Boris Johnson’s ‘mutant’ planning algorithm could scar England for ever

When Dominic Cummings stormed out of Downing Street earlier this month he left behind a time bomb more explosive than any pandemic recession or no-deal Brexit. Those pestilences will pass. If enacted, the Cummings-inspired white paper Planning for the Future will scar England’s face for ever.

Simon Jenkins www.theguardian.com

The paper promises to shift the appearance of England. It intends to throw open landscapes, especially across the south-east, to uncontrolled “build, build, build”. It will tip wealth yet further towards London and end any levelling-up of the north. It will abolish the ages-old distinction in British planning between built-up areas and the 70-80% of land that is still rural. It will leave poorer city centres to decline, result in villages doubling or trebling in size, and building dribbling from one town into the next. Fields and open spaces will disappear.

The white paper was slipped out with a minimum of publicity in August by Boris Johnson’s housing minister, Robert Jenrick. It was based on that latest Whitehall fad, an algorithm, prepared by various construction and development lobbyists and targeted at encouraging building where it was “most needed”, an outrageous euphemism for “most profitable”.

What has been dubbed the mutant algorithm has attracted the ire of the entire planning community and, more seriously for the government, of many Tory MPs who see their rural and semi-rural constituencies effectively being decontrolled. The unpublished algorithm – or is it a formula? – confuses housing need with demand reflected in price. Local planning authorities are told to zone some areas for “protection” – national parks, green belts and “outstanding” natural beauty areas – but elsewhere land is to be left free for building, with no need for specific planning permission. Planners expect that, among other results, this will put the overwhelming majority of farmland “into play”. One told me: “It puts every meadow under a death sentence.” No other modern country has decontrolled its land use to this degree.

As for the levelling-down of the north, the policy is little short of sensational. It reportedly requires housebuilding in Newcastle to fall by 66%, Manchester by 37% and the north-east generally by 28%. In the south-east outside London, development would rise by 57%, and in Kensington the algorithm reportedly posits a ludicrous 633%. Building round Cotswold villages is required almost to double.

The Local Government Association has professed itself baffled that Jenrick should so “seriously jeopardise levelling up”. The Royal Institute of British Architects predicts that the end of planning permissions will lead to “the next generation of slum housing”. The countryside charity CPRE could not see the point of cutting carbon emissions while directing housebuilding to new settlements reliant on cars, requiring “a massive loss of countryside”. The policy amounted to “build and be damned”. The planning lawyer and former supreme court judge Lord Carnwath has written to Jenrick protesting the document’s “levelling the foundations” of English planning, while “not beginning to make the case … for the disruption caused”.

The boundary between landscape conservation and nimbyism has always been hard to draw, but it is vividly illustrated in the catalogue of ministerial hypocrisy on planning. As prime minister, Johnson has told his own constituency it “needs” 446 new houses, while as MP he has objected to a scheme for 514. He now intends to remove his liberty to object. Meanwhile the home secretary, Priti Patel, has objected to 225 houses in her constituency, defence secretary Ben Wallace to 210 in his and the Cabinet Office’s Michael Gove to 44 in his.

One of Johnson’s many glib promises is to build 300,000 houses a year. This figure snatched from the air seems vaguely related to household formation, immigration and price, the latter two of which are now falling. The policy has nothing to say on vacancy rates, security of tenure, or the absurd VAT tax for new building but not for house conversion and downsizing. It has nothing to say on the million unused planning permissions or on the regular claims that London alone has brownfield land for another million people – planned homes waiting to be built. As for England’s 280,000 homeless people currently in urgent need of social housing, forget it. In other words, this is government modelling at its dumbest.

At the time of the 2012 Olympics, the English countryside ranked in polls as one of the things people most prized about England. Johnson and Jenrick do not care for this view. Those holding it are to be stripped of any control over the countryside, in deference to Whitehall and its Tory-donating developers.

Land-use decisions cannot be quantified. A good planner – a near defunct profession in England – is charged with enacting Alexander Pope’s maxim that we should “Consult the genius of the place in all”. Democracy awards this consultation to the community, not to wealth. How communities shape and develop their neighbourhoods is the most sensitive of political decisions. It is also one of the few remaining areas of local democratic discretion in England.

The reality is that Johnson’s targets and Jenrick’s models are meant to please the volume builders of rural executive estates. They do not care how land is curated, countryside protected and the north-south balance adjusted. They mock the idea that communities should “take back control” of their most precious resource, land. Fifty years ago, Britain had an admired global reputation for town and country planning. As in so many branches of our government, that reputation is collapsing.

• Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnist

Tier 2 will cause ‘irrevocable harm to Devon businesses’. Paul Arnott speaks truth to power.

Council leaders across Devon have said the placing of the region in the tough ‘high alert’ measures will cause irrevocable harm to local businesses.

But none has spoken out as strongly as EDDC Leader Cllr Paul Arnott about the impact of hospital cuts for the reasons he spells out so clearly:

“Non-Conservative councillors have been begging and pleading on this topic for years through the DCC Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee at DCC but the Tories consistently refused requests to go into battle to prevent the loss of East Devon’s community hospital beds.

