Be sceptical about pre-election rumours!

Ask yourself – who would start such “good news” rumours just before local elections!

“A pair of retail giants has quashed rumours of setting up shop in Sidmouth.

Both Marks and Spencers and Superdrug have ruled out any plans to set up a food hall or beauty store at this time.

With a number of buildings available for new businesses in the town, there has been talk that both companies may have had their eyes on coming to Sidmouth. …”

Former EDDC Tory leader writes to explain his defection – well, sort of … not quite!

Minimally enlightening, unfortunately. Hard to explain why you defected when you agree with everything your former party did/is doing/will do!

Sorry, for Owl he’s still “Not-quite Independent LiteTory”! And Owl is STILL waiting for him to explain which NATIONAL policies caused him to resign.

Come on, Mr Thomas – no whip now – you could speak your mind if you wanted to.

Or is it too close to 2 May to speak freely …

Post 2 May actions will speak louder than these vague words.



A correspondent explains why he won’t be voting Conservative on Thursday

Unless your readers live in a new house on an estate they will have little understanding of what happens today.

I moved onto a new estate which had a grassed open area. I was aware that there was some infrastructure to prevent flooding beneath it and knew that I would have to pay a share of the upkeep. I did not fully understand was that it was a public open space which was available for anyone’s use, not just the residents on the estate.

Maintenance charges have rocketed whilst quality of service has been poor. Any talk of with holding service charge payments is referred promptly to debt recovery. The whole system is unregulated and frankly, stinks.

I have dug deep to try to understand how a simple purchase of a freehold house is suddenly caught up in a land charge where I am compelled to pay for maintenance of land owned by someone else.

The root cause of the problem seems to have started with the council. In this case EDDC. As part of the planning condition for the estate the developer had to provide a public open space and a SUDS system to prevent flooding. In all probability it was an attempt by the council to stick their fingers up at the developers and force them to provide facilities for public benefit at no cost to the local authority.

The next stage was to make the developers responsible for the maintenance of the new open spaces. They could either do that themselves or pay a lump sum to the council to maintain it for the next 25years. Clearly the developers were unable to afford that so they passed the maintenance charges on to the residents within the title deeds for each house.

That was very unpopular and most developers, wanting to distance themselves from the problem, gave the piece of public land to a land management company. It seems that none of those companies are regulated and can charge what they like. If you don’t pay their bill they could apparently seize your house. All quite outrageous.

There has been lots of bad press about these land management companies and the matter discussed in Whitehall although the housing minister has taken little interest.

In East Devon our Conservative council has decided to stick their nose in the trough and has decided to offer to take over the public open spaces at Cranbrook and offer to carry out the maintenance of the public open spaces and charge F band houses £370 per annum and H band houses £512 per annum. Both of those figures are in addition to the normal council tax which is supposed to cover supply and maintenance of public open spaces !!

So lets look at this…. EDDC created the problem by insisting that the developer provide the public open spaces which the council had no intention of maintaining. When it all starts to go wrong EDDC offer to take the responsibility over but only by penalising the residents who live on those estates.

To make it clear those public open spaces are available for use by anyone. So maintenance of those public open spaces should be maintained at public expense. The costs must be paid out of council tax revenue.

This mess has been created by EDDC who enjoy a massive Conservative majority. Any proposals are just nodded through without opposition.

I have always voted Conservative in the past but things have got out of hand. Things must change. The public has a chance to voice their opinion in the local elections on 2nd May.

I know I won’t be for any Conservative Councillor and no, it’s got nothing to to with Brexit….”

Wondering why new houses are so badly built? Here’s a clue

“Cornwall councillors are set to be asked to support a call on the government to give back responsibility for building control to local councils in a bid to improve the quality of homes being built by developers.

Under the current system, developers can choose their own approved regulator to undertake building control and checks.

But Threemilestone Liberal Democrat councillor Dulcie Tudor said she was leading a bid to have this returned to local councils amid fears the current system was open to abuse because “any company or person… can choose who regulates them”.

“New Statesman” magazine tips Independents to give EDDC Tories a scare tomorrow …

Stephen Bush column in the current “New Statesman” political magazine talking about what to look out for in 2019 elections:

” … Ooh, there’s a lot going on here. The fun one is East Devon, where in the parliamentary seat Claire Wright, an independent, has a fighting chance of winning ahead of the Conservatives. The local battle is largely between Conservatives and independents, so keep an eye on that. …”

Swire thinks “the market” (private enterprise) can solve climate crisis

Well, he would wouldn’t he.

