New beach huts to slow cliff erosion?

“Wish you were sheer? These beach huts will be built into a 100ft cliff if plans get the OK.

The 28 “pods” will rest on stilts, with the top tier 35ft up, and are designed to help stop erosion at Poole, Dorset.

The prices of the huts have not yet been confirmed but it is likely to be tens of thousands of pounds.

Earlier this week a 6.5ft x 14ft one-room beach hut in Christchurch – just 12 miles along the coast from Swanage – went on sale for £80,000.

Each of the huts will have 140sq ft of floor space and balconies providing panoramic views of the beach and sea.

They will sit on stilts that will act as pile foundations and will be drilled into the ground to improve the stability of the cliff. …”

“Fat-cat bosses still rake in 117 TIMES more than an average worker despite a pay fall – and former Persimmon chief earned more in a minute than most made in nearly three days”

“Bosses at Britain’s FTSE 100-listed companies are raking in 117 times more a year than a worker on the average salary of just under £30,000.

Chief executives at the UK’s top 100 companies were paid £3.46million on average last year, down 13 per cent from £3.97million the year before.

Former Persimmon boss Jeff Fairburn was the biggest FTSE 100 earner last year, trousering £38.97million.

Five biggest FTSE earners: Chief executives at the UK’s top 100 companies were paid £3.46million on average last year

Fairburn’s salary for 2018 was 1,318 times more than the median salary of a full-time worker in the UK.

It would take an average worker nearly three days to earn what Fairburn raked in during a single minute, according to Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and High Pay Centre analysis. …”

Bodies left to rot for months at sheltered housing after warden cuts

“The bodies of two dead people were allegedly left to rot for months at a retirement home because of ‘callous’ care cuts, residents have claimed.

The latest corpse was found on August 8 at Mussidan Place in Woodbridge, Suffolk, after a neighbour noticed the man’s kitchen was infested with flies.

Residents at the home, which previously used to be sheltered housing before it turned into retirement accommodation, believe the body had been there since June, when they first complained about a bad smell. They said they were shocked by the death but it was not the first.

Another body was found in February and neighbours claim the dead man’s relative told them it had been there since November last year. They said the bodies would have been found sooner if budget cuts hadn’t stripped away wardens who used to check up on residents.

Valerie Kersey, 74, who has lived at Mussidan Place, owned by Flagship Housing, for four years, said: “There’s been a lot of reaction since the latest death.

“You feel guilty, thinking you should have noticed, and you feel angry. It shouldn’t happen. We’ve been through it twice now.”

Residents are urging Suffolk County Council to bring back funding for wardens. The cuts to sheltered housing support sparked complaints from tenants across the region when they came into force in 2018.

Flagship said there is a pull-alarm system in all communal areas connected to a call centre and people could buy individual alarms, but residents say these are unreliable.

Clive Field, 78, said it could take 20 minutes to get through to one the call centres, as there’s “never anyone on the phone.” Trevor Rose, 70, said Flagship failed to respond to complaints about the buildings and had not reassured people after the deaths.

Woodbridge mayor Eamonn O’Nolan, who attended as a first responder when the latest body was discovered, has since held a meeting with residents. He said: “I’m quite frankly horrified that their essential support services have been reduced to zero, in a cold and callous way”. “Two elderly residents have died and their bodies lay undiscovered for weeks and months while their neighbours and the authorities were in complete ignorance of their deaths.

“There is no doubt that had Mussidan Place still had a warden, then at least the bodies would have been discovered immediately.” He said the deaths were tragic and ‘should come as a serious wake-up call for us all’. He added: “It is clear to me that the county council’s social services department is not doing its job.”

Sylvia Keeble, who was a warden for 35 years, said there were 17 sheltered schemes locally when she started, all with live-in staff and then gradually over the years, they got ‘rid’ of them. “We had cutback after cutback until there were just four staff managing 15 shelter schemes”, she said.

Flagship, which made record profits of £33.1m last year, stopped providing sheltered support in 2016. Orwell Housing stepped in with a reduced service, which saw wardens phone round residents each morning and visit if needed. The services stopped completely in April 2018.

Coun Helen Armitage, Labour’s adult care spokesman at the county council, was ‘saddened and appalled by the failings in social care’. She said: “Residents move into sheltered accommodation because they need additional support and security – support and security that regular warden visits used to provide. “Since the Conservatives at SCC have cut their funding, housing associations been unable to plug the gap and have been forced to reduce their services.”

The council said sheltered housing providers had been informed of the proposals to remove funding two years before they came into force.

A spokesman said Flagship and Orwell Housing were both told about the budget changes in 2016.

