Dying for a profit

“Burial and cremation fees have soared by up to 124 per cent in four years – forcing some ­families into debt, research shows.

The biggest increase is in Poole, Dorset, where burial costs have shot up by 124 per cent from £1,450 to £3,255.

But the most expensive place to be laid to rest is Wandsworth, South London, which charges £4,861 per plot.

The figures were revealed by insurance giant Royal London, which says town halls are ramping up prices to make up for government budget cuts. …”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/money/families-plunged-debt-burial-fees-14209449

Swire’s choice for PM mocked on social media

PR obviously isn’t Hugo’s forte!

“It can be safely assumed that Dominic Raab does not have a library in his house.

Or if he does, perhaps the lighting wasn’t sufficient for a live interview on the BBC on Friday.

But how does a Tory MP convey his well-read and knowledgable depths without a library? With a hastily cobbled together pile of books on a window sill of course.

But nine books does not a library make, and more than a few people, including Labour’s Jess Phillips, [and many more!] chipped in with their own analysis of the window dressing. ….”

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/dominic-raab-books_uk_5c9fcf7be4b0bc0daca99bdb?guccounter=1

Councillors discovering a new sense of purpose – just before elections …

Elections are funny things. Just before them some councillors seem to find a new sense of purpose …

Take Seaton, where disgraced ex-Mayor Peter Burrows (who has refused to resign as a town and district councillor despite a unanimous vote at town level for him to do so and where the district Monitoring Officer has admonished him) has recently developed a burning interest in beach cleaning and has organised two within a few weeks of each other, with lots of publicity for them.

Seaton will surely have one of the cleanest beaches in East Devon before 2 May!

BUT the Plastic Free Seaton Facebook page (admin Peter Burrows) is a CLOSED group so you have to ask his permission to contribute. Mr Burrows sure does like to control his websites!

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/01/25/hat-gate-disgraced-seaton-ex-mayor-peter-burrows-scandal-update/

Seaton’s rogue councillor is at it again on Facebook. I’m reporting him to the Liberal Democrats, because this self-appointed Town Censor certainly isn’t a liberal. Paddy Ashdown must be turning in his grave.

If you have further stories of new councillor interests, feel free to share them.

‘Why not spend a little more?’

“There’s always one. There you are, with your grand plan for making everything better, and everyone thinks it’s great. Why not, everyone is beginning to think; why can’t we fix climate change and close the gap between rich and poor and give everyone a decent economy and a non-ruined planet to live on?

And then from the back of the room, up pops the hand. And you sigh because you know what the owner of that hand is going to say: all very well and good, its owner tuts, and this sounds lovely, but how are we going to pay for it?

Before answering that question, it would be remiss not to point out that the guy in charge of President Kennedy’s budget didn’t think the country could afford to put a man on the moon, and the UK Treasury didn’t want to build the Victoria Line (or set up a Green Investment Bank, as just one more contemporary example). Some people don’t want to pay for things, which is a very different thing from asking how we should pay for it. With the momentum building around a Green New Deal, it’s really important not to let this great idea be derailed by those who mean ​‘I do not like this thing’ but who say ​‘this thing is too expensive’.

Oh, and obviously we should pay for it. We are talking about the actual viability of human life on Earth.

But the good news is that the money is there, or could be. Much of it is being lavished on things we can’t really do any more, like prospecting for yet more fossil fuels, so we need to spend it on other stuff instead. We don’t yet properly make the polluter pay for the impacts that all of us end up paying for in flood defences or costs to the NHS from air pollution or heatwaves. And if we’ve learned one thing from the misadventures of the last twenty years, it’s that we can blinkin’ well pay for things on a massive scale, provided we actually want to.

1. Direct existing money to the right things

Ending the fossil fuel age in short order will require lots of money. But that’s OK, because there’s an awful lot of money around: global annual spend on all infrastructure is around $2.5 trillion, a lot of which is actively helping to speed us towards climate breakdown. So before we even need to start thinking about ​‘new’ money, it has to be the job of financial regulators, the Treasury, and the Bank of England to ensure existing money flows out of the destabilising brown economy and into the green economy.

“It’s hard to think of a better candidate for increasing public borrowing than re-kitting the economy to be modern, sustainable, healthy, and prosperous.”

