Former (current?) owner of Seaton Heights declared bankrupt

News reaches Owl that flamboyant businessman Nicholas (Nick) Spysnyk, who for a time owned the still-derelict Seaton Heights site (and also owned Stoneleigh Holiday Park near Branscombe), has been declared bankrupt:

Owl is not sure whether he still had involvement in either business up to the date of his bankrupcy, as ownership has seemed to change very frequently, sometimes including Mr Spysnyk and sometimes not. However (at least for the time being, it appears not!

Planning permission for an ambitious holiday venue was granted at Seaton Heights, but despite many promises, the different owners never seemed able to progress them. Subsequently, a Premier Inn opened in the town centre.

Local Tories panic at last minute – and ask what you think (too little, too late!)

The Local Tories are asking the electorate at the 11th Hour! (A BIT TOO LATE!).


Because they know they have let us down, while Independent councillors have been fighting our battles, not them!

Whilst our Independent District Councillors have been listening and dealing with local people’s issues and concerns for years the “East Devon Conservative Association” may be waking up to the fact that rather than follow their Central Offices National Policies, they maybe should listen occasionally to what is happening in their local area!

A questionnaire is being distributed by the East Devon Branch of the Conservative Party, just 5 weeks before Local Parish Town and District Elections asking for local people’s thoughts!

There is however a “health warning” on the leaflet in very small print!

The types of information we may collect about you, will probably include your name, address, and contact information and information about your ethnic origin, political opinions, and religious, philosophical and other beliefs. The data you provide will be retained by the Conservative Party, its Candidates and its MPs”.

Nice to know the Tories want to collate a database on us!

The questionnaire first asks several questions about the ward and then asks
“Are there any local issues or concerns you would like to raise?

Then they ask which of 14 issues are the 3 issues that should be prioritised. Looking at the list most local people would hope that their Councillors were concentrating on ALL of them, but at least the local Conservatives MIGHT spend some time on 3 local issues which is a start!

On the second page it becomes even more amusing!

Q: What Conservative commitments are the most important to you?

Make a success of Brexit”
(guessing the leaflet was planned some time ago!)

First one on the list is Not really a local issue, but the you would not think that the turmoil in Parliament and Brussels was anything like a “success”!

Q: “Cut the Deficit and deal with our country’s debts.”

This could be translated as: Do you approve of austerity and the selling off of public assets.

Again, not much of a local concern, except for the closing of local hospital beds, reduction in funding for all local services, no spending on our local infrastructure but the Government spending billions on HS2 to connect London and Birmingham and Cross Rail connecting one part of London to the other!

Q:“Continue to increase housebuilding and support home ownership”.

East Devon is already building more than 950 new houses per year, but the Tories want more and more! What local people want is “the right houses, built to the right quality, in the right place, at the right time”. Not what we are getting which are large, expensive housing estates that look like “everywhere land!”.

Q: Cut income tax by raising personal allowances.

If you earn enough to pay tax that’s fine, but the less well off become even further left in crisis with the cutting of social services! And what about all those billionaire donors – some paying no tax in this country at all!

Q: Ensure that pensions continue to rise annually.

Anything to keep pensions in line with inflation is good but reducing public services for the elderly affects their quality of life! And “rising annually” is no good if increases are below the cost of living and savings earn nothing and then go to fund home or nursing home care.

Q: Ensure the welfare and benefit system is fair and rewards work.

Just one comment here “Universal Credit! It’s NOT working!

Q: Continue to increase NHS spending.

Local NHS spending has been and is being cut and all our services at breaking point! Nine hours for an ambulance to turn up for a pensioner with a broken hip in Exmouth! And a CCG that has said it will cut HALF A BILLION pounds more in the next few years.

Q: Control and reduce immigration.

They cannot control migration if they cannot sort out a Brexit deal! And SOME immigration (such as health care workers) is urgently needed. And they have already confessed that immigration will now come from India and the Phillipines rather than the EU!

Q: Protect spending on schools.

Only this week our largest secondary school in the district asked parents to contribute to the funding! And academy schools pay their heads and directors hundreds of thousands of pounds – and then often go bust!

Q: Invest our National Security and defence.

It is a known fact that we are spending less on our armed forces and the police. These cuts can be seen with less police on our streets, crime seemingly increasing and less arrests and weaker sentences for those that are apprehended!

