three.

Cllr Les Bayliss said two other mobile companies sell food in Cranbrook and it would be unfair to object to Mr Filby’s request.

He proposed the council supports the trading consent request, but his motion was also defeated by three votes to two.”

Councillors finally agreed they would send their comments to East Devon District Council, which will decide whether to grant consent at a future date.

Mr Filby’s application is to trade from a catering van every Monday, from 4.30pm to 7.30pm, on Younghayes Road (by the country park).

http://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/council-split-in-deciding-whether-to-support-street-trading-request-from-popular-flippy-chippy-food-van-1-5749353

Newham latest wobbly council

“Newham financial health check identifies control weaknesses

A financial health check carried out by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has recommended that London Borough of Newham addresses weaknesses in its financial control.

CIPFA was appointed by the borough’s mayor Rokhsana Fiaz to examine the council’s finances after she was elected earlier this year.

According to a council report this week, the initial findings of the review recommend that the council carries out a fundamental budget review with external challenge and new corporate standards.

It also says the council needs, as a matter of urgency, to assess the extent to which reserves might be needed to support this year’s revenue budget.

In addition, it recommends the adoption of outcomes-based budgeting, the consideration of council tax increases, and that the council “review the use of its assets, dispose of assets no longer required and how it finances investment in those assets”.

The final report is set to be presented to the council in the next three months.”

http://www.room151.co.uk/brief/#newham-financial-healthcheck-identifies-control-weaknesses