Ministers shifting blame to Public Health England for Covid-19 errors, say experts

“Experts have accused ministers of shifting the blame for their own mistakes during the coronavirus crisis on to Public Health England, amid speculation that the agency may be scrapped.”

The idea that Ministers are personally accountable for everything that happens on their watch is deeply ingrained. Peter Carrington famously resigned in 1982 as Foreign Secretary  taking full responsibility for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s failure to foresee the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands. Since then Ministers have often argued that they cannot be held accountable for “operational” as opposed to “policy” failures.

Although Owl has been unimpressed by the performance of Public Health England it must be remembered that it is the product of the Lansley 2012 Health and Social Care Act and subsequent government budget cuts.

Denis Campbell www.theguardian.com 

Experts have accused ministers of shifting the blame for their own mistakes during the coronavirus crisis on to Public Health England, amid speculation that the agency may be scrapped.

Downing Street on Wednesday failed to guarantee that PHE will survive in its present form as an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care when the government reviews its response to Covid-19.

It also did not rebut a report that Boris Johnson was referring to PHE when he said in a speech on Tuesday that “parts of government that seemed to respond so sluggishly” to the pandemic.

Without apportioning blame, the prime minister had said “it seemed like that recurring bad dream when you are telling your feet to run and your feet won’t move”.

His remarks came two days after Sir Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary and head of the civil service, announced he would be standing down after weeks of anonymous briefing against him.

Prof Gabriel Scally, an ex-regional director of public health for the south-west of England, said it appeared ministers were trying to deflect blame onto others for the failures in testing and protective equipment that have contributed to the UK’s high death rate.

“It was only a matter of time, the hunt for someone to blame. It ill befits Boris Johnson or any Tory to go about criticising PHE. This is the government seeking to identify the fall guy for a gross and widespread failure of government. It’s ministers blaming others for their own failings”, said Scally, who is a professor of public health at Bristol university.

Prof John Ashton, a former director of public health in the north-west, said: “The government is trying to pass the buck for its own failures in to PHE. But there’s been a political failure, a leadership failure and also a technical failure by PHE.

“It’s made a series of serious mistakes during the crisis in all the key areas that it’s responsible for: testing, tracing, personal protective equipment and the gathering and sharing of intelligence. It’s been poor on those counts”.

PHE has come under intense scrutiny for its role in tackling the virus and has attracted intermittent criticism in recent weeks from sources in and around the government about its performance.

A senior PHE official said this seemed to be “part of an undermining strategy by some people in government”, especially those in Downing Street.

“Testing strategy? The Department of Health and Social Care led on that. We run laboratories and increased our testing to 25,000 tests a day, which is the most we can do. Contact tracing? We did that but only have 290 people for the whole of England who can do that, so as soon as it became obvious that community transmission was occurring, we shifted out efforts to that”, the official said.

Ministers are reportedly accusing PHE of abandoning the tracing of the recent contacts of people who tested positive for the virus on 12 March, which is now regarded as a key early blunder during the crisis.

However, James Brokenshire, the Home Office minister, has previously admitted that the decision was prompted by the “capacity restraints” of England’s limited system of testing swab samples rather than a strategic change of direction by PHE.

Christina Marriott, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “We should try to avoid what could be a destructive blame game, with rash calls for overhaul, and an undermining of the nation’s ability to deliver an effective Covid-19 response at this vital moment. What is needed now is an honest and swift ‘lessons learnt’ review, so that the nation can respond as well as possible to any second wave.”

Asked whether PHE was under threat, the prime minister’s spokesman praised its role in the coronavirus crisis, but also stressed the need to ensure that institutions were “fit to cope” with future emergencies.

“Public Health England are playing a key role in our response, working on important issues such as detection, surveillance, contact-tracing and testing,” he said. “They have been working hard to help protect the country and to provide insight in our efforts to beat the virus.”

The spokesman added: “We’ve made changes to structures already, for instance we have set up, from scratch, NHS test and trace, and the joint biosecurity centre. Any future changes that we might make would be aimed at further strengthening our public health capability.”

English councils warn £500m Covid-19 cash injection will not stop cuts

Councils in England and Wales have reacted with disappointment to an emergency funding package for local government aimed at helping them cope with the spiralling extra costs of the coronavirus crisis, warning it was not enough to prevent further cuts to local services.

