New planning rules will ‘silence local voices’ 

New planning laws for England will “silence local voices and kill off our high streets”, Labour said as it urged Tory MPs to vote them down.

Labour says the new rules would allow developers to convert shops into homes without planning permission.

It is the first stage of sweeping changes to the planning system aimed at speeding up development.

The government insisted its plans would make the system “more democratic” while building the “homes communities need”.

Labour has secured a vote in the Commons on Wednesday in a bid to overturn the first stage of the reforms, made by ministers before the summer recess.

Under these changes, empty high street shops could be converted into housing and up to two storeys added to blocks of flats without the need for planning permission.

Labour’s shadow housing minister Mike Amesbury said: “This is the first stage of an atrocious new developers’ charter, which will wrench power away from local people and into the hands of the developers that bankroll the Tories.

“Passing this legislation will kill off our high streets, hobble leaseholders and create a new generation of slum housing – and there will be nothing local people can do to stop it.”


Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley has described the new rules as “crackers”, adding: “It allows landlords to shove a two storey block on top of a building with total disregard for how inappropriate it might be in the local neighbourhood.”

The government wants to make it quicker and easier to build new homes in what it has described as the biggest shake-up of England’s planning system in a generation.

But there is widespread concern among many Conservative MPs about the government’s proposed planning reforms.

Speaking last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the changes would help developers complete projects in a “more timely way” and help young people onto the housing ladder.

Under the government’s wider proposals, which have gone out to consultation, land will be divided into three categories – “growth”, “renewal” or “protected”.

If land is designated for “renewal” councils would have to look favourably on new developments. In “growth” areas, new homes, hospitals and schools will be allowed automatically.

Areas of outstanding natural beauty and the green belt will come under the “protected” category and “beautiful buildings” will be fast-tracked through the system.

A spokesperson for the Housing, Communities and Local Government Department described Labour’s claims as “misguided”.

“We’re overhauling the country’s outdated planning system to deliver the high-quality, sustainable homes communities need,” the spokesperson said.

“Community involvement and control is at the centre of our proposals so local people will be consulted from the very beginning when local plans are developed – making the system more democratic.

“They will also help our economy recover from the pandemic by supporting our high streets to adapt and encouraging the regeneration of disused buildings.”


“Jumping Jupp Flash” keeps Bojo at “safe distance” during Exeter “unencumbered” photo opportunity

“The hastily organised visit, to which local media including Radio Exe were excluded, allowed the PM to take advantage of photo opportunities unencumbered by the nuisance of Devon journalists being allowed to question him on his Devon visit.” 

“Build, build, build” was not likely to be a message well received here just a few days before the “Changes to the current planning system” consultation  on the mutant algorithm ends. – Owl

PM at Exeter College  

Announces free courses for adults without A levels

Prime minister Boris Johnson took to a podium at Exeter College on Tuesday for a major government policy announcement.

The hastily organised visit, to which local media including Radio Exe were excluded, allowed the PM to take advantage of photo opportunities unencumbered by the nuisance of Devon journalists being allowed to question him on his Devon visit. He was at the college’s vocational training centre to announce plans to allow adults without A-Levels or equivalent qualifications to get a free, fully-funded courses from next April, paid for  through the National Skills Fund. A full list of available courses will be set out shortly.

The prime minister said higher education loans will also be made more flexible, allowing people to space out their study across their lifetimes, take more high-quality vocational courses in further education colleges and universities, and to support people to retrain for jobs of the future. The reforms will be backed by continued investment in college buildings and facilities – including over £1.5 billion in capital funding. More details will be set out in a further education white paper later this year.

Along with students and staff at the college, East Devon Tory MP Simon Jupp kept the prime minister at a safe distance. Mr Johnson had a go at planing wood and cementing bricks. His hero Sir Winston Churchill, about whom Mr Johnson has written a witty biography, used to revel in manual work such as bricklaying. Mr Johnson’s other political friend, President Trump, is also known to like building walls.


‘We’re gonna build a wall’: East Devon MP Simon Jupp (pictured right, but  not included in this post) at Exeter College


Brexit: warnings for care sector in pandemic as freedom of movement ends

Wages should rise to make jobs more attractive to UK staff, say government advisers

Jamie Grierson 

The end of freedom of movement after Brexit will increase pressure on the social care sector in the midst of a pandemic unless ministers make jobs more attractive to UK workers by increasing salaries, government advisers have said.

