Oh noooooo…..”£20m investment fund to be set up so East Devon can buy property and raise cash to balance budget”


Owl can see it now …. and it isn’t nice …

“East Devon District Council is set to join the growing number of councils who are investing in property to help balance its budget.

The cabinet have recommended to full council that up to £20m be allocated to an investment fund, either from existing resources or funding from the Public Works Loan Board.

The money would then be drawn down and invested as and when required and would be expected to give the council a net return of £450,000 a year.

East Devon District Council is set to join the growing number of councils who are investing in property to help balance its budget.

The cabinet have recommended to full council that up to £20m be allocated to an investment fund, either from existing resources or funding from the Public Works Loan Board.

The money would then be drawn down and invested as and when required and would be expected to give the council a net return of £450,000 a year.

Any decision on investment of more than £5m would have to be made by the council, but delegated authority to the Deputy Chief Executive in consultation with Leader, Portfolio Holder for Asset Management, Portfolio Holder for Finance and Portfolio Holder for Economy would be given for anything less than that.

Tim Child, Senior Manager – Property & Estates, told the cabinet on Wednesday night that the Commercial Investment Framework was a strategy to help deliver income that would be gleaned from land and property and that the overview committee had supported the principle of it.

He added: “This is a method tried and tested by other authorities. Some have done this and others are trialling it. The model we are set to go with reflects the low risk appetite for East Devon and some of the investments will be within East Devon.”

Chief Executive Mark Williams added: “As the new council prepares for the 2020/21 budget and the £2m funding gap and a 13 per cent reduction in our budget, we will have to do something and a lot of engagement with the public around it. As part of that engagement, I dare say public will say what are you doing to protect the services, and one of those things is to engage in low risk activity to try and generate some income by investing in property.”

Cllr Philip Skinner, portfolio holder for the economy, said that he was very supportive of the idea and was the kind of work the council needed to do. He said: “I look at Torbay, and they are known as a basket case, but they have put together a fantastic financial team and have made some phenomenal investments up and down the country.

“They are doing a really good job, and want to make investments in our patch, so we need to make sure we get there first, as there is a speed that you need to move at in the commercial world as good deals don’t last long as other people recognise that there are good deals.

“We need to make these investments to ensure we can find a way to cover the funding gap we will be facing. We need to wake up and smell the coffee on this. I am very supportive of this and this is the kind of work we need to be doing.”

Among the investments Torbay Council has made includes purchasing a bakery in Bodmin from Proper Cornish Ltd for £3m, with a council spokesperson saying that investment in properties from Cornwall to Kent will raise an estimated £2.8m and that they need to generate more income to fund local services due to budget cuts.

Cllr Mike Allen added: “This strategy is very important. The amounts are small compared to other authorities who are borrowing up to £100m, but this is a prudent way of filling the black hole gap we have in the revenue income.”

Leader of the council, Cllr Ian Thomas, added that the council was taking a very professional approach to an area that they historically haven’t covered very well.

Concerns though about the strategy were raised by Cllr Roger Giles, who said that he would have thought that people generally would want the council to borrow money to provide services for residents and to borrow to provide additional housing for the less well-off residents.

He said that property investment brings with it the potential for significant risk if things go wrong and there were concerns about the public perception of making these investments, particularly if they are outside of East Devon.

Concerns though about the strategy were raised by Cllr Roger Giles, who said that he would have thought that people generally would want the council to borrow money to provide services for residents and to borrow to provide additional housing for the less well-off residents.

He said that property investment brings with it the potential for significant risk if things go wrong and there were concerns about the public perception of making these investments, particularly if they are outside of East Devon.

The cabinet agreed with the overview and scrutiny recommendation hat there should be a Council Tax increase of £5 a year made on an Band D council tax property, taking the meaning the average tax payer will be charged £141.78 a year for 2019/20.

They also agreed to recommend that a vacant post within the Economy Portfolio at a cost of £25,000 be reinstated. The deletion of this vacant post in the draft budget was agreed by the Strategic Management Team as a saving in line with Transformation Strategy “Fit for Purpose” imperative as they believed the saving could be made through efficiencies and would not impact the service, but the cabinet disagreed and said that it would help free up the economy and planning teams from their current pressures.”


