“Prime Minister should ‘apologise to the Queen’ and resign, says parliamentary candidate”

Owl says: Tories don’t apologise!

“Boris Johnson suspended – or ‘prorogued’ – Parliament for five weeks earlier this month.

Supreme Court judges have now said the move, which stopped MPs carrying out duties in the run-up to Brexit on 31 October, was unlawful.

Speaking to the Herald, Councillor Wright said: “The term ‘constitutional crisis’ has been used so often in recent months, associated with the actions of the Conservative government that it has ceased to have much impact – until today.

“Amazingly, we have almost come to expect that Boris Johnson’s Tory government will offend the practice of fair play, will not observe democratic traditions, and will not even respect the rule of law.

“But the Supreme Court ruling this morning is of a different magnitude.

“In a disastrous decision for the government and personally for the Prime Minister, eleven judges ruled unanimously, that suspending parliament was ‘unlawful, void and of no effect’.

“They said he had not put forward a reason, let alone a good reason, to shut down parliament, and stop it doing its proper job.”

“Boris Johnson’s actions in seeking to prorogue parliament go way beyond his kicking 21 moderate Tory MPs out of the party, and turning it into an extreme right wing group.

“Johnson has also been found guilty of misleading the Queen. It’s a rather squalid state of affairs when our Queen gets dragged into supporting the actions of our unscrupulous Prime Minister.

“The defiant Boris Johnson must now apologise to the Queen unreservedly, apologise to parliament unreservedly, apologise to the electorate unreservedly, and resign.”

Mike Gordon, professor of constitutional law at the University of Liverpool, has argued that the court decision raises the issue of what powers the monarch should hold and the need for the introduction of a law on prorogation.

He told the PA news agency that the Queen had been placed in a ‘no-win’ situation when asked to act on Mr Johnson’s advice.

“She’s in a no-win position here because of the nature of our constitutional monarchy,” Prof Gordon said.

“Convention says she has to comply with what the Government requires of her, but now she’s been told by the Supreme Court that what they told you to do was unlawful.

“But it would have been very difficult for her to challenge that advice at the time, and if she had that would have brought her into very difficult political territory.”

He added: “These are powers that probably, if we want to maintain the image of a monarch who is impartial and above politics, then this is probably not a power that such a figure can possess.”

The court’s ruling stated that it was ‘not suggested in these appeals that Her Majesty was other than obliged by constitutional convention to accept that advice’.

It added: “In the circumstances, we express no view on that matter.”

It also declares that is not known what discussions went on between Mr Johnson and the Queen when the PM telephoned the monarch at Balmoral at 6pm on Tuesday August 27 to formally advise prorogation.

Buckingham Palace has not commented on the ruling.”


Western Morning News on Jurassic National Park

Here in East Devon there is a serious dilemma: officers and former majority party councillors (many of whom kept their seats at the most recent election) refused to back a Jurassic National Park, as they did not want planning and dealing with developers taken away from them. So, the new council has to make a decision: leave this to officers to push for the status quo and change nothing or back the report.

Councillor Jung, who holds the Environment portfolio, and who left East Devon Alliance to accept the post from the Independent Group, now has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. He did sterling work protecting Woodbury from the encroachment of the Carter family – can he persuade his new colleagues to back him? Presuming he does back it …

“Landscape study calls for a new national park

The Westcountry should have a new national park, alongside Dartmoor and Exmoor, a review of Britain’s landscapes proposes.

Two existing Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in Dorset and East Devon would be combined into the new park, covering not only the famous Jurassic Coast, but inland landscape treasures such as the hill forts of Dorset and East Devon.

The campaign group behind the proposal believes it would be a shot in the arm for the area’s economy and for local people.

The proposal is part of the Landscapes Review led by Julian Glover. It calls for the biggest shakeup of the running of England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty since they were founded 70 years ago.

The review says the governing of national parks is top-heavy, with too little diversity or turnover of board members.

