Jurassic Coast closures risking £111m in tourism revenue and 2,000 jobs.

“Dorset Council backed new arrangements for the management of the world heritage site coast, together with East Devon, although one councillor was critical of the efforts of the county’s neighbour.” Owl’s emphasis.

Owl isn’t surprised at the Dorset Councillor’s view of East Devon. EDDC has always regarded the World Heritage designation as a potential blight on planning freedom – so “not invented here” – no enthusiasm.

EDDC has the same view on the proposed National Park. Can’t see the opportunities only the loss of planning control.

www.wessexfm.com 

Jurassic coast tourism said to be worth £111m a year could be at risk, together with 2,000 jobs unless the coast and coast path re-opens soon.

The figures have been put on the value of the attraction to the county and neighbouring East Devon by Cabinet spokesman Cllr Ray Bryan.

He was speaking as Dorset Council backed new arrangements for the management of the world heritage site coast, together with East Devon, although one councillor was critical of the efforts of the county’s neighbour.

Cabinet spokesman Cllr Ray Bryan said the designation meant that everyone had an obligation to protect the coast through responsible, sustainable management practices.

He said the management and partnership plan had been widely consulted on and included policies about protection and access – although most of these were on hold because of lock-down with the consequent loss of income for both Dorset and Devon.

He said that since 2017 the Jurassic Coast Trust had taken the lead in the delivery of site management for both Dorset Council and Devon County Council – costing £120,000 a year, with £80,000 of that contributed by Dorset Council.

He said a number of other funders also contributed, some of those matching contributions pound for pound, or in some cases, in higher multiple.

Lyme Regis and Charmouth councillor Daryl Turner has said he is disappointed that the new management plan mentioned little in the way of marketing the coast, vital to the area’s tourism economy.

“We have one of the most values sites in the country.

“Could this element be strengthened, could there be a bigger marketing presence?” he said.

 

Stay away from Lake District despite easing of lockdown, police say

Police in the Lake District have urged people to “take a long hard look at your own conscience” and stay away from the national park – despite the prime minister telling people they can drive to beauty spots for exercise from Wednesday.

Owl would point out that a week ago the Covid-19 symptom tracker app showed a small, maybe not statistically significant, uptick in the estimated symptom rate from 0.6%  to o.8% in East Devon. It has since returned to 0.6% but there are other districts in Devon with lower rates. Parts of Somerset are down to 0.3%

Helen Pidd www.theguardian.com 

Police in the Lake District have urged people to “take a long hard look at your own conscience” and stay away from the national park – despite the prime minister telling people they can drive to beauty spots for exercise from Wednesday.

Parts of Cumbria have the highest coronavirus infection rates in the UK, prompting fears that the relaxation of lockdown will lead to a further spike.

Across the country on Monday morning, officials in other tourist destinations were frantically discussing how to interpret Boris Johnson’s easing of lockdown measures while keeping local populations safe.

In the early hours of Monday morning South Lakes police tweeted a map showing infection rates in the county, saying: “Before considering travelling to #Cumbria #LakeDistrict please grab a brew, examine this map, and take a long hard look at your own conscience. We urge you to use common sense and to continue to exercise close to your own home. We need to break the cycle of infection #lockdown.”

Cumbria police issued more than 100 fines over the bank holiday weekend to people making non-essential journeys, according to its assistant chief constable, Andrew Slattery. “That’s double the amount we’ve issued over the entire rest of the lockdown,” he said, blaming newspaper headlines for “giving the impression lockdown was over”.

Hotels, campsites, cafes, pubs and public toilets will remain closed for the foreseeable future, said Slattery. “Just attracting people to the Lake District with no facilities isn’t going to benefit the economy at all and in fact it might set it back.”

He added: “If people come en masse to the Lake District next weekend it will make social distancing very difficult if they congregate in the same car parks, go on the same busy footpaths in the honeypot areas.”

Tony Watson, the head of communications at the Lake District national park, tweeted: “Before travelling to the #lakedistrict, please be kind and consider our rural communities. There have been four times the deaths in Cumbria than in the whole of Australia. Just because you technically can come, doesn’t mean you should.”

Richard Leafe, national park authority’s chief executive, said: “Following the government’s announcement that people will be able to travel for exercise from Wednesday, we know that many will be keen to visit the Lake District. This is understandable for the many physical and mental health benefits the national park provides. However, sadly Cumbria currently has one of the highest Covid-19 infection rates in the UK, therefore keeping our staff and local communities safe must remain our priority.