Guess which council is very picky where it (sort of) recruits new councillors?

Teignbridge District Council is actively promoting new councillor candidates via numerous events throughout the district.

When challenged, EDDC it seems is not – choosing instead to send CEO (and supposedly neutral civil servant) Mark Williams to selected events, only upon invitation. Like trueblue Budleigh Salterton.

It’s almost like they don’t want any new candidates signing up – thus allow the incumbents to romp back home without a contest thus maintaining (their trueblue) status quo…

Odd that …..

And maybe time to check that electoral roll again.

We don’t want to find ourselves with 6,000+ too few voters again do we, Mr Williams.

As Private Eye might say: Shom mistake shurely …

UK-US trade deal: the gift that keeps on taking

“Preparations for a no-deal Brexit are intensifying in London, Dublin and Brussels.

We report today on 30 of 130 demands from American lobbyists from any future UK-US trade deal.

We all know about chlorinated chicken, but corporates have also asked to US Department of Trade for changes in NHS drug rules, weaker data protection, carcinogens in pistachio nuts, lowering food safety standards and fresh ways to sue the British government.

It’s quite a wish-list.”

Source: The Waugh Zone, 8 February, Huffington Post

Greater Exeter Strategic Plan – Exeter leaks its “vision”*

“But not yet in East Devon until July 2019 (see below). It seems East Devon is the only council keeping ALL its plans secret until after the 2 May 2019 district council elections.

Fishy? You bet!

Anyway, here’s what we currently know:

Interesting proposals for changes to Sidmouth Road and Junction 30 of the M5. The Motorway Services and Sowton Park and Ride being developed as a “Mixed Neighbourhood” (see image above).

The Governments require the Greater Exeter Housing target to be 53,200 new homes over the next 20 years. That is for the combined area governed by East Devon, Teignbridge, Mid Devon and Exeter.

Exeter’s housing ambitions

Karime Hassan, chief executive and growth director of Exeter City Council revealed this week a proposal for 12,000 new homes in the City of Exeter over the next 20 years. His vision of “Liveable Exeter”, for delivering a transformational housing programme for Exeter from 2020 to 2040. involves the creation of 8 new neighbourhoods.

Exeter’s published Vision

Red Cow Village (St David’s) – 664 homes in new neighbourhood, including new work space, on both sides of the railway around St David’s Station.

Water Lane (close to Exe Valley Park) – 1,567 homes. A space for expanding leisure attractions near the quay, with low traffic or car-free development with attractive cycle and walking connections.

Marsh Barton – 5,544 homes in a new neighbourhood. It will remain an important employment and retail area, but with the integration of living and working, to make better use of riverside location. Development linked to the new proposed train station. Creation of new types of work space, including light industrial, workshops, office and shared work space.

East Gate (Heavitree Road) – 962 new homes, an enhanced approach to the city centre from the east, reduced traffic on Heavitree Road and a greater provision for public transport, walking and cycling. New places to live close to the city centre will exist alongside existing neighbourhoods.

West Gate (Western Way) – 617 new homes, opening up access to the river and canal from the city centre, a new cultural destination, an expanded and connected park at the heart of the city, a “Green Bridge” promoting active travel across the river.

South Gate (Holloway Street/South Street linked via Topsham Road) – 300 new homes, establishing an improved link between the city centre and the historic quayside, with a greater emphasis on the wall, city gates and Southernhay.

North Gate (North Street) – 308 new homes, a new approach to the city from St David’s, uncovering the medieval city wall.
Sandy Gate (land off Sandygate roundabout) – 1,050 new homes in a new sustainable and well-connected mixed-use neighbourhood, bridging the city and the new and existing neighbourhoods to the east, providing recreational, cultural and entertainment space where Exeter meets the proposed Clyst Valley Park.

Mid Devon’s published ambitions.