One way to do this it to change the way existing banks lend, or supersede them entirely by creating new ones. On the first of these, the Bank is slowly but surely recognising that climate breakdown is bad for the economy, but isn’t yet walking the talk on making sure its own lending doesn’t prop up fossil fuels — a precursor to a welter of other changes to the financial rules, such as introducing higher capital requirements (i.e., defining as ​‘more risky’) investments in high-carbon assets.

To get this all to happen faster the Treasury may need to get more directive regarding the Bank’s mandate, or at the very least expand its brief on financial risk to include risks from environmental change. Which itself means the Treasury will need to see environmental action as an absolute imperative.

NEF has also long advocated for the Royal Bank of Scotland to be broken up into a network of local investment banks, tasked specifically with delivering the funds that are needed by the specifics of the region, people and assets that they serve — and such banks could also have a green mandate written into their investment missions as well.

Financial regulators like the Treasury and the Bank of England need to expand their mandate to recognise environmental action. Image: 10:10 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

2. Tax things we don’t want to see to pay for things we do

One of the most eye catching elements of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s crowd-sourced Green New Deal manifesto is its focus on fairer taxes. We need these anyway — for example, the poorest 20% of families in the UK pay a higher proportion of their income in tax than anyone else. A higher price on carbon, in some form, is likely to be a central part of any plan to rapidly get our economy off fossil fuels, not least to act as a further disincentive to high-carbon investment. But this or any other putative ​‘green’ tax must be fair, and must be seen to be fair.

This is because a climate mission must be a national mission. In a democracy, social licence for rapid change is not a luxury, it’s essential. History, most recently the Gilets Jaunes protests in France, is riddled with examples of ostensibly ​‘green’ taxes butting up hard against the court of public and tabloid attention, sometimes with good reason.

So care will need to be taken to consciously generate new sources of income in a way that helps actively correct the unfairness of our tax system. NEF’s proposed frequent flyer levy — which would replace Air Passenger Duty with a tax rate that increases the more you fly – is one such way to do that. And any new money raised must be specifically earmarked – ​‘hypothecated’, in wonkish parlance – for visible, socially progressive investments in the parts of the climate transition that make everyone’s daily lives better, particularly the less-well-off: world-class, reliable and ultra-affordable public transport, like buses; insulation for homes; vast tree planting schemes; and programmes to create new, lasting work in sustainable industries around the country.

Green taxes need to both be fair, and be seen to be fair. The Gilets Jaunes protests in France are an example of what can happen when this isn’t the case.

3. Borrow — yes, you heard — to invest

When governments decide they want to spend big, then they spend big. Propping up the banking sector cost an extraordinary £1 trillion, all in, including the unprecedented creation of money by central banks. When there’s a war to be fought, the money can be found. Austerity notwithstanding, we spend huge if insufficient sums on healthcare, social care and education, because we rightly see them as important and worth spending money on.

“The question is not how we can pay for a state-led programme of green investment – but whether we want to.”

Austerity, however, does withstand. This has been a decade driven by an obsession with controlling the size of state spending. It has hollowed out the ability of the state to properly lead a green transition. So-called ​‘fiscal rules’ – government targets for debt and borrowing – are cited as if they are the laws of physics. They need to change. Just as it is would be unjust to allow future generations to suffer the consequences of today’s unsustainable economy, so too is it unfair that today’s taxpayers are asked to shoulder 100% of the costs. It is also hard to think of a better candidate for increasing public borrowing than the re-kitting of the economy to be modern, sustainable, healthy, and prosperous, via a huge state-led programme of green investment.

So look. The question is not how we can pay for it – there’s enough money, and precedent for just about all the things we’d need to do to marshal the cash – but whether we want to. Perhaps therefore we should pay less attention to Kennedy’s budget controller, baulking at the cost of sending a man to the Moon, and more to his then Vice President Lyndon Johnson: ​“would you rather have us be a second-rate nation, or should we spend a little more money?”

https://neweconomics.org/2019/03/why-not-spend-a-little-more

Clyst St Mary ‘being swallowed by Exeter’ (and Cranbrook too)

“Villagers in Clyst St Mary watched in horror as yet another lorry overturned within feet of their back gardens this week – the second identical crash in recent months – and they say it is just one symptom of growing traffic problems.

DevonLive went to ask villagers about the overturning lorry problem – but it turns out that is just one of the many traffic issues they are dealing with. One villager whose house backs on to the roundabout says she remembers it happening four or five times before.

Over the years villagers have witnessed a huge increase in traffic. Now they feel they are in danger of ‘being swallowed by Exeter’ as yet more development is planned.