Patrick Butler www.theguardian.com 

The package, announced by ministers on 2 July, proposed a £500m coronavirus cash injection for England alongside a scheme to defer lost council tax and business rate takings, and part-compensate councils for reduced income from car parking, museums and leisure centres.

Town halls said the £500m package left a £1.2bn gap in funding this year, fuelling their anger that the government had broken promises made at the start of lockdown to “do whatever it takes” to ensure local authorities were able to meet the cost of Covid-19.

In addition to the £500m for English councils, under the proposed package £50m will go to the Scottish government, £30m to the Welsh government and £15m to the Northern Ireland executive .

The Local Government Association, which mainly represents English and Welsh local authorities, said that while it welcomed the announcement, it was disappointed that the funding package did not go far enough to give councils financial certainty or prevent further cuts to services.

Rob Whiteman, head of Cipfa, the local government accountants’ body, said councils faced their toughest-ever round of budget planning for next year. “Residents up and down the country are likely to experience service reductions as councils meet their statutory duty to balance budgets.”

Stephen Houghton, chair of the Sigoma group of urban councils in England, said: “This cannot be the last intervention on cost pressures for councils as the £500m provided will only potentially cover our members till the end of this month, meaning many will still face substantial in-year deficits. The risk of significant cuts and section 114 notices [declarations of insolvency] has not gone away.”

David Williams, chair of the County Councils Network, a lobby for 37 mainly Tory-controlled authorities in England, said: “With costs continuing to rise and no guarantees over compensation for lost council tax and business rates, many of our member councils still face financial uncertainty this year and next”

The 2 July announcement followed warnings from local authorities in England that they faced a net shortfall of £7.4bn this year, with many forced to take emergency action to reduce spending or face insolvency unless government stepped in with more support.

Robert Jenrick, the local government secretary, praised councils for their role during the pandemic and said: “This government will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with councils and communities as we recover from this pandemic, as we renew our commitment to unite and level-up the country.”

The £500m cash injection, which will be shared among 343 councils in England, came on top of two previous tranches of financial support in March and April amounting to £3.2bn, and £600m earmarked for social care providers.

In addition, councils would be compensated at the rate of 75p in the pound where they had lost more than 5% of their expected income this year from sales, fees and charges – meaning income from rents, car parking, museums and leisure centres.

The income compensation scheme will not cover financial losses incurred in council-owned commercial businesses – Luton and Manchester councils own their local airports, which have been hit hard by Covid-19 – or losses in council investments in commercial property, intended to part-fund local services.

In addition, the government said accounting rules would be changed to ease councils’ cashflow pressures by allowing them to spread the impact of losses from the non-payment of council tax and business rates over three years, rather than the usual one.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit thinktank said the extra cash was welcome but unlikely to be enough. “The real problem here is that we are plugging gaps rather than getting ahead of the situation. And we still have no settled, sustainable, long-term plan for funding local government.”

Adam Lent, director of the New Local Government Network thinktank said: “The bottom line is that this [extra funding] is a help but does not guarantee that there will not be cuts to vital public services. It will also leave councils very wary or unable to step up if there is a second wave [of coronavirus].”

More on how much we get from the £900M “Recovery” fund

Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP), which covers Devon and Somerset, will receive £35.4 million. Karl Tucker, the LEP’s chairman, said: “With this amount, we will be able to fund a number of shovel ready projects to be delivered by January 2022.

Question Owl keeps asking is how much of this £35.4 million stays in the two counties rather than get shovelled out to National or International companies and out of area contractors and itinerant labour?

Devon and Cornwall to get millions to kickstart pandemic recovery

Keith Rossiter www.cornwalllive.com

 

DEVON and Cornwall and Somerset will receive £49.4 million from a £900 million government fund intended to kickstart recovery after the pandemic.

The money is for “shovel ready projects”, but is less than a third of what the region’s local enterprise partnerships had bid for.

Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP), which covers Devon and Somerset, will receive £35.4 million.

Karl Tucker, the LEP’s chairman, said: “I am pleased that, as one of the biggest LEP areas, our allocation is the highest in the South West and the seventh highest in the country, which we assume means there is some recognition of the economic impact on us of Covid-19.”

The LEP had put forward 63 projects, worth a total of £121 million.