He says:

” … For us to solve this crisis, it is more realistic to make modern industry part of the equation.

“Of course Government intervention and raising awareness has a role to play but the vital component has to be human ingenuity fostered within markets regulated cleverly by the state.

“And it is only in healthy, entrepreneurial economies that inventions can be made – the electric vehicles, smart electricity grids, revolutionised batteries.

“Shell, for example, has spruced up its act and is now one of the biggest investors in renewable energy in the world, spending billions on solar research and development.

“We need to see other big corporations following suit and to meet UN targets by 2030 or 2050 the real change has to come from industry in China, India and USA. …”

Particularly interesting as he is in partnership with the VERY VERY controversial Lord Barker (see numerous EDW posts on him) in a (dormant) company – Eaglesham Investments Ltd – which used to describe itself as:

“developer of clean energy projects overseas, focussed on emerging economies”

but now describes itself as:

“Other business support service activities not elsewhere classified”

Yeah, the market will definitely sort it all out ….. for some people.

Want to know how the government’s Education Department is doing?

Guardian satirist John Crace on today in Parliament:

“… At departmental questions, the education secretary appeared completely out of his depth. No real surprise as Damian Hinds has made a career out of being entirely forgettable. So anonymous that not even his reflection recognises him. A man who makes the prime minister look vaguely sentient. A man of untapped levitas who can barely be trusted to give anything more than the blandest of answers to any given question. A beta version of a beta cabinet minister.

Hinds got off to a good enough start as the first question was officially withdrawn. Tory Ben Bradley had clearly decided there was no point in asking what steps the department had taken to strengthen the teaching profession as the answer was so obviously none. Why would it? Far too much like hard work.

Thereafter, the education secretary failed to explain anything satisfactorily. Fewer children were learning languages as it was more important that foreigners learned English. The reason so many schools were badly funded was that they wouldn’t have anything to complain about if they had proper resources.

To his credit, though, Hinds has managed to mould his department in his own image. Every one of his ministerial team is almost as hopeless as him. Anne Milton appears to have given up almost entirely and devoted her life to taking large quantities of Quaaludes. Her speech is one long unintelligible drawl. “Dudes-I-want-to-congra-congratch-congatchulate-someone-for-doing-somethink-but-I-can’t-quite-remember-what,” she slurred. No one even pretended to understand.

Luckily for Hinds and his team it was left to higher education minister, Chris Skidmore, to do most of the heavy lifting both in departmental questions and the urgent question that followed. Labour’s Angela Rayner and other opposition MPs wanted to know the truth behind weekend cabinet leaks that the government was planning to end reciprocal funding arrangements for EU and UK university students from 2020/21.

Skidmore imagines himself to be a skilful operator from the dispatch box, but the reality is that he has drunk the same brain-deadening Kool-Aid as everyone else. English is at best his second language. Complete fuckwittery being the first.

“Going forward,” he said. Going forward it was regrettable that the leak had been leaked but going forward no decision had been made but going forward it would do no harm to sting EU students for as much cash as possible but going forward it would be discriminating against overseas students if we going forward didn’t discriminate against EU students as well but going forward it would be great if only rich UK students studied abroad as going forward Europe was a bad place for poor people and going forward we were going to make a success of Brexit.

It was all nonsense but it was still the best part of an hour before the Speaker put an end to Skidmore’s agony. He left the chamber with a look of triumph, too lacking in self-awareness to be chastened by his humiliation. In any case, on Tuesday it would be another minister’s turn to demonstrate that the government didn’t know what it was doing.”

To vote in European elections you must register by 7 May 2019

There are two main elections that are being held in East Devon next month. District, town and parish elections are on Thursday 2 May, and a European Parliamentary election is on Thursday 23 May.

Poll cards for the district, town and parish elections have now been sent out to registered voters in the district who are reminded to carefully check where their polling station is.

East Devon District Council is also preparing for the European Parliamentary election following the delay to Britain leaving the European Union. The election will take place unless Britain leaves the EU before.

