Changing of the Guard in the AONB

Owl , obviously, has a particular interest in who represents the Council on the two AONB. Owl is, therefore, delighted that the old guard have been completely replaced:

In the Blackdown Hills AONB by Cllr Paul Hayward.

In the East Devon AONB  Cllrs Pook and Parr are replaced by Cllrs Geoff Pratt and Marianne Rixon.

Flash news: EDDC result on GESP – We’re Out

Debate on this item started around 40 minutes into the meeting with the recorded vote starting around 1hr 8 mins.

Vote carried 33 for 22 against one formal abstention



It is worth noting that three Conservative Councillors sent in their apologies: Cllrs Allen, Hartnell and Twiss

Flash news: EDDC Announcement from the Chairman and Leader

The Chairman and Leader have just announced their intention to increase probity in planning with a follow up meeting shortly to flesh out the details of a “cleaning of the slate” based on the Nolan principles. They were obviously deeply unhappy with the reputation of EDDC planning in the past few years.

They wished to ensure the error of judgement in not pursuing the infamous Graham Brown affair is never repeated; that there are no more undisclosed interests, that the public can see that “undue” influences do not play a part in planning decisions.

The watchwords appeared to be clarity and commitment.


These are very much Owl’s first thoughts whilst the debate on GESP is live



Honiton Town Council Eighth resignation this year!

Honiton Town Council loses longstanding member and former mayor

  Posted: 19.08.20 at 15:19 by Hannah Corfield

Honiton Town Council has lost yet another member, after the eighth resignation so far this year was announced today (Aug 19).

Caroline Kolek has taken the decision to stand down having served on the council for six years, two of which were as mayor.

She told Honiton Nub News: “It is with some sadness I resign from Honiton Town Council, however I want to achieve much more for our wonderful community.

“I believe I can only do this by working with Honiton Forward.

Our stand in the town centre last Saturday was extremely positive, with huge support for what we are aiming to achieve.

“It has been a pleasure to serve as a councillor for the last six years and the two years I spent as mayor was a real honour.

“For those two years my diary was packed attending numerous events, working with local groups and representing the town. Doing this alongside a full time teaching career was hard work – but such fun. I hope I served the Town well.

“My focus now lies working within the community.”

Honiton Town Council is reduced to just nine councillors, with one member unable to partake in council business due to health reasons.

Vacancies will remain unfilled until an election can be held next year, due to a significant number of Honiton residents writing to the Monitoring Officer at East Devon District Council – read more here.

Honiton Nub News contacted Mayor John Zarczynski, but he failed to comment.


MPs ‘advising’ big business undermines democracy. Second jobs should be banned 

Sajid Javid – the former chancellor, once a candidate to lead the Conservative Party, and still the member of parliament for Bromsgrove – has been hired as a global advisor to JP Morgan, one of the world’s largest banks. Second jobs of this kind for MPs corrupt our democracy, which is why they should be banned by law.

Zarah Sultana 

Javid is far from alone among senior Conservatives who have had second jobs. Shortly before she was appointed the home secretary last year, Priti Patel was being paid £1,000 an hour as an adviser to a firm that supplies services to the Ministry of Defence, while Jacob Rees-Mogg is in line for £800,000 in dividend payments from the investment fund he founded and which he continued to work for part-time when he became an MP in 2010 (he cut his operating links with the firm only when he joined the cabinet in 2019).

The issue goes beyond sitting MPs as well. The path from political office to well-paid external roles is well trodden. After he stepped down as prime minister, Tony Blair also took a lucrative role at JP Morgan . The former Conservative chancellor George Osborne took a highly paid role at BlackRock, the world’s largest investment firm, among many other jobs after leaving parliament in 2017.

And another former Tory chancellor, Philip Hammond, recently nominated for a peerage by Boris Johnson, is now a paid adviser to the finance minister of the Saudi government as it takes up the rotating G20 presidency.

Our political leaders should serve the people, not global banking giants or investment funds. Frankly, between casework, holding surgeries, supporting constituency events and attending parliament, I don’t know how they find the time. But the problem with these jobs goes much deeper than that.