“Now, our poor local businesses and employees – indeed our entire local economy – will pay the price for the failure of those Tories at Devon County who were not prepared to put the blue rosette to one side and tell truth to power.”

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

The councillors have said that the news will be ‘desperately disappointing’ and for many people in the drinks-only hospitality industry, they must be feeling near desperation at the prospect of what looks like a further lockdown for them.

And they have slammed the historic under-funding and reduction in hospital capacity that is one of the reasons why Devon has been placed in Tier 2, despite some of its districts having the lowest rates of anywhere in England.

Explaining why Devon has been placed in Tier 2, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said that the case rates are 121/100,000 overall, although there are higher rates in Plymouth, Torbay and Exeter. He added that the case rate in the over 60s is 85/100,000, though significantly higher in Exeter at 155.9/100,000), and there is pressure at the RD&E Hospital.

The Tier 2 measures mean you must not socialise with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place. You can socialise though in a pub beer garden, but pubs and bars must close, unless operating as restaurants and hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals.”

Cllr Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council said: “ I am really disappointing that South Hams will placed under Tier 2 restrictions on 2 December. In spite of low and decreasing infection numbers locally, pressure on local hospital facilities has been quoted as a reason.

“Local authorities from the South West have been lobbying to increase hospital capacity for years, but governments of all hues have never listened to us. There will be irrevocable harm to local businesses in the run up to Christmas as a result of our District being placed under Tier 2 restrictions and this concerns me greatly.”

Teignbridge Council Leader, Cllr Alan Connett said: “I’m hugely disappointed for Teignbridge, and even more saddened for the businesses that will be adversely affected by this decision. Whilst this news brings some hope for many of our businesses that they can open up again, our drinks-only hospitality industry must be feeling near desperation at the prospect of what looks like a further lockdown for them.

“We want to help these businesses as much as possible to diversify their offer, to enable them to work within the rules and reopen wherever possible, and also through our businesses grants and other support, so I’d encourage them to get in touch. We want to help and will where we can.

“We’re very unlucky that we’ve been placed in a higher tier than many expected, and it does feel like a slap in the face for everyone who has worked so hard to keep our infection rates low, keep our high streets and businesses Covid safe and stick to the rules.

“But what we need to focus on now is keeping our rates down, helping get our NHS through this critical period, and supporting our local communities to recover.

“It’s not going to be easy – we’re already seeing big increases in claims for universal credit, council tax relief and hardship funds, and our economy is being hit hard.

“By continuing to work together, we may be able to get into Tier 1, and we can support our businesses and traders by shopping locally wherever possible. Let’s keep Devon safe and strong.”

Cllr Neil Jory Leader of West Devon Borough Council said: “I know it will be desperately disappointing for many people that, as part of a wider Devon grouping – including Plymouth and Torbay – we have been placed in Tier 2. Everyone has been disciplined in keeping to the regulation resulting in falls to infection rates over recent days.

“I really hope that will continue and ask everyone to keep following the guidance so that, hopefully, we can keep driving the rates down so that we can look forward to next year with a sense of optimism and hope”.

Cllr David Worden, leader of North Devon Council added: “Although it wasn’t unexpected, we’re obviously disappointed to be placed in Tier 2, knowing what an effect it will have on our community. Our numbers are starting to come down but we are still above the average for Devon and we need each and every person in North Devon to strictly adhere to the guidelines, keep their distance, wash and sanitise hands regularly and not mix with other households so we can get back to Tier 1 at the earliest opportunity.”

Cllr Paul Arnott

Cllr Paul Arnott

Cllr Paul Arnott, leader of East Devon District Council added: “We are scheduling urgent meetings of senior councillors and officers to respond to this very bad news. The expectation of local people and businesses had been that we’d be out of lockdown on 2nd December – but now this. We will do all we can to respond as fully and positively as possible.

“It must be said that it is deeply distressing for Devon to be marooned in Tier 2. Despite campaigners – including me – warning the government for many years that to continually shrink our local hospital capacity was dangerous, we now find ourselves in Tier 2 mainly because of inadequate current and projected NHS capacity. The RDE is down a thousand staff, and more locals beds no longer exist.

“Non-Conservative councillors have been begging and pleading on this topic for years through the DCC Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee at DCC but the Tories consistently refused requests to go into battle to prevent the loss of East Devon’s community hospital beds.

“Now, our poor local businesses and employees – indeed our entire local economy – will pay the price for the failure of those Tories at Devon County who were not prepared to put the blue rosette to one side and tell truth to power.”

Cllr John Hart, leader of Devon County Council, said he was disappointed by the announcement and renew his appeal to people to abide by the guidelines to give the county the best chance of dropping into Tier 1 when the first review takes place in two weeks’ time.

He said: “Devon has done well so far in keeping case numbers relatively low and I would like to thank everyone for their actions during the latest lockdown, so I’m disappointed that we have been placed in Tier 2.

“It’s even more vital now that we all stick to the guidelines and maintain social distance, wash our hands regularly and wear masks where required so we can get cases down and get into Tier 1.

