Seaton community group Re:store Axe Valley launches scheme to provide school meals for children in holidays

Press release from Cllr: Marin Shaw

From various posts on

I’ve asked the Leader of Devon County Council, Cllr John Hart, to provide school meals for children in need of them during the half-term holiday. 

Cabinet Minister Brandon Lewis said yesterday that the Government had given councils £63m to support families, but Cllr Hart tells me that Devon has been given the smallest amount of new Covid funding of any County Council and some Devon districts including East Devon have been given only the minimum amount. 

‘We were expecting a lot more money’, he says. ‘Our finances are already under pressure for the rest of this year with even more pressure for next year. Therefore with demands on funds I do not think it would be right to consider funding this scheme.’

I’ve replied urging him to reconsider. The cost of providing this support at half term and Christmas would not be huge, in the big scheme of things, but there are children in every area of Devon who really need this support.

Since the Government and the County Council are not providing free school meals for Devon children who need them this half-term, Seaton community group Re:store Axe Valley has set up a scheme to provide them, with the aim of operating at Christmas too. A crowdfunding page has been set up, which is on course to raise £1,000 and I am urging every resident who can afford it to donate.

I have given the scheme £1,500 from my County Councillor’s Locality Budget, as I can think of few things more important than ensuring that all children are properly fed during the current crisis.

Martin Shaw

Independent East Devon Alliance County Councillor for Seaton & Colyton

Is this why the Devon CCG “knocked on Owl’s door” in April?

On the 30th April Owl received a series of e-mails from a spokesperson for the Devon CCG demanding that a change be made to the headline in an earlier post concerning reports of NHS hospital running short of PPE: 

“The Sunday Times headline which you have copy-and-pasted [on Sunday 26 April] is incorrect in that it states hospitals have ‘no gowns’. This is not true. Unless you can evidence your headline, which is not supported by the copy-and-pasted story, please amend it. You may or may not have noticed that later editions of the Sunday Times used a re-written story and headline.”

However, it was obviously a close run thing, as Owl found the post of the precautionary advertisement [20 April] for: boiler suits, lab coats, painting suits, chemical suits and disposable (or washable) overall with full length sleeves, on the Torquay Chamber of Commerce website, quoting the Devon CCG contact.

This level of surveillance and reaction intrigued Owl at the time.

Perhaps the post Owl made yesterday entitled Revealed: How elderley paid price of protecting NHS from Covid-19, also from the Sunday Times, gives a possible explanation:

The NHS withdrew into itself as the waves of cases hit the hospitals. It suspended the publication of critical care capacity figures, which meant nobody outside the corridors of power would be able to tell whether hospitals were being overrun, and issued a general ban on information to the media without sign off from central command.

Pressure was also exerted on NHS staff to prevent public disclosure of problems on the wards. Some trusts were alleged to have trawled staff social media accounts and given dressings-down to medics who mentioned PPE shortages or staff deaths. One surgeon working at a hospital in west London said: “There was an active drive by certain trusts to tell doctors to shut up about it because they didn’t want the bad publicity.”

Westcountry MP’s face backlash over free school meals

From today’s Western Morning News:

Conservative MPs in the Westcountry have faced a backlash after voting not to extend free school meals over the half-term holiday.

A Labour motion, inspired by England footballer Marcus Rashford, to provide free school meals during the school holidays until Easter 2021 was voted down last week by 322 votes to 261. Anne Marie Morris, MP for Newton Abbot, was one of only five to defy her party and stood alone among Westcountry Tories supporting the motion.

Following the vote a number of pubs, cafes and restaurants have offered to help struggling families by donating free meals to children in need over half-term and pressure has been mounting on Boris Johnson to do a U-turn.

More than 2,000 paediatricians have signed a letter urging the Prime Minister to extend free meals, saying childhood hunger should “transcend politics”.

Now, a number of Westcountry Conservative MPs have been challenged over their stance.

A petition has been set up calling for North Devon MP Selaine Saxby to resign after comments made following the vote, which she argues were taken out of context. Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay, has been told by three cafes and pubs he is not welcome, and has justified voting against the Labour motion saying the issue needs to be tackled through the welfare system, with the Government already providing extra funding. And Plymouth MP Johnny Mercer has hit back after coming under fire on social media, but admitted the issue had been ‘poorly handled’ by Government.

Hospitality businesses showing they ‘stand with Rashford, not the 322’ include the Castle Beach Cafe where owner Fiona Crump is making free lunch bags during half term this week for any child who would normally get a free school lunch.

Other cafes who have agreed to supply free food to children who might otherwise miss out during the holidays include the Pavilion Street Kitchen and the Count House Cafe, both in Cornwall, and Swiss Cottage Care in Ilfracombe and the Gingerbread House cafe in Budleigh Salterton, Devon.

Marcus Rashford, who himself relied on free school meals while growing up, said he was “blown away” by the offers of support, and has been retweeting businesses offering free meals. “Selflessness, kindness, togetherness, this is the England I know,” the Manchester United footballer tweeted.

