It’s time for arms companies to be kicked out of the classroom – DiEM25

Tony Dale, author of this article drew Owl’s attention to its online publication on Dec 4.

Babcock’s involvement in running education services in Devon has also previously been featured in East Devon Watch posts in 2016:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/05/18/why-is-babcock-the-arms-manufacturer-involved-in-monitoring-school-attendance-in-devon/

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/09/12/renewed-interest-in-petition-to-cease-schools-monitoring-service-by-babcock/

diem25.org

In the rural county of Devon in the UK lies the historic port of Plymouth, home to Britain’s Trident nuclear weapon system. Managing that facility is Babcock International Group PLC, an arms manufacturer listed on the FTSE 250 with a turnover in 2020 of £4.9bn.

What is much less known, however, is that Babcock also runs the education services in Devon, and in many other areas across the UK. After the global financial crisis of 2008-9, with governments around the world adopting austerity policies, cuts to local authorities ran to more than 40% and local education services were tendered out to the private sector. In Devon, it was Babcock who won the bid to run them.

The arms company, which powers conflict and violence across the world, is now one of just twelve accredited education service providers in the UK.

A statement on its website describes its activities as: “…a unique joint venture between Babcock International Group plc and Devon County Council, combining best commercial practice with the values and principles of the public sector service.”

Such a relationship introduces moral hazard where none existed before. “Best commercial practice” — in other words, competition — is not a public service value, and its application in education has severe consequences for the most vulnerable, as will be shown. Private companies in public service also present challenges for accountability and in this case, the presence of the arms trade raises other moral questions around consent.

Yet Babcock is not the only weapons manufacturer providing education to children. Other UK arms companies, like the giant BAE systems that designed Britain’s Trident nuclear submarines, have also found their way into schools recently, giving them teaching materials and, according to The Guardian, “providing a missile simulator for children to play with”. Commenting on the affair, Andrew Smith, spokesman for the Campaign Against Arms Trade said that: “When these companies are promoting themselves to children they are not talking about the deadly impact their weapons are having. [..] Schools [..] should never be used as commercial vehicles for arms companies.”

It is time, as that same spokesman said, for arms companies to be kicked out of the classroom.

An authoritarian approach; an arrangement that resists public scrutiny

There is a real and worrying question of how the culture of the arms trade, of Babcock, influences the education resources they provide. 

Consider the following case. Babcock’s ‘responsibilities’ in Devon include attendance monitoring and pupil assessment — tasks to which they apply a hardline authoritarian approach. When a child is absent from school, Babcock threatens their parents with £2,500 fines and up to three months imprisonment, as shown in the letter below:

The letter and others like it created a furore among parents of Devon pupils, and in 2016 a petition was started, calling on Devon County Council to cancel Babcock’s contract when it was due for renewal in 2019. The petition gained few signatures (just over a thousand) and the 2019 renewal went ahead. It is now due to end in 2022.

In 2017, a concerned parent filed a Freedom of Information request to Devon County Council for details of their contract with Babcock. It was refused on the grounds of commercial sensitivity. The parent appealed the decision, blaming the Council for “obfuscatory gatekeeping, time delaying, avoidance tactics”, and although the information was finally disclosed the Council was found in breach of the Freedom of Information Act for the delay. A child’s education is of the highest moral importance and those involved should welcome scrutiny. This is clearly not the case with Babcock’s arrangement in Devon.

Off-rolling: pushing out the weakest to stay competitive

The culture of business, especially the business of building and selling weapons, is entirely misplaced in education. Competition is not how you achieve results, and scoring on the schools league table is not a measure of success.

Yet these are the principles being applied. In 2019, Tes, an online education resource provider, reported on a worrying trend. Increasing numbers of parents of pupils who struggled with school were being “coerced, nudged and persuaded” into homeschooling their children — i.e. removing them from the school roll, where their performance could no longer affect the school’s league table ranking — in a practice that has become known as ‘off-rolling’.