Mr Tucker said: “This is a welcome initial funding by the Government towards our Route Map to Recovery which will enable the area to restart, revitalise and grow.

“With this amount, we will be able to fund a number of shovel ready projects to be delivered by January 2022.

“However, this allocation is only 30% of the funding that we bid for, and therefore many of the other identified important shovel ready projects in our area currently remain unfunded. We look forward to working with Government on future funding for investments in our recovery pipeline.”

Cornwall’s share of the cash is £14.3 million. Glenn Caplin, chief executive of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, welcomed the investment, but said: “It doesn’t match the scale of our ambition.”

 

At the Government’s invitation, the LEP had submitted proposals for “shovel-ready” projects worth £100 million. These projects had a particular focus on kick-starting a green recovery, Mr Caplin said.

Schemes such as a floating offshore wind farm, geothermal energy and the development of lithium mining for batteries would all require Government investment.

“The Government has already put a huge amount into managing the crisis, but if we are going to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic and the lockdown, we are going to need more investment than has been made available so far,” Mr Caplin said.

In a speech in Dudley, West Midlands, on Tuesday, Boris Johnson announced a spending package which will include money for roads projects.

Devon and Cornwall county councils each receive £5 million for a road scheme, from a £100 million pot.
In north Cornwall the money will go towards “restoring resilience” on the extensive rural road network, which is suffering from years of underinvestment and, in parts reaching the end of its serviceable life.

Devon County Council gets money for a major maintenance scheme on the A380 Teign Viaduct.

In both cases, the councils will have to provide funding of their own.

With our spectacular scenery, beaches and attractions, this region is our nation’s chosen tourist destination. Tourism is worth around £3billion a year to the Westcountry’s economy and countless jobs depend on the stream of visitors we welcome every year.

But this year everything has changed. In March, we rightly told visitors to stay away. Our #ComeBackLater campaign – backed by business leaders, councils, MPs and police – asked people not to travel to the region as the coronavirus pandemic spiralled. Those pleas were answered, on the whole, as our region’s tourism and hospitality industry was forced to shut down.

Now, finally, we are ready to welcome people back to Devon and Cornwall with open arms, starting from July 4.

Some of our biggest attractions are fighting for their futures. Many of our pubs, restaurants and hotels are also in an uncertain battle for survival. But CornwallLive, DevonLive and PlymouthLive will be doing all we can to stand shoulder to shoulder with them and to encourage visitors back to our great region. Come and see us again – but be sensible, be safe and be kind.

Our message to the world is loud and clear: #WelcomeBack

The Government has also announced funding for Cornwall Council to start work later this year on a pioneering programme to make homes more energy efficient.

The council is one of three to secure funding from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Energy Innovation Programme. Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng announced nearly £80 million of Government investment this week to help cut carbon emissions from homes and energy-intensive businesses.

Cornwall Council’s £4.2 million Whole House Retrofit Innovation pilot scheme is also receiving funding from the council and its energy partner SSE which will see improvements such as external wall insulation, solar panels and heat pumps fitted to 83 homes managed by Cornwall Housing.

Work is set to start on the first 16 homes in the autumn, using innovative solutions that aim to significantly reduce the properties’ emissions, heat loss and running costs for residents.

Cornwall Council leader Julian German said: “I am pleased that we now have the opportunity to move ahead with this pilot. It will provide important learning to develop larger-scale programmes and proposals for our own housing stock but also for other social landlords, the private rented sector and more widely across Cornwall.”

In his speech in Dudley, Mr Johnson announced set out plans to speed up £5 billion of the £640 billion of spending over five years announced in the Budget in March.

As well as  the LEP cash and roads funding, 101 towns and cities will share a package of £96 million for town centres and high streets.

Five are in Devon and Cornwall: Camborne, Penzance, St Ives, Torquay and Truro.

Each will receive between £500,000 and £1 million to spend on projects such as improvements to parks, high streets and local transport.

Political savvy reshuffle leaves Cllr Eileen Wragg Chair of Planning – Details of Plan B emerge

Details of Paul Arnott’s response to the constitutional change banning cabinet members sitting on either the Planning or Licencing Committees are beginning to emerge without fanfare, having been ratified under delegated authority of the Monitoring Officer.

If the Tories thought that by this device they had got rid of Cllr Eileen Wragg, who has the experience to know who might be hiding skeletons in their cupboard, as Chair of Planning, they are mistaken. 