These elections are conducted by the regional returning officer in Bournemouth with East Devon District Council producing poll cards and postal votes, and running the polling stations, and a local count which will take place on Sunday, 26 May.

The deadline to register to vote for the European elections is Tuesday 7 May and the quickest way to register is by using the government registration website – it takes just five minutes.

All you will need to complete the online process is your National Insurance number.

Please remember that you must re-register to vote if you have changed your address, your name or nationality. People only need to register once – they do not need to register separately for every election.

If you want to check if you are registered to vote or you would like to register by completing a paper form, then please contact the East Devon Electoral Services Helpline on 01395 571529 or email

If you’re a citizen of a European Union country (other than the UK, Republic of Ireland, Malta and Cyprus), you can either vote in European Parliamentary elections in the UK or in your home country. You cannot vote twice. To vote in the UK, you need to be registered to vote and complete a form stating that you wish to vote in the UK and not in your home country. You can download the EU citizen European Parliament voter registration form at the Your Vote Matters website.

After completing the form, you need to send it to East Devon District Council’s Electoral Services team at Blackdown House, Border Road, Heathpark Industrial Estate, Honiton, EX14 1EJ. It must be received by Tuesday 7 May.

East Devon voters wanting a postal vote for the European election must apply by 5pm on Wednesday, 8 May. To apply, please use the form available at the government postal voting application page.

If you wish to cancel or amend your existing postal vote, the team must be told about this in writing no later than 5pm on Wednesday, 8 May.

Applications to appoint a proxy must be received by the council’s Electoral Services team by 5pm on Wednesday, 15 May. Proxy voters will be required to attend your polling station to vote on your behalf. Application forms can be found on the Your Vote Matters proxy vote application page.”

Swire’s business pal refuses to say how much Russians pay him

Background here:

Be judged by the friends you seek …

“En+, the energy & aluminium company founded by controversial Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, has remained silent on how much it paid a peer to chair its board last year, drawing further scrutiny of his corporate ties.

Remuneration details of Greg Barker, who took a leave of absence from the House of Lords to become chairman of the Russian conglomerate, were expected to be revealed in the company’s annual report published on Monday but were not revealed in the document.

En+ declined to comment. .. “

“Auditors find ‘significant weaknesses’ in record-breaking investment deal and slam Surrey council’s £1bn ‘property roulette’ “

“Auditors have slammed a district council in Surrey which undertook the most expensive property investment ever made by a local authority after it found “significant weaknesses” in its financial processes.

KPMG delivered a damning assessment of Spelthorne Borough Council’s purchase of a BP research centre in Sunbury for £385m in September 2016, one of a number of costly property investments in the authority’s £1bn portfolio.

The auditors found that the acquisition of the site was decided by council officers without any public scrutiny, and the decision-making process was conducted via email and was “generally poor and difficult to follow.”
This meant it was “difficult to identify whether all the risks associated with such a large and significant transaction had been fully considered and mitigated,” the auditor said.

KPMG said it found little evidence the council had properly considered legal advice which said the purchase, the largest of its kind by a local authority in England, may be “disproportionate” to the rest of its spending.
Most worryingly, the auditor failed to determine whether the council had considered the financial impact if BP had decided not to renew or change the terms of its 20-year lease of the site.

The council then took four months to publish its decision, leading the auditor to conclude that “we are not satisfied that, in all respects, Spelthorne Borough Council put in place proper arrangements.”

Spelthorne has been the biggest investor in property in local government and since 2016 has borrowed £1bn from the Public Works Loan for the takeover of BP’s business park – as well as the purchases of offices in Reading, Slough and Uxbridge for £285m and a number of other investments.

The authority told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that the “adverse value for money conclusion does not mean that the auditors are saying the actual transaction does not represent value for money but that in their opinion some aspects of decision-making processes were not conducive to maximising value for money.”

Surrey County Council’s Robert Evans said he was surprised Spelthorne had not done due diligence around the deal, and said the authority seemed to be “playing property roulette with council taxpayer’s money.”

“If the climate is good that might be okay but with Brexit around the corner everything is uncertain and this is foolhardy at best and downright dangerous at worst.”

3 days to local elections – today’s pictures

Today our theme is developers, affordable housing and housing in general.

Did you know that EDDC has overperformed on the housing delivery test set by the government by 50%?

