Yep, Swire still has his Maldives gig
Will Swire be off to the Maldives … or Saudi … with Parish on the Somerset farm?
“The cancellation of MPs’ two-week break to deliver Brexit on time has been branded a PR stunt after Conservatives were told they could still go away if they had “family” commitments.
On Thursday commons leader Andrea Leadsom formally ditched the half-term recess so more “progress” can be made on preparing to leave the EU.
But following a backlash from MPs who had apparently already booked holidays, chief whip Julian Smith informed Tories they are not obliged to attend the commons if they have pre-existing engagements. …”
Meanwhile, cleaners have to stay:
“Tory MPs jet off on ski holidays while parliamentary cleaners continue to work”:
A reporter … reports:
“At Tuesday’s Strategic Planning Meeting at Knowle (29 /01/2019), chaired by Paul Diviani, the masterplan for increasing Housing in Axminster by a whopping 30% , was voted through almost unanimously (there was one abstention), despite serious cross-Party criticism of the plan.
As the debate ended, the considerable number of Axminster residents in the public gallery were astonished to hear the Chair’s quip, to Cllr Jill Elson, “ I felt confident that you would come out with something that would stir things up”.
Cllr Elson (shown on right of the photo, beside Cllr Philip Skinner), had argued firmly that “the problem with plans is that they change” , citing her Ward as an example.
“Exmouth ended up with two huge estates with no play space or amenities whatsoever”, she said. Cllr Mike Howe (Con) shared her concerns, saying, (the masterplan) “doesn’t give us much credence or security that we will get the right houses”. But the Deputy Leader of the Council, Philip Skinner (Con ), expressed his view that “Give and take is needed in negotiations with a developer”.
Shortly afterwards, when Cllr Geoff Jung (East Devon Alliance, EDA) observed that the plan might not suit young families, it became apparent that Cllr Skinner was not aware that the proposal to include a primary school had been dropped.
Cllr Eleanor Rylance (Lib Dem) had noticed significant typing and other errors in the masterplan document. Cllr Rob Longhurst (Independent) observed there was no mention of the words ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ in the document.. although Cllr Moulding had told the meeting that he had designed one for Axminster… and suggested this Strategic Plan Committee would like to see “if the community wants and needs” the masterplan.
Cllr Susie Bond (Independent) asked for clarity about the legal implications for the Council if the costs for the relief road “went through the roof” (So far, EDDC has agreed to borrow £7m to ensure the road, estimated cost £16.7m, can be delivered.)
Ian Hall (Con) admitted “this masterplan doesn’t sit easily with the residents of Axminster”, which Alistair Ferguson’s speech in Public Question Time, confirms. The text is reproduced below, with Mr Ferguson’s permission):
In support of the objections, other District Councillors, Cathy Gardner and Marianne Rixson (both EDA), also attended the meeting, though not on the Strategic Planning Committee themselves.
Cllr Gardner pointed out that agreeing to a massive increase in the town’s housing numbers “would not be for the right reasons”, if it was done primarily to fund a relief road. The masterplan “was being done to the people of Axminster, not for them”, she said.
And Cllr Marianne Rixson added that “delivery of affordables does not have a good record” in East Devon.
Having listened to the comments aired, Cllr Geoff Pook (Ind) cautioned the committee not to be “persuaded by the opposition”. “There are just as many people in favour”, he opined.
Finally, the fear that the time-limited government funding for the relief road would be missed, therefore putting in jeopardy the 650 homes allocated in the Local Plan, swayed the committee members to approve the masterplan, albeit with caveats based on their misgivings.
Is this how the wrong sort of housing so often gets built in the wrong place?
In Axminster’s case, how much will the masterplan impact on the historic former deer park? As Cllr Mike Howe, Chair of the Development Management Committee (DMC) told yesterday’s meeting, there’s an urgent need to know….’
“”Local bus journeys in Devon are at a record low – with campaigners warning the national network is now in “crisis”.
The latest figures from the Department for Transport reveal that 24.2 million journeys were made on local bus services in Devon in 2017/18. That’s nearly two million fewer journeys than the year before, and the lowest number since at least 2009/10, when the figures were first published.
The Campaign for Better Transport say that the fall in the number of passengers taking the bus is due to ongoing cuts in funding for these services, resulting in fewer services and higher fares.
Nationally, average local bus fares across England have increased by 12 per cent since 2009, after inflation.
Darren Shirley, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The statistics back up what our research has been showing for years – that buses are in crisis.
“Local bus services are vital, linking millions of us to jobs, education, shops and services, friends and family. They open up opportunities and help to fight loneliness. …
… The Local Government Association says nearly half of all bus routes in England currently receive partial or complete subsidies from councils.
