“Help-to-buy loans benefited more rich than poor households”

“… More than 5,500 households with an annual income of over £80,000 have been given help-to-buy loans in the past year compared with 4,142 households earning less than £30,000, the government’s own figures have revealed. Well over 2,000 of the richest households who were awarded taxpayer-funded loans, allowing them to buy new-build houses with only a small deposit, had incomes in excess of £100,000. …”


More desecration of agricultural land by the Carters in Woodbury despite more than 100 objections

As earlier application reported here:

… “£4.46 million a year from the 1.7 acre site – better than storing caravans or rearing cattle. Its a pity none of the money goes to the actual residents of Woodbury, or the wider community, who have to live with the noise and pollution.”


The application:

“An application to install 20 self-contained generators on land south of Woodbury Business Park could be given the go-ahead next week.

On Tuesday (September 3) East Devon District Council’s development management committee is set to discuss the proposal submitted on behalf of Plutus Energy Ltd.

If committee members approve of the application, which has had more than 100 objections, 20 natural gas engine driven electricity generators will be installed on storage land near a substation in Woodbury.

In a report to the committee, planning officers have recommended approval, despite the application falling outside the East Devon Local Plan.

The planning officer’s report said that while the proposal is a ‘departure’ from the local plan, there is support within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The report said: “On balance it is considered that the adverse impacts from the proposed gas fuelled standby electricity plant do not significantly or demonstrably outweigh the benefits that would be derived from the scheme.

“Accordingly it is recommended that permission be granted subject to the conditions set out.”

If given the go-ahead, the generators would provide an additional 40 megawatts of energy to the National Grid at peak times for the next 25 years.

The existing access to the site would be retained and the equipment will only be operated between 7am and 10.30pm.

Each generator will be housed within an acoustically insulated weather-proof steel container.

Strategy 39 of the East Devon Local Plan says renewable or low-carbon energy products will, in principle, be supported and encouraged.

The officer’s report said the local plan does not provide a principle reason to refuse proposals for fossil fuel energy and the NPPF supports the transition from fossil fuels.

The report added: “While the proposal is not a renewable energy source itself, as identified above it clearly encourages and supports the use of renewable energy generation by supporting the transition from fossil fuels.

“It achieves this by being a back-up to energy supply at times when the renewable energy struggles to meet demand.”

The development management committee meeting will discuss the application at Blackdown House, in Honiton, from 10am.


If you want evidence of the corrupt filthiness of current politics, listen to this from the BBC …

Imagine if DCC suspended its meetings to push through a constitutional change to defund all child and adult care services in two months time …

Imagine if EDDC suspended all its meetings to push through a constitutional change to build a new town and a motorway to it in the middle of the Blackdown Hills with work to start in two months time …

Well, at least Hugo Swire would be fine with that!

More evidence here:

“40% of local government audits were not completed by 31 July”

“The pressure has been on external auditors this Summer. The first year of the new Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA) contracts, with fees cut by 23%, reshuffled appointments, and firms starting work in regions where they previously had no presence. The second year of an over-tightly compressed audit season. The hot breath of regulators on the necks of those firms whose commercial colleagues have been involved in recent headline audit failings.

It has therefore been expected for some time that in August we would be talking about failures to meet the target date for the publication of the audited statement of accounts. But the news that 40% of local government audits were not completed by 31 July is still something of a shock.

It is important to confirm that an authority missing the 31 July target date has not broken any laws. Regulation 10 of the 2015 Accounts and Audit Regulations says that where an audit has not been concluded before 31 July, an authority must proceed to:

publish on its website a notice stating that it has not been able to issue the audited statement of accounts, and the reasons for this

when the auditor’s final findings from the audit have been received, follow the procedures for publication that would have applied before 31 July.

In both cases, the actions are required to be carried out as soon as reasonably practicable, so there is no need to rush to convene an emergency meeting for member approval of the finalised accounts. If key members and officers have booked holiday or there is difficulty fitting a committee meeting into the council calendar, then reasonable time can be taken to sort everything out.