The motivation for this practice is simple: it is “triggered by league table position”, according to a 2019 YouGov report. One secondary school Deputy Head Teacher says in the report: “There could be a temptation to off-roll [a pupil] so they don’t bring the school’s results down… Morally I don’t agree with it.” Off-rolling is unethical; it puts intense strain on parents and is, quite simply, unlawful.

Unsurprisingly, Babcock in Devon provides an illustration of this awful practice in action. The tables below are from official documents from Babcock and Devon County Council.

The statistics speak for themselves; the percentage of schoolchildren in Devon registered for home-schooling (EHE) rose from 1.1% in 2015/16 to 1.9% in 2019/20. This points to an additional 889 children having been ‘off-rolled’ out of Devon’s schools by Babcock.

A vital choice that parents are denied

The last issue has to do with belief and choice. The right to religious freedom is compromised when, for example, you are forced to take part in religious services not of your own religion. The UK is a secular society and such rights are strongly defended, but do they extend further? Everyone pays for defence through taxation in a kind of ‘received consent’, but it is unjust that those who profit from it should be able to come back to take a second slice of the public finance cake. There is no similar ‘received consent’ over the arms trade providing education.

With the tendering out of local education services to the private sector, the arms trade is where the education money is going, beyond the defence budget. And if your child needs an education, you find yourself unwittingly complicit in building a respectable public profile and increasing profits for people who sell guns. There is a saying in market culture ‘there are two sides to every trade’. The arms trade exists for its customers and its shareholders; it is morally unacceptable for parents of schoolchildren to be included as part of its commercial operations.

What happens to the contract between Devon County Council and Babcock in 2022 could be down to public pressure. It is an important test case for whether we, as citizens, as progressives, can get the arms trade out of our schools. Shall we give it a try?

DiEM25 members are currently discussing possible actions to address the issue discussed in this article. If you’d like to be involved, or if you have knowledge, skills or ideas to contribute on this, join the dedicated thread in our forum and introduce yourself, or get in touch with the author of this piece directly.

Photo Sources: CDC from Pexels and Wikimedia Commons.

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Builders run short of supplies as UK port holdups raise Brexit concerns

Builders are running short of everything from power tools and screws to timber and roof tiles as the gridlock at UK ports holds up crucial deliveries and sets off alarm bells in the run-up to Brexit.

Zoe Wood www.theguardian.com 

The UK’s ports have been grappling with a surge in freight volumes at a time when their ability to process it all is hindered by coronavirus restrictions.

Since September, the country’s biggest container port, Felixstowe, has been handling about 30% more goods than usual, with businesses rushing to replenish stock after the end of lockdowns and building stockpiles before the end of the Brexit transition period.

High street chains have already reported shortages of essential goods such as washing machines and fridges, and also toys, as they struggle to get shipments through the Suffolk port.

The fallout from the congestion, which has spread to other major ports including Southampton and London Gateway, is being felt in a number of industries.

John Newcomb, the chief executive of the Builders Merchants Federation, said the ports were becoming a “major issue” for its members. They have enjoyed bumper sales as locked-down Britons renovated their homes but were experiencing availability problems because they “can’t get materials in quicker”. The squeeze was also pushing up the price of goods.

“There appears to be an increasing issue getting products through ports,” Newcomb said. “Rather than taking a maximum of one week to unload, it is taking up to four.”

Timber is of particular concern (the price is up between 20% and 40% because of supply problems in Scandinavia) but there is also a diminishing supply of roof tiles, screws, fixings, tools and white goods such as washing machines and fridges, he said.

In recent weeks the congestion at Felixstowe as well as other ports has encouraged vessels to “cut and run” – either partially unloading or skipping UK calls altogether and dumping cargo at Rotterdam, Antwerp and Zeebrugge instead, said Mirko Woitzik, an analyst at the supply chain risk advisory firm Resilience360. Some carriers are discussing not calling at Felixstowe until February because of fears it will remain clogged, he said.