“And working with MPs and Team Devon partners I will be strongly lobbying the Government to provide tailored support for our hard-hit hospitality industry, which is losing out significantly during what’s usually their most lucrative period.

“I’m pleased local shops will be able to re-open in the run-up to Christmas and begin to help our economy recover, but in Devon, hospitality businesses are crucial and they need targeted support.

“In the meantime I would renew my appeal to people to stick to the rules to keep themselves and their families and neighbours safe and minimise the pressure on our local health services.

“I welcome the opening of the Nightingale Hospital in Exeter today but, as Boris Johnson has conceded, the South West still lacks hospital beds and this must be urgently addressed.”

Up to 70 Tories may refuse to back Boris Johnson’s Covid tiers, say MPs

Boris Johnson faces a potentially perilous battle to get England’s new coronavirus tiers plan through parliament after dozens of Conservative MPs protested at the curbs for their areas and demanded to see the evidence behind them.

Josh Halliday www.theguardian.com

Some MPs predicted that, without significant change between now and Tuesday, when the vote on the system to replace the current England-wide lockdown takes place, as many as 70 Conservatives could vote against the plan or abstain. This could mean relying on Labour for the vote – which takes place on the day the lockdown lapses under law – to pass.

Particular vehemence came from Tories who found their areas moved from tier 1 under the pre-lockdown system to tier 2 or, in the case of Kent, to the most rigorous restrictions of tier 3 starting at 00.01 on Wednesday 2 December.

Tier 3 rules force the closure of pubs and restaurants, which can offer takeaways only, and ban indoor social mixing between households or bubbles.

“We went into lockdown at tier 1 and came out at tier 3,” said Tom Tugendhat, the senior backbencher who represents Tonbridge and Malling in Kent. “This isn’t working for us.”

Jonathan Djanogly, MP for Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, who voted against the current lockdown, said he could oppose the government again.

“My constituency went into second lockdown, against my wishes, at tier 1 and, with great cost to the local economy, has come out of lockdown at tier 2 – am I missing something here? I will need to have this justified before voting for it.”

Former Foreign Office minister Harriett Baldwin said she had voted for the lockdown on the basis it would allow time to develop better strategies to live with Covid.

She said: “Over 23 million of us were living under tier 1 restrictions before the lockdown – that figure will be under 1 million in December. There is no logic whatsoever in having a month of lockdown only for people to have to live under an even more severe set of restrictions afterwards.”

While the government may need to rely on the opposition for the vote to pass, Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North, said north-east England MPs were told during a call with the government that it was “unlikely” they could move to tier 2 before the new year. He said: “I can’t help but think the government have no intention of changing things for our region.”

Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor who clashed with ministers over the pre-lockdown tier 3 ruling, said he wanted the city to be moved to tier 2 after a fortnight this month, adding that the lack of extra economic support for tier 3 areas was “completely wrong”.

Other Labour leaders were openly furious. Paul Foster, head of South Ribble council in Lancashire, whose area was placed in tier 3, noted jocular scenes in the Commons during the debate on the tiers between Jeremy Hunt and Johnson, as the former health secretary welcomed the PM back from two weeks of self-isolation.

“To all the business owners out there struggling to survive; to all the pub landlords; to all the restaurants and cinemas, this is no joke,” Foster said. “This announcement could prove fatal for some businesses and that is truly devastating for both they and our communities.”

For Conservative MPs, two issues seem to be key to the discontent: the tier allocation taking place by county rather than by smaller geographical areas, and a perception that the decisions were made without clear evidence.

Steve Baker, deputy chair of the new Covid Recovery Group, the primary home for Tories concerned about the scale of restrictions, said the “truly appalling” restrictions had to be fully justified.

“I am open to supporting measures where it can clearly be demonstrated that the government intervention will save more lives than it costs – as long as this data and analysis is published in full and in time ahead of any votes in parliament, so that MPs and the public have a chance to scrutinise it,” he said.

After Matt Hancock, the health secretary, announced the plans in the Commons, a series of backbench Tories stood up to complain about the decision-making process and the county-scale tier boundaries.

Others sought assurance on how areas could switch tiers. Julian Sturdy, the York Outer MP, called for the announced fortnightly reviews to take place weekly, which Hancock agreed could potentially happen.

Tories may have to raise taxes to help repair coronavirus-ravaged finances, economists warn

Boris Johnson is likely to have to break his manifesto pledge not to raise income tax, VAT or national insurance to help repair Britain’s coronavirus-ravaged finances, economists have said.

Philip Aldrick, Economics Editor | Steven Swinford, Deputy Political Editor www.thetimes.co.uk 

During the general election Mr Johnson promised to retain the triple lock on tax increases, severely limiting the government’s room for manoeuvre as it seeks to stabilise national debt. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said that the government would need to find £40 billion worth of savings or tax rises.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor yesterday declined to say that he stood by the triple lock on taxes, adding that he would not discuss future fiscal policy. By contrast,the prime minister’s official spokesman said that Mr Johnson stood by the manifesto pledge on the tax lock.