“For example, our mountain rescue teams are made up of volunteers, many of whom work in the NHS and other frontline professions, so we cannot afford to put unnecessary pressure on them. So for now, we’re asking people not to rush back to the Lake District. Help protect our communities – the fells will still be here when this passes.”

The latest figures show Barrow-in-Furness in west Cumbria has the highest infection rate in England, with 804 cases per 100,000 people. Lancaster is second with 513 and South Lakeland third with 482.

But Aaron Cummins,the chief executive of Morecambe Bay NHS trust, which covers Barrow and South Lakeland, said the figures should be viewed with caution.

“As a trust, we have been testing our colleagues and their family members, local care home staff and other key workers for a significant amount of time and in large numbers. It is important that these figures are viewed in this context,” he said.

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat MP for the South Lakeland constituency of Westmorland and Lonsdale, has written an open letter to the prime minister asking him to limit the number of miles people can drive for exercise “to help prevent the inevitable high influx of people travelling to the Lakes, the Dales and south Cumbria”.

Farron told Johnson: “With there being no changes to the guidance issued by the Welsh government, Snowdonia will still be off limits for people living in Manchester and Liverpool meaning that we are likely to see an even higher number of visitors descending to the Lake District than we otherwise would have done.”

In his address to the nation on Sunday night, Johnson said: “From this Wednesday, we want to encourage people to take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise. You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports but only with members of your own household.”

 

“We prevented this country from being engulfed by … a catastrophe …. half a million fatalities”

Spin, spin, spin. (Extract from text of last night’s speech).

This is how Boris is trying to spin history, extracting victory from a retreat. He must not be allowed to get away with it.

We must never forget that it was decisions Boris and his Government took to “flatten” the virus spread and seek “herd immunity”, rather than suppress it , that was leading us towards such a catastrophe.

The governments of other European countries took a different path that avoided exposing their people to face such a threat in the first place.

The catastrophe was “prevented” when Boris did his screeching U-turn by imposing a lockdown on March 23. (Lockdown was first discussed in Cobra ten days earlier.)  Had “libertarian” Boris not dithered and imposed the lockdown just one week earlier, then the infection base, which we have subsequently been trying to control, would have been between one quarter and one eighth the size. Covid-19 infections at the time were estimated to be doubling every three to four days. The result would have been that we would be in a much better place now to consider starting to open up the economy.

Owl wonders whether the ambiguities in the messages in the speech will lead us towards another “catastrophe”?

Dr Bharat Pankhania, Exeter University’s infectious disease and public health expert said on BBC Spotlight last night that the changes announced would, in his opinion “inevitably” lead to the “R” number rising to above one i.e. the infection would start to accelerate.

The text of the first two paragraphs for the Prime Minister’s speech is given below. As always the speech, as delivered, may be different and Owl believes Boris actually said 500,000 rather than half a million.

“It is now almost two months since the people of this country began to put up with restrictions on their freedom – your freedom – of a kind that we have never seen before in peace or war. And you have shown the good sense to support those rules overwhelmingly. You have put up with all the hardships of that programme of social distancing. Because you understand that as things stand, and as the experience of every other country has shown, it’s the only way to defeat the coronavirus – the most vicious threat this country has faced in my lifetime.

And though the death toll has been tragic, and the suffering immense, and though we grieve for all those we have lost, it is a fact that by adopting those measures we prevented this country from being engulfed by what could have been a catastrophe in which the reasonable worst-case scenario was half a million fatalities. And it is thanks to your effort and sacrifice in stopping the spread of this disease that the death rate is coming down and hospital admissions are coming down. And thanks to you we have protected our NHS and saved many thousands of lives.”

 

UK eyes permanent medic ‘reserve force’ to bolster NHS

The British government is exploring plans to build a permanent reserve force of medics to support the NHS, following the success of its call for retired clinicians to return to the frontline of the coronavirus crisis.

Sarah Neville and Laura Hughes in London yesterday www.ft.com 

More than 30,000 retired doctors and nurses signed up to help during the Covid-19 emergency, in what health leaders described as “the biggest recruitment drive the NHS has ever seen”.

One person familiar with the initiative, which has the backing of Downing Street and the health department, likened the potential new force to the Army reserve, in which thousands are trained to serve alongside regular troops if and when required.

Clinical staff would similarly keep skills up to date through regular deployments, the person said.

Government officials confirmed ministers were considering whether to establish a permanent reservist force of medical staff after the pandemic. “We all think it’s a really sensible idea”, said one. “It’s definitely being discussed and considered as it makes sense.” 