There is no sanction for missing the target date. The worst that will happen is that an authority will become part of the statistics in PSAA’s annual report on the results of auditors’ work (but unlikely to be named and shamed unless the accounts are still not published by 30 September, if the approach in the 2017/18 report is followed for 2018/19).

There is also a risk of local reputational damage, but this can be limited if delay is not the authority’s fault by a precisely worded notice explaining why publication has not taken place.

But timeliness has not been the only audit issue in 2018/19. Our experience in providing technical accounting support to a number of authorities of all sizes across the country (and involving all the firms with PSAA appointments) has been that the burden of audit has increased in three areas:

the firms are becoming increasingly dogmatic about the technical treatments that they will accept

there is an increasing burden for authorities in training auditors in local government accounting

more work is being carried out to meet the demands of regulators rather than because it is necessary for an audit compliant with the Code of Audit Practice.

The common approach over the summer has been for auditors to inform authorities of the position they take on a technical issue and to expect authorities to comply with it, often under the threat of a qualified audit opinion if they don’t.

The problem here is not just that this is an inversion of the expected order of things – it is an authority’s responsibility to prepare the statement of accounts, making the judgements that it considers it needs to in meeting statutory requirements; the auditor’s role should then be to consider the reasonableness of what the authority has done. Where there is an issue that permits a plurality of possible viewpoints, the auditor’s job is to see whether they can construct a fence robust enough to be sat on so that they can admire the view on all sides.

The impact of the McCloud judgement is a good example. An insistence by auditors that the potential cost should be accrued in the financial statements. Reasonable arguments that the extent to which authorities might be required to fund remedies necessitated by government discrimination is too uncertain to allow any reliable estimates to be made being dismissed with a reiteration of the auditor’s expectations. Repeat of Step 2 with more reasonable arguments. Authorities agreeing to end the debate by amending the accounts, with little conviction that it is the right thing to do.”

Stephen Sheen: The state of local government audit

How WE can help to get to zero carbon emissions

“People must use less transport, eat less red meat and buy fewer clothes if the UK is to virtually halt greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the government’s chief environment scientist has warned.

Prof Sir Ian Boyd said the public had little idea of the scale of the challenge from the so-called Net Zero emissions target.

However, he said technology would help.

The conundrum facing the UK – and elsewhere – was how we shift ourselves away from consuming, he added.

In an interview with BBC News, Sir Ian warned that persuasive political leadership was needed to carry the public through the challenge.
Asked whether Boris Johnson would deliver that leadership, he declined to comment.

Mr Johnson has already been accused by environmentalists of talking up electric cars whilst reputedly planning a cut in driving taxes that would increase emissions and undermine the electric car market. …”


Top Tory on prorogation of Parliament

Still no view from our MPs Swire and Parish.

Pro-European Micheal Heseltine makes some strong points, whatever your view on Brexit:

… A government which is frightened of parliament is frightened of democracy. I hope that every member of parliament in feeling this humiliation will use every legal and constitutional weapon to obstruct a government proposing to force on the British people a historic change for which they have long since lost any mandate.

To abandon parliamentary scrutiny is a constitutional affront. My party, the one I have worked for all my life, told the British people about the new role that Britain could play in the world. Britain has helped to change Europe from Fascist and Communist dictatorships to Parliamentary democracies. And now I am told by the leader and the cabinet of that same party that we were all wrong – that we now must become some subordinate vassal state to the United States.

This is outside anything I could ever have believed that the Conservative party would propose, and I hope that large numbers of Conservatives, as well as friends from other political traditions, will join together to resist it. …”

Sheffield holds referendum on return to committee system of local government

Owl says: Current EDDC Leader Ben Ingham promised to return EDDC to the fairer committee system when he was Leader of East Devon Alliance (that was after he had been a Tory and an Independent and prior to working with Tories rather than East Devon Alliance after the May 2019 elections).