Carl Emmerson, deputy director of the IFS, said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if that was part of a package of tax-raising measures. I appreciate it would break a manifesto commitment but there are other manifesto commitments that are being broken too. Clearly Covid is a very big shock that wasn’t anticipated last year.”

Council taxes are likely to rise by an average of £70 per household after local government budgets were squeezed under “another bout of austerity” for some departments, the IFS added. It also raised questions about how to pay for the separate pensions triple lock.

Paul Johnson, the IFS director, said the £27 billion of tax rises implied by the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast understated the true challenge the government faced. Decisions not to top up NHS spending beyond next year, to scrap the temporary £6 billion increase in universal credit and to lower day-to-day public service spending by £10 billion a year look ambitious, the IFS said.

“Put these pressures together and . . . the chancellor would eventually need about £40 billion in today’s terms,” Mr Johnson said. “The chancellor will have to get debt at least to a level where it is not on an upward trajectory, and that will probably require some tax rises in the early middle years of this decade.”

Debt is forecast to rise as a share of GDP every year of the parliament, which is widely seen as unsustainable.

The IFS director added that the spending review was “pretty austere” because it lowered departmental spending from 2022 onwards by £10 billion compared with March projections, with the pain landing hardest on unprotected departments such as local government, transport and prisons.

Torsten Bell, director of the Resolution Foundation think tank, described the reduction in spending relative to previous plans, as “a way of the chancellor starting to change the path of the public spending tanker” to realign it with a smaller economy.

He said, however, that Britain’s coronavirus recovery could be better than expected as households spend their pent-up savings having a good time like in “the roaring Twenties”.

He also said that the prime minister could continue to claim that austerity was over because overall spending on day-to-day public services was “roughly back to pre-financial crisis levels”.

The IFS suggested that changes may be needed to the state pension. It is set to rise by 6 per cent above inflation by 2025, adding £6 billion to the cost to the exchequer, raising questions about the pledge to uprate it in line with the higher of inflation, average earnings or 2.5 per cent.

Households face a £1,200 cut in pay by 2025 relative to previous expectations, the Resolution Foundation said. Average pay is about £30,000.

Analysis of the OBR forecasts showed that household incomes will have grown by only 10 per cent in the 15 years since the 2008 financial crisis, compared with 40 per cent in the previous 15 years.

Mr Bell said: “The Covid crisis is causing immense damage to the public finances, and permanent damage to family finances too, with pay packets on track to be £1,200 a year lower than pre-pandemic expectations.

“The pandemic is just the latest of three ‘once in a lifetime’ economic shocks the UK experienced in a little over a decade, following the financial crisis and Brexit. The result is an unprecedented 15-year living standards squeeze.”

The Government’s reasoning for tier allocations in England

Devon: Tier 2

Reason: “Case rates are 121/100,000 overall, though there are higher rates in Plymouth, Torbay and Exeter. The case rate in the over-60s is 85/100,000 though significantly higher in Exeter (155.9/100,000). Positivity is 4.2 per cent. There is pressure at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.” [Owl emphasis]

Full list below

By Dominic Penna  www.telegraph.co.uk 

Every area of England has been allocated a tier under the Government’s new rules for post-lockdown living after December 2.

Just one per cent of the population will be in the ‘medium’ Tier 1, with 57 per cent of people in ‘high’ Tier 2 and the remaining 42 per cent in ‘very high’ Tier 3, the strictest level of the tiered system.

The restrictions vary greatly between the tiers, with those in the highest tranche facing strict limits on their freedoms. 

Below is a comprehensive list of each region in the UK and which tier it will enter from December 2, along with the Government’s justification for its decision.

North-West

Greater Manchester: Tier 3

Reason: “While there has been continued improvement in Greater Manchester, weekly case rates remain very high, especially among those aged over-60, at around 260 per 100,000 people.

“The pressure on the local NHS is decreasing in some areas but remains a concern; Manchester University hospital and Pennine Acute Trust remain under significant pressure.”

Lancashire, Blackpool, and Blackburn with Darwen: Tier 3

Reason: “While there have been improvements in some areas, case rates and the proportion of tests which are positive for Covid-19 remain high. Case rates in over-60s are very high (over 200 per 100,000) in six lower tier local authorities. There is still pressure on the NHS in this region.”

Liverpool City Region: Tier 2

Reason: “There is continued improvement across the Liverpool city region. Case rates, including for the over-60s, are decreasing rapidly with some notable improvements in Liverpool, Knowsley and Sefton. Cases have fallen by 69 per cent over six weeks.

“However, despite improvements, case rates in over-60s remain high at 150-plus per 100,000 people in all lower tier local authorities.”

Cheshire (including Warrington): Tier 2

Reason: “Case rates are continuing to decline across Warrington and Cheshire, with a 27.4 per cent fall to 209 people per 100,000, in line with the Liverpool City Region.

“However, case rates in those over-60 years old remain high (175/100,000) though falling. Positivity is 8.1 per cent. Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS foundation Trust has 150 inpatients with Covid-19.”