Mid Devon’s Local Plan is almost complete with a Planning Inspectors hearing due in the next few weeks to consult on their final draft.

Culm Valley on the South side of the M5 opposite Cullumpton create a new community of up to 5,000, with a new Motorway junction and railway Station.

Junction 27. A landmark project for a leisure and tourism development involving Tim Smit from the Edan Project
Tiverton Eastern Urban Extension will cover 153ha, to the east of Tiverton.

Teignbridge future ambitions.

Teignbridge has just started a review of their Local Plan and therefore their plans are in the infancy.

Brownfield Their preferred option to develop brownfield land for development however, the required number of homes the government require Teignbridge to build, is not possible to meet the housing needs from brownfield land only. Therefore, open countryside will need to be considered for development to meet the housing needs.

Garden village is being considered with the new settlement proposal to be between 1500-10,000 homes.

So – What are East Devon’s Ambitions?

Hard to say.

Although the other 3 Authorities are keeping their residents well informed on their sections of the GESP proposals, East Devon has been an almost total blackout! There has been a Local Plan in place since 2016 with most of new development being built in an area known as the West End. That is an area close to Exeter’s border plus the new Town of Cranbrook.

At East Devon District Council Strategic Planning Committee on Tuesday 29th January it was hoped that Agenda item 12 would be able to explain more on the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan strategy and provide councillors some clarity on the East Devon Local Plan, plus the East Devon Villages Plan only agreed last year which most councillors only learned the previous week, would be jettisoned and replaced with a brand new East Devon Local Plan by 2023.

Local Plan to be replaced

At the meeting last week, the Head of Planning Ed Freeman explained that the present Local Plan was in 2 parts, with the section on Policies would require total re-writing because the Policies would be “substantially superseded” by the emerging GESP Policies. He also explained that the Villages Plan policies, will be merged into the new Local Plan.

Tory Councillor Philip Skinner who along with Tory Councillor Paul Diviani who are the only 2 East Devon`s elected representatives on the GESP “steering group committee” along with 2 elected members from the 3 other Authorities gave only a few hints on some of the latest thoughts for the GESP Strategy for East Devon.

Higher Density Housing for Exeter proposed for GESP

Regarding a question on Housing, he explained that it had been decided by the steering group, that each authority had a certain quota of dwellings proposed and it was not correct that if one Authority was unable to provide the housing numbers, other Authorities were required to build extra dwellings to offset the shortfall. He also explained that Exeter City Council had to return to the drawing board to enable extra dwelling numbers through “much higher density” within the confines of the City.

East Devon will take on most of the Industrial and commercial development for the GESP

Councillor Skinner also told the meeting regarding business development that he aimed to “Get the best for East Devon” and explained that to “Our strength and Exeter’s demise, they do not have the capacity, but we do!” and claimed most of the commercial and industrial development “will be in our patch”

After 2 years of joint secret meetings.

Exeter’s residents know what to expect with “Liveable Exeter”, Teignbridge residents are being told that their local plan is being re-assessed and are having public consultations, and Mid Devon residents have been through their public consultations and an agreed local plan about to be approved.

However, the residents of East Devon only know that their local plan is now being superseded by a new plan with substantial more housing and more industrial, commercial and business development.

All will be revealed in July 2019 after the District Council Elections. Who will you trust to steer East Devon through the next few years of obtaining the most appropriate and suitable Planning Policies. Leave it to the Tory Councillors who have kept everyone in the dark?

Or choose an Independent who are the major opposition for East Devon?

Ottery Town Council (particularly Councillor Carter) makes itself a laughing stock (again)

Owl says: It is well-known that Councillor Carter (one of the Greendale Carters) has no love for independent councillors!



From the blog of Independent Councillor Claire Wright:

“Ottery St Mary Town Council revisited the contentious issue of whether it should support setting up a group to ensure the future of Ottery Hospital at yet another fraught meeting on Monday 4 February.

A bit of background information – at the town council meeting on 6 November a similar proposal was agreed by three votes to nil. Subsequently the town council abstainers (who thought that they had won) called for an extraordinary town council meeting to overturn the decision, which took place on 29 November.