Javid now has a personal financial interest in the success of a major global bank. This might not be such a problem if the interests of big banks happily coincided with our interests, but that’s not the case. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, banks including JP Morgan lobbied hard for banking regulation to be weakened. Quick profits were to be made, and “red tape” was getting in the way. They succeeded in persuading politicians to deregulate – and then the 2008 financial crisis hit.

Big banks had taken huge risks, and made billions of pounds in profits and bonuses; but when their luck ran out, they got bailed out. They never paid the price but we did, with a decade of cuts and stagnating wages from successive Conservative-led governments.

The truth is, second jobs are one part of a whole web of mechanisms that big businesses and the super-rich uses to influence MPs and government policy, which includes donations, dinners and the revolving door between the private sector and legislators. They send gifts and offer to take MPs on trips. As Dennis Skinner once joked, it’s always “Bahamas in the winter … they never go on a fact-finding mission to Greenland in the winter!”

This is all done to influence legislators and government policy, further aligning the interests of politicians and multinational corporations. The majority of the people, meanwhile, get a raw deal as a result.

To maximise their profits, big businesses want low taxes, low wages and low regulation. Most of us, by contrast, have an interest in decent public services – funded through taxes on the wealthiest – good and rising wages, and strong regulations to protect our rights.

But cosy relationships with the private sector have held sway for too long. It’s no coincidence that the Conservative party, which has cut corporation tax to one of the lowest rates in the world, receives donations from one-third of the UK’s richest people; nor is it a coincidence that it lets an estimated £90bn in tax be dodged every year, or that the UK had a record number of billionaires at the same time as a record number of food banks. These two records are connected: politicians have made decisions that benefit their funders, not the poorest.

It’s not easy to get parliament to change its ways. Many MPs have huge financial interests in having jobs alongside their parliamentary responsibilities. And the Conservative party is hardly going to bring in rules to stop the super-rich spending fortunes to influence elections and subvert democracy.

But to change Britain, and to build a society that works for all, we have to end the grip of big businesses and the super-rich on our politics. That change can come only from the grassroots up. As the coronavirus pandemic has exposed inequalities like never before, now is the time to build that power and to demand real change.

  • Zarah Sultana is the Labour MP for Coventry South


Environment Agency chief supports plan to weaken river pollution rules

The head of the Environment Agency has endorsed a proposal to weaken laws on cleanliness of polluted rivers, lakes and coastlines after Brexit.

Sandra Laville 

Campaigners say Sir James Bevan is trying to “rig the system” to cover up decades of failure by the agency.

Bevan flagged the idea of amending the EU’s water framework directive (WFD) to an audience of business leaders. England has consistently failed to bring its rivers up to the standard required under the directive, which puts waterways through four stringent tests designed to assess their health. Rivers have to be assessed on all four tests in order to be graded as “good” – known as the one-out-all-out rule.

Just 14% of English rivers have been assessed under the directive as good. The directive sees water quality as an area that can have the most significant impact on the environment and examines factors such as biology, physical character, depth, width, flow and pollution as part of the four tests.

But Bevan said in his speech that he wanted England to reform the directive to end the one-out-all-out rule and allow rivers to be judged on one criterion rather than all four. If that changed, the number of rivers judged in a good state would rise dramatically overnight.

Bevan acknowledged the directive was landmark, and sets high standards demanding deadlines for improving water quality in rivers, lakes, estuaries and groundwater. He said: “It has driven much of the work that the EA and others have done over the last 20 years to secure those improvements.”

Nevertheless, it is “a candidate for thoughtful reform” in a post-Brexit UK, he said.

Bevan said the one-out-all-out rule “can underplay where rivers are in a good state, or where improvements have been made, to those that aren’t. Right now only 14% of rivers in England qualify for good status under the WFD, because most of them fail on one or other of the criteria. But many of those rivers are actually in a much better state than that, because most of them now meet most of the criteria: across England, 79% of the individual WFD indicators are at good status.”