The government set East Devon a target of 1,762 homes to be built in 2018 whereas the number actually built was 2,632 – more than 900 extra, very, very few of which were “affordable” (see pictures below about that!).


Persimmon is making £73,000 per HOUSE profit, Taylor Woodrow £68,000 per HOUSE. Help to Buy is adding £33,000 to the price of new houses for first time buyers.

EDDC has been developer-led for YEARS because Conservative housing policies were designed by them and most major housebuilders are donors to the Conservative Party.

How to stop this? Vote Independent. Break the chain.

all this talk of a lack of affordable housing is exaggerated, i know, i’ve got six!

Affordable Housing Estate Agents – ‘It’s affordable if you’re rich…’

Designated area of outstanding natural profitability.

“Well one step down from our ‘Luxury Executive Mansion’ is our ‘crap terrace with outside loo’.”

New Planning Body in beauty spot – ‘Nice spot for our HQ…’

EDA Independent Paul Hayward (Yarty candidate) speaks on what real independents stand for

“On Thursday May 2nd next week, everyone over the age of 18 who is registered to vote gets to make a choice. You get to choose who represents you for the next four years at the District Council (EDDC).

For the past 4 years, as for decades before, the District Council in East Devon has been run under a Conservative majority.

So, if you think that the following are a great idea, then feel free to vote a Conservative candidate back in to act in what they claim to be your best interests, and they can carry on their good work:

Hospital beds withdrawn.
Youth services withdrawn.
Increased crime and anti-social behaviour
Fewer affordable houses built
Plans to concrete over great swathes of green fields
Destruction of the natural environment
Council debt increasing
Loans agreed to bankroll commercial developers
Secrecy and obfuscation as a matter of policy.
Regeneration of the town centres not even started.

However, if you believe that there is another way; politics for the people, rather than politics for a party, then you have another choice. Across East Devon, and across the UK, independent candidates are standing for election.

In Seaton, Jack Rowland and Daniel Ledger.
In Colyton and Colyford, Paul Arnott
In Axminster, Sarah Jackson and
In Yarty (covering the parishes of All Saints, Chardstock, Hawkchurch and Membury) I am delighted to be standing as the Independent candidate.

Our aim is simple and singular. To provide better services for the residents of the district. To talk with you, to listen to you, to act for you. And no-one else.

We are not beholden to landowners, and housing developers, and corporations. We represent you, the public, and you alone.

I would urge everyone to think about one question. Is your town or village or parish a better place than it was 4 years ago. Are the employment prospects better? Are there more opportunities for all? Is housing being delivered for everyone, or just for the select few? Are your streets safer? Is access to healthcare and social care better than before…? Is there less pollution and litter and graffiti?

If the answer is no (and the evidence sadly proves that to be the case) then the time has come to vote for change. To vote for a different style of politics at the District Council. Where things get done for the greater good, not just because it suits a certain group of people. Where Councillors vote on issues because they believe in them, rather than being told how to vote according to a national party policy, regardless of the dire consequences to the local area.

But, this change can only happen if you, the voter, allow it to happen. If you stay in next Thursday, thinking your vote will count for nothing, that nothing will change, that all politicians are the same – you will be proved 100% right. The next morning you will wake up and nothing will have changed
and the decline will continue.

But, if you take 10 minutes to vote for candidates who will deliver that change, you will see a different Council emerge on May 3rd. A new, vibrant, energetic and dedicated Council.

One that exists simply to serve you. One that makes decisions to improve your lives, to deliver better services, to make you healthier, stronger and to ensure that your children, and grandchildren, have access to all the things you want them to have.

Doing nothing on May 2nd will result in nothing but the same faces making the same old decisions.

On May 2nd next week, please vote for change.

Please vote independent.
Please vote.

It could be your cross in the box that makes the difference.

Thank you. Paul”

Can you be TRULY independent if you agree with EVERYTHING the Tories are doing locally?

Ian Thomas has updated his website (though it still has a Tory blue background.

In his statement, he says:

“… My decision was in no way related to the excellent case being presented by East Devon District Council Conservatives in the pre-election period. Theirs is an outstanding presentation based on the performance delivered by a capable and experienced Conservative led team.

It rather reflects deep disappointment in the performance of the Party elsewhere. …”

Can he REALLY then call himself Independent?