Subsequently it became known that two members of the Health and Care Forum had established a limited company whose purpose is unclear.

I still find it hard to believe that a proposal to set up a working group to help retain the hospital, by a councillor – Geoff Pratt, who was asked as to help by the Health and Care Team Chair, has resulted in a bitter row lasting four months.

Our offer of help has been sullied, dragged through the dirt and subject to chicanery by political opponents who appear to be engaging in some kind of strange game of cat and mouse. I have been insulted on social media and mine and the town’s residents continued efforts over the years to retain the hospital and its beds have been rudely ridiculed and dismissed.

Myself and Dr Margaret Hall, who was also subject to unpleasantness, have both pulled out of any potential group as a result. It was difficult to believe the level of vitriol from a minority of people.

On Monday evening the town council finally agreed to meet with the hospital League of Friends Chair, Adrian Rutter, who came across as the voice of reason on Monday evening. However, as soon as the row seemed to abate, Cllr Paul Carter bizarrely decided to reignite it by insinuating that our offer of help was a bid to cause trouble.

One councillor announced that she didn’t think Mr Rutter should be allowed to speak as he hadn’t asked to do so at the beginning of the meeting!

Cllr Carter then accused me of smirking (I was doing anything but smirking!) and the mayor refused to let me respond. I did, however, manage to ask Cllr Carter why he was trying to reignite the row again.

Once again there were raised tempers, including from members of the public. One of whom told me afterwards it was one of the worst town council meetings he had ever attended.

It was not very clear what was agreed, but I believe the town council deferred a decision to establish the working group.”


“Decision overturned to set up Ottery Hospital working group”

What IS going on at Ottery town council? Sounds like a nest of vipers! AND a nest of political chicanery … Who IS it (or who are they) fomenting this silly behaviour – and why? If you can’t work together for the good of the community – should you even be a councillor at all?

“A proposal to create a working group to safeguard Ottery Hospital has been overturned following more heated debate over how to save it.

A motion was submitted on January 24, signed by councillors Glyn Dobson, Ian Holmes, Anne Edwards and Lynn Harding, to re-examine the decision to support or rescind a motion to set up the group.

The proposal was passed in November, with many councillors abstaining due to a lack of information or because they felt it would duplicate the work of the town’s health and care forum.

Residents had their say at an extraordinary meeting on November 29, when a motion was first made to re-examine the motion.

The decision was deferred until February to allow organisations involved in saving the hospital to meet and gather information.

Speaking at Monday’s town council meeting, Councillor Roger Giles, who supported the group, said: “The purpose of the working group was to bring all sorts of organisations and good people together to embrace the skill and expertise and energy of the LOF (League of Friends).

“I really can’t see why we are not doing something – we need to campaign, we need to get as many services as we can in Ottery Hospital.

“Fill it up, get it used to capacity, and ensure its future. That’s the essence of what I am trying to achieve.”

Adrian Rutter, chairman of the hospital League of Friends, said everyone had the same aim but did not share a way of working together.

Mayor Paul Bartlett offered to meet representatives from the health and care forum and League of Friends to discuss any problems between the two groups.

Members voted to rescind the group by five votes to three.

Following the vote, Deputy Mayor Paul Carter said he was ‘disappointed’ members were failing to pull together.

He said: “If you have expertise that can help what’s already happening, why not help and join in?

“I cannot believe we’re all grown-ups down this table and we keep going down different avenues.

“I would very much like, going forward, to try and pull together and look down the same road.”

He added: “We do not need to be going on independent routes to be a collective and a team.

“I always say we’re stronger together.”


“Firefighters to be trained as police officers for seven Devon towns”

Firefighters are already trained as first medical responders in many towns – now they will be fire/medical/police officers. Hope they get the salary increases that go with the extra responsibilities …..

And, no, it isn’t an “innovative project” as Ms Hernandez suggests – Owl believes it’s a cover-up for too few firefighters, paramedics and police officers.