The one-out-all-out rule could also force regulators to focus time and resources on indicators that might not make much difference to actual water quality, Bevan said, and some rivers in urban settings would never achieve all criteria because they could not be restored to their natural state.

Campaigners reacted angrily to the signal that the leader of England’s main environmental watchdog was supporting what they said was a watering down of the key measure to clean up rivers and coastal waters.

Hugo Tagholm, of Surfers Against Sewage, who used the framework directive to help drive a cleanup of UK coastal waters, said: “Engineering the testing programme to give the illusion that our rivers are in a healthier state than they currently are won’t help us accelerate the much needed restoration of our aquatic and coastal environments.

“Sewage, farming effluent and urban runoff plague and destroy riverine ecosystems nationwide and we need radical thinking and interventions to practically restore and rewild this blue ecosystem for wildlife and for people.”

The Guardian revealed last month that water companies released 1.5m hours of raw sewage via storm outflows into rivers in 2019, in 204,000 discharges all of which are permitted by Bevan’s agency. Critics say the agency is giving water companies a licence to pollute, and exploiting the rules that say sewage can only be released in exceptional circumstances, like extreme rainfall.

Feargal Sharkey, the former lead singer of the Undertones, who now campaigns to save rivers from overabstraction and pollution, condemned any suggestion of a weakening of the protections currently in place. He said: “The whole idea is a charade, nothing more than the worst kind of clumsy pretence aimed at trying to cover up decades worth of the EA’s own failure and incompetence.”

The Environment Agency declined to comment specifically, but pointed to the text of Bevan’s speech.

  • This article was amended on 19 August 2020. Sir James Bevan’s comments applied only to England, not to the UK as referred to in a previous version. The article also used “criteria” when “criterion” was meant.


Johnson vowed to strengthen parliament. Yet he and Cummings are silencing it 

Martin Kettle 

Why are the members of the UK parliament not holding the government’s feet to the fire amid these multiple crises? The case for them doing so is overwhelming. In the middle of a global pandemic, with coronavirus cases rising again at home, the government has abolished England’s main public health body. The examination and university entrance systems are in real-time chaos. The economy has fallen into recession. Jobs are collapsing by the thousand daily. Oh, and the Brexit talks have stalled.

Meanwhile, a prime minister who can’t cook and who likes to take luxury foreign holidays at someone else’s expense is supposedly out in the rain on a midge-ridden Scottish camping holiday with his partner and a three-month-old baby. Believe that if you wish. What really matters is that Boris Johnson is simply absent without leave.

So where are Britain’s MPs when they are needed? The conventional explanation is that this is simply the usual long summer recess. Parliament almost never sits between late July and early September. MPs have met only twice in August in the last half century – the last time over Syria in 2013. They can be recalled only if ministers want it. Ministers rarely do. End of story.

Except this is not the end. Instead the extremely deliberate marginalisation of parliament under Johnson and Dominic Cummings is emerging into plain sight. The Covid-19 pandemic conceals this, because it is so obviously an exceptional time and because the socially distanced parliament is stuck in second gear. But do not be deceived. We are witnessing the attempted overturning of an established system of representative democracy that can almost be described as a quiet coup.

A year ago next week, three members of Johnson’s then minority government went to Balmoral and secured the Queen’s authorisation to prorogue parliament. That triggered a constitutional crisis over Johnson’s attempts to sideline the hung parliament over Brexit. The crisis was eventually ended by the wrongheaded decision of opposition MPs to support an early election, which Johnson won with a working majority of 87.

Yet any idea that last year’s general election result might signal a return to government through parliament has been confounded by events. As it has turned out, the sidelining of parliament in the prorogation crisis has continued during the Covid pandemic. Sidelining was not just the temporary expedient brought about by the Brexit crisis and the absence of a majority. It is the continuing policy. Johnson has taken his 2019 election victory and proceeded to redefine it not as a parliamentary mandate but as a presidential one.