Clyst St Mary sits only about 200 yards from the busy M5. It also gets all the traffic heading to Westpoint, the Devon County Show-ground and the village is bisected by the A376 and A3052 to Exmouth and Sidmouth. …

… Ultimately they need to slow the traffic. It’s supposed to be 40mph – but they don’t slow down on the roundabout if there is nothing coming from the right.

“For us getting out of the village and driving on to that roundabout is a real issue. People in the village think there should be traffic lights so we can get out safely. At rush hour you take your life in your hands.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/overturning-lorries-just-one-problems-2688548

And just in case you weren’t sure if Cranbrook is a suburb of Exeter, a local resident sent this to Owl, received through the door recently a survey of how active residents are, complete with Exeter City Council address and logo:

“Anti-depressant use higher in Devon than any other region in the UK”

Perhaps Swire and Parish have a view on this?

Austerity?
Poverty?
Inequality?
Universal credit?
Brexit?
Lack of suitable housing?
Education cuts?
All of the above?
All of the above and more?

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/anti-depressant-use-higher-devon-2698261

Cops called three times to Police Commissioner Hernandez’s party

“A police chief’s cosy housewarming party went disastrously wrong after her boyfriend and new neighbours ended up having a furious row over parking in the early hours of the morning.

Alison Hernandez, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, has been left picking up the pieces after three complaints were made to the local force against her partner, Lucius Gray.

Ms Hernandez, 45, who made the headlines last year when she suggested that gun owners could help foil terror attacks, had only been in her new home three weeks when tempers flared.

She gave out Prosecco and pot-plants to try and smooth things over, but her efforts were angrily dismissed as ‘political damage limitation’ by neighbours.

They insist Mr Gray, a formerly homeless aspiring Tory councillor, has been ‘abusive, obnoxious, rude and threatening’, while he says they are trying to scupper his chances of election in a crunch local vote in May.

The fracas occurred on Saturday night when Ms Hernandez and Mr Gray, 44, hosted a dinner party for two fellow Conservative couples in a sleepy suburb of Torquay.

They served salmon and cheesecake followed by cheese and biscuits, washed down with ‘several bottles’ of wine.

One of the guests, the leader of the Tory Councillors, David Thomas, 55, parked his silver Jaguar in a space that belonged to a neighbour, 70-year-old Alan Binding.

When Mr Binding came home, he retaliated by parking his car across the driveway, blocking all the vehicles in.

‘I was not a happy bunny,’ he told MailOnline. ‘I own that parking space. I should be able to park in it any time I feel like it.’

At 1:30am, when the dinner party was over, Mr Gray – who admitted he had ‘had a few drinks’ but denied being drunk – went with teetotal Mr Thomas to find the culprit.

According to neighbours, he started banging on windows and doors before using a key to gain access to a private hallway, where he rang on a number of doorbells.

This provoked a heated exchange with a younger couple who had been woken up, despite having nothing to do with the dispute.

‘He banged on our window and rang our doorbell in the middle of the night,’ said the neighbour, who did not want to be named.

‘He then used piggish language and was really rude and threatening to my girlfriend.

‘The fact that he’s a Tory candidate makes my blood boil. If you want a woman’s vote, you don’t speak to her like that.’

Mr Gray denied he was abusive and blamed the couple for ‘over-reacting’.

‘The lady launched into an unbelievable tirade which was completely inappropriate,’ he said. ‘We were trying to establish who owned the car. When it became clear that the car wasn’t hers, we tried to apologise and left. But she was apoplectic.

‘It’s not true that I was aggressive. I’m six-foot-three. I may I seem instantly intimidating, but I can hardly be blamed for being tall. It was absurd.’

When the two Tories established that Mr Binding was the owner of the car instead, a second argument then broke out on the landing with the pensioner.

‘Mr Gray really wound me up,’ Mr Binding said. ‘It was 1:30am and he was being arrogant and aggressive. He said, “do you know who these people are? They’re Tory councillors”.

‘He seemed to think I should bow down to them, when they had no right to be there.’

Mr Gray, who was made homeless by his parents at the age of 16 and was brought up in supported care, said he was being stigmatised because of his ‘tough’ background.

“I do feel this is very politically motivated, to rubbish my part in the campaign. If people like me who have had tough experiences are treated like this, it’s no surprise that we don’t want to get involved in politics.’

The neighbours insisted that they neither belonged to political parties or had any special interest in politics.

