Claire Wright asks for funds for parliamentary campaign

Message to supporters:

Dear Supporter
Once again I am preparing for an election – my third in four years – and this time the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been!
I’ve spent the last year preparing for a general election with my fantastic team, on the assumption there would be one caused by a likely Brexit impasse at some point. It now looks as though there will almost certainly be an election some time between November and the end of January.
I have been dismayed but unsurprised, by the government’s delaying and disingenuous approach under Theresa May’s leadership and appalled at Boris Johnson’s wrecking ball tactics.
I’m baffled as to how thinks he won’t break the law but will leave the EU on the 31 October, when there is now a law delaying our exit from the EU until 31 January!
And things are almost as turbulent here for me as they are in parliament!
You may be aware that on Thursday (12 September), Sir Hugo Swire announced he would be standing down at the next election, prompting speculation that he was worried that I would win.
This has got the media quite excited. And of course me and my team too!
Patrick Maguire, the political correspondent of the New Statesman tweeted in response to Sir Hugo’s announcement: “This is fascinating. Apart from North Down, East Devon is just about the only seat in the UK that could plausibly be won by an independent (in this case, anti-austerity councillor Claire Wright) at the next GE.”
On Monday (16 September), Ladbrokes bookmakers, commenting on polls predicting another hung parliament, tweeted: “Looks like @Jzadrozny and @clairewrightind will get to choose who the next prime minister is.”
This prompted this article from Devon Live, which made me laugh out loud… but it could be true!?
I’ve had dozens of offers of help and people wishing me luck. The anticipation is building and give or take a few tweaks, I stand ready to take my seat in parliament.
I attend meetings in Westminster with the Local Government Association quite regularly, which involves me walking past the Houses of Parliament. I never fail to experience the pull of wanting to be inside and fighting for the people of East Devon.
This time it seems the signs are right and everything is in place for a victory.  Third time lucky perhaps!
As you can imagine, the Conservatives will have a large reservoir of cash to use for the election and we always spend a fraction of what they spend.
You are receiving this letter as a supporter and/or volunteer who has helped me previously which I’m extremely grateful for. Requests for funding aren’t made lightly but as an Independent candidate I don’t have the financial backing of either trade unions or businesses to win this election hence this email.
The following gives an idea of what your funding will provide:
500 A4 Election Boards for gardens – £1,000
Printing of election manifesto £750
100 rosettes – £250
Any donations will help the possibility that I can win this vital election £10 £25 £50, or whatever you feel you can offer.

Finally, any sharing of my posts on social media (@ClaireWrightInd on Twitter and Claire Wright Independent Parliamentary Candidate for East Devon on Facebook) that you can do would be brilliant as this all has a huge impact on my profile  – and once I publish my manifesto, the likelihood of me getting elected.
With huge thanks and appreciation for your support.
Kindest regards


Dorset and East Devon National Park – update from team

“Glover Landscapes Review: Report recommends assessment of Dorset for National Park designation.

The Dorset & East Devon National Park Team welcomes the Glover Review’s recognition that the area “contains some of the greatest concentrations of biodiversity in Britain and opportunities for enjoyment. It includes the Jurassic Coast World Heritage site”. The spectacular World Heritage Coast would double the extent of coastline which is currently under-represented in English National Parks. The area has a “gold standard” heritage and offers an unrivalled range of recreational opportunities.

We welcome the Review’s conclusion that “the Cotswolds and the Dorset proposals are strong candidates alongside the Chilterns to be considered for National Park status. We suggest Natural England and ministers consider the case for each.”

We consider Dorset & East Devon is the outstanding candidate to be England’s next National Park. This is shown by the wide-ranging evidence provided to Natural England since 2013 and then to the Glover Review by the National Park Team and the proposal’s many partners and supporters. The Team looks forward to Natural England’s further assessment and consideration of the case for National Park designation. We encourage Natural England to begin this work as soon as possible.

We welcome the Review’s emphasis on the vital contributions which National Parks can make to thriving and sustainable communities and rural economies, and to health and wellbeing for residents and visitors. And we support the Review’s call for Designated Landscapes to play a vital role in Nature Recovery Networks and in the response to climate change. We support their call for national funding for this vital work to be sustained and increased.