The migration advisory committee (Mac) warned of the “stark consequences” of low wages in social care with most frontline roles ineligible for the post-Brexit skilled worker immigration route or on the official list for job shortages in the UK.

Senior care workers and nursing assistants are among healthcare roles that can be added to the shortage occupation list to relieve pressure when freedom of movements ends on 1 January, the committee said in a report.

But many of the roles in social care do not qualify and the advisers said “it therefore remains crucial that the government implements a more sustainable and generous funding model”.

“The risks of this not happening in a timely manner are stark,” the report reads. “If that does not occur, or occurs with substantial delay, we would expect the end of freedom of movement to increase the pressure on the social care sector, something that would be particularly difficult to understand at a time when so many care occupations are central to the Covid-19 pandemic frontline response.”

The vulnerable state of the UK care sector was brought into stark focus by thecoronavirus pandemic with 18,000 care home residents dying from confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in UK care facilities during the first wave of the outbreak.

Senior care workers constitute only about 10% of the UK social care workforce, said the chair of Mac, Prof Brian Bell, and that adding the role to the shortage occupation list would have only a small impact on the more than 100,000 vacancies in the UK.

The committee’s call for evidence heard that employers in the sector felt strongly that the worth of their staff was not recognised.

Bell said: “There needs to be a better funding model for social care that makes work in that sector better rewarded, and that’s the right way not only to attract resident workers and not to have to rely on migrants but also to deal with the turnover of the staff which is very high.

“But part of that is because workers don’t feel they’re valued appropriately. We think the way you value workers is you pay them better.”

Bell said he hoped the Department of Health and Social Care would soon come forward with proposals for improving the salaries for care workers.

He added that care workers should be paid “significantly higher” than £10 an hour. The national living wage for workers aged 25 or over is £8.72.

A median full-time salary for a care worker is £19,100, the Mac report said, which is below the minimum shortage occupation list salary threshold of £20,480.

The committee said there was potential for a rise in labour supply to the care sector as a result of job losses elsewhere due to the impact of Covid-19, but cautioned that “this cannot be predicted with any certainty”.

Mac said other occupations that should be added to the UK-wide list include butchers, bricklayers and welders, “where there is clear evidence of staff and skills shortages which could be filled by overseas workers”.

A government spokesperson said: “The Migration Advisory Committee has again been very clear that immigration is not the solution to addressing staffing levels in the social care sector.

“We’re helping the sector in a number of ways, including £1.5bn more funding for adults and children’s social care in 2020-21 and a national recruitment scheme.”


Sasha Swire’s ‘Jewish Lobby’ trope is so very revealing

But not as she intends, says Jan Shure

Jan Shure 

So, Sasha Swire, wife of top Tory Sir Hugo Swire, thinks there’s a “Jewish Lobby” and refers disparagingly to its members in her book, Diary of an MP’s Wife. She also refers – approvingly it seems – to a putative investigation into “the Jewish Lobby infiltrating parliament” before noting that “they” (members of the “Jewish Lobby”) will be “cringing with embarrassment.”

What is especially interesting here is that, nestling amid the farrago of trifling political gossip and social tittle-tattle, is a quite open, clear reference to a sinister-sounding “Jewish Lobby” that was not picked up by any of the numerous publications which ran pieces on the book. 

It is close to a month since publication yet despite an avalanche of words on this “wickedly funny” book (as one reviewer called it), not a single newspaper or magazine has noticed Lady Swire’s antisemitic-sounding comments. Or if they noticed, they didn’t think it worth commenting on. That is ironic if you think about it as, according to antisemitic tropes, we Jews “control the media.” 

You’d think we might have ensured at least a little exposure for those antisemitic allusions…But nada, zilch. 

I only learned about them from a pre-Yom Kippur Tweet by JC editor Stephen Pollard, who seems to have been the first journalist to have mentioned them. 

Nor has any review or feature mentioned the book’s pejorative description of Israel’s former ambassador to the UK as “the appalling Mark Regev.” In Swire’s milieu, of course, “appalling” is an all-purpose term of abuse indicating anything from a lack of dexterity with fish-forks to convicted “kiddie-fiddler.” But her use of it at a time of significant sensitivity over the perception of Israel may reveal a deep-seated, um, lack of empathy for Jews.

But then there’s nothing new about casual antisemitism among aristos and the upper middle classes. 