One added: ‘Alison is supposed to be the pinnacle of integrity. She hires and fires the Chief Constable. She holds very high office and is an elected representative.

‘Yet she is going out with a man who wakes up pensioners in the small hours and kicks off at them. Torbay people would be disgusted. She has to be held accountable.’

The day after the altercation, Ms Hernandez delivered handwritten apology cards, accompanied by bottles of Prosecco and pot-plants, but to no avail.

‘I feel quite persecuted, really, and targeted,’ she told MailOnline. ‘My neighbours are using a petty argument for political purposes. It’s absolutely pathetic.’

Neighbours revealed this was the second confrontation with Mr Gray since Ms Hernandez moved in.

On the first occasion, Mr Gray took a neighbour by surprise when he entered the private property after dark via a back gate and was allegedly ‘abusive and intimidating’ when asked to identify himself.

Mr Gray acknowledged he had ‘reacted inappropriately’, but said there had been bad behaviour on both sides and the matter was now closed.

This is not the first time that Ms Hernandez herself has been mired in controversy.

She made the headlines last year when she suggested that gun owners could help foil terror attacks, something that police chiefs dismissed out of hand.

In February, the road safety specialist – who lobbied the Government to raise the cost of speeding tickets – was slapped with a speeding fine and a parking ticket in two days.

Last year, her former partner received a 15-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, for assaulting and then stalking her when she ended the relationship.”

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6860849/Police-chief-row-ex-homeless-boyfriend-fights-neighbours-reported-local-force.html

EDDC: Consultation on affordable housing (but not social housing)

Owl wonders if this is appropriate during the run-up to local elections in May – a time when only non-controversial and non-political issues should be brought up.

But, more importantly, surely there are two words missing from the document?
Shouldn’t it be “SOCIAL AND Affordable Housing Policy?

“The draft Affordable Housing SPD and accompanying documents are being published for consultation, available through the links below:

Draft Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Document

Click to access affordable-housing-spd_approved-at-spc-26319.pdf

Draft Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Document – Screening report for Strategic Environmental Assessment and Habitats Regulations

Click to access ah-spd_screening-assessments_sea-hra.pdf

Draft Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Document – Equalities Impact Assessment

Click to access affordable-housing-spd_eqia.pdf

If you would like to comment on the draft Affordable Housing supplementary planning document and/or the accompanying documents (Environmental and Habitats screening reports, Equalities Impact Assessment), please email us at planningpolicy@eastdevon.gov.uk or post comments to Planning Policy, East Devon District Council, Blackdown House, Border Road, Heathpark Industrial Estate, Honiton, EX14 1EJ.

The consultation period runs from Thursday 28 March until Friday 10 May 2019 (at 5pm).

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/planning/planning-policy/housing-issues/affordable-housing/

Education: who do you believe? Local MP or local headmistress?

WHICH REFLECTS REALITY:

“More funding than ever’ going in to schools says East Devon MP”
A funding boost in this year’s education budget is set to benefit East Devon schools, MP Sir Hugo Swire has been told.

The Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds told the East Devon MP that the core schools budget is set to rise to £43.5 billion for 2019-20, meaning ‘more money than ever’ is going into education.

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/sir-hugo-swire-meeting-with-secretary-state-education-1-5963810

OR

‘Devon school’s staff redundancies are ‘heartbreaking’

Jayne Keller, head at Sherwell Valley Primary School in Torquay, said 13 teaching assistants had lost their jobs due to financial pressures.

The latest figures from the government show that the number of teachers in Devon’s schools has dropped by 284 from 2016/17 to 2017/18, and there are 367 fewer teaching assistants.

The government said more money than ever before is going into schools.

But Ms Keller said there was “nothing left to cut”.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-47615014

“Nearly three million children in poverty despite parents working”

“A record 2.9 million children from working families in the UK are living in poverty after housing costs have been paid, the latest figures show.

This means 70% of all poor children were in working families last year, up from 67% on the previous year, official statistics show.

The face of child poverty is also getting younger with 53% of poor children aged under five, data shows.

The government said that tackling poverty was its priority.
Analysis of the statistics, published by the Department for Work and Pensions, shows the high cost of housing in the UK is pushing more working families over the poverty line.

‘Hard working’

According to calculations by the National Housing Federation (NHF) , nearly a third more children – or 193,000 – are now living in such meagre circumstances because of spiralling rents and mortgage costs, compared with 2010.

The federation, which represents housing associations, points to a lack of social housing being built over the same period, as well as a lack of affordability of home ownership.