This is Our governing Political Party and our governing East Devon councillors asking these ridiculous questions!

You are asked to tick which 2 are important to you! Again, most people would say they are all important!!

You are then asked what party you voted for last time and which party you may consider voting for this time around, and finally asking you if you want to help or even join the Conservative Party! Remember, all this data on you is kept for later use (or sale).

What’s the alternative?

This questionnaire graphically demonstrates how out of touch this national and local political party is!!

Don’t reply to add to their already large database on you but elect a local INDEPENDENT candidate, already in touch with the electorate and already fighting on your behalf!

“Labour ‘will ban’ outsourcing of public services to private firms”

“Private companies will be banned by a Labour government from running services that deal with vulnerable people and their rights, under a far-reaching plan to restrict outsourcing.

The party has drawn up the plan in response to what it describes as a series of “outsourcing disasters” involving services handed to private firms – from testing for sickness benefits to the operation of some NHS cancer services.

Under the plan, contracts that deal with people deemed to be “at risk”, and contracts that infringe on human rights or entail the use of “coercive powers” can not be outsourced. People “at risk” are defined as those who rely on state protection, be they prisoners, hospital patients or benefits recipients. The new rules would kick in when current service contracts expire or are terminated.

Exceptions will be built into the system. The new rules will not apply to contracts of less than a certain value, or where it can be shown that “at risk” people are best served by an existing private contractor. State bodies will be able to argue that they do not yet have the capacity to carry out the service.

The plan comes after a series of high-profile outsourcing rows. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has criticised the privatisation of cancer-scanning services in Oxford, with doctors warning that this could damage patients’ health. The private company InHealth has been given a contract to deliver positron emission computerised tomography (PET-CT) scanning in the Thames Valley. The service was taken away from the NHS trust’s Churchill hospital in Oxford.

The plan is likely to be backed by unions, but could cause concern in councils under financial pressure after years of cuts.

Last summer, the Ministry of Justice was forced to take control of Birmingham prison from the contractor G4S, after inspections found that prisoners were regularly using drink, drugs and violence, and corridors were littered with cockroaches, blood and vomit.

The party has repeatedly criticised the outsourcing of assessments for Personal Independent Payments and for Employment and Support Allowance, saying that this has led to a breakdown in trust between disabled people and their health assessors.

Both central and local government would have to follow new statutory guidance under the plan, which would see a major increase in the services run in-house by councils and Whitehall departments.

Andrew Gwynne MP, the shadow communities secretary, said that the public had “paid the price for outsourcing”.

“The Tories’ dogmatic commitment to markets at all costs has delivered sub-standard services at inflated prices,” he said. “And when they fail, as they often do, it’s the taxpayer who picks up the bill. Labour is proposing a radical new settlement that gives people the power to end outsourcing and decide for themselves how best to deliver the services they need.

“For too long this country has been run by, and in the interests of, a few who are all in it together. It’s time to bring democracy and accountability back to government, and put power in the hands of the many.”

The plan is likely to be backed by unions, but could cause concern in councils already under financial pressure after years of cuts. The plan is part of a wider Labour strategy to return services to public hands. It marks an attempt by Labour to show that it is serious about implementing major changes to the economy, while gaining distance from party splits on Brexit.”

How to make very bad council decisions – leave them to clueless councillors!

Owl says: Do you think this applies to Tavistock? Dream on!

“Auditors have blown wide open failings in the way plans were cooked up for a sprawling Premier Inn development in a leafy Devon town.

West Devon council chiefs have been criticised for the way they led multi-million plan proposals to build over a key car park in the heart of Tavistock.

A damning new independent dossier reveals how Invest to Earn – a team of three councillors tasked with leading the project – lacked crucial knowledge of the property market and received no training to ensure they knew every risk before taking decisions.

A lack of communication between elected members about the gravity of the development, ‘hostility’ on social media and a failure to access key documents online all inevitably brought down what many deemed a pipe dream, the public file reveals. …”

[read on for more shocking information how bad decisions got worse]

“Cashless Britain: over-55s and low earners at risk of being left behind”

“With Britons increasingly turning to digital payments, consumers aged over 55 and those on low incomes “risk being left behind” by banks, according to new research.