The shortage of building materials had so far been felt by the retail chains that supply jobbing builders but Newcomb said that, with the situation unlikely to be resolved for several months, it would also become a problem for big contractors. The BMF has raised the issue with the government as the high level of demand has prevented the building trade from stockpiling in the run-up to Brexit.

The coronavirus pandemic has destroyed the equilibrium that usually exists in the maritime supply chain. Robert Keen, the director general of the British International Freight Association, said that over a 10-week period logistics firms went from having no work to a situation where almost no ships were idle. These extremes had led to a “breakdown of the conveyor belt of ships and containers, and the return flow of empty containers”, which was a major cause of congestion, he said.

The resurgent demand has resulted in a fight for space on the container ships that ply the shipping routes from low-cost manufacturing hubs, such as China, to big consumer markets including the US and Europe. UK businesses are reporting stratospheric increases in shipping costs, which are likely to add to the pressure on prices in the new year.

Simon Midwood, the managing director of the family-run building materials supplier Timco, said its shipping costs had increased by more than 300%. That extra cost was pushing up cost prices by between 3% and 17%.

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With port delays already causing shortages of popular toy sets such as Barbie, the retailer The Entertainer said it was facing soaring import costs from China, up from $1,000 six weeks ago to more than $6,000.

Gary Grant, the chain’s co-founder, said that could mean higher prices for shoppers in 2021 as retailers struggled to absorb rising costs. The situation was compounded by uncertainty surrounding the import taxes that will apply after Brexit, he added.

Last month the Guardian revealed that 11,000 containers of government-procured PPE were part of the problem at Felixstowe. That backlog has been reduced to about 4,000 and should be cleared by Christmas. The port said it expected the increase in container volumes to last into January but was “working hard to minimise the impact on daily operations and to maintain vital supply chains”.

Lone Star sweetens offer for retirement builder McCarthy & Stone

US private equity firm Lone Star on Monday increased its offer to buy McCarthy & Stone, in a move that values the retirement housebuilding group at £647 million.

Joanna Bourke www.standard.co.uk 

The 120p per share offer for the company, which specialises in land buying, developing, selling and managing retirement communities, is higher than the 115p per share bid tabled in October.

The latest offer represents a 44.6% premium to the closing price per McCarthy & Stone share of 83p pence on October 22, the last business day before the commencement of the offer period.

It is also a 64.1% premium to the average share price for the three months to October 22.

The proposal is still below the pre-pandemic price, 158p in February, and the Sunday Times in October reported that one investor said the bid is “opportunistic”.

But McCarthy & Stone directors “consider the terms of the final offer to be fair and reasonable”, the takeover target said today.

Directors at the retirement housebuilder have recommended shareholders vote in favour of the deal. The meeting starts at 4.15 pm today.

When the planned swoop was first announced in October, Donald Quintin, president of Lone Star Europe, said McCarthy is in a “market underpinned by clear fundamentals: a rapidly ageing population and a structural undersupply of suitable housing options for older people”.

Rothschild, Deutsche and Peel Hunt are working with McCarthy and Moelis & Company and Goldman Sachs are advising the suitor.

More profligacy and stupidity: Navy’s new £3.1billion aircraft carrier ‘stranded for six months after flood’.

The newest Navy aircraft carrier is set to be stranded until mid-2021 after a second flood, according to reports.

“It will take months to repair the damage. Costs will run to millions.”

[It’s only your money and mine! – Owl]

Georgia Diebelius www.mirror.co.uk 

HMS Prince of Wales was reportedly banned from leaving Portsmouth on safety grounds this week after a burst fire main damaged electrics.

The £3.1billion vessel was scheduled to set sail to the US to train with F-35 jets, 12 months after she last travelled.

According to The Sun, thousands of gallons of sea water poured into the vessel’s engine room during the flood.

The incident is said to have seen electrical cabinets submerged under the water for more than 24 hours.