It also makes recommendations to introduce more innovative, enterprising ways to generate funds, in addition to further government funding.

Among the suggestions being put to ministers is a new National Landscapes Service to act as a unified body for England’s 44 national landscapes, including 10 National Parks and 34 AONBs.

A 1,000-strong ranger service would be the “friendly face” of national parks and help to engage schools and communities.

Every school pupil should have the opportunity to spend a night “under the stars” in these special landscapes to help more children to connect with nature, Mr Glover suggests.
AONBs would be given a boost, with new protections, responsibilities, titles and funding to help them be greener, more beautiful and more welcoming to the public.

Defra, which commissioned the review, will now consider the recommendations. Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “These landscapes are the jewels in the crown of our countryside and are a cornerstone of our rural economy.
“We are committed to ensuring they flourish as havens for nature and sites that everyone in the country goes to visit for inspiration, adventure or relaxation:’

Mr Glover, who led the review, said: “From the high fells of the Lake District to the wildness of Exmoor, England’s most beautiful places define our country.

“Today we are setting out a big, bold plan to bring them alive to tackle the crisis in our natural environment and make sure they are there for everyone to enjoy.

“If we take action, we can make our country healthier, happier, greener, more beautiful and part of all our lives.
“Seventy years ago this year we created our national parks for a nation that had just won the Second World War. Now it’s time to reignite that mission.”

Richard Brown, a member of the group campaigning for a new Dorset national park, said talks were already under way with Natural England, and from there a recommendation would go to Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

He said that becoming a national park would create a new onus to deliver housing according to local needs, along with better facilities for businesses.

“We are losing young families and we need more affordable housing.

“National parks aren’t subject to central government housing targets, but have a duty to respond proactively to local housing needs.

“Some people think a national park would stop development, but we do need development – the right kind of development:’
With several hurdles still to negotiate, they have not yet thought of a name for the new national park. Mr Brown suggested that could come from the public.”

Source: KEITH ROSSITER keith.rossiter@reachpic.com
Western Morning News 24 Sept 2019

Tories massively borrow their way out of austerity with an election coming up

“A marked deterioration in the public finances means Sajid Javid will have to relax borrowing limits if the government is to boost spending and cut taxes before an early general election.

With the Treasury preparing for the the autumn budget, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that the slowing economy and a series of accounting changes had made life more difficult for the chancellor.

Boris Johnson’s government has pledged higher spending for the NHS, schools and the police since it was formed in late July, but against the backdrop of an economy flirting with recession. The ONS said borrowing in the first five months of the financial year was up 28% on the same period a year ago, at more than £31bn.

In addition, changes to the way the ONS accounts for student debt and public sector pensions, together with new corporation tax data, means the size of the deficit in the last full financial year, 2018-19, has almost doubled. A deficit of £23.6bn has been revised up to £41.3bn.

Analysts said that if the trend for the first months of 2019-20 continued for the rest of the year the deficit would be close to £53bn, £12bn higher than the government’s fiscal watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, estimated in March.

The government’s fiscal rules stipulate that borrowing in 2020-21 should be below 2% of national output after taking into account the state of the economy. Achieving that would require either spending cuts or tax increases amounting to 0.5% of gross domestic product – about £10bn.

Andrew Wishart, the UK economist at Capital Economics, said the existing fiscal target was “dead in the water”. …”


“Petition on changing governance arrangements at city council reaches threshold for referendum”

Time to think about this in East Devon?

“A petition calling for a referendum on changing Sheffield City Council’s governance arrangements has reached the required number of signatures of 5% of the electorate, the local authority has confirmed.

The petition, which was received by the council on 24 August 2019, calls for Sheffield to be run via a committee system, with one or more committees made up of elected councillors, instead of the current executive arrangements, with a leader who is an elected councillor chosen by the other elected councillors.

The council said a referendum on the issue would be held no later than the end of the next ordinary day of election after the petition date (i.e. not later than 7 May 2020).