Then, all went quiet. He has entrusted a review to one of his councillors with no mention of what, if anything, he intends to do when it is completed.

Petiton time?

Activists in Sheffield have used provisions of the Localism Act 2011 to require the city council to hold a referendum on ending the cabinet system and reverting to committees.

The It’s Our City group said it had collected 26,419 signatures – in excess of the 5% of electors required for a petition subject to be put to a referendum after verification of the signatures.

Two members of Sheffield’s cabinet have resigned so that they can support the campaign to return to the committee system, as have four councillors who held the roles of ‘cabinet assistant’.

It’s Our City said the cabinet system meant that only 10 of the city’s 84 councillors had a real role in making decisions.

The group called for: “A committee-based system, which is more democratic, and where all our councillors would have a meaningful say in making decisions.

“Some people might remember that the current system was brought in to make councils less bureaucratic and more streamlined and do away the with lengthy process of arriving to decisions. We are not arguing for a return to the old system – we want to see a new model that takes the best bits of both worlds peppered with a hefty dose of public engagement.”

Former cabinet member for finance, resources and governance Olivia Blake said: “My preference was to resolve the debate on the council’s governance structure without the need for a referendum but now that it is almost certain to be held, it is time to take a public position on where we go next.

“I will take the side of the people. I will back the committee system. It is a starting point for a wider debate on how to rejuvenate our democracy, and it is important that Labour voices contribute to this debate.

“I have added my name to the It’s Our City petition and will make further statements in the coming days about the role I intend to play in the upcoming referendum.”

The council confirmed the petition had been received and said signatures would be checked.

Previous referendums to mandate a return to the committee system have been held successfully at Fylde Borough Council and the former West Dorset District Council.”


Bats: East Budleigh Parish Conservation & Wildlife protection group speaks up for them

Please note the views expressed here are those of the group.

“Wildlife protection laws are not worth the paper they are written on,………

this is what we have discovered since our initial fight to save the rare Bats of the Pound in East Budleigh began.

A LOT has happened since then!

As many of you may be aware, our group managed to get the development of the site delayed for quite some considerable time, taking many months and TWO meetings of the Development Management Committee to seal our Bats fates.

AND, even though planning was eventually granted, we succeeded in convincing some of the DMC that the mitigation measures offered by Clinton Devon Estates did not go anywhere near far enough to give the wildlife on this very special site even a fighting chance of survival, let alone migrating naturally to the new proposed roosting site. Our reasoning was so convincing, that many more conditions were placed on the proposed development.

It makes this group wonder how many applications are passed where European protected species are involved, where the people that make the decisions are ill informed, under the impression that the laws are only ‘guidelines’, or sadly, just don’t care.

The majority of people we have spoken to about our Bats have exclaimed ‘they can’t do that, Bats are protected by law’.

Yet here we are, still fighting. Protected? not in this instance.

In February this year, members of the EBP Conservation & Wildlife protection group met with Clintons property development manager Clare James and head of conservation Dr Sam Bridgewater. We put forward a serious proposal to buy the barn and surrounding land, to preserve, protect, maintain and monitor it, for the resident wildlife and for the village.

To do this we would have to have had assurances that:

a) we would be given first refusal on the site, and
b) be given time to raise the funds.

We were given neither, despite requesting our proposal be put to their trustees prior to planning being granted or the site being put on the market. However, we were told that we would be informed the value of the site once planning was granted, and we would be entitled to bid like anyone else! We were indeed informed, two days after it went on the open market!

Our group found this hard to swallow, we had hoped that, given their high conservation credentials, CDE would welcome the opportunity to be involved in a community project that would give them some positive PR publicity and be best for the wildlife. But it appears that the trustees pockets come before the mere decline of a nationally rare species like the Grey Long Eared Bat, to name but one of the species present on the Pound.(estimated at a population of only 400 left in the UK)

Our dearest hope was to have been given the opportunity to have purchased the land, this would have been no small undertaking, raising funds for the initial purchase and maintenance, we wanted to create a soft release site for rehabilitated Bats,(two of our members rehabilitate injured Bats) and put in monitors.