A source said: “It’s embarrassing. The America trip took years of planning and we’ve had to say we can’t come.

“It will take months to repair the damage. Costs will run to millions.”

Miles of cables are now reportedly being assessed for damage in the second incident on board the ship.

In May, water was filmed pouring through a ceiling in the vessel’s living quarters. An incident that the Navy described as ‘minor’.

The Navy insists that the HMS Prince of Wales will still be operational by 2023 as it was scheduled to be, The Sun reports.

Earlier this year, the aircraft carrier caused a row in its home port, as its noisy engines kept locals awake at night.

The ship often runs on its diesel generators instead of power from the base and homeowners over the water said the racket was making life a misery.

One, Neil Sutton, said many were sticking “our heads under our pillows at night” in a bid to get some sleep.

He added: “In this lockdown, why can we not open our windows and enjoy peace and tranquillity?”.

The 919ft, 65,000-ton ship, which can carry 36 planes and four helicopters, remains at Portsmouth Naval Base, Hants.

Police move in after Herefordshire river bulldozed and straightened

Police and environment agency staff have moved in to stop further damage being done to a protected river, after what one witness described as one of the most egregious acts of ecological vandalism in 25 years.

Sandra Laville www.theguardian.com

A mile-long stretch of the River Lugg outside Kingsland, near Leominster in Herefordshire, has been flattened by a bulldozer. Trees have been felled, the river straightened and the river bed damaged.

Guy Linley-Adams, a lawyer for the charity Salmon and Trout Conservation, who lives nearby, witnessed the destruction to the river, which is protected as an SSSI, site of special scientific interest.

He called for prosecution of those responsible. “This is one of the most egregious acts of ecological vandalism that I have seen in 25 years of working on rivers in the UK,” he said. “I have been on site and I am shaking with anger at what has been done to my local river.

“There can be no excuse if the perpetrator is not now prosecuted to the fullest extent possible. His financial assets should also be taken to pay to restore the river, a restoration that will take decades.”

Damage at the River Lugg.

Damage at the River Lugg. Photograph: Herefordshire Wildlife Trust/PA

Environment Agency staff, West Mercia police, officials from Natural England and the Forestry Commission moved in to stop further damage on Friday.

Dave Throup, the area environment manager for the Environment Agency (EA), said: “We are treating this very seriously along with Natural England and the Forestry Commission, who have taken immediate action in an attempt to prevent any further works at the site. We are mounting a wide-ranging investigation with Natural England, the Forestry Commission and other partners. We are unable to comment further at this stage.”

Throup tweeted: “Fourteen specialist officers from the Environment Agency, Natural England, Forestry Commission, West Mercia police and Herefordshire council now on site gathering information and evidence.”

Critics said more should have been done to halt the destruction last week, on 26 November when the EA was first alerted to activity taking place on the river bank. It is understood the event was designated a category 1 incident; an event which has a serious, extensive or persistent impact on the environment.

But it was not until significant damage had been done that the EA and other officials used their powers of entry to stop the destruction, which environmentalists said would take decades to repair.

The river is protected as it is an important habitat for salmon, otters, lamprey, dragonfly and crayfish. The protection also covers the way the river meanders through the countryside. But after several days of activity, the river banks have been flattened, gravel has been scraped from the riverbed, and the gentle curve of the river has been straightened.

Helen Stace, the chief executive of the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, said: “A large stretch of one of the UK’s most important rivers, the Lugg, has been devastated with dire consequences for wildlife and water quality downstream. This is a tragedy.

“This is a crime against the environment. Swift action needs to be taken and we want to see the authorities investigate the matter swiftly. We expect this case to be dealt with in a serious and robust manner and any resulting prosecution should act as a deterrent to prevent anyone committing this type of crime ever again. We will also be calling for restoration of the river to its natural channel.”