The proposed Dorset & East Devon National Park should be central to a new and exciting vision for the area’s environment, biodiversity and heritage – which are our greatest economic assets – and for communities, businesses and all who live and work in and visit the area.

In the 70th anniversary year of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, we look forward to continuing to work with councils and other stakeholders, and with Natural England and DEFRA, to bring to fruition this long-overdue National Park.”

Meet Jacob Rees-Mogg – but only if you are an East Devon Tory

Friday, 11th October 2019
7.00pm for 7.30pm

East Devon Conservative Association invites Members to the Autumn Dinner with Jacob Rees Mogg MP at the Exeter Golf & Country Club in the Duckworth Suite.

Tickets £35     Dress: Smart casual.

Produced by the West Hill Branch this event promises to be a special evening.

Jurassic National Park: news more encouraging than Owl first thought – IF EDDC will now support it

Comment on Owl’s original post – thanks for the information:

“Further explanation:

Last year Government presented its 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment – “A Green Future”.

A spin off from this was the commissioning of a review of designated Landscapes lead by Julian Glover. The final report has just been published to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the passing of the Parks and Access to the Countryside Act (which created National Parks).

The central proposal is to bring National Parks and AONBs together as part of one family of national landscapes, served by a shared National Landscapes Service (NLS) which will give them a bigger voice, bigger ambition and a new way of working to meet new challenges.

“We also think what are now AONBs should be strengthened, with increased funding, governance reform, new shared purposes with National Parks, and a greater voice on development.

“We do however want to see AONBs given greater status in the planning system. They should become statutory consultees, and we set out later how we think this can work. They should also, where appropriate, be supported to work towards local plans for their areas, prepared in conjunction with local authorities. For larger AONBs, especially those we highlight as candidates for possible National Park status [see comments on page 121 below], this plan should have statutory status, in place of the multitude of local authority plans.

“We also make proposals to simplify and strengthen governance of National Parks and AONBs, while leaving a strong place for local identity and decision making especially on planning issues.”

A closer reading of the review shows that Glover uses “Dorset or Dorset proposal” as shorthand for the proposal for creating a new National Park based on combining the East Devon and Dorset AONBs. Annex 4, page 153, confirms that the only new National Park proposal in our neck of the woods is the combined one.

So from page 121 of Glover:

“We received submissions on the case for several other AONBs to become National Parks too.

“The two that stand out as leading candidates are the Cotswolds AONB and the combined Dorset and East Devon AONBs…..
“ …….Dorset has some of the greatest concentrations of biodiversity in Britain and opportunities for enjoyment. It includes the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site as well as farmed areas inland where development pressures are less strong and support for a change in status may be less established. We heard from opponents as well as supporters of a new status.

“Both the Cotswolds and the Dorset proposals are strong candidates, alongside the Chilterns, to be considered for National Park status.

“We suggest Natural England and ministers consider the case for each.”

This reflects EDDC’s negative past reaction to such a proposal and is an action replay of what happened when the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site was designated. Dorset sees the opportunities and makes the running. Decisions are made nationally because they are of national rather than parochial significance, and Dorset gets all the credit. EDDC gets left behind.”

East Devon Alliance DCC Councillor Shaw on disgraceful NHS Property Services

Press Release:

Summary: Since NHS Property Services was handed ownership of the small, single-story Health Centre (a building the size of a small bungalow) in Colyton in 2016, they have increased basic service charges to the Seaton and Colyton Medical Practice from £6471 to £23018 over 4 years (a 330 per cent increase).

Together with ‘true-up’ charges, the total charges demanded rose from £5556 to £34657 in just two years (a 560 per cent increase), and could top £40k this year.

At the same time the actual service provided has deteriorated. The Centre was without hot water for 3 months until earlier this month, as NHS PS failed to replace the boiler.

The practice is disputing all charges since 2016-17.
The practice has been attempting to negotiate with NHS PS but they have refused to reduce the charges to a reasonable level.

I have brought the matter to Health Scrutiny to ask them to investigate.

I have discovered that the BMA said earlier this year: ‘‘GP leaders have been warning since 2016 that huge extra costs imposed through service charge hikes could force practices to close if they were not reversed.’