A number of councils in England have said they will offer free school meals for children.

Plymouth City Council has set up a support scheme for families of children entitled to free school meals during this October half-term. The scheme, for around 9,000 children, will see families receiving £11 – equivalent to £2.20 per day – into their nominated bank account.

Cornwall Council leader Cllr Julian German and Cllr Sally Hawken, portfolio holder for children, have applauded Cornwall’s businesses and community groups for rallying to offer free meals to those in need as part of the campaign to end child food poverty, including the Castle Beach Cafe, Ann’s Pasties in Helston and Rosie’s Kitchen in Bude.

Cornwall Council figures show that 13,000 children are currently accessing the free school meals scheme. Since 2018 Cornwall Council has a run a summer programme called ‘Filling the Holiday Gap’, which provides small grants to community groups and volunteer organisations to offer activities and food for children and young people in the greatest need.

Cllr Hawken said: “This year the Council will be providing a scheme to support all those receiving Free School Meals for the Christmas holidays.”

North Devon Tory MP Says She Hopes Businesses Who Feed Hungry Kids Won’t Seek Government Support

A Tory MP has said she “very much” hopes businesses offering to feed hungry children for free “will not be seeking any further government support”, as the row over free school meals continues. 

When do we rename the Tories the “Nasty Party” or is this just irony? – Owl

Sarah Turnnidge

In a now-deleted Facebook post Selaine Saxby, who represents North Devon, wrote: “I am delighted our local businesses have bounced back so much after lockdown they are able to give away food for free, and very much hope they will not be seeking any further government support.”

Saxby is one of more than 300 Tories who voted against extending free school meals to the UK’s poorest children through the half term and Christmas holidays on Wednesday. 

Another Tory MP in a show of utter contempt for her constituents @SelaineSaxby actually having a go at businesses going out of their way to feed hungry kids

Lower than low this

— Liam Thorp (@LiamThorpECHO) October 24, 2020

After facing intense criticism online for her comment Saxby insisted her words had been taken “out of context”, but did not explain the context they should have been read in. 

She added: “The portrayal of my recent comments on social media, out of context, does not accurately convey my views – I of course deeply regret any offence which may have been caused.”

Statement follows below:

— Selaine Saxby MP (@SelaineSaxby) October 24, 2020

Leaders in North Devon – where the hospitality industry has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic – have responded furiously to Saxby’s comments, with the North Devon Liberal Democrats’s spokesperson telling Devon Live: “I am stunned at what I have read from Saxby.

“Not only has she tried to justify the fact that she has voted in a way that could see children go hungry, but she’s also attacked the hospitality industry in North Devon who have taken one of the biggest beatings during this pandemic, but still step forward to support children.” 

The North Devon MP’s Facebook post began to circulate just ours after fellow Tory MP Ben Bradley, suggested free school meal vouchers for the children in his constituency “effectively” went to crack dens and brothels.

Bradley, who represents Mansfield, claimed on Friday evening that one of the kids in his constituency “lives in a crack den” while another “in a brothel” and that extending free school meals would not reach these children. 

When one Twitter user responded suggested a ”£20 cash direct to a crack den and brothel” could be “the way forward”, the MP said: “Thats what FSM vouchers in the summer effectively did.”

The conversation has since been deleted from Twitter, but not before it was screenshotted and met with huge backlash on social media. Like Saxby, Bradley has also claimed his comments were taken out of context. 

Saxby and Bradley are amongst 112 MPs who signed letter to Labour leader Keir Starmer claiming that Angela Rayner’s “scum” comment had provoked “widespread abuse” towards Tories. 

We’ve written to @Keir_Starmer after @AngelaRayner’s comment resulted in widespread abuse towards our MPs, staff and families.

Will Sir Keir take action against Labour MPs and party members who perpetrate abuse, and apologise for Rayner’s record of unparliamentary behaviour?

— Amanda Milling (@amandamilling) October 23, 2020

The letters calls for the opposition leader to “publicly apologise for Angela Rayner’s record of unparliamentary behaviour”, complaining that the deputy leader’s use of the word “scum” (for which she has since publicly apologised) had led to it trending on Twitter and sparking abusive phone calls. 

But critics of the government have accused the Tories of trying to shift the blame for public anger onto Labour, instead of addressing the widespread unpopularity of their vote against a motion to extend free school meals. 

Starves the nation’s kids.

Nation gets angry.

Blames Labour.

— Femi (@Femi_Sorry) October 24, 2020

If I understand this correctly your saying widespread outrage across the country has nothing to do with Conservative MP’s wanting to let kids go hungry during the holidays & everything to do with one Conservative MP having been called a name in Parliament

— Peter Stefanovic (@PeterStefanovi2) October 24, 2020

The reason Conservative MPs are on the receiving end of legitimate public anger is because people are reacting to how they voted & what they said, not because one MP used one word. This attempt to shift the blame is tawdry & desperate. You have no claim to the moral high ground.