All in all, a very detailed proposal, and a very exciting project that could have really made a difference to the rapidly declining species of the area.

So what has happened since planning permission has been granted, other than the ‘BIG’ MEET?

Bad weather (or a piece of farm machinery) hit the barn causing one set of the double doors to be damaged and subsequently collapse. This doorway was left open to the elements for six weeks or more, during which time we had started monitoring for returning Bats.

At this point we were picking up Greater Horseshoe, Grey Long Eared, Brown Long Eared, Noctule, Whiskered, Common Pipistrelles, and others on our Echo and heterodyne meters. In fact, we were picking these up at the end of February during the mild snap, which suggests to us and others, that this may, factoring in the milder climate, mean we are looking at a hibernation roost.

We have picked up 14 species of Bat using this area, though not all are roosting in the barn.

In early April the group were contacted by a concerned resident, alerting us to workmen boarding up the doorway. We were told this was being done for security and safety reasons.

We emailed CDE, asking that a letterbox sized aperture be cut close to the top of one door to allow continued access for our Bats. We will not bore you with the reply we received, but needless to say, no hole for the Bats was forthcoming!!!!!

Now Bats are creatures of habit, they tend to use the same entrances/exits, and if just one is blocked, they may well move on. (EU and domestic protected species law says it is illegal to prevent access or exit to a known roosting site). This was reported to the police but no further action was taken.

Part of the conditions placed on planning approval was to ensure the continued use of the barn by these animals until the ‘all singing all dancing ‘ purpose built Bat barn was erected. This is supposed to be in situ and be monitored for at least a year prior to the existing barn being demolished.

Conditions also related to the land on which the barn stands, how it should be maintained etc. Even the CDE ecology report by Richard Greene states that no clearing work should take place between April and October, an ecologist must be present, and the work be done in stages to allow for the migration of species like Dormice, Newts, Sloworms, etc from the area.

This site was cleared to ground level in one day by a ‘white van man’ with no ecological credentials, not once, BUT TWICE, both during bird breeding season, with no regard taken to looking prior to cutting.

In both incidences, it was reported to the enforcement officer at EDDC, and the wildlife crime unit. The enforcements officers response was that it is not in her remit to act on breaches of mitigation. So what is she being paid for then?

The Police response was far better, we have incident numbers, and both are being looked in to.

A reporter sought out our group, interested in the ‘goings on’ about our Bats and the Pound, so we will have to keep our eyes open in the papers with hopes of it being a favourable piece.

With rumours of ‘who and how much?’ rife in the local area, it seems, (hopefully) that one particular wealthy landowner won’t have it all their own way! We do know an offer has been made, but how much lower than the asking price of £250,000.

Who ever does buy it though, will not only have to have an up to date ecology survey done, but will also have ALL the mitigation measures, conditions, and this group making sure they are ALL adhered to.

We may have lost the battle, but we haven’t lost the war!

In the meantime, the group continue to keep our eyes and ears open, monitor the Barn and Pound for it’s rarities, and continue to do our bit for our little corner of heaven in Devon.

LATE NEWS: Despite clearance of scrub occurring twice, we have had confirmation that no licence has been issued by Natural England who advised contacting the wildlife crime unit, which we have done.

(However, the license does not relate to maintaining plant growth, just the disturbance to animals roosting in the barn) so theoretically, no law has been broken, apparently CDE are well within their rights to cut vegetation back, despite all the planning conditions regarding clearing the site prior to demolition.

Anyone interested in helping us and our wildlife please email


“Stark warning Cranbrook is at risk of becoming an ‘austerity town’ bereft of key services and facilities for residents”

“Cranbrook is in danger of becoming an ‘austerity town’ with its residents deprived of key services and facilities, it has been warned.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) experts say authorities are at the ‘point of no return’ when it comes to delivering vital amenities for the fast-growing community.

They have now called for a task force to be formed to rethink how the new town can secure the assets it needs.