I am worried that unless this issue is resolved, the 4000 people in Colyton, Colyford and surrounding rural area could lose the health centre which they rely on.


NHS Property Services and Colyton Health Centre

Colyton Health Centre is the only GP facility serving the town of Colyton and the surrounding rural area. Seaton and Colyton Medical Practice runs a busy branch surgery in the centre, with a GP and a nurse there all day Monday to Friday. The area has a growing and ageing population, with around 40 per cent over age 65. The Centre is located close to the heart of the town, within walking distance for most of its population.

The Centre maintenance charges

The Centre is a small, single storey building dating from 1960s which the Practice rents from NHS Property Services. The practice pays rent, together with 63 per cent of the costs of running the building.

For many years, these costs to the practice were around £4-5k p.a., reaching £5.5k in 2015-16, the final year with North Devon NHS Trust were landlords. However after NHS Property Services took over ownership of the property in 2016, they escalated enormously. The final figure for the current year, including ‘true-up’, could be as much as £40,000.

[Table here reproduced by photograph]

Service inadequacies

On top of this, the services the practice receives have deteriorated. NHS Property Services contract out the maintenance of the property to Mitie, and there have many examples of when jobs have been badly managed, the problem has been exacerbated rather than fixed, or the jobs have just not been carried out at all.

The Practice Manager states: ‘When preparing for a recent CQC inspection, we had to stick the floor in the nurses’ room down with duct tape as our request to replace it made 5 months previously had not been actioned.

We also discovered that basic fire checks had not been carried out. I have recently been approached by contractors wishing to carry out electrical work requested in 2016 but never actioned, the grass went uncut for most of the summer and in June the boiler was condemned so we have had no hot water or means to heat the building since then.’

The boiler was finally replaced last week but this has only uncovered more problems and the centre remains without hot water after more than 3 months.

Inappropriate charges

The practice has been attempting to negotiate with their landlords for over a year, and from information NHS Property Services have sent in the course of these negotiations they have realised that what they are being billed for is inaccurate.

They are charged over £2,500 per year for grounds maintenance including watering and maintaining of containers (they don’t have any), 4 hours of grass cutting every 2 weeks (they had a wild flower meadow in front of the surgery by July and since then contractors have been twice, each time for about 40 minutes) and fortnightly litter pick-ups (they have never seen anyone picking up litter.)
They have also been charged for the fitting of bed alarms for patients, but there are no beds in Colyton Health Centre (or anywhere else in the Axe Valley).

The unresolved issues

Charges for 2016-17 and 2017-18 remain in dispute, while the company has not yet provided a final figure for 2018-19.

After over a year of negotiations, the Practice has been unable to resolve these amounts or to persuade the company to agree a level of ongoing maintenance charges which would be appropriate to this small building.

The Practice Manager states: ‘We have spent an enormous amount of time as a practice attempting to achieve an acceptable solution which is fair and reflects the work carried out on the building, but so far to no avail. The maintenance is poor and impacts on staff and patients, while the astronomical rise in maintenance charges means we have to seriously consider the financial viability of continuing to operate from this site, something we definitely wish to do.’

Our requests to the Scrutiny Committee

I have brought this to the Committee because the Seaton and Colyton Medical Practice has been unsuccessful over an extended period of time in negotiating a reasonable level of charges and adequate delivery of the maintenance service.

They now feel it is appropriate that there should be public scrutiny of this situation, stating:

‘We appreciate your time in allowing us to bring this matter to your attention, and we would welcome the support of the committee in our attempt to resolve these issues in a satisfactory manner, which will allow us to focus on delivering healthcare to the people of Colyton and the surrounding area.’

As the County Councillor for Seaton and Colyton, representing not only the Practice but also the thousands of patients whom it serves, I hope the Committee will express its concern to NHS Property Services about this situation.

I also believe that the Committee should consider whether the way in which NHS Property Services has treated this practice raises issues about how the company manages properties across Devon.

County Councillor Martin Shaw”

[Massive] “Price hike proposed at popular East Devon car parks – and free facilities could become pay-and-display”

“East Devon’s free car parks will become pay-and-display and charges at busy spots will rocket by 50 per cent under changes proposed by the district council.