With councils in England facing an overall funding gap that will reach £8 billion by 2025, the LGA said councils will struggle to maintain current subsidies for bus routes across the country unless this is
addressed in the Spending Review.
Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman, said: “Councils know how important buses are for their residents and local economies and are desperate to protect them.
“It’s nearly impossible for councils to keep subsidising free travel while having to find billions of pounds worth of savings and protect other vital services like caring for the elderly and disabled, protecting children, filling potholes and collecting bins.
“Faced with significant funding pressures, many across the country are being forced into taking difficult decisions to scale back services and review subsidised routes.” …
… Andy McDonald MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, said: “These figures are alarming, and underline the devastating impact of Tory cuts on local bus services.
“Bus networks are in a spiral of decline, cutting people off from work and education and friends and family, particularly those in rural areas or from low income backgrounds.
“For many people, buses are the only form of public transport available. And the bulk of the people that use and rely on buses are often the poor, the young, the old and the vulnerable.
“At the same time, cutting and withdrawing services is worsening congestion, air pollution and our impact on climate change.”
“The government should give local authorities the powers to franchise and municipalise buses and boost bus funding, and allow them to take back regulatory powers so that they can set the fares, routes, and timetables that will put their communities first, ahead of the interests of private profit.”
“Bus companies in England pocketed a total of £3.3bn in profits while they presided over swingeing cuts to vital routes, figures show.
Private firms together made hundreds of millions operating busses outside London each year since the coalition government came to power in 2010, official data has revealed.
Yet a report by the Transport Commissioner found almost 17,000 bus routes have disappeared over the past five years.
HuffPost UK reported last week how tightened council budgets have made bus services that were under-used, but previously considered essential, vulnerable to cuts.
Labour – which analysed the figures – said the stats highlighted how the bus industry “puts profit before millions of passengers”. …”
Owl has a sneaky feeling it may know who she is talking about …
“Labour MP Jess Phillips takes aim at politicians considering imposing a £30,000 pay threshold for EU workers to be considered skilled, saying: ‘I have met many people who earn way more than £30,000 and have literally no discernible skills, not even one.’
The MP for Birmingham Yardley says the post-Brexit immigration proposal was ‘insulting’ to the care workers, nurses and teachers who live in her electorate. ‘I have definitely met some very rich people who earn huge amounts of money who I wouldn’t let hold my pint if I had to go and vote while in the bar,’ she says.”
See the speech here:
EDDC’s auditors say they aren’t there to detect fraud:
“The former auditor of the collapsed cake chain Patisserie Valerie has argued that it is not the role of accountants to uncover fraud.
Grant Thornton is under investigation for its audits of the chain that collapsed into administration earlier this month following the discovery of a £40m black hole in its accounts. Patisserie Valerie’s former finance director has been arrested on suspicion of fraud.
David Dunckley, chief executive of Grant Thornton, which was replaced by RSM as the chain’s auditor in mid-January, told MPs on the business, energy and industrial strategy committee that there was an “expectation gap” that “needs to be fixed”.
“We’re not looking for fraud, we’re not looking at the future, we’re not giving a statement that the accounts are correct,” he said, adding that his firm audits 7,000 companies. “We are saying [the accounts are] reasonable, we are looking in the past and we are not set up to look for fraud.”
In a heated exchange with Rachel Reeves, the Labour MP and committee chair, Dunckley reiterated: “If people are colluding and there is a sophisticated fraud that may not be caught by normal audit procedures.”
He said in an ideal world it would be spotted. Reeves replied: “But in a shop that sells tea and cakes, you’d sort of think that might be spotted. It’s not a multinational complex organisation. …”
and it seems, even when they DO detect major fraud, they don’t seem to feel obliged to do anything about it:
“Deloitte has been fined 2.2m ringgitt (£415,000) by Malaysian regulators for failures in its audit of a firm linked to the scandal-ridden state fund, 1MDB.
The Securities Commission Malaysia said Deloitte was reprimanded because it failed to report the irregularities detected in the Sukuk Murabahah Programme, an Islamic bond issued by Bandar Malaysia Sdn Bhd (BMSB).
Deloitte was the statutory auditor for BMSB and its holding company 1Malaysia Development Berhad Real Estate (a subsidiary of state fund 1MDB) for the financial years ending March 2015 and 2016 when the bonds were issued.
The securities regulator said Deloitte’s failure to immediately report irregularities may have a material effect on the ability of BMSB to fulfil its obligations in repaying sukuk holders any amount under the programme.
Imposing a fine of 2.2m ringgit , the regulator said it “finds the breaches committed by Deloitte serious in nature as it has failed to discharge its statutory obligations”.