Officers have recommended that the authority’s cabinet approves the setting up of a Strategic Delivery Board when it meets next month.

A report to members says: “The original vision for Cranbrook was as a freestanding new community which would be capable of supporting its own assets and services.

“In a constrained financial environment, there is a need to actively reinvent how these will be delivered on a sustainable basis.

“Without this, there is a significant risk that Cranbrook will become an austerity town, bereft of the facilities and services that the population both expect and demand.

“This paper identifies that the delivery of key assets in the town centre is at a critical stage and puts forward a proposal for charting a clear path forward to ensure their successful delivery.

“The proposed Strategic Delivery Board is considered to be the best means to ensuring the necessary coordination and oversight.”

Some 3,500 homes have been granted planning permission at Cranbrook to date – with 8,000 earmarked. The town’s ultimate population will be around 20,000 people.

Town council offices, a library, and a health and wellbeing hub have been in the pipeline since 2015, according to the report.

The latter would cater for children’s and youth centre, primary care and leisure centre provision.

“The delivery of assets and services in Cranbrook is fundamental to the successful achievement of the vision for the town,” adds the officer.

“We are rapidly approaching the point of no return.

“This should not be seen purely as an issue relating to built facilities.

“Rather, it goes to the heart of how public services are delivered in the town to meet the needs of a young, growing population, including those with particular needs, both now and in the future.”

The report details how Cranbrook is key to the district’s housing growth and EDDC’s finances – through both developer contributions and council tax.

The council raked in £8.8million in government New Homes Bonus cash in 2017 and 2018.

Cranbrook is being delivered through a ‘commercially-driven’ model – with no public sector control of land.

A Section106 agreement – developers’ cash contributions for infrastructure – plays a critical role in the delivery of community facilities.

“It has become clear that certain of the facilities that are set out in the agreement are either no longer fit for purpose,” says the officer.

“Ultimately, there has been no resolution as to what form key facilities should take and how they should be delivered. Nonetheless, we are now at a stage where critical trigger points are being reached.”

The aim of the proposed Strategic Delivery Board would be to ‘focus on the delivery of future assets and services for Cranbrook’.

It would ‘provide oversight and ensure that the three tiers of local government can speak with one voice’ and comprise of two members from the town, district and county councils.

EDDC’s cabinet will consider the report on September 4.”

Stark warning Cranbrook is at risk of becoming an ‘austerity town’ bereft of key services and facilities for residents

“Boris Johnson accused of ‘misleading public’ over police numbers”

“Labour has accused Boris Johnson of misleading the public when he promised to recruit 20,000 police officers after it emerged from leaked correspondence that thousands are likely to be recruited away from frontline roles.

The opposition has seized on a letter written by the home secretary, Priti Patel, to the London mayor Sadiq Khan last week, in which she says the new officers will be allocated “between territorial, regional and national policing functions”.

Sources suggest this could mean as many as 7,000 of the 20,000 officers could be allocated to bodies such as the National Crime Agency leaving territorial forces in England and Wales with fewer recruits than expected.

The Met fears that its allocation would be 2,000 officers down – the force had hoped to be recruit 5,000 new officers on the back of Johnson’s promise, one of the first he made after entering No 10 last month.

The meaning of the pledge is certain to raise what is set to be a tense meeting between Patel and Khan, expected to take place on Wednesday, the first formal meeting between the two since the home secretary was appointed.

Louise Haigh, the shadow policing minister, said the letter “clearly shows that Boris Johnson’s grandiose pledge of 20,000 more frontline police officers was absolutely nothing of the sort”. …”


Vultures swoop on foster care system

“Private equity firms buying up small agencies have “set off alarm bells” within England’s foster care system, the Local Government Association says.
Three groups account for 45% of funds spent on independent fostering by English councils, according to new analysis.

The LGA said councils worry about what could happen if one group failed.

The Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers said its members provided a vital and high quality service.

More than 75,000 children are in care in England, compared with about 60,000 a decade ago. Most of these children are in foster care.