The authority could raise an extra £400,000 a year by hiking costs at its most popular facilities and targeting those where motorists can currently stop off for nothing.

Evening and overnight stay levies will also be imposed at sites where there is presently no cost for drivers at these times. …”

Price hike proposed at popular East Devon car parks – and free facilities could become pay-and-display

“‘Astronomical rent rises’ threaten Colyton Health Centre”

Sadly, this is being replicated all over the country. It would be cheaper for the practice to rent a residential bungalow and adapt it!

So far our local MP Neil Parish – looking for re-election – has been silent. Maybe time for a challenge to him similar to that of Claire Wright in the othet half of our district …

“In a report to Devon’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee today (Monday, September 23) Colyton county councillor Martin Shaw says the centre has been left without a working boiler since June and without basic fire checks being carried out.

Its rent has increased from some £5,000 around five years ago to an expected £40,000 this year, he reports.

Seaton and Colyton Medical Practice has been fighting a long-running battle over rapidly rising charges for the centre, in Grove Hill, since NHS Property Services took over as its landlords.

Combined with rent rises, the maintenance of the property has deteriorated to the extent that basic fire checks have not been carried out, the boiler has not been working for three months, and they are being billed for services that are not being provided, says Cllr Shaw.

His report outlines the problems the Practice is facing and he, with support from the Practice, has called for public scrutiny over NHS Property Services’ behavior.

The centre is a small, single storey building, dating from the 1960s, which the Practice rents from NHS Property Services.

The Practice pays rent, together with 63 per cent of the costs of running the building. Rents used to be around £5,000 a year, hitting a highest figure of £5,500 in 2015-16, the last year in which the North Devon NHS Trust were landlords.

However, since NHS Property Services took over ownership of the property in 2016, the rents have escalated, to £15,422.66 in 2016-17, £34,657.39 in 2017-18, and a figure expected to be around the £40,000 mark for 2018-19.

Cllr Shaw said: “These are ludicrous figures for a building the size of a small bungalow, and the Practice is contesting them.”

The report says that NHS Property Services has also been inaccurately billing the practice – including being charged for fitting bed alarms for patients, when there are no beds in Colyton Health Centre.

Kirstine House, practice manager, added: “When preparing for a recent CQC inspection, we had to stick the floor in the nurses’ room down with duct tape as our request to replace it made five months previously had not been actioned.

“We also discovered that basic fire checks had not been carried out.”

“Empty homes in England up by 11,000 last year, study shows”

“The number of empty homes in England increased by almost 11,000 last year, a study suggests, prompting calls for urgent action to bring them back into circulation to help tackle the housing crisis.

Research by the pressure group Action on Empty Homes and Nationwide building society indicates that last year saw the fastest rise in long-term empty homes in England since the recession. …

There are now more than 216,000 long-term empty homes in England, equivalent to 72% of the government’s annual new homes target, at a time when more than a million families are on waiting lists for local authority housing, said the report.

Empty homes are found in all council tax bands but are particularly prevalent in the highest band (band H) and the lowest (band A), the report added. …”

“High Street crisis: Towns lose FIFTY-five football pitches worth of retail space as shops are converted for other use”

“Fifty-five football pitches worth of retail space has been lost in just a year as the crisis on the High Street continues to take its toll.

The 4.2million sq ft of lost space in England and Wales – where shopping units have been converted for other uses – comes as shoppers continue to flock online. …”

“More than 8 million people in England living in unsuitable housing”

“More than 8 million people, equivalent to the population of London, are living in unsuitable housing in England, according to analysis suggesting the scale of the housing crisis could be far worse than officially estimated.

Research by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh suggests the lives of one in eight people in England are now negatively affected by years of fast-rising prices and missed house-building targets.

The research shows that 3.6 million people are living in overcrowded homes, 2.5 million cannot properly afford where they live, the same number again are living with parents or relatives against their wishes and almost 1.4 million are living in poor or substandard conditions, according to the study commissioned by the National Housing Federation (NHF), which represents social landlords.

It adds up to almost twice the number of people currently considered to be in need of housing on official waiting lists. …”