— Alex von Tunzelmann (@alexvtunzelmann) October 24, 2020

Planning applications validated by EDDC week beginning 12 October

Don’t Do As I Do – Do As I Say!

From a correspondent:

Recently, there appears to have been a great deal of hypocrisy embroiled within some national and local circles, with displays of two-facedness, insincerity and deception exhibited by those that we would generally be looking to for reliable clear guidance, direction and advice.

In March this year a senior advisor and political strategist to Boris Johnson became involved in what is now termed ‘The Dominic Cummings Scandal’ by breaching the Government’s lockdown rules and travelling to Durham, when freedom of movement in the UK was restricted in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The press conference in the rose garden of 10 Downing Street set up to explain his conduct was ‘toe curling’ and this crisis saw a sharp fall in support for the Government and a decline in unity within the country to adhere to the strict lockdown regulations imposed.

The British epidemiologist Neil Ferguson OBE, who specialises in the spread of infectious diseases, resigned in May, after it emerged that a woman had been visiting his house in contravention of lockdown rules!

Catherine Calderwood, the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, also resigned in April after visiting her holiday house – but more recently, in September, Scottish MP Margaret Ferrier breached Coronavirus rules by travelling after developing Covid-19 symptoms but refuses to resign, excusing her behaviour by claiming ‘she wanted to represent her constituents’ (this could have been done virtually) and claiming Coronavirus made her ‘act out of character’!

Deviating from the Coronavirus theme is the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government – the Right Honourable MP for Newark, Robert Jenrick, who was involved in controversy when he overruled the Planning Inspectorate and approved a £1 billion luxury housing development for a Conservative party donor, which would have saved the donor’s company £50 million in tax! Even with calls for Jenrick’s resignation for his use of public office for political favours – he still appears regularly on the media explaining to us all how we should be behaving! 

Around 2018 and now much closer to home in East Devon, the residents of Clyst St Mary were made aware of the directives and assertions from the then Chief Executive of Aviva, Mark Wilson, who had written in The Telegraph in 2014 that there should be a halt on building on defenceless flood plains, voicing his personal mantra of ‘Let’s be crystal clear: no defences, no development.’ He acknowledged that flooding is one of the most traumatic events that both families and businesses could face.

Having suffered extensive flooding in the village from repeated severe storms, such strong, influential principles from the Aviva ex-CEO on flood defences were applauded at that time by local residents, in the hope that he had some authoritative ‘sway’ on the substantial development proposals by his company, Aviva, for residential, workplace and community areas at Winslade Park, Clyst St Mary that lay within flood zones!

Fast forward to 2020 and Burrington Estates have now acquired Winslade Park and submitted even greater development proposals for live, work and leisure uses and although some of the plans are supported, many of their proposals are contrary to national and local planning policies. This is somewhat surprising when the Burrington team advertise themselves as experienced property professionals with an amazing track record in building beautifully designed, high specification new homes and properties that harmonise with their location. Burrington Estates’ Chairman, Peter Andrew, has a wealth of industry experience and in–depth understanding, even being awarded an MBE in 2018 for services to construction. He was, in fact, one of the four practitioners who helped draft the National Planning Policy Framework in the past, so one would assume that he and his associates at Burringtons are aware of the protection given against inappropriate development by national and local planning policies?

By claiming to have higher standards than is actually the case in reality, results in a considerable lack of public trust and this was experienced first-hand when Burringtons significantly altered the Winslade Park development proposals from the Public Consultation to the submission of a planning application to EDDC – for example by substituting 14 houses with an incongruous three-storey 59 apartment block (which has now been amended to two/three storey 40-apartment blocks) in close proximity opposite high- graded historic buildings and overlooking existing residents’ properties! The indicative illustrations provided continue to resemble cell blocks or container shipping units and are completely ‘at odds’ with best design practices for development in a rural village community!

Burrington Estates now claim that the entire, vast masterplan will fail and not be financially viable without building the residential elements on green fields and incorporating incongruous three-storey apartment block structures -but why on earth would Burringtons purchase this complicated site, having had a full awareness of the planning history and environmental limitations, if they were not confident of making a profit? Indeed, JLL have consulted in the past for Aviva and now for Burringtons on Winslade Park and they have a wealth of knowledge on real estate and investment management which should have flagged-up the benefits and pitfalls of this site.

As an illustrative example – Would the average person purchase a property that they couldn’t afford, without building a block of apartments or houses in the garden, with the expectation of receiving planning permission for the garden development to enable them to achieve financially viability? Unquestionably No! 

Are Burringtons’ assertions and pronouncements on viability credible or are we again being hoodwinked by those who promote a ‘don’t do as I do – do as I say’ philosophy?

The ‘rules are there to be broken’ pathway, being trodden by some individuals for their own personal gain, has wide-reaching detrimental knock-on effects for so many others in our society.