Sidford Business Park – disproportionate industrial development?

Recently posted comment:

“At the full EDDC Council meeting at the end of October 2018, independent Councillors Ben Ingham and Roger Giles, supported by 11 other councillors, tabled a motion to discuss the over provision of housing needs in our Local Plan and called for an independent assessment. In answer to a question as to why East Devon is taking a disproportionate share of development [58% more than Exeter, 53% more than Teignbridge and nearly three times that of Mid Devon according to independent analysis conducted by CPRE] Councillor Paul Diviani said:

“Because we have the land and we are good at it”!

[Perhaps he should be reminded that two thirds of East Devon lies in an AONB, or perhaps he doesn’t care].

This is not the argument that was put to Inspector Thickett at the public examination of the EDDC local plan in 2015 by Ed Freeman. Then, the argument for pitching the EDDC target at a minimum of 950 houses/year [about 30% more than could be supported by the evidence] was that we had jobs coming down the line. Specifically he mentioned 1,000 full time equivalent jobs a year.

Thankfully, we are effectively at full employment. Office for National Statistic population projections shows the South West population as a whole growing over the local plan period at around 0.8% per annum, including expected migration. However, we have an ageing population and the annual increase of those classified as of working age is only going to be 0.16% (16 to 64 for all genders). To satisfy this annual demand to find new jobs in East Devon [population 142,300] would only require around a couple of hundred a year, nowhere near the 1,000 that are being planned for.

The creation of jobs is generally a good thing but pursuing jobs as a primary objective is, I suggest, not what we need in Devon. What we need are better quality jobs to lift earnings and I am pleased to see that that is what ratepayers’ investment of £1.1M in the Exeter Science Park is aimed at achieving. But it only creates a one-off 158 jobs against the 1,000 a year needed to justify the development plan.

Can anyone provide an evidence based explanation of where these housing and job targets come from? Anyone believe that this is what they were voting for when they elected their councillors? And who are the “we’s” in Councillor Paul Diviani’s explanation?”

‘Let them eat spuds!’ Ex-UKIP candidate says food banks are fuelling the obesity crisis

Owl says: Of course she is right: the poor should be using their Range Rovers to get to farm shops for their sacks of potatoes … and should be using their outdoor barbecues to roast them, seeing as they don’t have enough money to use their ovens – and bags of charcoal can also be put in the Range Rover’s capacious boot! Really, these so-called poor people need a good talking to and must pull up their (darned) socks!

And no, they shouldn’t be bothering our hard-pressed doctors with their vitamin-deficiencies when little Arabella needs to have her ballet sprain massaged!

“The former UKIP parliamentary candidate for Great Yarmouth claims that food banks are contributing to obesity and that the poor “cannot be bothered” to cook.

Writing online for The Conservative Woman, Catherine Blaiklock argues that no-one in Britain should be starving because potatoes are cheap at her farm shop and living on nothing but boiled potatoes would be healthier than being handed a box of products in tins and packets.

Addressing claims that millions of people struggle to put food on the table she compares the plight of Britain’s poorest families with the Sherpas in the Himalayas who eat “practically nothing but boiled potatoes with a bit of salt and chilli on the side.”

“You get bored with both the eating and peeling long before you could possibly get obese,” she adds.

The column carries the headline Hungry? Let them eat spuds! echoing the words supposedly spoken by Marie Antoinette when she learned the peasants had no bread.

It goes on to argue that it is not the cost of food that is the problem but the people who consume it.

Catherine Blaiklock stood for the far-right Eurosceptic party in Yarmouth in 2017.

Described at the time as running a guest house in Lingwood, near Acle, she took a photograph of her black husband to a hustings in an apparent bid to prove the party is not racist.”

https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/health/former-ukip-candidate-catherine-blaiklock-says-foodbanks-fuel-obesity-1-5853723

Electoral Commission – unfit due to modern loopholes

“Craig Mackinlay, the Conservative MP who was cleared while a senior Conservative official was convicted over election expenses, has some very critical things to say about the Electoral Commission.

