“Demand made for more police in East Devon after council tax hike”

Owl cannot understand how East Devon Tory councillors, who have voted time and time again for austerity, who have preened themselves for having one of the lowest council tax rates in the country, and instituted savage cuts can act surprised when they get less for more!

And don’t forget every time there is a vote in Parliament to cut anything – our two MPs vote for those same cuts – unless they affect their salaries or tax breaks for the rich or farming, of course in which case they fight tooth and nail for them!

“Give us more police’, East Devon councillors have demanded, to help tackle increasing incidents of disorder in the region.

Wednesday night’s full council meeting saw councillors agreed to write to the Chief Constable for Devon and Cornwall Police to recognise the needs of East Devon when deciding how to allocate extra resources after the council tax rise will enable 85 new officers to be recruited.

Councillors demanded that extra police be provided to the region, particularly in light of the number of PCSOs being cut from the current 196 to 150.

It comes after the Police and Crime Panel chose not to exercise their veto on Alison Hernandez’s proposals that would see council tax rise for £24 a year for the average Band D council tax payer.

Cllr Tom Wright, who proposed the motion, said that over the last two years, the increase on tax payers is 20 per cent, so residents should expect to see a significant improvement in the service.

“As East Devon residents are the biggest contributors to the police budget in Devon, other than Plymouth, it is only fair that we should get a fair share of the larger cake.

“The increase for this year that the police are getting from us is an extra £1.5m and for that we should get more police on the streets.”

Cllr Alan Dent added: “PCSOs can nip in the bud problems that can arise.”

He gave the example of a problem of people coming from North Devon to Budleigh Salterton to do wheelies in the car park.

Cllr Dent said: “They were zooming around across the car park. I got cross and took pictures of them. They gave me an earful, but I gave the pictures to our PCSOS, and in 24 hours it was dealt with and we never saw them again.”

He said that there was another incident where garden furniture was stolen from a show house. Cllr Dent again took photographs of the perpetrators, gave them to the PCSO, who said ‘I know who they are and will have a word with their parents.’

“That is the value of PCSOs and why we need them in the community,” he added.

Cllr Brian Bailey said that PCSOs stop people going down into the depth of drink and drugs. He added: “Extra funding mean officers can go into schools and educate people and get them on the right track.”

He said that there was another incident where garden furniture was stolen from a show house. Cllr Dent again took photographs of the perpetrators, gave them to the PCSO, who said ‘I know who they are and will have a word with their parents.’

“That is the value of PCSOs and why we need them in the community,” he added.

Cllr Brian Bailey said that PCSOs stop people going down into the depth of drink and drugs. He added: “Extra funding mean officers can go into schools and educate people and get them on the right track.”

And Cllr Eileen Wragg said that extra police would help tackle the ‘proliferation in drug use in Exmouth which is harming our youngsters, and has even resulted in the death of some of them’.

The motion, calling for the chief constable to recognise the needs of East Devon when deciding how to allocate extra resources, received almost unanimous support from the council, with only Cllr Megan Armstrong abstaining.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/demand-made-more-police-east-2599799

“Help-to-buy scheme pushes housebuilder dividends to £2.3bn”

“Britain’s biggest housebuilders paid out £2.3bn in dividends in their most recent financial year, as the help-to-buy subsidy pumped up their profits and house prices.

The nine biggest housebuilders listed on the London Stock Exchange declared the dividend payouts in their last full financial years, according to an analysis by AJ Bell, an investment platform.

Help to buy, introduced in 2013 and recently extended until 2023 for first-time buyers, was one of the flagship policies of the coalition government. Former Conservative chancellor George Osborne hoped to boost home ownership among young people, as house price growth far outpaced wage growth.

However, many economists believe the scheme boosted house prices without making a significant impact on the supply of new houses, enabling a profits bonanza for Britain’s biggest housebuilders and their shareholders.

In 2012, the final full year before the help-to-buy scheme was introduced, the top nine firms – many of which had been battered by the financial crash – paid dividends of only £57.7m, according to AJ Bell. Dividends declared in the companies’ most recent financial year were about 39 times greater.

Since 2013 the nine housebuilders have paid out nearly £8bn in dividends, while City analysts forecast another £5.2bn in payouts in 2019 and 2020. Furthermore, shareholders have also enjoyed appreciation in housebuilders’ share prices, which have been sustained by the promise of further profits.

Persimmon, half of whose sales were part of help to buy, was responsible for 2018’s largest giveaway. Its shareholders collectively earned £732m in dividends in the year ending in December, after the company earned more than £1bn in profits.

Taylor Wimpey declared dividends of slightly less than £500m during the same period. Barratt Developments declared £435m in the year ending in June 2018. Bellway, Berkeley Group and Bovis all declared dividends of more than £120m in their last full financial year.

The large profits of housebuilders have attracted heavy criticism, amid a continued housing crisis and rising homelessness. Persimmon’s former chief executive, Jeff Fairburn, resigned in November following public fury over his £75m bonus, which had been scaled back from £110m after investor outrage. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/mar/01/help-to-buy-pushes-uk-housebuilder-dividends-to-23bn

“UK supermarkets lowering standards and dropping products ahead of Brexit, study finds”

This is how supermarkets routinely operate in third-world countries – less choice, lower standards!

“Supermarkets have begun removing product ranges and lowering their standards when it comes to fresh produce in preparation for Brexit, and British customers are already showing recessionary behaviours, according to new research from Kantar.

Retailers have begun simplifying imported product ranges, and even removed some items, ahead of 29 March, Kantar’s report revealed. There are concerns that a hard Brexit could lead to long delays and disruption, with potential for prices to jump and shortages of certain foods.

