“More cuts to bus services would leave MILLIONS unable to travel to school or work”

“Millions would find it difficult getting to hospital, school, work or shops without bus services, research shows.

As cuts continue to result in routes being axed across the country, 83% of people think it would be hard to get to shops and town centres if bus services were not available.

Around 75% said the same about work, and hospitals or GP surgeries.

David Brown, chief executive of bus operator Go-Ahead which was behind the survey, said: “Without buses, it would be a tiresome daily struggle for many people simply to get to work or school.

“It’s essential the nation puts in place a meaningful strategy to ensure services can prosper.

“A single bus can take as many as 75 cars off the road, with obvious benefits in terms of relieving congestion and pollution. It’s time for politicians to sit up and take notice.

Buses need to be given greater priority in road design if we want to achieve the Government’s broader policy goals in improving air quality, combating loneliness and regenerating local communities.”

The poll of 2,000 people revealed 63% think schools would be hard to get to without a bus.

The research also showed the role of buses is underestimated.

Over half of those quizzed believe less than 40% of public transport journeys are by bus – in fact it is about 67%.

A cross-party group of 23 MPs last week backed calls for a National Bus Strategy, a key demand of the Campaign for Better Transport.”


“How Help to Buy can push homeowners into accidental arrears”

“…. A report released in June by the National Audit Office revealed systems to collect the interest on Help to Buy equity loans after the initial five-year interest-free period were not put in place for all homeowners when some of the loans were originally set up.

This led to approximately 739 households falling into arrears potentially without knowing it once their interest-free period came to an end.

Now, some of those same homeowners say they are experiencing a fresh raft of problems.

A report released in June by the National Audit Office revealed systems to collect the interest on Help to Buy equity loans after the initial five-year interest-free period were not put in place for all homeowners when some of the loans were originally set up.

This led to approximately 739 households falling into arrears potentially without knowing it once their interest-free period came to an end. …

Now, some of those same homeowners say they are experiencing a fresh raft of problems.

[The] Government had appointed mortgage and loan servicing company Target to administer the Help to Buy loans.

When a borrower takes a Help to Buy equity loan, their local Help to Buy agent then passes on their details to Target to administer the loan.

… This is Money asked Homes England how long it should take for details to move over from Help to Buy agents to Target. It also asked how many homeowners are still in arrears.

Homes England declined to answer both questions. However, a source close to the organisation said the delay is linked to the time taken to document a new homeowner with the Land Registry.

This is Money then approached Target directly. The administrator was asked how many direct debits had been set up, and what the average wait time was.

Target did not respond to these questions. Instead a spokesman said: ‘We are aware that Homes England has provided a response and we would refer you to that. At this stage we don’t have anything further to add.’

… The report suggested that Target, the organisation administering the loans on behalf of Homes England, was overwhelmed by the volume of queries from homeowners once they started redeeming their loans and paying interest.

At one point, approximately 25 staff were dealing with some 20,000 customer enquiries per month, the report found.

As a result the company had to triple the number of staff dedicated to administering the scheme to keep up with demand.

The report also suggests that the group’s process for recovering outstanding debts wasn’t up to scratch. Target did not use enforcement agents or share information with credit reference agencies, the auditor found.

The group has since responded to this stating that it does use enforcement agents but was unable to in this case due to contractual and policy limitations.

On top of this, Homes England itself had raised concerns over the accuracy and completeness of data held by Target.”


Update on Sidford Business Park public inquiry- starts 16 July 2109

What a happy coincidence that, thanks to inadequate parking and poor public transport, people cannot exercise their democratic right to protest at EDDC’s new HQ!

A reminder that the Planning Inquiry into the appeal that the applicants who are seeking to build a Business Park in Sidford commences on Tuesday 16 July.

The Inquiry has been scheduled to last up to three days and will commence at 10.00 am at the East Devon District Council Offices on the Heathpark industrial estate in Honiton. The full address of the offices is – Blackdown House, Border Road, Heathpark Industrial Estate, Honiton, EX14 1EJ. Click on this link to find where the offices are located (Google Maps).

Because of the extremely limited parking at Blackdown House and the fact that accessing the offices by bus might be a challenge for some people we have decided not to call for a demonstration outside the Inquiry. We know that many people were wanting to show their opposition to the Business Park by demonstrating but unfortunately we feel that logistically doing so on what will be a full working day for the Council wouldn’t work.

However, as there will be space in the Inquiry for up to about 100 members of the public to sit and observe the proceedings we would encourage you to come along and hear the proceedings. Some of the members of the Steering Group will be registering to speak at the Inquiry and this is also open to members of the public to do although we understand that in order to do this you need to register at the start of proceedings on 16 July.