Writing for PoliticsHome after his acquittal, the Conservative MP said:

“It is their responsibility to interpret the law into understandable guidance for candidates and agents and have extra-statutory authority to produce guidance and rules to assist the electoral process. During the trial, the prosecution spent days considering the status of personalised and party generic Correx boards. Conservative Party guidance recommends a 4x potential use. If such plastic posters survive defacement or vandalism that characterises many election campaigns, they could last for many years. The Prosecution and Electoral Commission disputed that view, long held by the party. The Electoral Commission publishes not one word of guidance as to how to account for such boards, how to deal with criminal damage and replacements, relying on the vacuous phrase ‘honest assessment’. To face potential criminal conviction with life-changing consequences on the back of scant guidance cannot be right.”

That is but one of a range of details over which the Electoral Commission’s guidance is indeed unhelpful. Sometimes the Electoral Commission has played with being weirdly prescriptive. (I still remember the discussion I had with them about depreciation rules for party rosettes.) Often however it has also – as the above example illustrates – super-cautiously vague.

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that lack of detailed knowledge in the Electoral Commission, an absence of knowledge bizarrely illustrated by its mistakes over pencils:

https://www.markpack.org.uk/143476/indelible-pencils/

A much bigger problem, however, is one that MPs such as Craig Mackinlay share with the Electoral Commission. Even if no-one breaks the law, the rules limiting constituency expenditure have collapsed because so much can now be done that is charged against the much more generous national limit.

What used to be a tight limit on constituency expenditure set by the law is now in effect a massively generous limit set by the size of your bank account. See the full details here:

https://www.markpack.org.uk/130283/internet-speeds-up-the-killing-off-of-expense-controls-in-marginal-seats/

Neither MPs nor regulators have done anything so far other than sit on the sidelines, often apparently oblivious and always unresponsive to this collapse.”

https://www.markpack.org.uk/157315/craig-mackinlay-electoral-commission/

Flybe biggest shareholder threatens legal challenge to Virgin/Stobart takeover

Owl says: East Devon really does seem to be a very complicated place to do business!

“Flybe’s biggest shareholder has launched a stunning attack on its directors, accusing them of breaching their duties to investors and threatening a legal challenge to the cut-price takeover of one of Britain’s best-known airlines.

Sky News has learnt that Hosking Partners, a prominent London-based asset manager which holds a stake of close to 19% in Flybe, has instructed lawyers to explore its options in relation to the company’s proposed sale to a consortium‎ led by Virgin Atlantic Airways.

These options could include attempting to obtain an injunction prohibiting the deal from being completed, Hosking Partners is understood to have warned Flybe’s bosses this week.

The initial 1p-a-share deal, announced eight days ago, came at a huge discount to the airline’s prevailing share price and underscored its industry’s profound financial challenges.

In a letter to the directors of Flybe, details of which have been relayed to Sky News, Hosking Partners is understood to have expressed concern that they had allowed a false market in the company’s shares to develop by failing to update the City on its financial position in a timely fashion.

‎The fund manager, a long-standing shareholder in Flybe, is understood to have copied its ‎letter to City watchdogs including the Takeover Panel, which polices mergers and ‎acquisitions activity, and the Financial Conduct Authority.

Hosking Partners is said to have raised doubts as to whether the £2.2m offer reflected the intrinsic value of Flybe, and alleged that the handling of its proposed sale had blocked a rival offer from emerging at a higher price.

Flybe’s fate took a further twist this week when it said that its sale to Connect Airways – a consortium comprising Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital Partners,‎ an investment fund with links to the other two parties – would be restructured.

‎Instead of simply comprising a conventional offer for the shares, Flybe’s trading assets would be sold next month to Connect Airways for £2.8m, leaving the holding company as‎ a shell for which ‎the consortium would continue to pay a nominal sum.

Flybe said this change had been necessitated by its urgent need for liquidity – a claim challenged by Hosking Partners because of the company’s cash balance and ability to raise funds from the sale of assets such as its take-off and landing slots at London Gatwick Airport.