Cllr Eileen Wragg has stood firm by the Majority Group’s  intention that she take the critical role of Chair of Planning. To achieve this under the motion passed at the recent EGM, she has sacrificed her position in the Cabinet and the Deputy Leader role. A rare example of selfless integrity.

Owl understands that Eileen remains Deputy Leader of the Democratic Alliance and will attend Cabinet.

Her place as Deputy leader of the Council has been taken by Cllr Paul Hayward who will retmain Portfolio Holder Economy and Assets (and tourism).

Cllr John Loudon (EDA) has stepped up to the Cabinet as the new Portfolio Holder of Policy Co-ordination and Regional Engagement.

His previous role of assistant Portfolio Holder, Finance, is taken by Cllr Fabian King (LibDem)

Now that they are in Opposition, Owl has been amused to see the Conservatives become so concerned over potential conflicts of interest. Worth rehearsing, for new readers of the East Devon Watch, some of the more celebrated cases that didn’t seem to bother them at the time.

The late Cllr. Graham Brown scandal when he was caught on camera by a Telegraph sting “If I can’t get planning, nobody will,” …..”I don’t come cheap,” 

Then there was the East Devon Business Forum (EDBF), funded by the council but “Independent of it”. The EDBF overwhelmingly represented businesses with a strong interest in planning and development, and landowners and developers played a big role in the Forum since 2007. (See here for details).  Unsurprisingly, the thrust of EDBF lobbying was to persuade the council to relax planning controls for big developers and to decrease the protection for greenfield and AONB areas. After all, as the Forum commented in 2011, only 1% of East Devon was developed! 

Then in 2017, “Build, build, build” Helen Parr, the vice-chairman of East Devon District Council came under investigation over an allegation she influenced plans to develop her area while failing to declare an interest.

But only now have the Conservatives felt the need to worry, and in this case on entirely hypothetical grounds. Will they now be permanent converts to the dangers of “conflict of interest”?

Government: Pest control firm’s £108m PPE contract issued ‘in error’ 

The government has backtracked on official documents showing that it awarded a family-run pest control firm £108m to procure personal protective equipment (PPE), saying it reported the sum “in error”.

Poppy Wood www.cityam.com 
The Department for Health last month published documents that showed it secured a deal worth £108m in April with Crisp Websites Ltd — a pest control firm trading under the name of Pestfix — which has 16 staff and net assets of just over £18,000.

The government handed out more than £350m worth of PPE contracts to private companies in April, as the UK scrambled to find sufficient levels of protective equipment for the NHS. The £108m figure meant the deal with Pestfix represented almost a third of the government’s total PPE procurement funding.

However, the government has now said the £108m figure was incorrect, following legal proceedings from non-profit organisation the Good Law Project.

The Good Law Project claimed the contract was awarded without a competitive tender process and to a company that had no prior expertise in producing PPE.

In a letter to the Good Law Project, the government said it reported the details of the contract “in error”, and that the Pestfix PPE contract was actually worth £32m.

“It has come to light that the contract award notice published… on 18 May was issued in error, and a new notice with the correct details will be issued shortly”, the letter read.

However, the government added that the £32m contract was one of “a number” of PPE contracts awarded to Pestfix — the details of which are yet to be disclosed.

“For completeness, we should add that a number of further contracts have also been agreed with the interested party, full details of which will be published in the coming weeks,” the letter said.

Official government documents stated that the Pestfix contract would encompass the “delivery and supply of urgently needed gloves, gowns and masks”.

But the government has now said this is incorrect, and “rather than a contract for gloves, masks and isolation suits for £108m as indicated, the contract that was concluded with [Pestfix]… was in fact for isolation suits only, with a value of £32m instead.”

Pestfix currently offers 22 different PPE products on its website, including goggles, face shields and plastic gloves. It also sells a Stay Alert Steri Kit, which includes hand sanitiser, surgical masks and sterilised wipes, for £83.99.

Dan England, the co-founder of the business, told the Times that although the company had not previously sold PPE, he had “very good connections in the supply chain” in the far East and had “tried to help the NHS in their hour of need”.

The government also disputed the Good Law Project’s suggestion that the contract had been awarded without being properly publicly advertised. All central government procurement opportunities worth more than £10,000 must be published on the government’s Contract Finder page in a legal tender process.