Is it really necessary for a journalist to say that the CEO of Clinton Devon Estates “used a Land Rover to drive across country and through a river to reach the scene of the accident in which Kevin Dorman died”? Or that he has an OBE? Or to use the subjective headline that he was “choked with emotion”?
How is this relevant to the charge?
Talk about reinventing the wheel! Before the system was changed local authorities were able to suspend councillors for the rest of the full council term, however long that might be or could ban them from office for years.
THIS government changed the rules now it wants to change them back – albeit
in a very, very lily-livered, watered-down way.
This lack if ability to censure councillors in any meaningful way is highlighted by the ongoing scandal of the disgraced ex-Mayor in Seaton, Councillor Peter Burrows. The rest of the council unanimously voted to urge his resignation from town and district posts but he has so far ignored all requests for him to go:
but it is unlikely the EDDC Monitoring Officer will conclude an investigation into his case before local elections on 2 May 2017, leaving voters in the dark as to any action to be taken.
“Local authorities should be given the power to suspend councillors without allowances for up to six months, the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) has recommended.
In a report, Local Government Ethical Standards, the CSPL said: “The current sanctions available to local authorities are insufficient. Party discipline, whilst it has an important role to play in maintaining high standards, lacks the necessary independence and transparency to play the central role in a standards system.
“The current lack of robust sanctions damages public confidence in the standards system and leaves local authorities with no means of enforcing lower level sanctions, nor of addressing serious or repeated misconduct.”
The Committee said councillors, including parish councillors, who are suspended should be given the right to appeal to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, who should be given the power to investigate allegations of code breaches on appeal. The decision of the Ombudsman would then be binding.
The CSPL meanwhile described the Monitoring Officer as “the lynchpin” of the current standards arrangements, but accepted that the role was “challenging and broad”, with a number of practical tensions and the potential for conflicts of interest. Local authorities should put in place arrangements to manage any potential conflicts, it said.
However, the Committee concluded that the role was not unique in its tensions and could be made coherent and manageable with the support of other statutory officers.
It called for employment protections for statutory officers to be extended, and for statutory officers to be supported through training on local authority governance.
Other key findings and recommendations in the report include:
There is considerable variation in the length, quality and clarity of codes of conduct. This created confusion among members of the public, and among councillors who represent more than one tier of local government.
Many codes of conduct failed to address adequately important areas of behaviour such as social media use and bullying and harassment.
An updated model code of conduct should therefore be available to local authorities in order to enhance the consistency and quality of local authority codes.
The updated model code should be voluntary and able to be adapted by local authorities. The scope of the code of conduct should also be widened, with a rebuttable presumption that a councillor’s public behaviour, including comments made on publicly accessible social media, was in their official capacity.
The current arrangements for declaring and managing interests are “unclear, too narrow and do not meet the expectations of councillors or the public”.
The current requirements for registering interests should be updated to include categories of non-pecuniary interests. The current rules on declaring and managing interests should be repealed and replaced with an objective test, in line with the devolved standards bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The current criminal offences relating to disclosable pecuniary interests are “disproportionate in principle and ineffective in practice, and should be abolished”.
Local authorities should maintain a standards committee. This committee may advise on standards issues, decide on alleged breaches and sanctions, or a combination of these. Independent members of decision-making standards committees should be able to vote.
The safeguard provided by the Independent Person should be strengthened and clarified: a local authority should only be able to suspend a councillor where the Independent Person agrees both that there has been a breach and that suspension is a proportionate sanction. Independent Persons should have fixed terms and legal protections. The view of the Independent Person in relation to a decision on which they are consulted should be published in any formal decision notice.
Parish councils should be required to adopt the code of their principal authority (or the new model code), and a principal authority’s decision on sanctions for a parish councillor should be binding.
Monitoring officers should be provided with adequate training, corporate support and resources to undertake their role in providing support on standards issues to parish councils, including in undertaking investigations and recommending sanctions. Clerks should also hold an appropriate qualification to support them to uphold governance within their parish council.
At a time of rapid change in local government, decision-making in local councils was getting more complex, with increased commercial activity and partnership working. “This complexity risks putting governance under strain.
Local authorities setting up separate bodies risk a governance ‘illusion’, and should take steps to prevent and manage potential conflicts of interest, particularly if councillors sit on these bodies. They should also ensure that these bodies are transparent and accountable to the council and to the public.”
An ethical culture required leadership. Given the multi-faceted nature of local government, leadership was needed from a range of individuals and groups: an authority’s standards committee, the chief executive, political group leaders, and the chair of the council.
Political groups have an important role to play in maintaining an ethical culture. “They should be seen as a semi-formal institution sitting between direct advice from officers and formal processes by the council, rather than a parallel system to the local authority’s standards processes. Political groups should set clear expectations of behaviour by their members, and senior officers should maintain effective relationships with political groups, working with them informally to resolve standards issues where appropriate.”
