Daily Archives: 22 Apr 2019
Important meeting on housing in Axminster tomorrow
Growth – the good, the bad and the ugly …
“Owl asks: Who is “growth” FOR? Developers definitely, privatised company bosses too – but ‘the workers’ – hhmmmm.”
Devon workers rank among the lowest paid in UK. We are an acute example of what is a general national economic malaise.
For decades Britain has had a big productivity gap compared to our rivals; it’s a result of low pay, inadequate training, and endemic short-termism in investment. It is aided by a “flexible” labour market. Why take risks investing in plant and machinery when you can hire and fire staff easily and still make a profit? Unless we break out of this culture we will continue to have a low paid economy, poor productivity and economic growth. A decade on from the banking crisis, wages haven’t reached pre-recession levels. George Osbourne’s austerity continues.
Heart of the South West, our Local Enterprise Partnership, has set wild targets to raise productivity and double growth by 2038; but don’t have too much faith in an organisation so out of touch with the reality of austerity that in 2017 it secretly voted its Chief Executive a 26% rise.
The flipside is that we have high levels of employment. This may have been a benefit during the depths of the recession but not now.
East Devon Conservatives in their local election manifestos claim they are delivering an economy that works for all and will deliver 10,000 new jobs. Doesn’t sound to me as if they are in touch with reality and addressing the fundamental problems either. With low pay, compared with the rest of the UK, the locally employed will always be out-bid for a house by those relocating from more affluent parts. Net inward migration to East Devon, from outside Devon, was 12,400 over the ten years to 2016.
The reality is that we have full employment and an ageing population in which the proportion of those of employment age will only grow at about 0.16% p.a. This results in a need of only around 230 jobs/year, including expected inward migration. For years EDDC Conservatives have been fixated on pushing job targets and using this to justify housing development well beyond what is actually needed. For example, in formulating the “Jobs-led Policy on” strategy for the 2013 Local Plan a target of 950 jobs/year was used to justify building a minimum of 17,100 houses over 18 years. Currently job creation is running at around 260/year. Where does the 10,000 new jobs target come from and who needs the 17,100 houses? It is not difficult to guess who benefits from this policy, but it certainly isn’t a policy that works for all of us.
Have Conservatives finally lost the plot on economic management as well?”
“More than £86.6million in outstanding loans is owed by East Devon District Council”
EDDC blames the overspend on loans (see last paragraph below) on “the purchase of assets related to service delivery, these being assets required “for recycling and refuse collection”. Are we to believe that it has ALL been spent on waste contracts and NOT on the £10 MILLION on HQ relocation (originally described as “cost neutral”)?
Owl would be interested to see a breakdown of the costs (but bets they will be conveniently avoided under a “commercial confidentiality” clause with the contractor …
“The amount the authority has borrowed has also increased by £3million in just one year.
Experts have warned councils are risking taking on too much debt while others say that councils are simply adapting to plug funding gaps made by Government cuts.
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy says delivery of public services could be put at risk by unsustainable borrowing, after debt among UK local authorities rose to more than £100 billion.
By the end of December, EDDC’s outstanding loans stood at £86.6 million, according to figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
This was a four per cent increase compared to a year ago, and one per cent higher than at the end of 2013-14.
All the outstanding loans were long-term advances, which last for more than one year and are used to finance large projects or purchases.
The Chartered Institute says many cash-strapped councils are taking out large loans to buy property, as the rent they collect can be higher than the interest they pay on the loans.
Funding for councils fell by almost half between 2010-11 and 2017-18, according to the National Audit Office.
The government’s Public Works Loan Board was the sole lender to EDDC as of December.
The loan board offers low-interest loans to councils, without requiring them to prove they can afford the repayments.
There is no limit to the amount councils can borrow from it.
Don Peebles, head of policy at the Chartered Institute, said: “With government funding in decline, it is unsurprising councils are having to adapt and find alternatives.
“While councils are borrowing for a wide range of purposes, such as building houses and investing in major infrastructure, one trend which has been concerning is the growth in investment in commercial property – which exposes public finances to new risks.”
A spokeswoman for the MHCLG said: “Councils are responsible for managing their own finances and making the right decisions for the communities they serve – including making appropriate investments.
“Guidance on council investments was updated in April 2018 with new codes that strike the right balance between allowing councils to continue to be innovative while ensuring that taxpayers’ money is properly protected.”
An EDDC spokesman said: “The annual increase in borrowing identified was used to finance the purchase of assets related to service delivery, these being assets required for recycling and refuse collection.”
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson doesn’t want “young double-barrelled ” activists telling him about climate change
“… Boris Johnson has said he is done with “nice young people” thinking their opinions are “more important” than his own.
In his latest Telegraph column, the ex-foreign secretary took aim at what he called “smug, irritating and disruptive” climate change demonstrators who brought parts of central London to a standstill last week.
“Look, I share some of the irritation at these climate change protesters. I am not in favour of paralysing public transport in the greatest city on earth, and stopping people from getting to work,” he wrote.