A Treasury spokesman said that the government received “around 16,000 offers from suppliers” in response to a national call to arms for PPE on 18 May.

However, documents showed that the £108m purchase order issued by the government was made on 10 April — three days before the tender process for the contract was supposed to conclude on 13 April.

Jolyon Maugham, founder and director of the Good Law Project said: “The government’s bizarre response to judicial review proceedings throws up more questions than answers.”

“How many other contracts have been awarded to Pestfix? How much are those contracts worth? Why do they claim they advertised the original contract in question, after the contract was already awarded?”

He added: “What we can be absolutely clear about is that huge sums of public money have gone to a tiny company with no expertise in the area.”

“It’s difficult to imagine how any of this would have come to light had we not sued. We will keep pushing until we have all the answers.”

Pestfix did not respond to requests for comment.

The Department for Health and Social Care said: “[We] cannot comment on ongoing legal matters”

Boris Johnson urged to do more for the South West

“Tim Jones, chairman of the South West Business Council, said the so-called “New Deal” was “not a game-changer”.

Tim Jones (with 35 years experience with property issues) is one of two old men who Owl described only a couple of weeks ago as having been too influential for too long in the strategic planning of the South West. The other was ex-Cllr Paul Diviani. They represent the historic failure of our local economy to do anything other than bump along the bottom. 

We need new thinking in the “Electorally Safe” South West if we are ever to get the attention of a Boris Johnson with his eyes fixed on the “Red Wall”.

Keith Rossiter www.devonlive.com 

Boris Johnson has announced a stimulus package and a new “opportunity guarantee” to help the economy cope with the aftershock of the coronavirus crisis.

Business leaders in the Westcountry staked a claim to a large chunk of the £900 million set aside for “shovel-ready” local growth projects during 2020/21.

But Tim Jones, chairman of the South West Business Council, said the so-called “New Deal” was “not a game-changer”.

The Heart of the South West (HotSW) local enterprise partnership has sent to Government a £121 million bid to fund a package of 63 “shovel ready” projects that will boost the local economy.

However, the £900 million, if shared equally among the country’s 38 LEPs, would mean Devon and Somerset together would get only about £24 million.

HotSW projects focus on skills for the future, research and development, coastal towns and the visitor economy, and town centre regeneration. They include:

  • A Future Skills Academy at the old Flybe Training Academy at Exeter Airport, to provide an enhanced range of advanced engineering, green jobs and business skills and training.
  • A Digital Innovation Centre.
  • A Plymouth University enterprise zone health campus.
  • The UK’s first National Marine Park centred on Plymouth Sound.
  • A ‘Grow Out’ building at Exeter Science Park.
  • Work hubs proposed across the region and a high tech centre at South Devon College in Torbay.

If all 63 were funded, that would unlock at least another £171 million of investment and create more than 3,000 jobs.

Karl Tucker, chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, said: “Our £121 million bid to Government will help the national campaign to build back better. We’ve selected our list based on how much these projects can deliver in economic, social and environmental benefits in the short and long term.

“This is just the start of our Route Map to Recovery. We call on Government to back this and back the Great South West as part of its regional levelling up agenda.”

Mr Jones, however, questioned how much of the “levelling up” would be delivered south of the M4 corridor.

“We are not going to be impressed if all of this is just a repeat of previous highways schemes,” he said.

“We’re looking for projects that will have an instant impact on the economy.”

He said the value of high-speed broadband during the lockdown had shown that there was more to connectivity than roads.

Kim Conchie, chief executive of Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, gave a “cautious welcome”.

He said: “From a Cornwall point of view we would like to know exactly how much and on what projects it will be spent.

“We will be scrutinising it very carefully to make sure it is not packaging up previously announced and agreed infrastructure projects in a ‘new deal’ package.

“For example, the £100 million that has been promised to the Treliske hospital extension, the A30 extension, the St Austell link road, the stadium for Cornwall and the town deals, we hope will be in separate pots as they have already been approved. We would also like to see a complete rethink of the Cornwall bus network.

“The train now runs every half an hour from Plymouth to Penzance and back as a shuttle, and what we would like to see is a fleet of buses linking up with the stations on the main line to enable people to get to and from work and interviews, really creating social mobility around the spine of the train network.”