An ethical culture starts with tone. “Whilst there will always be robust disagreement in a political arena, the tone of engagement should be civil and constructive.” Expected standards of behaviour should be embedded through effective induction and ongoing training.
Political groups should require their members to attend code of conduct training provided by a local authority, and this should also be written into national party model group rules. “Maintaining an ethical culture day-to-day relies on an impartial, objective monitoring officer who has the confidence of all councillors and who is professionally supported by the chief executive.”
An ethical culture will be an open culture. “Local authorities should welcome and foster opportunities for scrutiny, and see it as a way to improve decision making. They should not rely unduly on commercial confidentiality provisions, or circumvent open decision-making processes. Whilst local press can play an important role in scrutinising local government, openness must be facilitated by authorities’ own processes and practices.”
In a letter to the Prime Minister, contained in the introduction to the report, Lord Evans of Weardale, Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said: “It is clear that the vast majority of councillors and officers want to maintain the highest standards of conduct in their own authority. We have, however, identified some specific areas of concern. A minority of councillors engage in bullying or harassment, or other highly disruptive behaviour, and a small number of parish councils give rise to a disproportionate number of complaints about poor behaviour.
“We have also identified a number of risks in the sector: the current rules around conflicts of interest, gifts, and hospitality are inadequate; and the increased complexity of local government decision-making is putting governance under strain.”
The CSPL chair added: “The challenge is to maintain a system which serves the best instincts of councillors, whilst addressing unacceptable behaviour by a minority, and guarding against potential corporate standards risks.
“It is clear from the evidence we have received that the benefits of devolved arrangements should be retained, but that more robust safeguards are needed to strengthen a locally determined system. We are also clear that all local authorities need to develop and maintain an organisational culture which is supportive of high ethical standards. A system which is solely punitive is not desirable or effective; but in an environment with limited external regulation, councils need the appropriate mechanisms in place to address problems when they arise.”
Lord Evans said the Committee’s recommendations would enable councillors to be held to account effectively and would enhance the fairness and transparency of the standards process.
A number of the CSPL’s recommendations involve legislative change which it believed the government should implement. The Committee has also identified ‘best practice’ for local authorities, “which represents a benchmark for ethical practice which we expect that any authority can and should implement”. …
Source: Local Government Lawyer
This is necessarily a somewhat technical summary of why Owl thinks EDDC has got its recent past and future jobs and housing numbers terribly wrong, and attempts to pinpoint why this is. If the assumptions below are correct East Devon cannot hope to match new jobs to housing number increases and hence to aspirational growth figures.
It has huge implications for the district – not least Cranbrook and Axminster, where huge housing growth does not appear to correlate with very modest job growth.
CURRENT STATISTICAL TREND 258 JOBS/YEAR
EDDC’s 2015 aspiration 950 jobs/year
EDDC’s “Jobs-led policy on scenario” 549 jobs/year
Ash Futures (Experian) “Upper end” 309 jobs/year
Ash Futures “more likely” scenario 200-234 jobs/year
Evidence from the first set of job growth statistics published by EDDC since the adoption of the local Plan are running at less than half the number used to justify the housing development target. This is only one quarter of EDDC’s aspiration to create one job per new household or 950/year.
A “Jobs-led Policy On” aggressive growth strategy lies at the heart of EDDC’s Local Plan for 2013 to 2031.
Consultants were employed to create a number of scenarios forecasting growth in jobs. They ranged from 162-191 jobs/year for forecasts based on past trends to a top estimate for above average “jobs led” growth of 309 jobs/year. This top estimate would justify a housing target of 13,050 for the period.
One of these consultants, Ash Futures, gave cogent arguments as to why this figure, in their opinion, lay at the upper end of likely growth and proposed a more modest, more realistic, set of growth assumptions generating 200-234 jobs/year. This more likely scenario was never converted from a jobs forecast to a housing assessment but it would have been just a bit higher than the 10,512 figure based on past trends. All these forecasts took account of demographic changes, migration into the region and economic growth.
Ignoring this, EDDC decided to add a further 240 jobs/year to the upper end 309 figure in a new “policy on” scenario to provide a total forecast of 549 jobs/year. (Something to do with Cranbrook but the details of this and whether there is any double counting remains a mystery). This 549 job/year figure was ultimately used to justify the final 17,100 minimum housing target for the 18 year period of the Plan adopted in 2016.
The plan requires a minimum average build of 950 houses/year. EDDC’s aspiration is to combine this with the creation of one job for every house built. But this demonstrates a complete failure to understand demographics and household formation. The need for houses and the need for jobs is not a simple equation of one with the other.