“Consumers may see some changes in what is available every week through the year with more space for offers where retailers can respond quickly to opportunities and deliver surprise,” researchers warned.

Meanwhile, while retailers have traditionally had very strong rules related to the size, shape and colour of fresh produce items many companies are now changing these rules.

“As Brexit draws near, retailers will be rejecting less than ever. Ultimately, this means many shoppers will need to spend extra time learning how to pick their own,” Kantar said. …”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/brexit-food-shortages-recession-prices-rising-shopping-high-street-a8801926.html

“MPs are set to review the government’s plans for Britain’s energy sector after a string of major projects were abandoned by international companies”

Owl says: Such a shame that our Local Enterprise Partnership – dominated by people with a vested interest in the nuclear industry – has put all our growth and regional investment eggs in the Hinkley C basket!

MPs are set to review the government’s plans for Britain’s energy sector after a string of major projects were abandoned by international companies.

The Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Committee said it would look into the government’s plans to see if they are fit for purpose.

It will examine if the country needs a new approach to speed up investment into low-carbon, low-cost energy and secure supplies in the long term.

The decision comes after Japanese firms Hitachi and Toshiba pulled out of the Wylfa and Moorside nuclear projects, dealing a serious blow to the government’s plans.

The committee also said it will investigate concerns over foreign investors in British nuclear. This comes amid worries about Chinese involvement in major projects.

Committee chair Rachel Reeves said: “In the wake of investment decisions over nuclear plants at sites such as Moorside and Wylfa, a giant hole has developed in UK energy policy. With coal due to go off-line, and the prospects for nuclear looking unclear, the government needs to set out how it will create the right framework to encourage the investment needed to plug the gap.

“In this inquiry, we want to examine the government’s approach to creating the right conditions for investment to deliver the secure energy capacity to meet the nation’s needs. A bigger shift in our energy infrastructure to a low cost, low carbon energy system is necessary.

“As a committee, we will want to consider what more the government needs to do to attract greater investment into financing future energy capacity, including renewables.”

http://www.cityam.com/273977/mps-launch-inquiry-into-government-energy-policy-after

When privatisation goes (so terribly) wrong, who suffers?

But no worries – a very few people have got very, very rich on the back of these failed projects!

“The Ministry of Justice’s “botched contracting” of probation services will cost the taxpayer £467m.

Reforms to probation services, which began in 2013, have failed to meet expectations, the National Audit Office has said in a report out today.

Although, contracts with probation providers were ended early, the ministry’s “rushed roll-out” will still be costly, the NAO concluded. …”

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2019/03/mojs-probation-services-contracting-botched-and-costly

AND

Fresh shots have been fired at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) from both government and private sector for failures in procuring public contracts.

The department must share the blame with outsourcing giant Capita for “failing dismally” at meeting the Army’s recruitment targets, a service which the FTSE 250 firm was tasked with delivering in 2012, MPs said on Friday.

The influential Public Accounts Committee (PAC) group of MPs accused the Army of “naively” launching into the decade-long contract, and said Capita did not fully understand the complexity of it.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said the contract was “intended to meet the Army’s annual recruitment targets and save money in the process”.

“It has failed dismally at the former and has a mountain to climb in order to hit its target for the latter.”

A December report by the National Audit Office found as of July 2018, the Army was seven per cent below its required strength in terms of regular soldier numbers due to the lack of successful recruitment. …”

http://www.cityam.com/273964/your-country-needs-you-capita-and-mod-must-share-blame

PROPERTY SPECULATION SAFEGUARDS REJECTED BY EDDC TORIES

Owl says: The safeguards proposed in the amendment below, which was rejected by the Conservative majority, appear to Owl to be entirely sensible, and a necessary check on an inherently risky strategy. Owl considers that the East Devon Tories is showing a reckless disregard for financial prudence, and for their stewardship of public money – OUR money.

Independent councillors at East Devon District Council tabled a Notice of Motion, to allow a full debate and vote, on EDDC`s highly controversial Commercial Investment Framework (CIF) at the council meeting on 27 February.

The CIF would allow EDDC to borrow £20 million to speculate in the property market. But the EDDC Chief Executive refused to allow the Notice of Motion to appear on the agenda paper for the full council meeting.

The Independents therefore had to resort to Plan B – and move an amendment to the Cabinet minutes.

At the council meeting on 27 February, Cllr Roger Giles (Ottery Town) moved an amendment to EDDC Cabinet minute 160 of 6 February. The amendment (BELOW) was to introduce safeguards to what he described as a high risk strategy; it was seconded by Ben Ingham (Woodbury).

The amendment was to add the following words:

“The Council recognises that property investment is a potentially high risk strategy, and therefore agrees that any such property acquisitions should only be undertaken after stringent financial assessment taking into account the following guidelines:

1. Any property purchases should be made within East Devon, to maximise local expertise in the property market, and to benefit the local economy;

2. A firm of Commercial Chartered Surveyors should be appointed to provide a full Valuation report and Schedule of Condition in respect of each property; a financial assessment should be provided by an appropriate Qualified Firm in respect of existing tenants; the said reports of any property purchase should be submitted to the full council for approval prior to purchase;

3. An annual report detailing purchase costs and all disbursements relating thereto shall be made to the full council”.

At the meeting, Independent Councillor Roger Giles said that the strategy:

* was not in accord with the council`s economic development strategy, because property could be purchased outside of East Devon;

* was high risk, and would massively increase the council`s indebtedness;

* would result in just 4 of the council`s 59 councillors being involved in major decisions;

* did not have public support – there was considerable public unease about the council strategy.

Other Independent councillors expressed concerns about the strategy, and spoke in support of the amendment.

At the conclusion of the debate, the Conservative majority on the council voted down the amendment, and decided to press on without the safeguards proposed.