Conventions are there to be broken. One of these, which had increased before Johnson’s arrival to No 10, is the readiness of ministers – in particular the prime minister – to submit themselves and their policies to regular scrutiny and challenge by elected MPs. The sovereignty of parliament in the British system is, after all, far more than a convention. It is the central pillar of the unwritten constitution. Even with a majority of the kind that Johnson now enjoys, parliament remains in both law and theory the wellspring from which government derives its consent, informal as well as formal.

Johnson is ignoring this – partly because he is not, by deed or instinct, a parliamentarian. He makes far fewer prime ministerial interventions there than his recent predecessors. He avoided prime minister’s questions for months, and is now clearly uncomfortable facing Keir Starmer. He had to be forced to do a session with the liaison committee of Commons select committee chairs; it went badly and he will not do another in a hurry. He does not command parliament from the dispatch box in the way other premiers with large majorities, such as Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair, could do. He has no instinct in his body to recall MPs over anything at all.

Cummings, meanwhile, views parliament with the same contempt he reserves for all government institutions. Towards MPs, as to civil servants, he is malignant disdain incarnate. The two of them are never happier than when parliament is absent and they can get on with governing in the preferred, quasi-presidential mode. Johnson’s platform of choice during lockdown was the press conference rather than the Commons chamber. He wasn’t very good at that either, which is why he is now looking for a press conference spokesperson, a move Thatcher’s press chief, Bernard Ingham, has correctly condemned as a “constitutional outrage”.

Which brings us back to the here and now. MPs of all parties should be hopping mad that their voices are going unheard at a time when the entire structure of public health policy implementation in England is being scrapped by central government without the slightest consultation, and the futures of tens of thousands of school-leavers thrown into hazard by avoidable ministerial blundering. It ought to be possible for the Speaker to recall parliament, not just ministers. Though he lacks the powers, Speaker Hoyle should be making his indignation known. Westminster should have taken a leaf from the Scottish parliament’s book and ensured that the Commons could meet once a week during recess if the Speaker chose.

Scotland’s better accountability is a reminder of the chief losers in this. Johnson is in Downing Street because he persuaded a majority of the people of England that they had been rendered too powerless by the European Union. The diminished British parliament was said to embody this loss. English votes took Britain out of Europe in the name of restoring parliament’s sovereignty. Yet, as Johnson and Cummings continue with their centralising and accountability-defying revolution in government, they are doing so at the expense of that parliament and above all of the people of England, whose only democratic voice it is.

  • Martin Kettle is a Guardian columnist.


A Story for our Times!

‘Dead end’ £50m motorway junction unused because developers didn’t add link road

Charlotte Lam

A new £50m motorway junction in remains unusued eight months after it was ‘finished’ – because it leads to a dead end.

The M49 junction at Avonmouth, Bristol, was mostly completed last year, but developers have not built a local road to access the junction and link it to a distribution park, reports Bristol Live.

The two-bridge junction has been dubbed “the most expensive dead end” after works first began on the multi-million-pound project in 2017.

The distribution park, which the M49 motorway is supposed to connect to, hosts some of the country’s major companies, including Amazon and Tesco. It also has a distribution centre for Royal Mail.

The new M49 junction cannot be used yet (Image: Highways England)

The South Gloucestershire Council told Bristol Live that developer Delta Properties was responsible for building the connecting road to the junction.

“We have been working to influence and help facilitate construction of the link road and have been in contact with both the landowner and major employers in the area, seeking to ensure that the link is constructed in a timely manner,” a council spokesperson said.

Highways England said it has been working with the council to “progress discussions” with the developer.

The route doesn’t actually reach its business park destination

Its South-West Programme Leader, Colin Bird, said Highways England completed main construction on time to “allow local developers to connect the junction”.

Former distribution park worker, James Long, told the BBC the unbuilt road was a disgrace, forcing “thousands” of lorries to find an alternative route.

Once the linking road is built and the phase is complete, the junction will connect Avonmouth and the Severnside Enterprise Area from the motorway network.

The Mirror has contacted Delta Properties for comment.