Papers attached to EDDC’s Strategic Planning Committee for 29 January 2019 (see footnote) contain data for East Devon employment covering 2009 to 2016. The explanatory text says: “It is recognised that it is an aspiration of Members [surely not every Councillor?] to deliver one job for each new home across the district but since the adopted Local Plan does not set out to deliver this it is not considered appropriate to formally monitor the relationship between the delivery of homes and the delivery of jobs.”
Here’s why – the real evidence, from the data, is of jobs growing at an annual rate of only 258 jobs/year.
This figure confirms the more modest forecasts presented by Ash Futures and, inconveniently for EDDC, is less than half of that used to justify the “Jobs-led Policy On” housing targets. It is only a quarter of the one job per house aspiration of “Members”.
Where does the 258 job/year trend come from? It is the gradient of the best fit linear regression trend line to the data given the Strategic Planning Committee and shown in the graph below. The full data source is referenced in the footnote.
This is a relatively small sample; and the extent of the fluctuations in the recorded number of jobs from year to year can be seen in the graph. For the technically minded the correlation coefficient of the trend line is 0.6, which is quite a strong one.
All the job number quoted above are for “full time equivalent” jobs (FTE).
Owl has been fortunate to find from the same official source as used by EDDC a set of estimates of the total number of jobs in East Devon which extends the time series to 2017. The significance of this is that the total number of jobs in East Devon fell between 2016 and 2017 and so we can expect the same to happen with FTEs. As a result Owl feels even more confident that the trend line shown above, despite the sample size, reflects what is actually happening.
The Local Plan has been in preparation since 2002 and EDDC has been following a growth policy for many years. So, although 2013 marks the formal start of the Local Plan, there is no statistical evidence to consider 2013 a “turning point” for job growth, though it does look to be an outlier.
With EDDC’s plan to build houses running ahead of creating the jobs needed for a sustainable community, just who are we building all these houses for?
Isn’t it time to cool the building programme, not ramp it up as Owl fears is being planned in the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan?
One of the key architects to all this is Councillor Paul Diviani. When asked at a recent council meeting why East Devon is taking all this development replied: “Because we have got the land, and we are good at it”.
Footnote: The combined minutes, agenda and reports of the Strategic Planning Committee with the job data for 2009 to 2016 on page 116 can be found here:
Click to access 290119strategicplanningcombinedagenda_opt.pdf
“”Cutting and withdrawing services is worsening congestion, air pollution and our impact on climate change.”
“The number of passenger journeys made by bus in England fell by 85 million last year, amid “devastating” cuts on local services.
Passenger journeys declined by 3.2% outside London, continuing a decade-long trend, while bus use in the capital fell by 0.7%, according to the latest figures from the Department for Transport.
Out of 88 local authorities in England outside London, 70 saw a fall in bus use since 2009/10.
Labour said the new figures underlined the impact of Conservative policies, and underlined “the devastating impact of Tory cuts on local bus services”.
Andy McDonald, shadow transport secretary, said: “These figures underline the People are being denied opportunities in work and education and are cut off from friends and family, particularly those in rural areas or from low income backgrounds.”
These figures underline the devastating impact of Tory cuts on local bus servicesAndy McDonald, Shadow Transport Secretary
MacDonald added: “At the same time, cutting and withdrawing services is worsening congestion, air pollution and our impact on climate change.
“A Labour government will act in the interest of the many by putting investment back into bus services, protecting pensioners’ bus passes and introducing a new free pass for under 25s.” …”
Remember what Owl said only yesterday after the news that Persimmon and Crown Estates demanded 200 extra houses (from 650 to 850) in Axminster to be able to afford to build a new road?
“A housing developer is trying to get out of making improvements to Yeovil’s roads, claiming they are no longer required.
Barratt Homes has been constructing the Wyndham Park development on Lyde Road at the north-eastern edge of the town, for which outline planning permission was granted in 2008.
As part of a legal agreement with Somerset County Council and South Somerset District Council, the developer promised to make improvements to the junction of Lyde Road and Mudford Road, as well as the junction of Combe Street Lane, Mudford Road and Stone Lane.
However the developer, that recorded a pre-tax profit of £835.5 million in 2018, has now applied for these conditions to be removed, claiming these junctions are “under capacity” and therefore the improvements will no longer be necessary.
Planning manager Andrew Cattermole wrote to the district council on December 12, laying out the company’s reasons for not undertaking the work.
He said: “The implementation of these elements has not been completed to date and it is considered, having discussed this with Somerset County Council, that neither of these works are required.
“The existing junctions are under capacity, meet the required safety performance and no junction improvements are required.”