The findings come in the wake of a major report earlier this month that says more than 8 million UK adults would struggle to cope in a cashless society.

According to the survey of 3,000 consumers, three-quarters (74%) of those aged 55-plus never use mobile-banking apps, while the figure for low-income earners was 57%.

In addition, in both these categories, one in four (26%) of those surveyed said they never used online banking via a computer.

But at the same time, the research from management consulting company Accenture found that only 10% of UK consumers visited a bank branch at least once a week – falling to 7% of people aged over 55.

With banks increasingly focusing on their digital platforms, it is important for them to adapt their offerings to ensure certain groups of consumers “are not left behind in the digital revolution”, says Peter Kirk, managing director of financial services at Accenture. “Our research shows that low-income earners and those aged over 55 are using branches less, but they’re not using digital channels either,” he adds.

However, the survey indicated many of these people would like some help with using mobile or online banking. When it came to in-branch services that would appeal to them, 58% of over-55s and 55% of low-income earners would find in-branch education sessions appealing to help them improve their digital skills.

With bank branches and ATMs closing, a report published by the Access to Cash Review earlier this month said companies and organisations providing essential services should be required to ensure that consumers can continue to pay with notes and coins.

The review found that cash is still king across large parts of the UK economy, with more than 80% of people in Britain saying they pay taxi drivers, newspaper sellers, window cleaners and gardeners with notes and coins.

The report warned the country’s “cash infrastructure” – which costs £5bn a year to run – was on the verge of collapse because of its declining profitability, and said the government, regulators and banks all needed to take action. The review was funded by the cash-machine network Link, but was independent from it.

The report’s authors said the UK was not ready to go cashless and that despite the runaway growth of contactless and mobile payments, a “significant number” of people – about 2.2 million – were using cash for all their day-to-day transactions.

Last year, debit cards overtook notes and coins as the most popular form of payment in the UK for the first time, and the report predicts cash could fall to just 10% of all payments in the next 15 years.”

“The Mass Sell-Off Of Public Land Is Driving The Housing Crisis”

“A major new investigation by the Bureau Local and HuffPost UK revealed austerity’s dirty little secret: massive funding cuts have been, in part, offset by a mass sell-off of public land. But what’s not being examined is who is buying that land, and what they are building on it. If used appropriately, surplus public land could be an important first step towards solving the housing crisis, but the present fire sale is, if anything, making it worse.

The Bureau’s research uncovered 12,000 public spaces sold into private ownership since 2014/15, ranging from grand metropolitan libraries to small patches of scrub land. Guy Shrubsole and Anna Powell Smith, in mapping landownership in England, discovered that £100million worth of the land sold-off by councils between 2017 and 2018 went to offshore companies. Earlier this year, Brett Christophers revealed that 10% of the UK’s land has transferred from public to private hands since 1979. In 2016, our own work at NEF revealed an alarming spread of sales from central government departments in recent years. The government itself claims to have sold 25% of the ‘core’ property holdings government departments since 2010.

Why are we offloading land at all? Ostensibly it’s to meet the government’s target: 160,000 new homes on previously public land by 2020. But the murky reality is that local authorities, like other public bodies, are selling land to fill the vast funding gaps driven by austerity. And it’s because of this fact that selling public land won’t generate the affordable homes that we desperately need to solve the housing crisis.

Local government funding has been cut in half between 2010/11 and 2017/18, so when government policy dictates selling surplus land, it’s no wonder that councils are using their land assets to plug the holes in their budgets. Birmingham City Council has used £53million from asset sales to balance its books, more than any other local authority in England, with as much as £26million of that revenue used to fund redundancies (also a result of austerity) at the council.

As NEF have shown, a key driver of the housing crisis is the price of land. When the incentive in selling public land is to raise cash to keep vital services afloat, councils inevitably sell to the highest bidder, as quickly as possible. While local authorities are technically allowed to sell at slightly less than the highest value (although many don’t out of financial necessity), central government departments are actually prohibited from selling land at lower than the ‘best consideration reasonably obtainable’. Developers cannot both build affordable housing and make a profit, because the price of land is prohibitively high. Expensive land leads to expensive houses. In this upside-down system, the price paid for land ultimately dictates what gets built when it should be the other way round.