“This was to provide an opportunity for the providers to develop options on how they may choose to provide support when the grant expired at the end of the 2017/18 financial year.

“Suffolk County Council publishes its proposed budget and any changes to funding are in the public domain. The council is committed to working alongside providers of care and support to deliver quality services to residents across Suffolk.”

The council allocated £234m for adult and community services in 2019/20,
almost half its total £500m budget for the year. It has cut £260m from its overall budget since 2011.

“Building more new homes WON’T solve Britain’s housing crisis”

“Britain’s soaring house prices and ‘broken housing market’ have long been put down to a chronic shortage of homes, but new evidence has emerged that building more homes is unlikely to bring prices down.

A paper written by Tony Blair Institute chief economist Ian Mulheirn argues that building 300,000 homes a year wouldn’t make homes in the UK more affordable. Nor, he says, would more homes mean that more people manage to get onto the housing ladder.

The paper, published today by the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence, suggests that 160 per cent of the growth in house prices since the late 1990s has had nothing to do with a shortage in housing supply. Instead, Mulheirn claims that rock bottom interest rates for more than a decade have made borrowing so cheap that those able to buy have ratcheted up their borrowing, causing prices to soar.

‘Building 300,000 houses per year will do very little to bring down house prices in Britain, and next to nothing to raise home ownership,’ he wrote.
‘The real culprit for sky-high house prices is low global interest rates that have made it easy for homeowners and investors to take on large amounts of mortgage debt and pay ever more for houses.’

The figure of 300,000 new homes needed a year has been largely undisputed for the past decade.

In 2004, Kate Barker wrote a landmark review on housing supply for the then Labour government, concluding that 245,000 new private-sector homes a year were needed, plus another 17,000 social housing units, to keep house price inflation down to 1.1 per cent annually. She later revised that number up to 300,000 homes a year.

But Mulheirn disagrees. He points to official data showing that since the 1996 nadir of house prices, the English housing stock has grown by 168,000 units per year on average, while growth in the number of households has averaged 147,000 per year. Even in London and the South East, the number of houses has grown faster than the household count.

As a result, while there were 660,000 more dwellings than households in England in 1996, this ‘surplus’ has since grown to over 1.1 million by 2018. Similar trends are also apparent in Scotland and Wales, suggested Mulheirn.
Nevertheless, UK house prices have spiralled from around 4.5 times median household income in 1996 to a multiple of around 8 today.

The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics showed across Britain, prices rose 0.7 per cent in June to an average of £230,292 – up 0.9 per cent compared to June 2018.

Mulheirn argued cheap mortgage finance is to blame.

‘Since the late 1990s, mortgage rates have tumbled, with inflation-adjusted interest rates on five-year fixed-rate mortgages, for example, falling from 8 per cent to around 2 per cent today,’ he said. ‘Since mortgage interest rates tend to be the dominant element of the cost of capital for home owners, this change can be expected to precipitate a substantial increase in house prices of a similar magnitude to the 160 per cent increase seen since 1996.’

Meanwhile, he said, a shrinking social rented sector, cuts to housing benefit and slow wage growth among young people are making rented housing less affordable for many even as though private sector rents are stable.
He added: ‘Neither our ownership or rental affordability problems will be solved by hitting the 300,000 target.’

According to the paper a 1 per cent increase in the stock of houses tends to lead to a decline in rents and prices of between 1.5 per cent and 2 per cent, all else equal. This implies that even building 300,000 houses per year in England would only cut house prices by something in the order of 10 per cent over the course of 20 years. ‘This is an order of magnitude smaller than the price rises of recent decades,’ said Mulheirn.

‘If we are to create more affordable houses to buy and rent, the solutions lie elsewhere.’ …”

EDDC Tory councillors get called out on pointless (and possibly illegal) criminal checks

Tory councillors Ian Hall and Tom Wright get their knickers in a real twist about Hall’s call for councillors to submit to Disclosure and Barring checks.

Swiftly demolished by Tim Todd in this exchange on Hall’s Facebook page!

“Budget uncertainty forcing councils into further cuts, say MPs”

“Government neglect of deteriorating local authority finances leaves councils with no choice but to prepare for deeper cuts to already depleted services such as libraries, roads and Sure Start centres, a cross-party committee has said.

The housing, communities and local government select committee said continuing uncertainty over budgets meant councils in England would have to “prepare for the worst” and make further service cuts and redundancies over the next few months.

Ministers’ continuing failure to tackle the council funding crisis meant there would be no let-up on a nine-year squeeze on town hall budgets, which had forced spending reductions of more than 40% in areas such as highways, housing, transport and culture, the MPs said.