The Lyde Road/ Mudford Road improvements were due to be undertaken before the 400th home on the Wyndham Park site had been occupied.
The Combe Street Lane project, meanwhile, was required to be completed before the 500th dwelling was finished and occupied.
A traffic assessment carried out for Barratt Homes concluded that “the additional demand created during the completion of development can be accommodated on the existing high way network”.
A spokesman for Somerset County Council said: “We have discussed this matter informally with Barratt Homes and advised that we would not object to modifying the S106 conditions and removing the junctions if they provided sufficient evidence that they were no longer required.
“Now the application has been submitted, we will review the evidence and provide a formal response.
“This will then be considered by South Somerset District Council as the local planning authority, which will make a final decision.”
A spokesman for the district council added: “This application was received on December 13 and we are awaiting the key views of Somerset County Council as the highways authority on this matter.
“It would be inappropriate to make further comment until these views have been received and our officers have completed their reports.”
The district council is expected to make a decision on this matter by February 7.”
“In what’s becoming a bleak pattern, the government chose today – Theresa May’s second attempt to pass her Brexit deal – to finalise its next round of cuts to councils.
Ministers outlined the provisional local government finance settlement for 2019-20 last December. But they chose today to announce its final plans for short-term local government funding – in a written statement, the subtlest form of government announcement, by the Communities and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire.
After eight years of austerity, cash-strapped councils have been waiting for the government to use its final settlement this month to provide the resources they desperately need for funding public services in 2019-20. But the new settlement – sneaked out while Westminster is distracted by Brexit – doesn’t deliver what councils need.
As first announced in the Budget, the government is releasing extra chunks of funding for social care and potholes, as well as more money for high streets. The government calculates that its settlement adds up to a rise in core spending power for councils from £45.1bn in 2018-19 to £46.4bn in 2019-20: a 2.8 per cent cash increase. (It has also reiterated the £56.5m across 2018-19 and 2019-20 to help councils prepare for Brexit, which we can’t really count as extra funding as it’s to fill a Brexit-shaped hole.)
Firstly, this money isn’t enough – councils still face a funding gap of more than £3bn this year, according to the Local Government Association. The pressure to set legal budgets, with an average 49 per cent drop in real terms spending power since 2010 and rising social care demands, means councils need substantially more than a 2.8 per cent raise. Labour’s shadow local government secretary Andrew Gwynne has called the plan a “shoddy deal”, and warns it “means more cuts to our councils”.
Secondly, the funding announced is simply a short-term one-off. There’s no new system for funding social care – with the long promised green paper on adult social care repeatedly pushed back. Decisions on other structural concerns – business rates retention and a fair funding formula for local government – have been put off, with consultations being published instead.
Councils are desperate for a long-term, sustainable funding settlement. As the head of the National Audit Office, Amyas Morse, said last March: “Current funding for local authorities is characterised by one-off and short-term fixes, many of which come with centrally driven conditions.”
“It does not solve medium term financial pressures so tough decisions will still need to be taken and our members will have little choice but to raise council tax to meet demand-led pressures in services,” warned Paul Carter, chair of the County Councils Network.
Plans for 2020 and beyond are yet to be determined, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which concludes that “current plans imply further cuts for unprotected services after 2019-20”.
This means councils will continue to operate in a financial void, unable to fund public services properly, while waiting for something to change in the promised Spending Review later this year.”
Persimmon and Crown Estates say they won’t be able to afford to build a relief road unless they build 850 houses rather than the original 650.
So EDDC majority rolled over to have their tummies tickled … and agreed.
Do try to remember this if the developers say they got their sums wrong and will need to build hundreds more …. or no road at all.
All unitary councils will receive £210,000 and combined authorities will receive £182,000. County councils will receive £175,000 each and all district councils will receive £35,000.
That won’t be enough …..
“Thousands of environmentally important sites across England are coming under threat as the government body charged with their care struggles with understaffing, slashed budgets and an increasing workload.
Natural England has wide-ranging responsibilities protecting and monitoring sensitive sites, including sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) and nature reserves, and advising on the environmental impact of new homes and other developments in the planning stages. Its work includes overseeing national parks, paying farmers to protect biodiversity, and areas of huge public concern such as air quality and marine plastic waste.
But these activities are being impaired by severe budget cuts and understaffing, Natural England employees and other interested parties have told the Guardian. “These are fantastically passionate staff who are worried that the environment is being affected so badly by these cuts,” one frontline staff member said. “There will be no turning back the clock” if we allow sensitive sites to be degraded.
The agency’s budget has been cut by more than half in the past decade, from £242m in 2009-10 to £100m for 2017-18. Staff numbers have been slashed from 2,500 to an estimated 1,500.