The full statement:

“With a heavy heart, I confirm my resignation from the Conservative Party on 17th April 2019.

My decision was in no way related to the excellent case being presented by East Devon District Council Conservatives in the pre-election period. Theirs is an outstanding presentation based on the performance delivered by a capable and experienced Conservative led team.

It rather reflects deep disappointment in the performance of the Party elsewhere.

I have resigned the leadership of the East Devon District Council Conservative Group but, remain Leader of the Council until the Annual Meeting on 22nd May, if re-elected; otherwise I will step down on 3rd May.
I am arranging that all 2,192 electors in my home Trinity Ward receive a personal letter, hand delivered by my team and me. This explains that should I be honoured by re-election, I will sit as an Independent Councillor not aligned to any political party or group.

To ensure that East Devon District Council delivers the services Axmouth, Combpyne-Rousdon and Uplyme residents want and value, in a caring, open and transparent environment.

Please note; as my resignation dates from after the closure of nominations, your ballot paper on May 2nd will still identify me as representing the Conservative Party. It is not possible to change how this is displayed, however I confirm that, should I be re-elected to serve Trinity I will immediately do so as an Independent Councillor, not aligned to any political party or group.


Trinity Ward Member resigns from Conservative Party

“Independent lite” or Independent – a question

Local people who registered as truly Independent candidates on 5 April or well before can generally be judged by prior actions, sometimes over many years. Involvement in, and fighting for, local issues and supporting no party and therefore no party whip or party line. They have never (or perhaps only a very long, long time ago) been in a mainstream party. They deliberately eschewed party politics to focus only on local issues.

“Independent Lites” on the other hand have had long track records of supporting mainstream parties up to now.

This raises the question – if you were, up to now, Tory, Labour or Lib Dem councillor or candidate but you are now “Independent Lite” what are your political beliefs NOW?

What are you “Independent Lite” of and what do you still support in your former party? You went into politics under their banner and their policies by choice – not wanting to be an Independent – what has changed?

If you were a Tory and changed your mind are you now to the left or right of your former party? Are you, for example, leaning more towards UKIP or even further right but not yet ready to join them?

If you were Labour – are you similarly now further to the left or right of your party and on which issues? What effect do you think they had locally to change your stance now.

If you have left Lib Dems or Greens what parts of their policies did you disagree with that made you leave?

It strikes Owl that “Independent Lites” need to provide us with a lot more information about WHY they have changed allegiance before we can decide if they truly are Independent.

It will be SO interesting to see where some of these “Independent Lites” place themselves on the political spectrum and on local issues after 2 May!

Some of them are so used to being whipped they may feel an overwhelming need to continue it!

Swire’s pal takes ‘leave of absence’ from Lords to pursue his Russian ties and so avoids register of interests

Swire and Lord Barker went into business together asper his entry in his register of interests:

“From 12 December 2016, partner in Eaglesham Investments (not yet trading) which was set up to focus on renewable energy projects. (Registered 22 May 2018)”

Note that for 17 months Swire did not put this (still dormant) company on his register of interests and Owl wonders what exactly this company is for.

Sunday Times:

“… Lord Barker is the independent chairman of En+ Group, a Russian aluminium and power company part-owned by the oligarch Oleg Deripaska, an ally of Putin.

In February, Barker took a leave of absence from the Lords, meaning he no longer has to register his interests. He is still allowed to use his title, however.

Barker was involved in discussions with the US government over sanctions imposed on the company in April 2018, a process that led to them being lifted in January after Deripaska reduced his shareholding and independent directors and trustees were appointed. …”

Source: Sunday Times (pay wall)

Tory EDDC Leader defection goes national (on a pro-Lib Dem website)

“Very odd timing for this news about the now former Conservative leader of East Devon Council, Ian Thomas:

The leader of East Devon District Council has quit the Conservative Party…

Cllr Thomas blamed the performance of the Party nationally for his departure and emphasised it had nothing to do with local issues.

He also added that if re-elected, he will sit as an Independent. [Devon Live].

What makes the timing so odd is that this has come after his nomination papers went in… with the Conservative Party name and logo.

Ian Thomas is therefore still appearing on ballot papers as the Conservative Party candidate.”