In a statement to the market on Tuesday, Flybe said it had had no alternative but to agree to the revisions because unspecified conditions attached to a bridging loan had not been met.

Hosking and other shareholders are said to be furious about the restructuring of the takeover because Flybe’s recent switch from a premium to a standard listing on the London market meant investor approval was now only required for the holding company bid, not the sale of the airline’s assets.

The fund manager is understood to have told Flybe directors that other parties remained interested in acquiring the airline but would now be unable to make an offer.

At the 1p-a-share offer price, Hosking Partners’ stake is worth roughly £400,000.

If it escalates, the row could pose significant reputational risks to the board of Flybe, which is chaired by Simon Laffin, a City grandee who has served as a director of companies including Mitchells & Butlers, Northern Rock and Safeway.

Investors’ anger has been exacerbated by the fact that early last year, Stobart made a takeover approach to Flybe understood to have been valued at roughly 40p-a-share.

This was rejected by Flybe’s board.

In a further development, Sky News revealed last week that Stobart’s estranged former chief executive, Andrew Tinkler, had himself swooped to snap up a stake of more than 10%‎ in Flybe.

Until as recently as this month, it appeared that Virgin Atlantic and Stobart were ‎likely to table competing offers for the regional airline, before it emerged that they had teamed up as part of the same consortium.

Hosking is understood to have raised concerns in its letter about the process through which they were permitted to form an alliance, although one source close to Flybe said that it had not breached any undertakings by doing so.

The investor is also said to have highlighted the rise in Stobart Group’s share price following confirmation of the 1p-a-share bid as evidence of “value transfer” from Flybe to one of its acquirers, according to a City source.

Under their plans, Stobart Air will be folded‎ into Connect, with all of Flybe’s services re-branded under the Virgin Atlantic name.

The chief executive and chief financial officer of Flybe will transfer to the bidding consortium, according to documents published by the company.

Hosking Partners’ letter is said to enquire about any incentive payments due to either of the duo as a result of the consortium’s takeover.

In a statement, a Flybe spokesman said: “The board of Flybe was faced with a very tough decision based on Flybe’s current difficult liquidity position and the expectation that this pressure will continue.

“Obtaining the revised facility, as announced on 15 January, from the consortium provides the security that the business needs to continue to trade, which preserves the interests of its stakeholders, customers, employees, partners and pension members.

“Flybe will be responding directly to letters received from shareholders.”

Flybe launched a formal sale process last autumn, blaming a toxic cocktail of currency volatility, rising fuel costs and Brexit-related uncertainty.

Although it is small in financial terms, it remains one of the UK’s best-known airline brands, carrying thousands of passengers between largely second-tier British airports as well as European destinations.

A source close to the company pointed out that it had warned in the results accompanying the launch of its sale process that if its credit card partners “were to choose to seek significantly higher cash collateral and the group cannot access sufficient additional liquidity, this would give rise to a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the group’s ability to continue as a going concern”.

The Takeover Panel declined to comment, although a source close to it said it was confident its supervision of the bid had been handled in accordance with its policy of acting in investors’ interests.

For Virgin Atlantic, still part-owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, control of Flybe’s regional network will provide a valuable feed into its long-haul flights to international destinations.

Its return to the domestic UK aviation market will come four years after it announced the closure of Little Red, its previous attempt to make money from a notoriously difficult sector.

Rising oil prices and the weakening of sterling have put airlines under intense pressure, with a deepening industry price war accentuating the financial squeeze.

A Hosking Partners spokesman declined to comment on the contents of its letter, but said this weekend that investors were “entitled to transparency over precisely what has gone on to drastically reduce Flybe’s value”.

“The auction undertaken under the formal sale process has clearly not yielded a favourable outcome for all stakeholders, and it seems that the outcome has locked out any other bidder who may be able to provide a better solution for all of Flybe’s stakeholder‎s.”

https://news.sky.com/story/top-flybe-shareholder-threatens-legal-challenge-over-2m-bid-11611470