Conservation work on sites of special scientific interest is being cut, while farmers are finding it harder to access expert help on countryside stewardship. Work on areas such as air pollution and marine plastics has been cut and many nature reserves are being neglected as vital volunteers cannot be safely trained.
One 11-year veteran of the agency reported low morale and increasing difficulty in managing workloads, with sites left unmonitored for years. They said: “Our work brings economic benefits, environmental benefits, it helps communities. We have suffered disproportionately from the cuts to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs budget. It is such a shame as we have done some amazing and incredible work.”
The Prospect union has investigated the agency and concluded it is “at crisis point”, with staff overstretched and under stress after eight years of a 1% pay cap. The union will launch a report on Tuesday with a call on ministers to increase funding and remove the agency from the pay cap.
“Cuts have left Natural England at the point where its workers are saying they don’t have enough people or resources to do the things they need to do,” said Garry Graham, the deputy general secretary of Prospect. “If we are to be able to regulate our own environment properly after Brexit, it is vital that we cultivate and maintain the skills to do so domestically. We will no longer be able to rely on the EU to do bits of it for us. Once biodiversity is lost, it cannot easily be regained. Now is the time for the government to act.”
One senior manager told Prospect: “[Work on protected sites] is what many of us joined to work on and has been the central focus of much of our conservation work. There are currently no government targets for this work [so] cuts have fallen on work that is not protected, the largest area being SSSI work. That’s the stark reality.”
There have been widespread complaints from farmers over the agency’s failure to make timely payments for the countryside stewardship scheme, under which farmers undertake measures such as improving habitats for wildlife, wildflowers and pollinators. Payments have not been made on time, or fallen short, and many farmers complained of being unable to access the expert advice they need. This has discouraged farmers from applying to the scheme or continuing with it.
Guy Smith, the deputy president of the National Farmers’ Union, said: “We have thousands of members expecting payment from agri-environment schemes completely in the dark over when these already late payments will be made. It is imperative that Defra and its agencies give this priority.”
The Woodland Trust has called on Natural England to update a vital registry of trees, currently looked after by only one staff member. The registry helps campaigners to protect woodland resources that may be threatened by development and can help save money for developers at the planning stages. Updating it would cost about £1.5m over five years.
Abi Bunker, the trust’s director of conservation, said: “We recognise the pressures Natural England are under. It is frustrating when adequate progress cannot be made on updating the ancient woodland inventory, resulting in our rarest habitat being put at unnecessary risk.”
Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP who has asked a series of parliamentary questions on Natural England’s plight, said: “Behind the veil of Michael Gove’s fluffy rhetoric about caring for the environment, ministers have systematically gutted the agency that looks after irreplaceable habitats and beautiful landscapes. The result is plummeting morale as staff simply don’t have the resources to monitor thousands of protected sites across England, ultimately putting spaces for wildlife at risk of irreversible destruction.”
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrats’ environment spokesman, said: “Farmers need certainty, the environment needs protection and Natural England needs a proper budget to do it. Instead Defra is failing in its duties.”
Defra’s budget has been one of those worst hit by austerity cuts. There has been a recent increase in staffing and funding but only to deal with the expected impact of Brexit on farmers and food supplies so those extra resources are unlikely to have a positive impact on Natural England’s work.
Marian Spain, the interim chief executive of Natural England, said: “Inevitably, cuts of almost 50% to the Natural England budget over the last five years have meant changes to the way we do things. Since taking on my role in December, meeting staff and hearing about the pressures they face has been one of my top priorities.”
A Defra spokesperson said: “The work of Natural England and its staff to protect our invaluable natural spaces, wildlife and environment is vital and its independence as an adviser is essential to this. As set out in the 25-year environment plan, Natural England will continue to have a central role in protecting and enhancing our environment for future generations,”
This open letter on permitted development rights was sent to the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on 21 January 2019 and published on 28 January 2019.
“Dear Secretary of State,
Re: An open letter on Permitted Development Rights
Latest Shelter research shows that in England today, there are more than 270,000 people without a home. At the heart of the reasons for this is the simple fact that for a generation we have failed to build the homes the country needs.
In addressing this, however, it is important to think not only about the number but also the type of homes we build and where they need to be built. In particular, there is a pressing need to ensure that the homes we build are genuinely affordable. Last year we delivered just 6,463 social rent homes despite having more than 1.2 million households on council house waiting lists. These statistics begin to underline the scale of the crisis we face and the level of ambition we need to resolve it.
As well as increasing the focus on affordability, new housing development should also provide homes that are high quality, well designed, and served by the necessary community infrastructure.
