EXCLUSIVE: Seaton Mayor resignation: business owner’s statement last night

This is the full statement by Mr Gary Miller (owner, The Hat micropub) as given to Seaton Town Council last night, along with a screenshot and transcript of the now deleted tweets to which he refers:

THE TWEETS:

Transcript:
Twitter @peterburrows 1 January 2019 11.38 am
Burrows tweet:
It seems that someone who was rude to me on Facebook gave the impression that he was the owner of @thehatseaton in #seaton I wish them well in their enterprise.

Comment on above Tweet
Matthew Lloyd @matthewlloyd 16 hr
replying to @peterburrows @thehatseaton
You might want to advise @seatonTIC to be more professional on here and keep personal squabbles on personal accounts. Doesn’t make Seaton seem very welcoming to tourists like myself.

THE STATEMENT BY MR MILLER LAST NIGHT:
(verbatim)

“Good evening. I am Gary Millar, the sole owner of The Hat Micropub in Queen Street. I am addressing the issue of Mr. Peter Burrows, the then Mayor and current Councillor on both a local and district level, attacking my livelihood and business.

On the afternoon of New Year’s Day, Mr. Burrows had a very public argument about fox hunting with a private individual on the Facebook page ‘Seaton Views’. This escalated to a robust exchange of views between the two protagonists. (Amusingly both share the same perspective on the matter). Mr. Burrows, who is surely used to the rough and tumble of political debate, took exception to being called a very naughty word. His inexplicable reaction was to use his title of Seaton Mayor to make a direct attack on me, accusing me of being disparaging to the mayor, and to tell thousands of subscribers to a Twitter page called @SeatonTIC, to avoid my business. On the face of it this was the official Seaton Tourist Information Centre page.

This is a grossly stupid response from any public official in any circumstances. You could not make it up.

It is not at all clear why Mr. Burrows chose The Hat as opposed to the many other local businesses that his detractor frequents. Surely, as a public official involved in my various applications, he would have known who I was?

I do not use social media for anything other than professional reasons. If social media users followed the guidelines given in the Hat including “No nasty opinions” and “Be respectful and remember there are other people around you”, the internet would be a kinder place.

Both @SeatonTIC and Seaton Views are ostensibly neutral and exist for the benefit of the people of and visitors to Seaton. However, they are administered by Mr. Burrows which gives him the control over their content. Reportedly, other supposedly impartial social media sites revolving around Seaton are also administered by him. Personally, it disturbs me that a public official has such a domination of information without a clear declaration of interest.

For example – Mr. Burrows selectively deleted his unsavoury exchange on Seaton Views and blocked his detractor from the site. Yet he also closed the @SeatonTIC page entirely, not at the request from the Council as reported, but unilaterally overnight on the 1st/2nd January after legal action was threatened against the then unknown poster. This had two effects – first; we are unable to see how many people viewed his tweet to assess the damage caused. Secondly; imagine the impression given to thousands of potential holidaymakers following what they would reasonably have considered the formal Seaton Tourist Information Twitter page – A strange tweet from the town Mayor attacking a local small business, followed by an unexplained blackout.

This cannot be good for either my business nor the image of the town as a whole. Surely, directing subscribers to the official Tourist Information Site would at least have been a productive step.

I would argue that these actions were not a selfless act by Mr. Burrows, or in the interests of myself or Seaton, but a means of covering tracks. A clear case of canting.

I have yet to receive a proper apology from Mr. Burrows. His statement of resignation last week did not make it clear that I was not the person who insulted him, then he justified his actions, and finally boorishly he ended with him giving himself a pat on the back for a job well done. Unfortunately, any apology at this time now sounds hollow.

Mr. Burrows was high profile in his role as Mayor and councillor on both local and district levels. As such I view both the local and district councils legally culpable for his actions, regardless of these being rogue or not. I expect both the local and district council to do their legal duty and mitigate any damage against me. This includes a full and open investigation of Mr. Burrows conduct in office, including on social media, and disciplinary or legal action wherever possible. This motion of no confidence, and the complaint to the East Devon Monitoring Officer is a positive response by the Seaton Town Council.

Despite undoubted damage to my business, the support of my regulars, and other public support helps me believe that moving to Seaton to open up a new and innovative business was the right decision. My sincere thanks to you all and I hope to continue to serve you real ales, ciders and other fine beverages in a friendly environment for many years to come.

There is however still much to do from both Councils to support the current small traders and promote the opening of new dynamic, interesting small shops in Seaton. Encouraging visitors to move to the traditional trading area, now called The Cultural Quarter, from the lower end of town is an urgent requirement to start. Regrettably, after a year of trading in Seaton and having contributed in various forums, I have yet to see any concrete or effective steps to this end by the Council. This is an opportunity for both the Council and traders to reset and have a fresh start.

In conclusion I would urge all councillors to support this motion of no confidence. What most surprises me is that Mr. Burrows has not recognised his position as being untenable and has not resigned already on his own volition.

