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Hinds got off to a good enough start as the first question was officially withdrawn.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.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/apr/29/policies-not-for-a-government-thats-turned-doing-nothing-into-an-art-form?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

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.

https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

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 electoralservices@eastdevon.gov.uk

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.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apply-for-a-postal-vote

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.”

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/news/2019/04/east-devon-preparing-for-two-main-elections-next-month-the-district-town-and-parish-elections-on-thursday-2-may-and-the-european-parliamentary-elections-on-thursday-23-may/

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

Background here:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/02/24/more-on-swires-business-pal-russians-and-tories/

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. .. “

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/04/29/en-remains-silent-pays-greg-barker-chairman/

“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.”

http://www.publicsectorexecutive.com/Public-Sector-News/auditors-find-significant-weaknesses-in-record-breaking-investment-deal-and-slam-surrey-councils-1bn-property-roulette

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!).

Source: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/779711/HDT_2018_measurement.xlsx

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”