Another added that keeping the huge numbers of NHS volunteers on as a permanent resource for the “foreseeable future” could “ensure capacity built up within the NHS is maintained”. 

The NHS is beset by workforce shortages, which are set to worsen as it attempts to resume normal services that were put on hold during the peak of the pandemic.

The NHS told the FT that “around 10,000” former staff had now returned to the health service. Alongside existing staff and 27,000 student doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, they had played “a significant role in ensuring that everyone who has needed care over the last two months has been able to receive it”, it added.

Calculations published by the Health Foundation, a charity, late last year suggested that without “concerted policy action and dedicated investment”, NHS staff shortages could grow to up to 200,000 by 2023/24, and at least 250,000 by 2030.

Nursing remained the key area of shortage, it noted, with more than 40,000 vacancies, a figure that could double by 2023/24.

In the March budget, the government confirmed a general election commitment to recruit 50,000 more nurses and deliver 50m additional GP appointments over the lifetime of the parliament.

However, the proposal to invite retirees to become a more established part of the workforce may meet scepticism from some volunteers, who have found the NHS slow to call on their services.

With the NHS now coming through the first peak of the virus, “local leaders are developing plans to safely bring back services and meet delayed demand for care and treatment, meaning that this contribution will remain necessary”. Employers had therefore been asked “to fast-track employment offers, induction and any necessary top-up training for all remaining prospective ‘returners’ over the next two weeks”, the NHS added.

 

We can’t enforce relaxed lockdown, say police chiefs

“Devon and Cornwall police said that it dealt with 1,023 incidents in 24 hours, the large majority of which were reports of lockdown breaches, or alcohol-related. About 150 fines were issued at Durdle Door, a coastal beauty spot in Dorset, where motorists had travelled from as far away as Reading, Coventry and Ipswich, a 450-mile round trip.”…..

“David Hepburn, an intensive care consultant in Wales, tweeted: “Just watched the conga lines/street parties on the news. The nation has lost its f***ing mind. We’re strapping in for the second wave. I’m so, so tired, and so pissed off. We’ve had a few days of respite and I was starting to feel hopeful. Can’t believe I was so naive.””

Fiona Hamilton, Crime Editor | Kat Lay, Health Correspondent www.thetimes.co.uk

The lockdown has been rendered unenforceable by “reckless and irresponsible” advance briefings about a relaxation of the rules, police chiefs told The Times.

Senior officers revealed breaches all over the country at the weekend, with daytrippers travelling to beauty spots, friends gathering in parks and socially distanced street parties spilling into houses. The hot weather was a factor, but members of the public were also encouraged by briefings from anonymous officials about the relaxation of lockdown before last night’s announcement by Boris Johnson.

John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation, responded to the prime minister’s statement with a call for clarity in messaging. He said that some members of the public had acted as though the lockdown was over, and there was “extreme pressure” on frontline police officers.

“Police officers will continue to do their best, but their work must be based on crystal-clear guidance, not loose rules that are left open to interpretation, because that will be grossly unfair on officers whose job is already challenging,” he said.

How the lockdown has changed policing

One chief constable said that the mixed message had resulted in a huge increase in the number of people in parks and on the streets and that, apart from moving on large groups, the lockdown was impossible to police. He added: “The briefings about freedom totally burst the dam. It was irresponsible.”

The Times revealed last week that senior officers had emphasised to government that they wanted to take a less coercive approach as restrictions were eased. A National Police Chiefs’ Council document outlining principles for the next stage highlighted the importance of “no surprises”, meaning that forces should be given time to digest changes and alter their approach if needed.

The same document also called for clarification of police responsibilities and “unambiguous rule changes”.

Another senior source said that none of that had been achieved: “The clarity of message has gone and all across the country there were people gathering in parks and having house parties. Some pubs opened secretly. People were taking very, very long journeys to beauty spots.”

Devon and Cornwall police said that it dealt with 1,023 incidents in 24 hours, the large majority of which were reports of lockdown breaches, or alcohol-related. About 150 fines were issued at Durdle Door, a coastal beauty spot in Dorset, where motorists had travelled from as far away as Reading, Coventry and Ipswich, a 450-mile round trip.

Day trippers flocked to the Lake District and to Southend. Street parties were carried out with social distancing but some became house parties. One resulted in a a conga line where participants were clearly within two metres of each other. Seven people were arrested in Bolton after a birthday party attended by 40 adults and children.

