Quick! Get your letters in to Swire – you have a short window in which he might reply!

Many berate Swire for not answering their letters or giving “automated” replies.

Well, local elections and a possible general election seems to be concentrating his mind and rumours reach Owl that – VERY unusually – he (or his wife who draws a £35,000+ salary for “helping” him) is answering letters!

Get them in NOW! Once elections have passed and/or Brexit is sorted one way or the other, normal service will no doubt be resumed!

Owl would love to know if this also applies to Neil Parish in the east of our constituency. Time to nobble him about Persimmon in Axminster, perhaps!

” ‘Totally unfair’ and ‘no way to run public services’: Two councils slam government as £40m total cuts approved”

Owl says: but Conservative policy is to shrink or eliminate the “state” (i.e. public services) and use private companies to make profits out of services, so actually it IS their way of doing things and IS extremely successful!

“Two councils have approved over £20m worth of cuts as both authorities slam an “ever-increasing tough financial climate” due to austerity and a “totally unfair” year of drastic government cuts.

Doncaster Council and Nottingham City Council yesterday both approved budget proposals to make £21m and £23m of savings respectively, with substantial council tax hikes and job losses amongst the plans.

Nottingham council said its central government funding had fallen from £127m in 2013 to just £25m for next year, leading to difficult decisions such as the initial reduction of 27 jobs “with more likely.”

Other cuts at the authority include reducing Link Bus services, a range of changes to adult social care, reducing contributions to its youth centre, and a 2.99% council tax rise.

The council said independent analysis shows that places like Nottingham with higher deprivation have been hit harder by government funding cuts compared to areas such as Surrey, leaving the authority “with no other option” to enforce cuts and raise council tax.

Nottingham City Council leader Jon Collins went further, stating that the tenth budget in a row with funding cuts was made worse by the “totally unfair blatant favouring by government of Conservative-led councils in affluent southern areas.”

“It means setting this budget has been extremely difficult and we don’t take any pleasure in making decisions which detrimentally affect local service users.”

Doncaster Council has had to use some of its one-off reserves to meet its budget gap for 2019-20 and still forecasts a further deficit of £13m for the following year.

It has proposed a 5% council tax increase using the social care ‘precept’ to generate over £5m towards plugging the budget gap, but stresses that £323m will be given to capital funding for projects to stimulate growth over the next four years.

Mayor Ros Jones also slammed the government over a lack of certainty around local government funding.

He stated: “The government continues to cut our funding with no plans for the future.

“Doncaster has been hard hit and it is beyond belief that there is no firm plan for the sustainability of local government finances post 2020.

“It’s all well and good having individual funding streams and one-off pots of money that we can bid for but it’s no way to run public services.”


“Great British sell-off: how desperate councils sold £9.1bn of public assets”

” … Far-reaching research by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism and the Huffington Post UK has found that nine years of swingeing central government cuts to local council budgets have resulted in a vast and irreversible sell-off of public assets. Of England’s 354 local authorities, 301 replied to the primary Freedom of Information (FOI) request, which revealed that between 2014 and July 2018, more than 12,000 publicly owned assets have been offloaded by local councils. In total more than £9.1bn was generated.

Some of the assets sold off are grand historic buildings; some are small scraps of land. All are now gone forever, in a one-off fire sale of public assets accumulated over many decades, intended to serve the public good, and now generating profit for their new private owners.

Replies to the Bureau’s second set of FOI requests were even more comprehensive (342 out of 354) – and alarming. These concerned the use of “flexible capital receipts”, and showed that in many cases local councils have begun offloading their assets – playing fields, community centres, libraries, youth clubs, swimming pools – to fund redundancies made necessary by central government cuts.

Until new legislation was introduced in April 2016, councils had to to use any proceeds raised from selling land and buildings they own to buy new assets. David Cameron’s government changed all that by allowing them to invest the proceeds of any assets sold by April 2019 to fund frontline services.