Cumbria: Tier 3

Reason: “The picture in Cumbria is broadly improving although case rates in Carlisle and South Lakeland are increasing – with increases likely due to a large school outbreak.

Case rates in over-60s are above 100 per 100,000 in Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness. These case rates are too high for allocation to Tier 1 but Cumbria’s trajectory does currently not warrant inclusion in Tier 3.”

North-East

Tees Valley Combined Authority: Tier 3

Reason: “While case rates are now decreasing in all lower tier local authorities, they remain very high at 390 people per 100,000 across the region, with positivity also very high at 13.3 per cent.

“The case rate in over-60s remains very high at 292 per 100,000. NHS admissions in the area have remained high in November.”

North East Combined Authority: Tier 3

Reason: “The region continues to see very high case rates, overall 318 people per 100,000, although this figure is either stable or falling in all parts of the region. Case rate in over-60s remains very high at 256 per 100,000.

“NHS admissions in the area have remained high in November.”

Yorkshire and the Humber

The Humber: Tier 3

Reason: “The picture in Humber is improving with case rates now falling in three of the four lower tier local authorities.

“However, case rates in all ages and in over-60s remain very high (431/100,000 and 344/100,000 respectively). Positivity is 12.6 per cent. There is ongoing pressure on the local NHS.”

West Yorkshire: Tier 3

Reason: “This area is improving with case rates falling in all five lower tier local authorities. However, case rates in all ages and rates in over-60s remain very high (389/100,000 and 312/100,000 respectively). Positivity is 13.9 per cent.”

South Yorkshire: Tier 3

Reason: “This area is improving with case rates falling in all four lower tier local authorities. However, case rates in all ages and rates in those over 60 remain very high (274/100,000 and 223/100,000 respectively).

“Positivity is 11.0 per cent. There is pressure on local NHS Trusts.”

York and North Yorkshire: Tier 2

Reason: “Overall case rates (including for those over 60) in this region are improving in seven of the eight local authorities and lower than other parts of Yorkshire and The Humber, but remain high overall (202/100,000 in all age groups and 145/100,000 for those aged over 60). Positivity is 8.5 per cent.

“Rates in Scarborough are significantly higher than the rest of the region (334/100,000 in all age groups and 247/100,000 in those aged over 60) but falling rapidly.”

East Midlands

Leicester and Leicestershire: Tier 3

Reason: “Improvements have been seen in overall case rates in all but one lower tier local authority, but remain very high at 355 per 100,000, including in over-60s at 250 per 100k. The pressure on the local NHS remains very high.”

Derby and Derbyshire: Tier 3

Reason: “There has been improvement in this area, but case rates remain very high at 275 per 100,000, and in those over 60 it is 220 per 100,000. The pressure on the local NHS remains high.”

Lincolnshire: Tier 3

Reason: “There has been an overall improvement, but case rates remain high throughout the county, at 307 per 100,000 and in the over-60s it is 281 per 100,000.

“NHS pressures in Lincolnshire remain high and show signs of increasing, particularly for the units treating the more serious cases.”

Nottingham and Nottinghamshire: Tier 3

Reason: “There has been an improvement, but case rates remain very high in the over-60s at 211 per 100,000. The overall case rate is 244 per 100,000 and positivity is 10 per cent. The proportion of hospital beds taken up by Covid-19 patients is high, but appears to be falling.”

Northamptonshire: Tier 2

Reason: “Although improvements in the overall case rates have been seen recently, there is a continued rise in rates of Covid-19 in the over-60s. [The] over-60s case rate is 154 per 100,000.

“There is some evidence that the local NHS is seeing the proportion of people with Covid-19 being admitted and subsequently occupying beds stabilising. However, Covid and non-Covid patients occupying beds in units treating more serious cases is high.”

Rutland: Tier 2

Reason: “This area is improving with a case rate of 125 per 100,000 and 118 per 100,000 for the over 60s, which while elevated is different from the surrounding areas. Positivity is 6.4 per cent.”

West Midlands

Birmingham and Black Country: Tier 3

Reason: “While case rates are improving – down 8.3 per cent – they remain very high (390/100,000). There is a similar trend for positivity. Pressure on the NHS remains high.”

Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent: Tier 3

Reason: “While the situation is improving with case rates down 13.4 per cent, case rates and test positivity are both very high across this area (391/100,000 and 11.1 per cent respectively).

“The pressure on the local NHS remains very high, including in units treating the more serious cases.”

Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull: Tier 3

Reason: “The case rate remains very high (though falling) across this area at 236/100,000. The case rate in over-60s remains very high at 182/100,000.

“There is a clear upward trend in case rates in over-60s in three of the seven local authority areas. Positivity is 9.0 per cent. The pressure on the local NHS remains high.”

Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin: Tier 2

Reason: “The case rate remains high (though falling) at 200/100,000. The case rate in over-60s remains high at 139/100.000 and is falling. Positivity is 7.2 per cent.”

Herefordshire: Tier 2

Reason: “Herefordshire has a high case rate at 160.3/100,000. These rates are too high for allocation to Tier 1 but the slight downward trajectory – a fall of 1.9 per cent – does currently not warrant inclusion in Tier 3.”