TV gardener Monty Don, who lives in near Leominster, told local newspaper the Hereford Times: “It breaks my heart but is all too typical of the ignorance, arrogance and sheer wanton destruction of those privileged to care for our countryside.”

Carrie Symonds’ friend Nimco Ali given Home Office role without it being advertised

A close friend of the prime minister and his fiancee was given an official position at the Home Office without the role being publicly advertised, a freedom of information request has revealed.

Molly Blackall www.theguardian.com

Nimco Ali, who is reportedly godmother to the son of Carrie Symonds and Boris Johnson, was appointed adviser on tackling violence against women and girls in October.

Information released under the Freedom of Information Act to The Critic magazine revealed that she was hired via a “direct appointment process”, without open competition or advertisement for the job.

It appears the role may have been created for Ali, with no mention of it before her appointment. She is paid £350 a day and works two days a month.

Ali is a prominent campaigner against female genital mutilation (FGM), which she was subjected to at the age of seven.

She arrived in Britain as a four-year-old refugee from Somalia and went on to co-found the non-profit Daughters of Eve, and later the Five Foundation – a global campaign to end FGM. She was made an OBE in 2019 in recognition of her work.

Following her appointment to the advisory position, she said more needed to be done to combat violence against women.

Although she stood as a candidate for the Women’s Equality party in 2017, Ali has campaigned for the Conservatives in recent years, becoming a close friend of Carrie Symonds and a vocal supporter of Boris Johnson.

The government said Ali had been appointed to help create a strategy to tackle violence against women and girls that is due to be released in 2021.

The strategy is designed to ensure that victims of gender-based violence receive better support and perpetrators are more effectively targeted. It is also intended to improve the government’s handling of “new and emerging forms of violence”, including upskirting and revenge porn.

A Home Office spokesperson confirmed that she had been hired “via a direct appointment” to lead a short-term project, and said the Cabinet Office Public Appointments Policy team had agreed her appointment.

“Nimco Ali has a strong track record of campaigning on violence against women and girls’ issues, raising awareness and educating people about female genital mutilation,” the spokesperson said. “She brings a huge amount of experience and passion to this role, providing independent advice to help inform government policy and challenge the status quo.

“Direct appointments with no competition are standard for short-term advisory roles and follow an established process.”

Ali declined to comment further.

Locals list nine worst places to live in Devon – Axminster: “Don’t try to escape by bus”

Devon is known for its uniquely pretty towns and villages – but behind the fabulous facades, not all is as it seems, according to the people who live in them.

Colleen Smith www.devonlive.com

The brutally honest and sometimes downright nasty reviews have appeared on iLiveHere.co.uk, a website which accepts reader submissions about what they think of the places where they live.

The funniest are tongue in cheek references which contain a few home truth bells among us true locals.

Although none of the top ten 10 worst places to live in the UK are in Devon, these surprising nine Devon towns have been brutally savaged by locals who are not afraid take aim and expose the worst flaws for all to see.

Let’s have a look at the harshest (and very unfair) comments thrown at some of our favourite Devon towns…

NORTH DEVON: Watch out for all the Karens on tour

A sunny day in Ilfracombe, sent in by Jules Florence

A sunny day in Ilfracombe, sent in by Jules Florence (Image: North Devon Journal)

A certain sort of holidaymaker is making life unbearable for anybody without pots of money according to the brutal reviews about life in North Devon. The Karens are popping up everywhere it seems:

  • “There are Karens walking with no masks on and complaining about the peasants staying next door to them.”
  • “The Karens’ pets have pooped all over the beach.”
  • “And Karens have even been blamed to deaths on the coast path: “Do not think about the South West Coast path!! Karens have to burn off the Italian food and booze, so they need to jog and they don’t care if you’re in the way… and you thought people just fell off the cliffs. Lol”

Anybody earning under £30k should avoid moving to the area the harsh review adds: “Karen’s will constantly belittle you for being renters.”