Councils manage foster placements themselves as well as commissioning care from independent fostering agencies.

Many of these providers started as local, small-scale operations but private equity firms – essentially, investment companies – have moved into the sector in recent years.

The National Fostering Agency, Compass Fostering and Foster Care Associates are now the dominant independent groups in the industry.

All three run for profit and are backed by private equity. …”


“Governing as a permanent form of campaigning: why the civil service is in mortal danger”

” … This new permanent campaign style, encouraged by the crisis over Brexit and the ensuing clash between representative and direct democracy, means the structure of the civil service in Britain is being recast by three major shifts. The first is the growth of politically appointed advisers. All governments since the 1990s have sought to pack Whitehall with loyal apparatchiks. Their numbers have now reached over 90. Special advisers adept at handling an often hostile media are a particularly valuable commodity, but government has been contaminated by the rise of the spin machine and permanent campaign. Political aides help to enforce the political will of ministers, overcoming the bureaucratic inertia allegedly imposed by the Whitehall machine. Advisers are free to attack the monopoly over policy-making once coveted by the civil service, to the detriment of due process.

The second shift is the personalisation of civil service appointments with ministers increasingly hand-picking their favourite officials for the top jobs. Secretaries of state use back-channels to veto the appointment of civil servants to key posts who they believe are not ‘one of us’. Mandarins who seek promotion are encouraged to fulfil the immediate wishes of their political masters. The higher turnover of permanent secretaries leads to instability in Whitehall departments. The independence of the civil service has been repeatedly undermined.

The third shift is the emergence of a bureaucracy that is becoming ‘promiscuously partisan’, unwilling to speak truth to power. Civil servants are more likely than ever to be dragged into defending government policy. For an official to dissent from the expressed views of their minister is to commit career suicide. Yet the ability of officials to say no is a vital ingredient in the ‘governing marriage’ between ministers and civil servants. …”

Governing as a permanent form of campaigning: why the civil service is in mortal danger

Blackout (whoops, sorry, Blackdown) House – is the EDDC HQ best value?

Owl sees that relocating is expected to save £1.4 million over 20 years, according to a recent DevonLive article, mentioned earlier by EDW:


Owl wonders whether they are comparing Honiton to Knowle, or whether they are comparing the running costs of Honiton and Exmouth to Knowle. Is it apples with apples or apples with pears or apples with pears and jackfruit?

At a very minimum, the total cost of relocation was £10 million, but nearer £15 million is more likely, since all costs have yet to be fully accounted for.

So the putative savings per annum of £70,000 will not even cover the interest payments on the relocation debt and, if so, East Devon’s residents will be saddled with an increasing debt burden as the years go by. The relocation debt will almost certainly never be repaid – certainly not by the trivial cost savings achieved by the new building.

As most East Devon residents live on the coast, particularly of course Exmouth, and most of their councillors do likewise, Honiton is quite a remote location, certainly much less accessible than Sidmouth, particularly by public transport at appropriate times. So getting to the new HQ is more difficult and costly. It will be interesting to see how the travel expenses of staff and members compare to the Knowle years. Will the increased travel costs wipe out some or all of the £70,000 ‘savings’?

How long before Blackball (whoops, sorry Blackdown) House is deemed ‘not fit for purpose’? Judging by the inadequacy of the main chamber:

and the seemingly insurmountable parking and access issues, not to mention unpopular open-plan hot-desking and general inaccessibility, it would seem that day has already arrived.

Where shall we go next? Skypark? Cranbrook Town Centre? Exmouth seafront?

Perhaps PegasusLife could be prevailed upon to sell Knowle back to EDDC? With a refurbishment of the newer section of the Knowle and an extended “green” parkland to offset the global heating crisis, EDDC would probably be quids in.

AND, of course, with a ground source heat pump, up-to-date insulation, proper maintenance and warmer global temperatures, there would be none of those pesky utility bills EDDC were so secretive about when they were previously there!