Thank you for your time and attention.”

Failed police merger cost £250,000

Owl says: A quick check of the members on the police oversight committee’s views first might have saved a lot of money!

“Devon and Cornwall Police Commissioner Alison Hernandez confirmed that the project to explore a potential merger had cost the two forces £200,000.

That was split on a 70:30 basis between her force and Dorset’s, with the Home Office providing an additional grant of £50,000.

Questions about the cost of the abandoned merger were raised after Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said directly it had cost about £500,000 when he appeared at the Dorset County Council Safeguarding, Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

The figure for the move preparations was later revised by Mr Underhill’s office.

But both police and crime commissioners’ offices have now confirmed the total figure was £250,000.

[Hernandez said] The two police forces have a combined budget of well over £4m and employ more than 7,000 people, so it was right and proper that we explored in detail the implications of a potential merger on them and, importantly, the public that they serve.” from Alison Hernandez Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall”

The two police forces have a combined budget of well over £4m and employ more than 7,000 people, so it was right and proper that we explored in detail the implications of a potential merger on them and, importantly, the public that they serve.”

Ms Hernandez stopped the merger plans in October, saying at the time there would not be enough benefit to communities in Devon and Cornwall to justify a resulting increase in council tax.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-46864649

Enterprise Zone “gazelle” companies (some in Devon) have unintended consequences

“Britain’s fastest-growing businesses could be contributing to job losses, according to research that claims the government’s policy of backing entrepreneurial companies “may be fundamentally at odds” with tackling regional inequalities.

A study of the performance of more than six million companies over a period of 17 years found that high-growth businesses had a “spillover” effect that could damage local employers.

Fast-growing companies, sometimes dubbed “gazelles”, have been identified in recent years as a way of boosting job creation and improving the nation’s productivity. Despite accounting for less than 5 per cent of businesses, these companies create about half of all new jobs and typically show higher levels of productivity.

However, the study, conducted by the Enterprise Research Centre, found that companies with the fastest employment growth — 20 per cent growth every 12 months for three consecutive years — tended to grow by “hoovering up” jobs from slower- growing businesses in the same region, in what the researchers called a “crowding-out competition effect”.

A 1 per cent rise in the incidence of high-growth businesses in a region was found to actually slightly cut employment, by 0.35 per cent on average — equivalent to a net loss of about 122,000 jobs UK-wide over the period studied, 1997-2013. The worst affected regions included the Scottish Highlands, Cheshire, the North East, Lincolnshire and Devon. In contrast, many urban areas in the South East and Midlands saw a net jobs gain.

Negative effects were most pronounced in the manufacturing sector and rural parts of the UK, where competition for skilled workers was most intense, the researchers said.

The fastest growing companies often attract the most skilled workers in a region where such staff are scarce, leaving slower-growing rivals struggling to attract employees and having to pay more to keep existing team members. As a result they hire fewer people and could be forced into job cuts.

Mike Harding, director of Inspira Digital, said that his ecommerce agency based in Barnstaple, Devon, competes with a London-based agency with a satellite office in north Devon. “If you have someone offering London wages here, that is a black hole that sucks up the local talent,” he said.

The issue can be exacerbated by large companies being offered tax breaks to open an office in Devon in the name of local development, Mr Harding said.

Professor Jun Du of Aston University, one of the authors of the research, said that “while encouraging clusters of fast-growth firms can bring productivity benefits to whole supply chains, some regions and industries with acute skills shortages could see unintended consequences”.

Source: The Times (pay wall)

“This Is What It’s Like To Lose Your Sunday Bus Service”

In a new series, HuffPost UK is examining how shrinking local budgets are affecting people’s daily lives. These are stories of what it’s like to lose, in a society that is quietly changing. If you have a story to tell, email basia.cummings@huffpost.com.

“When Staffordshire council announced on April 1 that they were cutting the local Sunday bus service – a lifeline for many of its regular passengers – people thought it was a bad joke.

The route was a thread connecting the local community, linking Stafford and Cannock in the West Midlands. But it was no April Fool’s Day prank.

Like so many decisions taken by local authorities in the era of austerity, it made sense on paper. Staffordshire County Council said it could no longer keep the buses running because numbers had dropped so much, the subsidies needed to make up for the loss in fares were “simply not sustainable”.

The local bus operator, Arriva Midlands, said at the time that “cuts to funding” were forcing them to withdraw the subsidised service. According to county council cabinet member Mark Deaville, “some journeys are costing taxpayers £10 a time”.

On its own, of course, the cutting of this one bus route is not worthy of a national news report. It is, at best, a local story affecting a relatively small number of people. But it is in paying closer attention to thousands of small financial decisions like this that we see the reality of government-led austerity, and the way it is quietly changing Britain.

