Much cheaper water bills in south west – thanks to Jeremy Corbyn!

Threatened with nationalisation, South West Water cuts bills by 15% – interesting!

“Under threat of nationalisation from a putative Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government, Britain’s three listed water companies have agreed to the largest cuts in customer bills since privatisation by Margaret Thatcher 30 years ago.

The reductions will mean that households in the West Country will pay 15 per cent less at 2019 prices over the next five years. In the northwest of England, bills will fall by 11 per cent before inflation.

While the inflation link in water charges will mean bills will fall by less, new penalties for missing environmental and operational targets could mean suppliers having to cut household charges by even more as a means of compensating their communities.

Of the 17 water companies in England and Wales, three have made a fast-track agreement with Ofwat, the regulator, to set customer charges from April 2020 to March 2025.

The other 14 suppliers have been given a must-do-better notice by Ofwat. Having been told by the regulator to resubmit their plans and make them more ambitious, the 14 will be told by Ofwat in July whether their revised proposals are acceptable.

As there is no competition in the supply of water to households, the 17 suppliers are all local monopolies and as such are tightly regulated by Ofwat. However, critics of the regulatory regime, including MPs on both sides of the House of Commons, have argued that Ofwat has for too long allowed suppliers to put up prices without investing enough in, for instance, stopping leaks, which in some areas lead to 25 per cent of the treated water in the mains system going missing.

The three suppliers who have been fast-tracked by Ofwat for presenting credible business plans for the 2020-25 price review are, coincidentally, the three remaining stock market-quoted water companies: United Utilities, formerly known as North West Water, which serves 3 million homes from Cheshire to the Scottish border; Severn Trent, which serves 4.3 million customers in the Midlands; and South West Water, which supplies 1.8 million people in the West Country and is a subsidiary of Pennon Group.

Household customers of South West Water have long had the largest bills in the country. Ofwat has agreed with the group that those bills will fall before inflation by 15 per cent, or £77, from this year’s £527 average to £450.

However, South West Water has also agreed with Ofwat that if it does not clean up its act with the Environment Agency — it is the most regularly fined for pollution incidents — then it could face further cuts to the charges it makes.

United Utilities has agreed to a £49, or 11 per cent, cut in bills over the next five years but has been told it will have to cut charges more if it does not hit targets to reduce its leaks by 20 per cent.

Severn Trent is to cut bills by 5 per cent, or £16, over the five years. It has committed to more than halving the average time its customers are without water every year or face penalties.

Under Ofwat’s rules, bills will go up every year in line with CPIH, the consumer price index that includes housing costs, now running at 1.8 per cent.

The suppliers’ charges will get final clearance in December. David Black, the Ofwat director in charge of the process, said: “Our draft decisions for these companies show that investment in service and infrastructure can go hand in hand with more affordable bills.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

20 days to local elections: today’s picture

This image below shows current planning issues at Greendale Business Park – many of which have been allowed, or allowed to drag on, by EDDC Tory councillors who form the majority decision-makers in “planning” and planning “enforcement” (those inverted commas are there deliberately!). Many of Greendale’s planning applications have been approved retrospectively.

Independent Councillor Geoff Jung works tirelessly (in the face of great difficulty) to try to ensure that Greendale stays within its proper boundaries – but it is a never-ending task:

Secretively towards a new kind of emergency service in Devon?

Currently many firefighters are trained as medical first responders too. Now they are being trained as police first responders.

Is this a plan to have just one type of first responder – police, fire AND ambulance?

“A police force has trained firefighters as special constables in an attempt to boost officer numbers in rural areas.

Seven Devon and Somerset firefighters have taken on the community responder roles after two months training with Devon and Cornwall Police.

They can now arrest suspects, but must prioritise fighting fires when needed.

Police and fire unions have criticised the scheme as a ploy to “paper over the cracks” saying “firefighters exist to save lives, not to enforce the law”.

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, Alison Hernandez, said the new roles would help make “communities in Devon and Cornwall safer”.

“They are a great addition to rural communities and importantly represent extra resource for blue-light services,” she said.

“They are not a replacement to full-time sworn police officers, whose ranks we are also adding to with a further 85 being recruited this year, taking our numbers to the highest level since 2012.”

But Dave Green, from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said: “Firefighters provide a humanitarian service, which often allows access to areas of the community that the police sometimes struggle to engage with.

“Independence from the police is vital to ensure that communities know firefighters exist to save lives, not to enforce the law.

“We remain opposed to any attempt to turn firefighters into law enforcement, either in Devon and Somerset, or elsewhere in the country.”

Simon Kempton, of the Police Federation, told The Telegraph that the project was an attempt to “paper over the cracks” caused by cuts in funding.

“It just exposes how scant resources are in some rural areas,” he said.
Cullompton, Crediton, Dartmouth, Honiton, Okehampton, Newton Abbot and Totnes will all receive a community responder later this year.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-47880818

Deprivation no longer a criterion for extra local authority funding

“Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn this week chose local government funding as the central focus of Prime Ministers Questions, describing the Fair Funding Review as an Orwellian phrase.

Local government organisations have voiced concerns that poor areas of the country will lose out under government proposals to remove deprivation as a factor in calculating the foundation formula for grants to councils.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Corbyn said that the Fair Funding Review proposals are likely to make things worse for struggling local authorities.

He said: “Tory proposals on the new funding formula for councils will make poorer areas even poorer. “They are removing the word ‘deprivation’ from the funding criteria. “In a phrase that George Orwell would have been very proud of, they have called this the fairer funding formula.”

However, May hit back, saying: “No, that is not what we are doing. “What we are doing is ensuring that we have a fairer funding formula across local authorities. “We are also ensuring that we are making more money available for local authorities to spend.”

However, Corbyn pointed to concerns raised by local authority representatives over the removal of the deprivation factor. He said: “The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives has called the fairer funding formula decision ‘perverse’. “Even before this new formula kicks in, councils are losing out now.

“A Conservative council leader said earlier this year: ‘We are really, really short of money…I mean there is no money.’”

Publication of the review proposals sparked an angry response from urban councils, which said they would be hit by the removal of the current deprivation measure.

And in February, even the County Councils Network (CCN), whose members are set to benefit from the move, said: “Considering recent debate within the sector on deprivation we recognise that the government may wish to consider whether deprivation should be included…”

However, the CCN it said that this should only be done at a small weighting, if its inclusion was supported by evidence, and did not compromise the review’s principles of simplifying the system.

Paul Carter, chairman of the CCN, said: “…if we are to see this review through – and if we are to grasp this opportunity – compromise and pragmatism on all sides of the local government sector, will be necessary.” …”

Corbyn attacks ‘Orwellian’ Fair Funding Review