“This constant stress on local government is now compounded by a failure to even set out how much money they will be allocated in the next financial year,” said the committee chair, Labour’s Clive Betts.

“The time has come for the government to get real with local government funding. They must make clear exactly what services they expect to be provided and dedicate sufficient funding for this to be achieved. People expect well-maintained roads, regular refuse collections and cultural services, yet funding rarely stretches beyond meeting the urgent needs of social care services.”

This month, the Treasury announced that because of delays caused by Brexit, local government would get a stop-gap one-year funding agreement in place of the planned three-year review.

The committee said this uncertainty was causing problems for councils, who were hamstrung by the ministerial failure to deliver on promises to reform social care funding or make clear how plans to fund councils primarily through business rates would work.

“Without clarity about funding in 2020, some local authorities will need to prepare for the worst, making decisions which may unnecessarily reduce spending and represent poor value for money in the longer term,” it said.

Although Boris Johnson has promised to tackle the adult social care funding crisis, there is little sign this could happen soon and councils fear the one-year settlement will in effect lock austerity into town hall budgets for a tenth successive year.

The Local Government Association said last month that deteriorating council finances meant one in five councils in England may be forced to impose drastic spending controls to stave off bankruptcy over the next few months.

Northamptonshire county council, which effectively collapsed into insolvency last year, recently announced that despite drastic measures designed to make it financially stable it faced a £35m budget gap from next April, almost half of which reflected increased demand for statutory services and inflation costs.

The committee called for an injection of £4bn to restore council funding levels to 2001 levels, although it noted that rising demand for adult and children’s social care meant that even this sum would not be sufficient to cover a predicted £5bn gap between town hall funding and needs in 2020-21.

“If HM Treasury wants local government to continue providing the services it currently does, it needs to provide local government with a significant real-terms increase in its spending power,” the MPs said.

Over the longer term they urged a broader overhaul of local authority finance, including the creation of new council tax bands, unchanged since 1991, to reflect rises in housing values, as well as a review of the complex and risky plans to fund councils through business rates.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We’re providing local authorities with access to £46.4bn this year – a real-terms increase. Ultimately, councils are responsible for managing their own resources and we are working with local government to develop a funding system for the future.”

Breathtaking hypocrisy of DCC Tories on Adult Health Scrutiny Committee

Below is a story about Sara Randall, Chair of the Adult Health Scrutiny Committee and a County Councillor for Broadclyst, Richard Scott, a committee member and Exmouth County Councillor and Phil Twiss, a committee member and Honiton County Councillor meeting with carers. Sue Younger-Ross and a DCC Officer Timothy Ridgeway were also attendance.

These are Tory councillors who have continuously and viciously thwarted the Herculean efforts of Independent Councillor Claire Wright to get a fair deal for carers, to investigate the county’s provision for health and social care and refused to discuss any aspect of Devon’s Clinical Commissioning Group’s massive funding cuts. A group which also refused to fight the closure of community hospitals in Axminster, Honiton, Seaton and Ottery St Mary, (though Twiss did make a very mild stand, knowing full well he would be outvoted by his pals).

It is a sure sign there is an election brewing and a breathtaking exercise in hypocrisy.

The article is here:

Fracking: shale gas reserves vastly over-estimated

Owl says: But just enough to desecreate the countryside and line a few pockets.

“The UK’s underground shale gas reserves may deliver only a fraction of the gas promised by fracking firms and government ministers, according to a study.

Research by the University of Nottingham found that early estimates may have exaggerated the UK’s shale reserves up to sixfold.

Last week government officials hinted that a review could be launched looking into loosening UK limits on fracking because shale “could be an important new domestic energy source”.

The University of Nottingham said it had used a new technique to measure the shale gas trapped in the Bowland shale basin in central England and found significantly lower levels than was suggested by a widely quoted study six years ago.

In 2013 the British Geological Survey (BGS) found there were likely to be 1,300tn cubic feet of gas. The latest study found there may be 200tn cubic feet, enough to meet the UK’s gas demand for around a decade.

Prof Colin Snape, of the University of Nottingham, said the BGS’s study had involved desk-based research based on the findings of shale developers in the US rather than actual reserves. The new research was based on studies of actual UK shales, using gas absorption data and field data, he said.

“We have made great strides in developing a laboratory test procedure to determine shale gas potential,” Snape said. “This can only serve to improve people’s understanding and government decisions around the future of what role shale gas can make to the UK’s energy demand as we move to being carbon neutral by 2050.”

It is the second major study in recent years to cast doubt on economic claims made by the shale gas industry. Researchers at Heriot-Watt University said the UK’s most promising shale gas reservoirs had been warped by tectonic shifts that could thwart efforts to tap them. …”