Worcestershire: Tier 2

Reason: “While there has been a decline in case rates in all lower tier local authorities they do remain high (201/100,000),including in the over 60s (141/100,000).

“These case rates are too high for allocation to Tier 1 but the downward trajectory – with a fall of 18.3 per cent – does currently not warrant inclusion in Tier 3. Hospital admissions of patients with Covid-19 have started to stabilise.”

London

All London boroughs and City of London: Tier 2

Reason: “The trajectory of key indicators of Covid-19 in an area (including all age case rates, over-60s case rates, and positivity) have been increasing until very recently.

“The situation in London is not uniform throughout the city. Thirteen of the 33 boroughs have case rates which are 10 per cent, or more, higher than a week ago and ten boroughs where case rates for over-60s are above 150 per 100,000.

“Hospital admissions continue to increase in the East and North London in particular, although they are still well below the spring peak. Taken as a whole, the situation in London has stabilised at a similar case rate and positivity to other parts of the country in Tier 2.”

East of England

Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes: Tier 2

Reason: “The overall case rate is still increasing in two of the three lower tier local authorities. The overall case rate is high at 178/100,000 and it is 113/100,000 in the over-60s, although this rises to 185/100,000 in Luton.

“Positivity 6.9 per cent. There is pressure on the local NHS.”

Essex, Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea: Tier 2

Reason: “Overall the rate is 159/100,000 and rising. The rate in over 60s is 100/100,000 and falling. Positivity is 6.4 per cent.”

Norfolk: Tier 2

Reason: “The majority of Norfolk is improving. Case rates are 123/100,000 and positivity is five per cent. Case rates for over-60s remain over 100 per 100,000 in Great Yarmouth, Norwich and South Norfolk (with increasing trajectories in the last two areas).”

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough: Tier 2

Reason: “There is an improving picture with decreasing case rates across five of the six local authorities, although the case rate is still high at 123/100,000 overall. Case rates in over-60s are also decreasing (58/100,000). Positivity has dropped to 5.2 per cent.”

Hertfordshire: Tier 2

Reason: “There is an improving picture across the majority of Hertfordshire – the case rate has fallen to 147/100,000 overall with drops in rates in 9 of the 10 local authorities.

“Case rates in over-60s are falling also (102/100,000) but they are greater than 100/100,000 in six local authorities. Positivity is 6.3 per cent [and] falling.”

Suffolk: Tier 2

Reason: “There is an improving picture across the majority of Suffolk. The case rate has fallen to 82/100,000 with drops in rate in four of the five local authorities.

“There has been a 40 per cent increase in weekly case rate to 128/100,000 in Ipswich, when compared with the previous week. Across Suffolk, case rates in over-60s are also falling (72/100,000). Positivity is 3.7 per cent.”

South-East

Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton: Tier 2

Reason: “There is a mixed picture across this area although the overall case rate is now 152/100,000 and falling in almost all areas. NHS admissions were increasing rapidly until mid-November and are now stable.”

Isle of Wight: Tier 1

Reason: “The case rate is low and decreasing at 71 per 100,000 and lower in over-60s at 44 per 100,000. Covid-19 pressure on the NHS is low.”

East and West Sussex, and Brighton and Hove: Tier 2

Reason: “Case rates in Sussex are at 120 per 100,000 with a total positivity of 4.5 per cent. However, the trend is increasing in several areas. NHS admissions have been fairly stable in the last month but there is increasing occupancy in units treating more serious cases.”

Surrey: Tier 2

Reason: “Case rates are stable or improving in all areas with the overall rate at 139 per 100,000.

“The most concerning lower tier local authorities are those that neighbour London (Spelthorne and Runnymede) with case rates over 200 per 100,000, and high case rates in the over-60s are observed in neighbouring Surrey Heath and Woking.

“Surrey Heartlands Health & Care Partnership (STP) report admissions to hospital from Covid-19 patients were fairly stable in the last month.”

Reading, Wokingham, Bracknell Forest, Windsor and Maidenhead, West Berkshire: Tier 2

Reason: “An improving picture across the area with the exception of Slough and Reading. Slough has high case rates (326 per 100,000 overall and 219 per 100,000 for the over 60s) and relatively high positivity of 12 per cent.

“The case rate and positivity away from Slough do not justify inclusion in Tier 3.”

Slough: Tier 3

Reason: “The weekly case rate in Slough is much higher than surrounding areas at over 320 per 100,000 people compared with 155 per 100,000 in the rest of Berkshire and 138 in Buckinghamshire. Test positivity is also much higher at 12 per cent.”

Buckinghamshire: Tier 2

Reason: “A broadly stable or improving picture across Buckinghamshire with a case rate at 138 per 100,000 and positivity at 6.4 per cent. These case rates remain too high for allocation to Tier 1.”

Oxfordshire: Tier 3

Reason: “Positive improvements across key indicators across all areas in Oxfordshire, but case rates still too high for Tier 1. Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire And Berkshire West STP hospital admissions have been fairly stable in recent months.”