Luke Pollard, Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said: “With more people in Plymouth losing their jobs every single day we need a proper plan for protecting and creating jobs.

“I fear Plymouth is facing an unemployment crisis we have not seen since the 1980s. That is why I want next week’s Budget to focus on three things: jobs, jobs, jobs.

“The South West does not get our fair share of funding and a few flagship projects may attract headlines but do not make up for a decade of cuts and unfairness.

“I want to see a long-term plan for investing in our region’s infrastructure from road and rail to homes and hospitals and meaningful investment to deliver it.

“This Government is better at headlines than delivery and our country cannot afford more dither and delay and certainly not more cuts.”

Mr Johnson’s speech, at a technical college in Dudley in the West Midlands, was watched by an audience of just 24 people.

The Budget in March had already planned for £640 billion of spending over five years. Mr Johnson set out plans to speed up £5 billion of that including:

  • £1.5 billion this year for hospital maintenance.
  • £100 million on 29 road projects.
  • More than £1 billion over 10 years for a schools rebuilding programme.
  • £560 million for repairs to schools and £200 million for FE colleges.
  • £142 million for digital upgrades and maintenance for courts.
  • £83 million for prisons and youth offender facilities and £60 million for temporary prison places.
  • £900 million for a range of local growth projects in England.
  • £96 million of investment in town centres and high streets.
  • £10 million will go to research and development to scale up manufacturing of the latest technology in batteries, motors, electronics and fuel cells and support “gigafactories” to mass produce components.
  • Some 75,000 acres of trees will be planted every year by 2025.
  • A £40 million green recovery challenge fund will help halt biodiversity loss and tackle climate change through local conservation projects, creating up to 5,000 jobs.
  • A £100 million fund will research technology to capture CO2 emissions.
  • From September, new regulations will make it easier for buildings in town centres to change use without planning permission and create new homes from the regeneration of vacant and redundant shops and other buildings.
  • A fast-track approval process will make it easier for property owners to extend upwards.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that jobs which existed at the start of the pandemic may be lost for ever but said the new guarantee would ensure placements or apprenticeships for young people.

He promised his response would not be a return to the austerity that followed the financial crisis of 2008.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will set out a plan to support the economy through the first phase of the recovery next week, Mr Johnson said.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, called it “a Poundland deal” rather than a Rooseveltian New Deal. He called for support for cleaner, better transport, warmer homes and renewable energy.

And Friends of the Earth said the Prime Minister must put the environment at the heart of his economic recovery plans.

East Devon beach huts and chalets set to re-open

East Devon District Council’s beach huts and chalets will re-open from Saturday (July 4), in line with the government’s relaxation of lockdown rules.

Chris Carson www.midweekherald.co.uk

The council has 417 beach huts in Sidmouth, Seaton, Beer, Budleigh and Exmouth.

It has 20 chalets in Exmouth, which, along with the 68 beach huts can be used all-year-round.

The season for the other beach huts runs from late March to the end of October.

The beach huts have remained closed since lockdown in March.

Now they are being re-opened, the council will put up social distancing signage and ground stencils at each site.

Tenants will be given brief guidance on steps they should take at their sites, and will be required to adhere to detailed government guidance on social distancing and hygiene, to ensure that the huts and chalets are used safely and responsibly.

For beach hut tenants who are shielding or are unable to use their hut this season the council has agreed that no charge for their hut will be made this year, they will be able to take up their normal rental next year if they wish.

Access for erecting huts or collecting keys is under way and EDDC is requiring that all huts are up within a strict three week period, to minimise any impact on the summer holidays.

Tenants will be responsible for ensuring the safety of hut erections, adhering to covid-19 secure guidance and safe methods of operation or ensuring their contractors do so.

To compensate for the lost time due to the Lockdown the council is holding the beach hut charge rate from last year and reducing it pro-rata for the remaining season.

Councillor Paul Hayward, deputy leader of EDDC said: “I am delighted that these much-loved and well-used public amenities are now able to be re-opened, subject to the necessary social distancing and signage.

“I wholeheartedly believe that council has struck the right balance between public safety and public amenity in this decision and look forward to seeing our beaches and tourist spots bustling with laughter and fun again.

“Summer is an intrinsic part of Devon life and the ability to sit by the seaside is an oft overlooked pleasure.”