In our HuffPost UK series, What It’s Like To Lose, we are exploring how these changes at a local level link up to paint a national portrait of austerity – from the closures of community libraries, or the centralisation of medical services or job centres, to the disappearance of affordable leisure centres or local post offices. As local authorities find themselves picking off the “low-hanging fruit” of services that have seen their use go down in recent years, what does it mean if you are one of the people for whom that still really matters?

When we visited Cannock on a grey December day, standing at a bus shelter was 80-year-old Jocie Lucas, taking refuge from the driving rain. For her, the cut was a blow to her sense of freedom. “I have a free bus pass, but I’m so confused these days as to when the buses are running that I hardly use it now,” she said. “I’ve lost some of that independence to travel where and when I want, and now I have to rely on lifts from family.”

What has happened to the residents of Cannock is happening across the country. Buses remain by far the country’s most popular form of public transport – 4.65 billion journeys are made each year, two-and-a-half times more than on the train.

But despite their levels of use, almost 17,000 bus routes have disappeared over five years across the UK, according to the Traffic Commissioner’s annual report. Tightened council budgets have made services that were under-used, but previously considered essential, vulnerable to cuts. The Campaign for Better Transport says there has been a £182m – or 45% – cut in local authority-supported bus services since 2010.

In Staffordshire, like in many councils across the UK, the changes came following a funding consultation last year. Tanya Dance, who runs the Copper Kettle cafe overlooking Cannock’s bus depot, was particularly hard hit by the decision – she had become a bus ticket vendor just months before the Sunday services were cancelled.

“There used to be queues of passengers on a Sunday, which was one on my busiest days,” she said. “A lot of the old folk with their free bus passes would only venture out on a Sunday and spend time shopping and in my cafe.”

Dance said the move has seen her takings halve in the last eight months. And the disruption, she thinks, has mainly affected her elderly customers.

For them, the service was vital. It was the only opportunity many of them had to go out and socialise, or visit church, she said. “To stop all buses on a Sunday seems way too drastic. Cannock isn’t exactly isolated but its pretty rural and buses are a lifeline for many around here,” she said.

Jocie Lucas echoes this, saying she used to enjoy travelling into town on a Sunday. “Now and I’m in other people’s hands, so that takes away some of the fun.”

But it’s not just the elderly who have had to adjust. Teenagers Alicia Slyde and Dean Mayo, both from a suburb of Cannock, said they now have to walk 45 minutes to get to town. “Sunday is the only day I can go shopping because of work commitments in the week and neither of us drive or can afford a cab, so we walk it to town and back now,” Mayo said. “It’s hard work carrying all the shopping home but we have no choice. “

Slyde added: “The bus service around here is dreadful during the week and then non-existent on a Sunday. Even getting to college every day is hit-and-miss as far as buses go. But stopping the Sunday service just doesn’t make sense. That’s the one day people get to themselves and want to travel.”

More than 2,000 people have signed a petition started by local campaigner Lee Murphy, asking the council to reverse its decision. Some of those who have signed mentioned nurses and staff working at local care homes needing to get to work.

Murphy told HuffPost UK that a regular user of one of the Cannock services relies on it to reach his brother, who is disabled. “He still requires the same care on Sundays, but how is he able to travel to him? Both Cannock and Stafford hospitals are cut off – neither train station are close enough,” the campaigner said.

“In addition to this, users paying as much as £520 a year for a Cannock/Stafford region bus pass will receive less value for money. This is unfair to hard-working commuters who deserve to use their pass for evenings and weekends too.”

Kevin Chapman, a spokesman for the Better Transport campaign, said the vast majority of the lost routes serve rural communities, like Cannock. “When the local bus service goes this often results in people in these areas becoming more isolated,” he said. “We are faced with a nasty cocktail of reduced funding for councils and operators cutting routes, while in the middle of it all we have vulnerable people who may rely on the bus to get out and about.”

But as always, decisions to cut services are complex. Staffordshire County Councillor Mark Deaville said the money saved had been directed to the services people use the most. “Our changes affect only four subsidised Sunday services from the Cannock depot, and the decision to stop all of its other Sunday bus journeys is a commercial decision for Arriva and not the county council.”

In Staffordshire, one local MP is the defence secretary and former government chief whip, Gavin Williamson, who said he is extremely concerned about the removal of the Cannock service, which he described as a “lifeline”.

Speaking to HuffPost UK, the senior Tory said it is “deeply damaging for the elderly who may rely on the buses to get them to the shops or to and from church on a Sunday,” he said. “It is important we do all we can to fight these cuts and I hope Arriva reconsider their decision.”

Teenage commuter Esme Walker, agrees. She said living in Cannock already felt “like being out in the sticks”, and losing the Sunday bus service has isolated her further.

“Me and my friends looked forward to catching a bus on Sunday and spending the day in Birmingham or Stafford,” she said. “It was really nice because we’d often meet elderly people from the town on the bus who seemed just as bored as us and we’d end up travelling together.

“I think the buses helped bring local people together in that way.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/how-it-feels-to-lose-your-sunday-bus-service_uk_5c20ef40e4b08aaf7a8b3bcc