Kent & Medway: Tier 3

Reason: “Case rates are high and continuing to rise with large increases in case rates in almost all areas in the last seven days. Some of the highest case rates in the country are currently seen in Kent.

“Rising case rates in people aged over 60 are a particular concern. Positivity is also increasing in 10 of the 13 lower tier local authorities. Kent And Medway STP are reporting hospital admissions increasing.”

South-West

Bristol,  South Gloucestershire, North Somerset: Tier 3

Reason: “The overall picture remains concerning with very high case rates overall (325/100,000) and in the over-60s (208/100,000). Positivity is 10.4 per cent.

“Bristol, South Gloucestershire, and North Somerset are part of a wider travel-to-work area and thus form a natural geographic grouping, separate to the surrounding area.”

Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset: Tier 2

Reason: “There are very small increases in the case rates in this area, however overall case rates and those in over-60s remain high (154/100,000 and 102/100,000 respectively). Positivity is stable at 5.5 per cent.”

Dorset, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole: Tier 2

Reason: “Case rates are falling across the area (131/100,000 in all cases and 99/100,000 in the over 60s).

“However the over-60 case rate is still high at 151/100,000 in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. Positivity is 5.2 per cent. In addition, the Dorset STP reports daily admissions to hospitals are increasing.”

Gloucestershire: Tier 2

Reason: “Case rates are falling across the area (131/100,000 in all cases and 99/100,000 in the over 60s). However the over-60 case rate is still high at 151/100,000 in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

“Positivity is 5.2 per cent. In addition, the Dorset STP reports daily admissions to hospitals are increasing.”

Wiltshire and Swindon: Tier 2

Reason: “Case rates continue to fall in Swindon but are increasing in Wiltshire. Overall case rates are 143/100,000 and 93/100,000 in the over-60s. Positivity is 6.2 per cent. Swindon and Wiltshire STP are reporting increasing admissions to hospital.”

Devon: Tier 2

Reason: “Case rates are 121/100,000 overall, though there are higher rates in Plymouth, Torbay and Exeter. The case rate in the over-60s is 85/100,000 though significantly higher in Exeter (155.9/100,000). Positivity is 4.2 per cent. There is pressure at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.”

Cornwall and Isles of Scilly: Tier 1

Reason: “There are low case rates and test positivity in Cornwall and the case rates in all age groups are stable or declining. There have been no cases in the Isles of Scilly in the last seven days meaning there is strong evidence to make an allocation to Tier 1.”

Devon leader “disappointed” at Tier 2 rating (and calls for more hospital beds)

More crocodile tears.

Owl obviously needs to remind Cllr John Hart of this episode from July 2017 in the County Council Health Scrutiny meeting chaired by Conservative Councillor (former leader of EDDC) Sarah Randall Johnson:

“In a move which prompted jeers and cries of “fix” from the public gallery, Randall Johnson ignored a tabled motion [from Independent Cllr Claire Wright] to halt hospital bed closure plans and instead allow a fellow Tory, Rufus Gilbert, to seize the momentum by kick starting the debate and swiftly proposing the exact opposite.”

Conservative Councillors have gone along with bed closures without lifting a finger until now., plenty of examples in the East Devon Watch archive.

Radio Exe News www.radioexe.co.uk

The leader of Devon County Council and chair of the county’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board, Cllr John Hart says he’s disappointed that Devon’s not in the lowest tier of covid restrictions, unlike neighbouring Cornwall..

“Devon has done well so far in keeping case numbers relatively low and I would like to thank everyone for their actions during the latest lockdown, so I’m disappointed that we have been placed in Tier 2. It’s even more vital now that we all stick to the guidelines and maintain social distance, wash our hands regularly and wear masks where required so we can get cases down and get into Tier 1.

“And working with MPs and Team Devon partners I will be strongly lobbying the government to provide tailored support for our hard-hit hospitality industry, which is losing out significantly during what’s usually their most lucrative period.

“I’m pleased local shops will be able to re-open in the run-up to Christmas and begin to help our economy recover, but in Devon, hospitality businesses are crucial and they need targeted support.  In the meantime I would renew my appeal to people to stick to the rules to keep themselves and their families and neighbours safe and minimise the pressure on our local health services. 

“I welcome the opening of the Nightingale Hospital in Exeter today but, as Boris Johnson has conceded, the south west still lacks hospital beds and this must be urgently addressed.”

The Director of Public Health Devon (Designate), Steve Brown, said: “Whilst the number of cases across Devon has stabilised, it is clear that the virus is still with us. Local cases were rising when previously in Tier 1 and it has only been through the additional restrictions and efforts of residents, that we are now just starting to see a reduction in cases. Going into Tier 2 now gives us the best chance of continuing to keep a lid on cases or even continuing to bring them down.

“The number of cases still out in our communities remains a real concern, particularly in the working age population and among older people – in workplaces, care homes and other settings where people come together.

“We must not let down our guard over the next few weeks, nor throw caution to the wind over the Christmas period. It would take little for the numbers to start to increase again and for our hospitals to be put under increased pressure, and none of us should want to pay the price for that in a few weeks’ time or in the New Year.”

