Ottery Town Council has very oddly-timed meeting (2.30 pm, 29 November)on future of its hospital … under very unusual circumstances …

Ottery Town Council is behaving VERY strangely ……….

“An Extraordinary Town Council meeting to ‘re-examine’ a decision to set up a working group to retain Ottery Hospital, will take place next Thursday (29 November) at the unusual time of 2.30pm.

Four councillors – Dobson, Holmes, Gori and Edwards have signed the paperwork required to trigger the meeting, at which councillors will decide to ‘support or rescind’ the decision made earlier this month to set up the working group.

At the Ottery Town Council meeing on Tuesday, a proposal 6 November for a working group to help retain Ottery’s community hospital was approved by three votes to eight abstentions.

Next Thursday’s meeting is convened on the grounds of not having enough information, despite myself, Cllr Geoff Pratt, Roger Giles and Dr Margaret Hall (chair of West Hill Parish Council) explaining at length the proposal.

I’m kind of speechless at the apparent determination of some town councillors to thwart plans to save our hospital.

And I have never known an Ottery Town Council meeting in public to take place in the middle of the day either.

Dr Hall’s letter to Mayor, Paul Bartlett, setting out the background to why there is a need for a working group, was published on this blog earlier this week, here –

Members of the public are able to make representations at the beginning of next Thursday’s meeting.

If you have a view, please do go along and express it.

If you have no view but wish to attend the meeting, please try and be there.

It will be held at the town council offices, just off The Square.

It is only by seeing the strength of feeling in the town to protect the hospital that councillors may relent and allow this vital work to happen.

Unfortunately, I am in London that day, so will be unable to be there.

The agenda will appear here shortly –

Pic: Over 200 people who attended mine and Cllr Giles meeting in October 2014 when Ottery Hospital’s beds were first threatened.”

Branson for Flybe?

“Virgin Atlantic Airways is in talks to acquire regional airline Flybe Group Plc (FLYB.L), Sky News reported on Thursday, a week after Flybe said it was in talks to sell itself.

A tie-up with Flybe would provide opportunities to feed passenger traffic into Virgin Atlantic’s long-haul network and access valuable take-off and landing slots at London Heathrow Airport, Sky News reported, citing unnamed sources.

Virgin Atlantic’s main business is UK-to-U.S. flights. The company is owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and U.S. airline Delta Air Lines.

The report did not mention any financial details. Flybe has a market capitalization of about 21 million pounds, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

Flybe and Virgin Atlantic declined to comment.

Flybe issued a profit warning in October citing weakening demand, higher fuel costs and a weaker British pound.

Sky News had previously reported that Stobart Group Ltd (STOB.L) was likely to be one of the potential suitors for Flybe.”

Just managing? Need affordable housing? Tough – you might have to wait 170 years!

“Construction of homes for social rent drops 80% in a decade:

The number of new homes built for social rent has fallen by almost four-fifths in a decade, according to official figures that come as more than 1 million families are stuck on waiting lists for council housing in England.

Figures released by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government show just 6,463 homes were built in England for social rent in 2017-18, down from almost 30,000 a decade ago.

Condemning the lack of new social housing, Labour said that a the current rate of construction it would take at least 170 years to house the families on waiting lists.

John Healey, the shadow housing secretary, said: “These figures confirm the disastrous fall in the number of new affordable homes for social rent under the Conservatives.”

Despite the sharp decline, the overall number of properties constructed in England that were classified by the government as affordable rose by 12% last year to 47,355.

The bulk were built for so-called “affordable rent”, where rental costs are capped at 80% of local private sector rents. Affordable rent properties are typically favoured by the building industry because developers tend to make larger profits on them.

Unlike affordable rent, social rental properties also take into account local incomes as well as house prices. Campaigners have criticised the term affordable rental properties for “turning the English language on its head”, saying they are still unaffordable to many people in London and the south east.

The number of affordable rent properties has soared since they were introduced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government in 2011, as the number of social rent properties has declined. Almost 27,200 were built last year, up from about 24,300 in 2016-17.

About 57% of all new affordable homes built last year were for affordable rent, while just 14% were for social rent. The rest are intermediate affordable housing, which includes shared ownership properties and affordable home ownership schemes.

In England, about 1.25 million families were registered on the waiting list for social housing between 2016-17. About two-thirds have been waiting for more than a year. On average, an English local authority has more than 3,500 families on its books.

In her Conservative party conference speech last month, Theresa May said a cap on local authority borrowing for the construction of new homes would be scrapped, a step designed to increase the number of new homes built across Britain.

Patrick Gower, a residential research associate at the estate agency Knight Frank, said the prime minister would be encouraged by the 12% rise in the number of affordable housing completions.

He said the number of affordable homes starting to be built last year also increased by 11% to 53,572. “The number of homes likely to complete in the coming two to three years is also likely to increase,” he added.

Increasing the number of affordable homes has become a top priority amid a national housing shortage exacerbated by high house prices. High rental costs have added to the pressures facing households across the country.