It is calling for the government to urgently invest more money in social housing.

NHF chief executive Kate Henderson said: “Year after year hundreds of thousands more hard-working families are falling into poverty – forced to choose between feeding and clothing their children, or providing a roof over their heads.

“We are now seeing the full effects of low pay, benefit cuts and the housing crisis. The lack of affordable homes is exacerbating in-work poverty.”

‘Avoidable’

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “Despite high employment, today’s figures reveal that 70% of children living under the poverty line have at least one parent in work.

“That is not an economy that is working for everyone. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-47734733

How did Parish vote on EU last night?

Neil Parish
Voting record on the following Brexit proposals:

For
No-deal: Leaving the EU on 12 April without a deal (John Baron’s proposal – 160 for, 400 against)

Did not vote
Common Market 2.0: Remaining in the European single market and seeking a temporary customs union with the EU (Nick Boles’ proposal – 188 for, 283 against)

For
EFTA and EEA: Remaining in the European single market but not forming a customs union with the EU (George Eustice’s proposal – 65 for, 377 against)

Against
Customs union: Seeking a UK-wide customs union with the EU (Ken Clarke’s proposal – 264 for, 272 against)

Against
Labour’s alternative plan: Negotiating changes to the withdrawal agreement so that it includes protections to workers’ rights, a permanent customs union, and close alignment to the single market (Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal – 237 for, 307 against)

Against
Revoke Article 50: Cancelling Brexit if the UK gets within days of leaving the EU without a deal (Joanna Cherry’s proposal – 184 for, 293 against)

Against
Second referendum: Holding another public vote to confirm any withdrawal agreement agreed by Parliament (Margaret Beckett’s proposal – 268 for, 295 against)

For
Standstill arrangement: Seeking a tariff-free trade agreement with the EU that will last for two years, during which time Britain will contribute to the EU budget (Marcus Fysh’s proposal – 139 for, 422 against)

How did Swire vote on EU last night?

Sir Hugo Swire
Voting record on the following Brexit proposals:

Against
No-deal: Leaving the EU on 12 April without a deal (John Baron’s proposal – 160 for, 400 against)

Against
Common Market 2.0: Remaining in the European single market and seeking a temporary customs union with the EU (Nick Boles’ proposal – 188 for, 283 against)

Against
EFTA and EEA: Remaining in the European single market but not forming a customs union with the EU (George Eustice’s proposal – 65 for, 377 against)

Against
Customs union: Seeking a UK-wide customs union with the EU (Ken Clarke’s proposal – 264 for, 272 against)

Against
Labour’s alternative plan: Negotiating changes to the withdrawal agreement so that it includes protections to workers’ rights, a permanent customs union, and close alignment to the single market (Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal – 237 for, 307 against)

Against
Revoke Article 50: Cancelling Brexit if the UK gets within days of leaving the EU without a deal (Joanna Cherry’s proposal – 184 for, 293 against)

Against
Second referendum: Holding another public vote to confirm any withdrawal agreement agreed by Parliament (Margaret Beckett’s proposal – 268 for, 295 against)

Did not vote
Standstill arrangement: Seeking a tariff-free trade agreement with the EU that will last for two years, during which time Britain will contribute to the EU budget (Marcus Fysh’s proposal – 139 for, 422 against)

Exmouth Jounal neglects to name party (Conservative) of naughty Deputy Mayor of Exeter Bruce de Saram

Look below and see if you can spot which party naughty councillor Bruce de Saram belongs to!  Hint: he isn’t Labour, Lib Dem, Green or Independent!

“The [Tory] deputy mayor of Exmouth has apologised for a ‘regrettable’ decision to illegally park in a disabled bay.

Councillor Bruce de Saram [Tory] apologised after his car was spotted parked in the disabled bay at the town hall car park.

Pictures show the Littleham [Tory] councillor’s car with a ‘deputy mayor on duty’ sign in the window taken on Thursday, March 7, this year.

Cllr de Saram [Tory] told The Journal he parked in the bay as he was attending a meeting at the town hall and received a fine on his return to his vehicle.

He said the fine was paid ‘promptly’ out of his own income and has treated the incident as a learning experience.

“I regret any inconvenience I caused by parking there and this is a learning experience for me,” he said.

Disabled bays in the UK are reserved for official ‘blue badge’ carriers and it is illegal to park in one without a permit.”

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/deputy-mayor-apology-over-disabled-parking-1-5962700