And the new review concludes: “How about a campsite? Maybe, but the elite will leave no room for your pitiful 4-man tent, as they park a caravan the size of Cargo plane right next to you.

“To think I looked down on Skegvegas and Mablethorpe in my youth. I would much prefer to be there now.”

APPLEDORE: Not nearly as magical as its Harry Potter name

Appledore Quay

Appledore Quay (Image: Stephen McKay/Geograph)

Harry Potter fans who are drawn to Appledore by the mystical sounding name should remember that Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore is a fictional character.

This review is written by a couple who have lived in the town for four years and said they were “were attracted to Appledore by its magical name.”

They added: “After living in this remote outpost for near on four years however, I can safely confirm that this North Devon realm is about as mystical as a pitbull’s ****.

“Just don’t go, that’s all. If you want a Harry Potter world, either go to Harry Potter World or stalk Daniel Radcliffe or that girl who plays Hermoine.”

LANDKEY: It might as well be 500 years ago

Landkey views towards the Tarka Trail

This local reviewer said: “I came to Devon to enjoy life and have fun and must be off my head to have gone with Landkey.”

Although the town is only a few miles out of Barnstaple “it might as well be 500 years ago in feudal times, because the reality of one of the small minded locals coming at you with a pitch fork is very real.

“You can’t fart without someone having an opinion on it. Don’t whatever you do think it’s acceptable to have fun and let fireworks off or anything, because they will all take to their whingeing and moaning.

“This place is in the dark ages with all its gossiping and small minded rubbish. Every public building in Landkey where locals are allowed to gather should be avoided. They steal your soul. It’s a depressing festering place. Run now.”

COMBE MARTIN: The Camberwickerman Green Village

Watermouth Cove between Ilfracombe and Combe Martin (Image: Andrew Bone)

A cross between children’s TV’s Camberwick Green and the 1970s British cult folk horror film The Wicker Man is how Combe Martin is described: “For those that didn’t know, Combe Martin locals walk just like the Camberwick Green puppets.

“‘Combe Martians’, as they call the locals, are straight out of The Wicker Man film with a bit of Camberwick Green. There’s Mrs Dingle, and Roger Varley; loads of Mrs Honeymans plus loads of Windy Millers. It’s not funny, Combe Martin’s terrifying; every year hordes of drunken pagans come down from the hills and go marching up and down the street, banging drums all night.

“Other times, crowds of weirdos regularly gather to chant on the nearby beacons at sunset, and frighten the seagulls.”

DAWLISH WARREN: Also known as Watership Downer

A storm emerging over Exmouth at around 5pm cleared the beach at Dawlish Warren

Storm clouds over Dawlish Warren (Image: Tracey Bosworth)

“Dawlish Warren is marketed by the tourist board as a traditional seaside resort for family, fun holidays. They haven’t visited in the past 20 years evidently, and failed to notice it is really Royston Vasey in disguise. I swear the League of Gentlemen was inspired by this place.

“Dawlish Warren represents everything that is wrong with UK seaside resorts, all rolled into one.”

“In the summer it is full of the cast of Shameless, all squashed 16 deep into self catering caravans screeching at their offspring and eating as many calories as they can cram into their fat faces on the way to the beach.”

This Dawlish Warren review is so vindictive that the Editor of ILiveHere.Co.uk has removed personal comments about local pubs and shop staff saying: “Lots of things about the person’s alleged resemblance to a TV character we can’t repeat.”

OKEHAMPTON: Avoid becoming an Okehamptonite at all costs

Lloyd's Pharmacy Okehampton (Google)

Okehampton town centre (Image: Google)

“Passing through Okehampton during the day, in a car, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was a normal market town on the edge of Dartmoor. You would be very, very wrong. Okehampton is a town truly rotten to the core.

“Often over looked by the outside world due to it’s location and lack of any thing good there. This is the curse of Okehampton. Too small to be noticed, too big to be destroyed without anyone noticing.”