Conservative council leader leaves it oddly late to quit his party

“On Thursday 2 May, voters will head to polling stations across England for local elections.

There are 8,425 seats up for grabs in a total of 248 councils, including metropolitan, district and unitary authorities.

What happened last time?

In many cases, these seats were last contested in 2015, on the same day as that year’s general election, in which the Conservatives won a majority in Parliament. A lot has changed since then, of course.

The Conservatives are defending the largest number of seats, with 4,906 Tory councillors up for re-election, compared with 2,113 for Labour.

The Liberal Democrats have 647 seats to defend, UKIP 176 and the Green Party 71. There are also 512 seats held by independents being fought.

Which are the councils to watch?

30 unitary authorities will be contested in their entirety – including Bedford, Brighton, Stoke, Redcar and York
There are no elections in London this year, but voters will be going to polls almost everywhere else.

There are 30 unitary councils, including Bedford, Stoke-on-Trent, Redcar and Cleveland and York, which will be re-elected in their entirety.

There will be a battle royal in Brighton where, after a series of defections and by-elections, the Conservatives are now the largest party, having overtaken Labour.

All of the 54 seats are up for grabs and the Green Party – which used to run the council between 2011 and 2015 – is also looking to boost its presence.

In Cheshire West and Chester, with all seats to be voted on, the council is on a knife-edge with both Labour and the Conservatives fighting to be the largest party.

Milton Keynes, Bolton, Calderdale and Blackpool may also switch hands, or the ruling party could lose its majority and surrender overall control.

A third of the council seats are up for grabs in Peterborough.

With a parliamentary by-election potentially on the horizon – a recall petition having been launched against sitting MP Fiona Onasanya – the local polls will give a good indication of the town’s mood.

What impact will Brexit have?

The Conservatives did relatively well in 2015 and the pressure will be on Theresa May this time.

Many voters will be motivated by purely local issues or what the political parties call “pavement politics”, whether it is bin collections, parking or housing.

But Brexit is hard to ignore right now.

The polls will be a big test for Theresa May, who is under growing pressure from her own MPs and local activists angered by delays to the UK’s departure from the EU.

Labour’s performance will also be closely watched, and the extent to which it is able to appeal simultaneously to Remain and Leave voters in different parts of the country.

UKIP is fielding about 1,400 candidates, while the newly launched Brexit Party are focusing their attention on the European elections.

On the other side of the Brexit argument, the new centrist party Change UK did not register in time to put up candidates for the local elections.

This means that pro-Remain support, if it is an issue for local election voters, could work its way to Green Party and Liberal Democrat candidates.

What about mayoral contests?

There are six mayoral contests taking place, in Bedford, Copeland, Leicester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough and a Metro Mayor for North of Tyne.

Voter ID trials continuing

The government is continuing with its voter ID trials, which it says is part of an effort to reduce voter fraud and ensure vote security.

Some councils will ask for photo ID, such as a driving licence. Some will ask for a mix of photo and non-photo ID, while some will accept polling cards.

In Broxtowe, Craven, Derby, North Kesteven and Braintree, voters will have to show either one piece of photo ID or two forms of non-photo ID. In Mid Sussex, Watford and North West Leicestershire, people will have to bring their polling cards or photo ID.

Voters in Pendle and Woking will only be able to show photo ID at the polling station to be given a ballot paper. East Staffordshire and Ribble Valley councils pulled out of the trial.

What about the rest of the UK?

Voters will be going to the polls in Northern Ireland to elect 462 councillors across 11 council areas. You can read more about the elections in this guide.

There are no local elections this year in Wales or Scotland.”

4 days to local elections – today’s pictures

Our theme today is privatisation. SO many national privatisations of services have gone wrong – utilities such railways, water, electricity, with bills getting higher and higher and with directors taking obscene bonuses. Failing Grayling and his privatisation of prisons and the probation services (and railways!). NHS privatisation accelerating to hyperspeed so that any future non-Tory government will be unable to unpick complicated contracts. Companies such as Carillion bidding low, paying themselves high, going bankrupt – us picking up the bills.

At local level: refuse collection, some planning services, leisure facilities, libraries, some “public” spaces now in private hands – used to belong to us, now belong to them.

EDDC Tories MUST support privatisation – it is, and always has been, a top priority of their party.

“Bloody privatisation, have you got 50p?”