‘Extremely disappointed’ Devon MPs react to Tier 2 news

Crocodile tears over tiers from Tory MPs as Anne Marie Morris, MP for Newton Abbot, puts her finger on it:

“If, as expected, this decision was made primarily based on healthcare capacity in the region then this is regrettable. We find ourselves in this situation due to historic underfunding of healthcare in the South West and a complete lack of understanding from Governments (of all colours) that a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work, especially in rural areas. This pandemic should be a wake-up call as to how we provide rural healthcare in the future.” 

(“Marie Antoinette” Saxsby still on mute.)

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com 

Devon’s MPs have reacted with disappointment to the news that the county will be placed into Tier 2 when the national lockdown ends next week.

Despite Teignbridge having the lowest infection rate of any of England’s 315 lower tier authority regions, with the South Hams 3rd, and Torridge 9th, the county has been treated as a whole in determining restrictions, and only Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly, and the Isle of Wight have been placed in Tier 1.

Explaining why Devon has been placed in Tier 2, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said that the case rates are 121/100,000 overall, although there are higher rates in Plymouth, Torbay and Exeter. He added that the case rate in the over 60s is 85/100,000, though significantly higher in Exeter at 155.9/100,000), and there is pressure at the RD&E Hospital.

But MPs across the county have reacted to disappointment to the news, with Anne Marie Morris, MP for Newton Abbot, making it clear she is currently set to vote against the new tier system when voted on next Tuesday in the House of Commons.

She said: “I am disappointed to see Devon placed in Tier 2, especially given the fact that Teignbridge currently has the lowest cases per 100k in England, but appreciate that it would be impossible to divide us up further.

“If, as expected, this decision was made primarily based on healthcare capacity in the region then this is regrettable. We find ourselves in this situation due to historic underfunding of healthcare in the South West and a complete lack of understanding from Governments (of all colours) that a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work, especially in rural areas. This pandemic should be a wake-up call as to how we provide rural healthcare in the future.”

Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, said that it was perhaps not a surprise given hardly areas were in Tier 1, but was extremely disappointing to many people.

He said: “It is not surprising, but it will be extremely disappointing to many people, given Boris Johnson stupidly raised expectations of a greater relaxation. Devon’s figures are among the lowest in England, less than half the English average and falling.

“I hope this decision has not been skewed by the current pressure on our hospitals because of a lack of staff and resources. I shall be asking the Health Secretary these questions in a Zoom meeting with him this afternoon. The Government must also publish the basis on which these decisions have been made and clear criteria for moving up or down tiers.

“The last tier system failed, which is why we had to go into another month’s national lockdown. The worst thing would be for this to fail again so we end up back in lockdown, especially when vaccines are now on the horizon.

“I will want to examine the detail and hear what Mr Hancock has to say before deciding how to vote. The problem with these votes, however, is they are on a take it or leave it basis and if the proposals are rejected, there would be no restrictions at all, which would be disastrous.”

Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, confirmed he would be voting for the measure, saying: “I am glad that retail can reopen in our area ahead of Christmas, including our markets like in Tiverton Town Centre, and I am also glad our pubs serving meals and our restaurants can open too.

“The package of measures is also welcome so people can go back to church, play sport and do a lot more than under lockdown. I think everyone will be keen to review the tiers regularly and see if we can move down into tier 1.”

Sir Gary Streeter, MP for South West Devon, said that it was disappointing news but he also would be voting for the measures.

He said: “I see that only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are in tier 1 so we must accept tier 2 for Devon and Plymouth.

“Our rates are continuing to fall and there will be a review before Christmas and I will continue to push, if the data allows, for us to be in tier 1. I will certainly be supporting these regulations next week. We have got to grip this virus hard as we await the vaccine to be rolled out over the next 4 months.”

Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon, added: “I’m very disappointed that Devon will be in Tier 2 (High) from next Wednesday with a review two weeks after. I remain concerned by the pressure at the RD&E and I am in touch with the Chief Executive. Pubs, restaurants & the hospitality sector must receive enough support to survive.”

Selaine Saxby, MP for North Devon, said that she would comment following a meeting via Zoom with the Health Secretary around the rationale and exit plan from the measures, while Mel Stride, Kevin Foster, Anthony Mangnall and Geoffrey Cox have also been asked for comment.

In tier 2:

  • you must not socialise with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place. You can socialise though in a pub beer garden.
  • you must not socialise in a group of more than 6 people outside, including in a garden or a public space – this is called the ‘rule of 6’
  • businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-Securemanner, other than those which remain closed by law, such as nightclubs
  • pubs and bars must close, unless operating as restaurants. Hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals

Hospitality businesses selling food or drink for consumption on their premises are required to:

  • provide table service only, in premises which sell alcohol
  • close between 11pm and 5am (hospitality venues in airports, ports, transport services and motorway service areas are exempt) stop taking orders after 10pm

But up to 2,000 fans will be allowed inside St James Park and Sandy Park for Exeter City and Exeter Chiefs’ fixtures