The reviewer gives ‘things to do’ advice for anybody who fails to flee and becomes an Okehamptonite.

The nightclub Nero’s is Okehamptons premier (only) after 11 drinking hole: “Mix all this booze and squadies from Okehampton’s army camp in side a 30-foot square box and you have a nightmare comparable only to an Alfred Hitchcock film.”

Simmons Park: The reviewer says that this ‘oasis of green’ is sadly no escape: “Any attempts by the council to make the park or indeed any place in Okehampton better are met with the same trademark response from the town DESTROY, DESTROY, DESTROY.”

PAIGNTON: Brush up your Strictly dance moves

The decline of Crossways in Paignton

This review urges anybody who is about to walk through Paignton that “a stint on Strictly would help”.

“When strolling through the town, I find a quickstep will ease you past the usual ne’er-do-wells.”

The paso doble will assist in avoiding dog dirt on the pavements and the samba is recommended “when queuing in shops to stop pickpockets helping themselves”.

If you don’t believe the reviewer he says to look no further than the notorious, totally empty Crossways shopping centre. Which is fair.

SOUTH MOLTON: The town square is a traffic island

The Square in South Molton where the giant ball will be airlifted by helicopter and displayed on a giant kicking tee

The Square in South Molton

Allegedly it has “the smallest Sainsburys” and the “cruddiest” market in the SW.

“Once or twice a year a few locals dress up as Victorian peasants rather than 21st century peasants and hang around the ‘square’ which is a traffic island with a bench and a map board.

“There isn’t even a greengrocer but there’s two butchers and a cheese shop. One road is lined with hippy health clinics where you can have your back and your chakras realigned to the sound of whalesong and the aroma of incense.

“On a plus there’s easy access to the North Devon Link Road which will get you back to civilisation within a couple of hours. There are some beaches within half an hour drive, tourist traffic and tractors permitting.

“Crime is low, but there is nothing much to steal unless you need a sheep or a cow.

“There’s no beggars or drunks in doorways. All in all the town has an air of 1950s decay and neglect and no indication of anything 21st century. Even the WiFi is painfully slow. Best avoided.”

AXMINSTER: There are no secrets here

Axminster

Axminster

At first glance, Axminster appears to be a quiet and pleasant town, with a small shopping area, a pretty railway station, and a large Tesco – but according to this reviewer the truth is revealed “when you dig a little deeper”.

The claim is that it’s the real “local locals” you have to watch out for. They are like Susan out of The Archers: “These people are really something else. You can’t even talk to someone without being approached by strangers at a later date, who know exactly what was said down to the most minute detail.”

The reviewer attended the local school and says it was an “often incredibly violent place, which at the time (1990’s) was put into special measures thanks to it’s crumbling structures and unpleasant atmosphere”.

But don’t try to escape by bus: “The main bus stop in town is actually a traffic island with a bird bath on it, well, i say bird bath, but over the years it’s spent more time being used as a toilet or a sick bucket than it ever did bathing birds.”

DARTMOUTH: All is not as it seems

Dartmouth in Devon has been voted the second best seaside town in the UK

Dartmouth may have been voted the second best seaside town in the UK, but outside the pretty riverside town, it’s not all as it seems.

“Most incomers as the locals call you arrive into Dartmouth via one of the River ferries, where you will be met with the best kept town centre awash with art galleries and quaint unique shops. All this with Sir Aston Webbs Naval College sitting grandly overlooking the beautifully set postcard image. Dare you creep up the “Hill” into Townstal, then the rot starts.”

Apparently once out of the upmarket harbour area it’s all Spar pasties and Panda pops: “They shun Sainsbury’s as they don’t sell gas and electric tokens and favour the Spar shop which is burgled by the same person every month.”

And the reviewer claims that decent folk “are interspersed with social services cases generally shipped in from Plymouth or Totnes”. and adds “You will never fit in with these people unless you can decorate your garden with ornamental nappies to the annoyance of your decent hard working neighbours.”