Councils used to build more than 40% of affordable or social homes in the 1970s but there has been a shortage of properties since Margaret Thatcher introduced right to buy in the 1980s.

Mark Robinson, the chief executive of Scape Group, a public sector construction outsourcer, said: “Councils must be empowered to build social housing themselves, as they were in the 1970s.”

EDDC gagging orders: council in a hole and digging deeper!

Owl says: does anyone think this press release makes things BETTER for the council! They do them so the other party won’t take them to tribunals!

“Following an article published by an East Devon media outlet this week about settlement agreements between the district council and its employees, the council wants to bring a greater degree of clarity to the headline-grabbing story.

“The article ignores the actual reasons why the council has used settlement agreements from time to time and that these are common practice in both the public and private sector where employers wish to bring employment to an end.

“The council has used settlement agreements to terminate the contracts of 10 individuals since 2014 for a mixture of contractual, performance and sickness issues.

“The reason that any employer enters into these agreements is particularly in circumstances where it wishes to bring employment to an end quickly and pragmatically to avoid unnecessary costs and to protect itself from tribunal costs. The figures quoted include statutory and contractual payments such as holiday and notice periods.

“Such agreements are commonly used throughout the UK and the primary reason is that the individual is required to agree not to take their employer to court. The agreements also contain a confidentiality clause.

“To validly settle statutory employment claims, a settlement agreement must satisfy several conditions that must be met including that the individual must have received legal advice from a relevant independent adviser on the terms and effect of the proposed agreement; and its effect on their ability to pursue any rights before an employment tribunal. Only certain statutory claims can be settled by a settlement agreement such as unfair dismissal or discrimination.”

“Universal credit: Urgent report calls on ministers to push back any votes over ‘major areas of concern’ “

“Major areas of concern remain with , a group of MPs warn today in an urgent report calling on ministers to push back any vote on the flagship welfare reform.

The Commons Work and Pensions Committee claims that getting “managed migration” – the process of transferring claimants from existing benefits to universal credit – wrong when it starts in mid-2019 could “plunge claimants into poverty and even leave them destitute”.

Despite money being allocated for universal credit at the Budget, the committee warns that “major areas of concern” about the welfare reform remain.

It adds that MPs in the Commons have not had a chance to scrutinise and report on the revised regulations brought forward by the government in November, and claims the indicative timetable suggests “there will be no opportunity for expert scrutiny”.

While a specific date has not yet been allocated for the vote by the government, the committee recommends that no vote take place until the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has been able to report on the regulations.

The report states: “These regulations have a profound effect on the lives of millions of people, including some of the most vulnerable in society. It is impossible to overstate the importance of getting them right.” …

“Ministers Sold Student Loans Book Worth £3.5bn For £1.7bn To Cut Public Debt”

Owl says: throwing out the baby, the bathwater AND the bath and then demolishing the bathroom …!

“Ministers who sold off student loans to cut government debt failed to get the best price for the taxpayer and stand accused of being “short-sighted”.

The sale in 2017 of the first tranche of student loans with a face value of £3.5bn raised just £1.7bn – a return of just 48p in the pound, the Public Accounts Committee has found.

The committee’s report says that, according to the Government’s own analysis, had it held on to the loans it would have recouped the £1.7bn sale price in just eight years.

As there was little chance all the loans would be repaid, ministers could not have expected face value but should have sought “the best possible deal”, MPs said.

“In this case, government received too little in return for what it gave up,” the report said.

“Treasury’s focus on reducing its ‘public sector net debt’ measure is a short-sighted approach which fails to convince us that the deal is the best one for public sector finances in the long term.”

“At least 320,000 homeless people in Britain, says Shelter”

“At least 320,000 people are homeless in Britain, according to research by the housing charity Shelter.

This amounts to a year-on-year increase of 13,000, a 4% rise, despite government pledges to tackle the crisis. The estimate suggests that nationally one in 200 people are homeless.

Shelter says its figures, which include rough sleepers and people in temporary accommodation, are likely to be an underestimate of the problem as they do not capture people who experience “hidden” homelessness, such as sofa-surfers, and others living insecurely in sheds or cars, for example.

Newham in east London is ranked as England’s number one homelessness hotspot, with at least one in every 24 people in housing insecurity. More than 14,500 people were in temporary accommodation in the borough, and 76 were sleeping rough.

In the capital as a whole, 170,000 people – equivalent to one in 52 – have no home. Westminster had the most rough sleepers, 217, followed by Camden, with 127. In Kensington and Chelsea, the UK’s richest borough, there were over 5,000 homeless people – equivalent to one in every 29 residents.

The figures indicate how homelessness and housing insecurity is spreading beyond its traditional heartland of London into the wider south-east and Midlands, and the impact of high rents and welfare cuts ripples outwards.

Outside the capital, high homelessness rates were recorded in Birmingham, Luton, Brighton & Hove, Slough, Dartford, Milton Keynes, Harlow, Watford, Epsom, Reading, Broxbourne, Basildon, Peterborough and Coventry.”