We look forward to seeing some of you at the Inquiry.”

Government ministers appeal ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Swire will be happy! One of his jobs in the Foreign Office was to promote arms sales to Saudi Arabia and in his current post as Chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council he will want to keep his Middle East pals happy too!

“Ministers have asked the courts to set aside a landmark ruling that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia are unlawful, a legal manoeuvre that prompted Jeremy Corbyn to accuse the Conservatives of prioritising military exports over civilian lives.

The government has applied for a stay of last month’s judgment pending an appeal, according to Campaign Against Arms Trade, which is fighting the case, at a time when conflict between the Saudis and Houthi rebels in Yemen has intensified.

That appears to contradict assurances given to MPs by Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, that Saudi arms sales would be halted after the ruling pending a review. At the time, 57 export licences were under consideration.

Corbyn said: “This makes a mockery of their own commitment to halt all new sales while a review takes place into civilian casualties. Nothing could be clearer: the government’s priority is to sell arms, not to protect the rights and lives of Yemeni people.”

Thousands of civilians have been killed since the civil war in Yemen began in March 2015. Indiscriminate bombing by a Saudi-led coalition is blamed for about two-thirds of the 11,700 civilian deaths in direct attacks.

At the time of the ruling, Fox told MPs that while the government considered the implications, “we will not grant any new licences for export to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners which might be used in the conflict in Yemen”.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said he believed a stay could be used to allow sales to continue. “The court found that the government acted irrationally and unlawfully in allowing these arms sales. If a stay is granted then it will result in more unlawful arms sales and more atrocities.”

The Department for International Trade said it was not going to grant any new export licences to Saudi Arabia which could be used in Yemen in the light of the court of appeal judgment, although existing export licences are unaffected. But a spokesman added it was seeking to overturn the ruling: “We disagree with the judgment and will be seeking permission to appeal.”

British arms that could be used in Yemen by the Saudis have to be signed off by the foreign secretary and the international trade secretary before a licence can be granted. Since the war began, the UK has sold at least £4.7bn-worth of arms to Riyadh.

Last month’s judgment by the court of appeal held that the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, his predecessor and leadership rival Boris Johnson, and Fox had illegally signed off on Saudi arms exports because they failed to properly assess the risk to Yemeni civilians.

Three judges held that ministers had “made no concluded assessments of whether the Saudi-led coalition had committed violations of international humanitarian law in the past, during the Yemen conflict, and made no attempt to do so”.

Last month, it emerged that Johnson had recommended that the UK allow Saudi Arabia to buy bomb parts expected to be deployed in Yemen in 2016, days after an airstrike on a potato factory had killed 14 people.

Lawyers for the government have asked the court of appeal for leave to take the case to the supreme court and to set aside the existing judgment until the appeal process is exhausted.

On Friday, Corbyn and the Westminster leaders of four other parties – the SNP’s Ian Blackford, the Lib Dems’ Vince Cable, Liz Saville Roberts of Plaid Cymru and Caroline Lucas from the Greens – called on Hunt and Johnson to hold a parliamentary or public inquiry into how the arms sales have been allowed to continue.

There are signs that some involved in the Yemen conflict are eager to escape a conflict that has become a quagmire, described by the UN as causing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. In the past days, it emerged that a key Saudi ally, the UAE, has quietly begun pulling out its forces as western opposition grows.”


“Tory chiefs have NO idea if schools are firetraps as Grenfell triggers urgent cladding review”

“Tory education chiefs say they do not know whether thousands of schools are potential firetraps.

Despite warnings raised over combustible wood cladding, Schools Standards Minister Nick Gibb admits he hasn’t a clue how many schools have it.

And nor does he know if it poses any kind of fire risk.

Now Labour is calling for an urgent review of the kind of cladding used in schools and other public buildings.

It comes in the wake of London’s Grenfell Tower disaster.

Aluminium cladding containing a plastic filling was blamed for the quick spread of the 2017 fire, which left 72 dead.

The tower’s burned shell still stands – wrapped in white and topped by a green heart, which became the symbol of Grenfell.

Shadow Children’s Minister Steve Reed said: “What they didn’t do for Grenfell they must do for schools.”

He raised concerns with the Department for Education after parents approached him with worries about wood cladding at a school in his Croydon North constituency, in South London.

But Mr Gibb told him: “The department has made no specific assessment of the fire safety risk posed by timber cladding on school buildings.

“And it does not hold figures on the number of schools in England that have timber cladding.”

Mr Reed hit back: “There’s no inclination to even find out whether children are in danger. We need a full review.

“We might be sending ­children to schools day after day which are a serious risk. Yet we cannot get any information as to whether children are safe.”