Sheffield said it was currently developing options following July’s Full Council meeting where a review was agreed, the findings of which are due to be reported on within six months.

“The review will include input from a cross party group of councillors as well as stakeholders, to help inform the proposals for how a committee system could work,” it added.

Cllr Julie Dore, Leader of Sheffield City Council, said: “It’s a fantastic achievement that 5% of the electorate have signed this petition and I would like to thank the people who have signed as well as those who have organised the petition.

“This is a positive opportunity to improve how the council works and gain a wide range of views from different people, groups and partners across the city. We want as many people as possible to engage in this debate, and reach as many as possible of the remaining 95% of the people in this city, which is why, as well as looking at governance systems, we want to listen to people about how the council engages and serves the people of Sheffield regardless of which governance system is in place.”

Cllr Dore added: “We will also be speaking with all of our partners, across the public, private and voluntary sectors, who we work with to make the right decisions, making Sheffield a great place to live, learn, work and enjoy.

“We want a big conversation about how we make the decisions that affect and improve people’s lives.”

Cllr Terry Fox, Sheffield’s Deputy Leader, will lead the review which includes the options for governance models, looking at the different benefits of the committee system and the current Leader and Cabinet system.”


“Chair of watchdog writes open letter to public office holders on importance of upholding standards”

“The chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Lord Evans of Weardale, has written an open letter to all public office holders on the importance of upholding public standards and implementing the Nolan Principles.

The letter reads:

Standards in public life have rarely been more in the spotlight than they are today. Both as a Committee and as individual members we are frequently asked what can be done to maintain high standards and implement the Nolan Principles in the current political situation, which is causing real concern to many people who care about how our public life is conducted.

At one level, the key institutions of our democracy are doing their job providing important constitutional checks and balances. The long running and fierce dispute over Brexit is being played out largely in Parliament, the courts and the media, including social media. Such openness is itself a key principle in our public life.

But behaviour matters as much as formal structures. Leadership of standards needs to come from the top: from Government and from Parliament. In the current political situation, it is the view of our Committee that it is even more important that high standards are not only consistently observed but also demonstrably valued.

It is also vital that the tone of public debate should avoid abuse and intimidation, which have become increasingly widespread. Parliamentary democracy is under threat if those in public life and public office cannot express their views freely and without fear.

These long-established principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership are a personal responsibility and set the tone for leadership across the whole of public service. They are what the public expect of us.


“Pre-Application Openness And Transparency”

A useful guide from the South Hams Society on what developers and officers can co-operate on before a planning application goes in and what rights residents have to know what they are doung.

” …You are entitled to ask the district council:

If you suspect that discussion is being held on a proposal for development that hasn’t yet been published as a planning application, you are perfectly entitled to ask the district council, as the planning authority, what it knows about it.

The Environmental Information Regulations of 2004 require public bodies, if asked, to release to the requester, within 20 working days, any information they have on proposals for the land.

There are certain defined circumstances in which they can withhold it but they wouldn’t often apply in the cases in which the ordinary resident would be interested.

The rules cover pre-application discussions and any other less formal enquiries. Your request needn’t be in writing, it can be oral, for instance, by asking a councillor, in or out of a meeting, and the rules would equally apply to a town or parish council as well as to a district council.

Any blanket response such as ‘Pre-Application discussions are confidential’ is misconceived and should be challenged.

Your enquiry can be submitted online through the council’s Freedom of Information portal, citing the Environmental Information Regulations.

Requests are perhaps best framed in relation to an area or place and a time period, without any reference to the parties you think might be involved. For instance “Could I please be informed of any proposal of which the council has become aware in the last year, in the form of a pre-application request or otherwise, for development in the field of which the centre is at SX66805021? Please include the record of any advice the council may have given.”

Make sure your request is acknowledged, and follow it up if you haven’t had a reply within 20 working days.

[A model letter example from South Hams can be found here]:

Click to access fer0829003.pdf