Obviously, I find her assertion about a “Jewish Lobby” chilling, possibly implying acceptance of certain antisemitic tropes. (Again, this is mildly ironic as, according to Wikipedia, Swire’s mother Miloska Vlahović, is of “Slovenian-Jewish” descent). But more than that, I find the whole notion of a “Jewish Lobby” completely hilarious; the idea that the UK Jewish community is sufficiently cohesive (or sufficiently bold or sufficiently rich) to establish a “Jewish Lobby” makes me, literally, laugh out loud. It is almost as funny as the assertion by Corbyn-supporters that those of us calling out Labour over Israel-hate were being “paid by the Israeli Government.”

Lady Swire demonstrates a lamentable ignorance of UK Jewry by suggesting that there is a “Jewish Lobby.” Jewish organisations, such as the Board of Deputies, the United Synagogue and the Jewish Leadership Council are involved in a certain amount of lobbying. And, of course, there’s an Israeli Ambassador who lobbies for Israel, though it’s called “Diplomacy” rather than lobbying at that level.
And then there are single-issue groups such as BICOM (British Israel Communications and Research Centre), and the newly-minted Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), both of which are involved in education and in combating hate. But neither  constitute a “Jewish Lobby.” 

The JC is influential in the community, as we saw when it hit choppy financial waters earlier this year, but a newspaper – even one as assiduous on Jewish issues as this – does not constitute a “Jewish Lobby.”  

Yes, the Jewish community punches well above its weight in media, arts, entertainment, etc, so it often appears there are more of us and that we wield more influence – especially when some high-profile Jew takes to Twitter or TV to declares his or her outrage over something antisemitic.
But that is about it. 

Finally, Lady Swire, if there truly was a “Jewish Lobby,” do you really think that Jeremy Corbyn would have become Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition? Surely, the “Jewish Lobby.” would have ensured Labour’s leader was someone more acceptable; someone who wouldn’t make our community shudder collectively in fear… 


Some of the Questions Bojo ducked in Exeter

Why is he “Frit”? (one of Maggie T’s favourite derogatory descriptions.) – Owl

Questions we wanted to ask Boris during his Exeter visit – DevonLive

Paul Greaves 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in Exeter today [Tuesday] to deliver an important speech about the Government’s plans to boost training and education.

He stopped off at Exeter College where he was photographed laying a brick in a wall and looking busy during a construction class.

He even had time to ‘misspeak’ when incorrectly explaining the ‘Rule of Six’ to a question about the North East local lockdown.

DevonLive brought you the latest updates as they happened in our live blog and photo gallery.

What might not have been apparent to the watching and reading public was the fact that DevonLive was not one of the news organisations invited to attend.

In fact, the guest list was restricted to a select few, primarily London-based, outlets chosen by Number 10.

You can make up your own minds whether closing the doors to local media – not just DevonLive – at a time when trust is in Government is more important than ever is the appropriate way to conduct such an important visit.

There is no shortage of important issues in a city and region where students are in a ‘targeted’ lockdown, children are isolating and businesses are crying out for help.

Here is a selection of questions we would have asked on your behalf if we had been given the chance.

Prime Minister:

  • Given the much lower prevalence of Covid-19 in Devon compared to other parts of the country, can you explain why the same rules need to apply?
  • If the number of cases in Devon remains low will some of the restrictions be lifted soon? And if not, why not?
  • What extra support will you be offering businesses that will be adversely affected by the new rules and restrictions?
  • Given that students have now arrived at University of Exeter, can you assure people that they will be able to return home for Christmas, or whenever they wish? And that they won’t spend months confined to their halls of residences?
  • Explain why it is safe for me and five friends to sit down in a pub with lots of people we don’t know and watch a game of football, but we can’t stand in an outdoor stadium and watch the match?
  • When is he going to review the 10pm curfew for hospitality businesses?
  • Should the Government convert the loans given to businesses into equity?
  • What extra help can the Government give to the South West businesses, as it is the worst hit region economically from the pandemic?
  • Should the Government be doing more to assist commercial landlords who are facing problems collecting rent from tenants?
  • Should the Government set up a special task force to look at the future of UK city centres as they now face becoming wastelands?
  • What help can the Government give to the estimated 3million UK businesses, including many in the SW, that have not been able to access support packages so far?
  • Should the Government be preparing a financial support package for football clubs outside the Premier League which face having no income until fans are allowed to attend matches?