FOI data shows that in the first two years following the change in the law, at least 64 councils – one-fifth of those who responded – used these capital receipts to plug gaping holes in their budgets. Often, this has included redundancy payments.

In some cases, desperation has driven local authorities to offload these public assets at knock-down prices. Northamptonshire – which relied on selling assets to plug huge gaps in its finances – got rid of land or buildings it owned for less than they were worth on 12 separate occasions, potentially missing out on income of £6.3m. Half of these under-value sales were to property developers. …”


Temporary Exmouth seafront attractions have already cost us £300,000

Owl says: imagine if other coastal towns in East Devon had this much spent on them …

“Under questioning from [Independent councillor Megan Armstrong at last week’s East Devon District Council meeting, Councillor Philip Skinner revealed that £285,305, was spent by the council for the first year of the new attractions in Queen’s Drive, Exmouth.

Cllr Skinner said that the costs included £155,000 on the new dinosaur-themed play park, as well as other costs on the beach bar seating area, the events stage and making the whole site safe.

He also said the council spent £22,850 putting on events such as free live screenings from the Royal Opera House.

Under questioning from councillor Megan Armstrong at last week’s East Devon District Council meeting, Councillor Philip Skinner revealed that £285,305, was spent by the council for the first year of the new attractions in Queen’s Drive, Exmouth.

Cllr Skinner said that the costs included £155,000 on the new dinosaur-themed play park, as well as other costs on the beach bar seating area, the events stage and making the whole site safe.

He also said the council spent £22,850 putting on events such as free live screenings from the Royal Opera House.

In response, Councillor Skinner said he didn’t expect to be facing criticism for investing money in Exmouth.

He said: “We are trying to get more people into the town, and to get them to spend more money there.

“It shouldn’t be a criticism that we are investing more in Exmouth and the town councillors should be chuffed to think we are investing in the town.

“We tried new things and people did like them.

“Some events didn’t go well, but others did.

“We made all of our revenue costs back and made a profit, and I expect to do so in future.

“We are continuing to invest in Exmouth’s seafront and have also been invited to a Stage 2 bid for Coastal Communities Fund that will further benefit the seafront.

“For 2019, our budget is £75,000, which includes staffing, event cost, equipment hire, maintenance, security and utility costs.

“We expect to secure income of between £30,000 and £40,000 this year, depending on sponsorship secured, and a further £12,000 for the big wheel.”


Why all the good news? Because on 26 March “purdah” starts before local elections!

Expect a lot of good news from the majority party at EDDC for the rest of this month. Why? Because all political new from EDDC (not its individual councillors) has to STOP on 26 March 2019.


As local elections take place on 2 May 2019, a period of weeks before the election is called “purdah” and councils must stop pushing politicised events and publications to avoid charges of unduly influencing electors to vote for them.

A good explanation of purdah (and what to look out for if officers or councillors break these rules) can be found here:


“How to register to vote (spoiler: it’s very easy)”


Deadline to register

for the May 2019 local elections across large parts of England:

Friday 12 April

To be able to vote, you have to be on the electoral register and to do that, you have to fill in a simple online form. Completing other official paperwork, such as getting a passport, paying Council Tax or getting a driving license doesn’t result in you being automatically added to the register. It is a separate process.

You only need to register once; you don’t need to register separately for every election. However, you do need to register again if you change your address, name or nationality.

You have to be 18 on polling day to vote (or 16 for Scottish Parliament and local elections, along with some but not all referendums). For that reason, you can register in advance of your 18th birthday so that if an election is called whilst you are under-age but you will be 18 on polling day, you can therefore still get your vote.

EU citizens are able to vote in the UK by the way – for council elections although not for the Westminster Parliamentary elections. Commonwealth and Irish citizens can also register to vote and they’re allowed to vote in all types of elections.

To register online right now, head over to the official registration site:


If voting in person isn’t the right option for you, either for a temporary or permanent reason, then once who are on the register you can also apply for a postal vote:


or appoint someone to vote on your behalf (a proxy vote):


Got 5? Register to vote in the 2019 local elections!”