In Hackney, east London, the police tweeted that they were fighting a losing battle in parks where hundreds of people sat drinking. Officers on bicycles were sent to Hyde Park, where large groups had picnics.

Ken Marsh, of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said that the pandemic response had been “wishy-washy” and the authorities “needed to be firmer right from the beginning”.

Medical staff have reacted with fury to pictures of people in crowded parks or celebrating VE day with street parties, saying that the behaviour could lead to another peak in virus cases. Patrick Connor, a paramedic with the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “We’re definitely in for a second wave of Covid-19. These people are a disgrace. I’ve had enough of people putting our lives at risk and those of colleagues and our families who we go home to.”

David Hepburn, an intensive care consultant in Wales, tweeted: “Just watched the conga lines/street parties on the news. The nation has lost its f***ing mind. We’re strapping in for the second wave. I’m so, so tired, and so pissed off. We’ve had a few days of respite and I was starting to feel hopeful. Can’t believe I was so naive.”

 

The Guardian view on municipal England: the great betrayal 

“Back in March, the housing, communities and local government secretary, Robert Jenrick, pledged that his department would do “whatever is necessary” to help council leaders cope with the fallout of the coronavirus crisis. Urgent decisions, Mr Jenrick said, should not be put off because of concerns about money.”

Editorial  www.theguardian.com 

The minister was taken at his word. Impoverished by 10 years of savage cuts from previous Conservative-led administrations, local authorities nevertheless stepped up to the plate. As the government’s lack of strategic planning was exposed, they battled to provide missing personal protective equipment for care workers. Rough sleepers were housed and extra mental health support offered to vulnerable people. As reports of domestic abuse rose sharply during lockdown, extra resources were deployed to deal with the caseload. Community hubs have been set up to facilitate food distribution and fuel assistance. Across the range of frontline services, a colossal, costly attempt has been made to rescue and preserve the battered infrastructure of everyday life.

As a result, councils are now swimming in a sea of unsustainable debt. Outgoings exponentially increased as income streams collapsed during lockdown. From parking fees and business rate taxes to returns on commercial investments, the money that keeps local authorities afloat has dried up. Manchester city council projects an overall loss of almost £152m for 2020-21. Liverpool city council is on the verge of filing a section 114 notice – effectively a declaration of bankruptcy. Relatively prosperous shires are suffering too. The Conservative MP for Shrewsbury, Daniel Kawczynski, has highlighted the case of Shropshire council, which has so far incurred coronavirus-related costs of well over £20m. A social “calamity” awaits, he has said, unless Westminster fulfils its promise to stand by councils during the crisis.

But as the calls for financial assistance have become more urgent, Mr Jenrick’s responses have become more evasive. Last week, the airy rhetoric of March was superseded by a warning that councils should not “labour under a false impression that what they are doing will be guaranteed funded by central government”. This amounts to a betrayal of trust. The government has moved to bring forward some payments to councils due later in the year, but a far bigger injection of new money is required. Failing that, it may be that the coronavirus crisis will prove a disastrous tipping point for local authorities, which have been relentlessly harried, hobbled and undermined by Whitehall for 10 years.

The austerity drive launched in 2010 by the former chancellor George Osborne turned out to be a declaration of war on municipal England. Almost £16bn of core local government funding was cut – or 60p in every pound provided from Westminster for local services. Council tax rises were legally capped, as care budgets were slashed and amenities closed. Poorer regions, with smaller tax takes, suffered the most. After a decade of devastation, there are, as the leader of Manchester city council, Sir Richard Leese, wrote to Boris Johnson last month, “no easy cuts left to make”. Without a new settlement adequate to the times, vital needs in our towns, cities and rural areas will go unmet.

That prospect could not come at a worse time, as the nation faces the sharpest economic downturn for 300 years. Instead of hanging local government out to dry, Mr Jenrick should be finding ways to put it centre stage in the “test, track and trace” strategy that will be key to reopening the economy. As the Local Government Association has pointed out, public health teams deployed by councils have unmatched local knowledge and experience. This expertise risks being underutilised as contact tracing contracts are shortsightedly handed to private operators such as Serco.

In the months to come, councils will also bear responsibility for maintaining levels of social care in the community, ensuring safe provision of public transport, helping local business and providing the essential services celebrated on our doorsteps each Thursday evening. For too long, local government has been treated with ruthless disdain by ministers in London. In this time of crisis, Mr Jenrick has the opportunity to make amends. It’s time to give councils the funding and respect they deserve.