“This innovative police and fire collaboration project is being funded by Devon and Cornwall’s police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez who hopes it will improve access to the emergency services for communities in Devon.

The seven community responders have been recruited into locations where there is a need based on risk, vulnerability and harm – Cullompton, Crediton, Dartmouth, Honiton, Okehampton, Newton Abbot and Totnes.

Ms Hernandez has committed funding for an initial two years covering recruitment and ongoing training costs with the possibility of extending further. It forms part of her commitment to improving collaboration between the emergency services.

“I’m incredibly pleased to be able to support this collaboration. We don’t know what future funding will look like for any of our emergency services and working together on unique projects like this will improve the service both organisations can deliver to people in Devon.” said Ms Hernandez.

“I look forward to seeing the benefits that our communities will reap from this innovative work.” …


Devon Chief Constable: “thin blue line broken”

“The chief constable of Devon and Cornwall says the thin blue line of British policing is broken and lives in the two counties are more at risk than ever because of financial cuts.

Shaun Sawyer is supporting a proposal to increase the police council tax precept to fund 85 more police officers, but also said he would still be left with nearly 600 fewer than he had nine years ago. The force currently has just under 3,000 officers.

Mr Sawyer said the most vulnerable were at risk from the government’s decision to slash police budgets in 2010 and officers saw the “effects of those cuts every day”…


“Government housing delivery plan ‘flawed’ “

Well, cover me in tar and call me the M5! Owl has been saying this for YEARS. The only question that needs to be asked is: Is this deliberate or unintentional? Either way, it’s a damning indictment of its mendacity and incestuous relationship with developers or a damning indictment of its totally inept ability to govern. Or, of course (and more likely) BOTH!

“The government’s housing planning system is unable to demonstrate it is meeting housing demand effectively, public spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) has said.
The government wants 300,000 new homes a year from the mid-2020s onwards.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has a standard method, developed in 2017, for local authorities to assess the number of new homes needed.
The NAO says this has weaknesses.

It says these weaknesses will result in a cut in the number of planned new homes in five of nine regions, while in London, the method will mean that new builds need to double in order to meet what the department thinks is needed.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said the current formula did not take into account the needs of local communities.


Local authorities – by law – need to have an up-to-date plan for building new homes.

If they are unable to prove that they have a five-year supply of land for housing, developers have greater freedoms to build where they want.

The NAO points out that this risks ill-suited developments, while the LGA says it risks a “free-for-all”.

The NAO says that between 2005-06 and 2017-18, 177,000 new homes per year were built on average, with the number never rising above 224,000.

To meet its ambition for 300,000 homes a year, the department will need to oversee a 69% increase in the average number of new homes built.

The NAO recommends the housing department should regularly monitor the gap between its ambition for 300,000 new homes and what is being planned.

It also says it needs to work with local authorities and other government departments to ensure that infrastructure is delivered more effectively.

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said: “For many years, the supply of new homes has failed to meet demand.

“From the flawed method for assessing the number of homes required, to the failure to ensure developers contribute fairly for infrastructure, it is clear the planning system is not working well.

“The government needs to take this much more seriously and ensure its new planning policies bring about the change that is needed.”

Councillor Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s Housing spokesman, said: “We remain clear that the government’s housing needs formula does not take into account the complexity and unique needs of local housing markets, which vary significantly from place to place.”


“Millions more on incomes too low to have acceptable living standards – study”

“Two million more people are on incomes considered too low to have an “acceptable” standard of living compared with 10 years ago, new research has found.

A study by Loughborough University suggested three quarters of lone parent families had earnings too low to meet their minimum needs – up by 65% since the financial crisis in 2008.

And the number of single women in their early 60s – a group affected by an increase to the state pension age – living below the minimum standard of living was found to have doubled in the last decade.

The University’s Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) conducted the research as part of its Minimum Income Standards programme, which calculates the minimum budget individuals require to cover their material needs and to participate in society.

Its findings suggested that, compared to 2008, two in five women aged 60-64 who live alone have incomes too low to meet their minimum needs, up from one in five. …”