“I don’t want some double-barrelled activist telling me that air travel is only to be used in emergencies – when his own Instagram account contains pictures of his recent skiing holiday.” …”
“Smaller parties have a surprisingly big impact on British politics”
” … Small parties are the backbone of our democracy. They force the mainstream to do more and to do it better, whether that’s a green new deal, shared parental rights or the chance to remain in Europe.
One of the most damaging effects of Brexit would be to remove the only England-wide election that uses proportional voting to give space to new ideas. That will make it easier for the two main parties to dominate, even as their popularity plummets. Wherever small parties don’t run, we all lose. …”
Seaton’s ‘Hermione Grainger’ candidate responds
Response from EDDC hopeful councillor for Seaton below.
Firstly, Owl is legion. There are many, many owls in East Devon!
1. Owl has no party – it has predispositions, but no party.
2. Someone formerly from Slough but well-established in this area ONLY for several years is NOT the same as a dual councillor having to make 340 mile round trips perhaps more than once a week to serve on two different councils at the same time. What happens when there is a clash if meetings? A little disingenuous to suggest it is a similar thing.
3. Owl has had no contact with any Monitoring Officer at any time and considers it a sloppy slur for Ms Russell to assume that it is the instigator (or connected with any instigator) of any such request.
4. She has not addressed her Facebook ‘like’ of a far-right splinter group of the BNP – what does she like about them?
5. See 2 above – East Devon doesn’t want only local-born people as councillors – it want councillors who aren’t skittering around the country trying to serve two masters at the same time.
6. Yes, the electorate will decide.
The comment in full:
“Dear ‘Owl’ (wouldn’t it be lovely if you actually revealed who YOU were and where YOU live?) Your article(s) to me portray the EDA as being pretty inward and parochial, a party where only ‘truly local’ people should be able to stand for Town, District and County Council, A party seemingly not open to ‘incomers’, fresh blood or new ideas – an approach which cannot possibly serve the people of East Devon as well as they could be served. I have watched with some amusement at being described as the ‘Hermione Grainger of local politics’ not to mention the laughable, desperate, notion that I have far right links.
I spent 35 years in East Grinstead and was elected to the local town council in 2015 and the County Council in 2017. No doubt as your spies (if you are not one and the same) have confirmed I am not re-standing at Parish level but I am mid-term as a County Councillor. You will also be very aware of your party’s concerted effort to try to find ways to discredit me through various FOIs but to no avail. Your latest request being for details of monitoring officers to complain about my ‘conduct’ – one wonders if you have any time left to talk to residents and do some campaigning of your own? Of course its not illegal to do any of this and I have nothing to hide, but one wonders why the need to go to such vast lengths – unless you felt I was some sort of threat? If East Devon residents really only want people who have been born and bred in the District, then why do they have a County Councillor who previously stood as a PPC in Yorkshire or an Axminster Parish Councillor who originates from Slough, is currently standing in Yarty but living in Axminster? – no doubt there are others in your network who do not originate from Seaton? Ironically your Yarty candidate has made it clear to me that he has ‘issues’ with Councillors representing two places at once. Well I have issues with Councillors who are also Parish Clerks. Either way it doesn’t matter – both are perfectly legitimate positions to be in at the present time. Overall lets agree for obvious reasons above that it doesn’t matter where we originate from, what matters is that we pledge and do our best to deliver for our community we live in. There is very clear evidence that I have achieved much in West Sussex and I will do the same in East Devon if I am privileged enough to be elected of course.
I appreciate you are keen to know my background so here goes. In actual fact my family moved to the West Country in 2016 due to my husband’s business. We have rented in Axminster since 2017 and have been renovating our house in Seaton. I have commuted to West Sussex since then (yes I really do drive the 170 miles) and reside in East Grinstead with my eldest daughter as and when I need to but spend most of my time in County Hall in Chichester – which is a 100 mile round trip from East Grinstead, so I am well used to driving lots of miles. If you dig a bit deeper you will find that out of the three East Grinstead County Councillors – I have by far and away the highest attendance rate at County Council with the most local results – this despite ‘being in two places at once’ (your phrase). At Parish level I have fulfilled my duties and as an aside taken no allowance for these duties. So I have a track record – and its a good one.
I must correct you though on your election literature content and the comments from the incumbent County Cllr, In actual fact I have a home in Seaton town centre and for clarity it is my only owned property. I shop regularly in the town, am a big fan of the Tramway (the whole family have loyalty cards). I drink and eat in the Malthouse pub. I am a big fan of the craft shop in Queen St where I bought my 20 year old daughter’s birthday presents not so long ago (she works in Colyford by the way). My youngest daughter goes to Axe Valley school where I am a governor. So to say I have no links to the area or do not live in the area is a blatant untruth and I would ask you respectfully to retract this and not waste any further time worrying about where I originate from and how in touch I am with the town – because the fact remains I am more in touch than you think and you probably are.
Ultimately the electorate will decide who they wish to vote in . Either way – elected or unelected, it will not change a thing. I shall finish my term in West Sussex and I shall remain committed to the town I have decided to settle in and support the local community as best I can.
Watch this Space”
[Jacquie Russell – candidate – Seaton]
9 days to local elections – today’s picture
Independent groups have sprung up all over the south-west – there must be a reason …..
You know it makes sense – and so do an awful lot of other people!