This theory is laid bare in the planning documents that sit behind the sites. In our research on the central government sell off, we’ve come across countless examples of developers securing planning permission with promises of affordable housing, only to wriggle out of their commitments a few months later by claiming they can’t afford to.

Take Runwell Hospital in Wickford. Chelmsford City Council’s affordable housing plan requires that 35% of homes on new developments are affordable. Yet the site’s initial planning permission required only 20% affordable housing provision. Even so, the developer later submitted an application to reduce this further to just 10% on the grounds of affordability – just 61 of 575 homes.

Our research in 2017 revealed that:

Only one is five of the new homes to be built on sold-off public land is likely to be classed as ‘affordable’ (which, at 80% of market rates, is still largely unaffordable to those who need it most).

As little as 6% of new homes are likely to be social housing, and in some cases developments comprise solely of luxury properties.

New homes on formerly public land are dramatically behind schedule. At the current rate, the government’s target of building 160,000 homes will take until 2032 to achieve, 12 years later than promised.

Releasing land into the private market is not delivering the quantity or quality of affordable homes we need. As more land is sold, there is less opportunity to reverse these trends.

The sell-off of public land for hole-plugging cash receipts is not only economically short-sighted and unsustainable, it’s also driving the housing crisis. There is a clear tension between disposing of land to plug funding gaps and developing high-quality, genuinely and permanently affordable housing and other infrastructure. This year we are continuing to get to grips with the effect of the public land sale on the housing crisis. First up is a close look at NHS sites sold in the last year, then in the coming months we will be bringing together central government and local authority land sales to get a truly national picture of the sell-off. Only then can we build a picture of an alternative to the fire sale of public land, that results in the supply of genuinely affordable homes.”

“When Will Britain Acknowledge Our Countryside Poverty?”

“… If you live in a rural environment your chances of being successful in life are very much linked to your early years. I live in rural Worcestershire, and went to college from rural North Yorkshire. I remain the only degree educated person in my family and the reasons are clear – opportunities in rural areas are not as abundant for young people as they are in cities. As a result, our countryside has become a social mobility coldspot, with my local council of Wychavon rated 310th out of 324 councils in a recent government report. If your parents are plumbers or cleaners, bakers or builders, the chances are you will follow in their footsteps. For some, through choice, but for others, it is because options are limited.

It is easy to hide social mobility in the countryside. My town of Pershore is generally a well-off and affluent area. House prices and wages are above the national average, the town is a great place to raise children and the schools are generally good. But if you are from a working-class background and work in the service industry the average house prices of £300,000 quickly make the experience of living in the area unsustainable. And the recent revelation that house prices have been forced upwards by the government’s Help to Buy scheme, just adds to the issues people face. With housing unaffordable, people are struggling to help their children access opportunities to increase their chances in life.

Education is the key to success. Education opens doors to all, regardless of backgrounds. But in a rural area, education opportunities can be very limited. Schools have the added pressures of large catchment areas, with children travelling from a wide area. Class sizes can also be small and, in the current educational climate, unsustainable. So schools have to focus on traditional GCSE and A level subjects, limiting their students’ knowledge of other, potentially inspiring minority subjects. Similarly colleges focus on qualifications aimed at the local economy. In Pershore, our local college is an agricultural centre so, if a young person wants to study ancient history or geology, electrical engineering or photography, they must travel to neighbouring towns. This commute requires time and the money, and is also restricted further by the continued reduction of bus services in the area.

But it is an even bigger issue for the local economy if young people decide to go to university. As young men and women move into cities to study at university, they create a rural brain drain. This results in a drop in the 18-30 year old population, which further limits the opportunities of those who remain as it keeps job opportunities in traditional low paid professions. New industries rarely emerge and there are few incentives for young locals to return after graduation. With limited public transport and sluggish roll-out of high speed broadband graduates find no drive to return to their childhood homes. …

… Of course not everything is perfect in major cities, but it is clear that opportunities are more accessible and education is the driving force that helps students from more deprived environments succeed in life. Wychavon, however, is struggling to keep up with the pace, with education opportunities limited and access to transport becoming ever more a problem. Has social mobility stopped? Certainly not. But if you live in a rural area, your chances are being constrained, and maybe we need to seek alternative approaches to help our rural young people succeed.”