These ambitions are currently in jeopardy, because of national policies that enable developers to avoid making such vital contributions. One of the most significant of these is permitted development rights allowing offices to convert to residential homes without the need for planning permission.
Since 2013, developers have had a national right to convert office space into residential homes, a right they have wholly embraced with nearly seven per cent of new homes provided in this way in the last three years. Unfortunately, because they are exempt from the full local planning process, they come forward with minimal scrutiny and outside of local authority control.
These homes are also delivered without making any contribution towards affordable housing, which other forms of developments are required to do. This means that we are losing out on thousands of affordable homes which would be delivered if these homes went through the planning system.
Separate research by both the LGA and Shelter has shown the scale of this loss. Both organisations have calculated that more than 10,000 affordable homes have potentially been lost in the last three years.
The result of this is that thousands of families remain in temporary accommodation and on council house waiting lists for years, despite levels of housebuilding rising – underlining that we need to think more about what we build as well as how many homes we build.
Permitted development rights have caused extensive problems. Therefore, we consider that the current proposals to allow for demolition of existing buildings and replacement with new residential ones, and for upwards extensions to existing buildings for new homes through a permitted development right, should not be pursued.
We call on the government to instead focus on delivering the affordable, high quality homes that people want and need through the local planning process. This would support the government’s own ambitions to improve the quality of homes and places, as outlined in the terms of reference of the ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’ commission launched in November.
We also consider that there should be an independent review of the wide-ranging impacts of permitted development rights allowing change of use into residential homes.”
18 individuals or organisations – see below for link:
Tesco has announced it is cutting out butchers, fishmongers, bakeries and delis from its stores.
Spare a thought then for the poor traders of Budleigh Salterton High Street.
The Budleigh Salterton Journal of 23rd January reports that a variation of an approved planning application has been submitted to EDDC by Tesco because “a review has concluded that a smaller store could work better in this site than that of the approved plan”
Many inhabitants of the town are fearful, as before in 2014, that its wonderful delicatessens, butcher, greengrocer, florist, stationers and its 2 invaluable general stores would be put at risk of surviving with the opening of a Tesco. Locals had all dared to hope that the 5 years that this project had been gestating meant that it was no longer viable.
This move just doesn’t make sense when as Owl of 28th January highlights:
“TESCO is set to axe 15,000 jobs as part of £1.5bn cost-saving measure that will see fish, meat and deli counters across the country close down. Bakeries will also be overhauled, with the supermarket giant now ordering staff to use pre-frozen dough instead of making it on site. ..”
Many in Budleigh Salterton will not be happy to contribute to (last year’s) CEO Dave Lewis’ £4.87million pay packet and the chief executive’s short-term bonus of £2.28million on top of his base salary of £1.25million.
AND on top of that see the decimation of Budleigh Salterton’s High Street.
Our old friend Karime Hassan (CEO Exeter City Council) is in 19th place, Steve Hindley (Chair,Local Enterprise Partnership) is 18th, Alison Hernandez (Police and Crime Commissioner) in 12th place, John Varley (CEO, Clinton Devon Estates) in 9th place, with Devon County Council’s CEO Phil Norey in 2nd place and DCC Leader John Hart in first place.
“30. Rowan Carter, Director Greendale Group
The company behind the Greendale Farm Shop and Waterdance fishing fleet, incorporates a diverse range of businesses. From its beginning as a farming enterprise set up by the Carter family more than 150 years ago, the group includes the farm shop, Waterdance Fishing, Greendale Living, Greendale Business Park, Greendale Haulage, Exmouth Marina and Greendale Leisure. Last year, the Carter family unveiled major expansion plans for the Greendale Farm Shop to create 30 jobs and provide ‘significant benefits’ to East Devon.
The family has also made a £5million commission of two new fishing boats, including the largest beam trawler to be launched under the British flag in over 20 years. The company also wants to build more agricultural buildings and intends to acquire more farmland in order to expand its farming business.”
The annual Tory Black and White Ball is in trouble:
“Tory insiders have revealed that the annual Black and White fundraiser (it used to be called a ‘ball’, it’s now a mere ‘party’) is struggling to attract interest from donors and activists.
Less than a fortnight to go, mimimum-priced £500 tickets are not shifting, PoliticsHome reports.
”Most donors now see the Prime Minister as toxic so prefer the private events, not the event that ends up on the front page of Mail Online,” one donor says.
Intriguingly, leadership contenders are now inviting donors for private dinners instead. An activist adds: “The obscene ticket prices go directly into CCHQ’s coffers and then local associations have to beg for that money back during elections.”
Source: The Waugh Zone, Huffington Post
So, will its usual auctioneer of very expensive goodies, Hugo Swire, have anything to flog?
And why, oh why wasn’t he employed to flog off the contents of The Knowle!