UK redundancies rise to record high amid second Covid-19 wave

The number of people being made redundant in the UK soared to a record high in October amid the second coronavirus wave and as the government scaled back its furlough scheme before an 11th hour extension.

Richard Partington www.theguardian.com 

The Office for National Statistics said redundancies rose to 370,000 in the three months to October, the most since records began in 1992. Fuelled by job losses in retail and hospitality, the figures reflect a period when furlough was being made less generous before its intended closure at the end of the month.

However, the government staged a last-minute U-turn to extend the scheme until the end of March 2021, as rapid growth in coronavirus infections led Boris Johnson to impose a second national lockdown in England from November and as tougher controls were put in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The ONS said the 217,000 quarterly increase in redundancies in October was unprecedented and pushed up the headline UK unemployment rate to 4.9%, up slightly from 4.8% in the three months to September. The rate was 3.8% at the end of 2019.

Analysts said the relatively small rise in the unemployment rate was down to the way the ONS compiles figures for a three month period. More than 200,000 people were also away from work and not being paid due to the pandemic, but were still officially counted as employed. The ONS said for the single month of October, the unemployment rate had jumped to 5.2%.

The devastating impact of the pandemic on the jobs market was underlined by HMRC figures showing there were 820,000 fewer employees on company payrolls in November than in February, before the pandemic struck. More than a third of that reduction has come from the hospitality sector.

However, while the number of people being made redundant hit a fresh record, the ONS said there were signs the pace of job cutting eased towards the end of October. According to a survey of company bosses by the statistics agency, 7% of businesses surveyed between 19 October and 1 November planned to make redundancies within the next three months, compared with 9% in a survey between 5 and 18 October.

Business leaders said the reintroduction of tighter restrictions and the expected cliff edge from the furlough scheme drove up redundancies. Suren Thiru, the head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said extending the wage subsidy scheme would help to protect jobs over the winter months, but that a messy Brexit would further drive up unemployment.

“Failure to achieve a UK-EU trade deal risks adding to the longer-term structural unemployment caused by the pandemic by limiting the competitiveness and viability of some industries,” he said.

The latest unemployment figures are likely to pile renewed pressure on the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to provide additional financial support for businesses and workers as coronavirus infections continue to climb in some parts of the country, leading to continued government restrictions. Sunak is expected to review the furlough scheme in January.

Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor, said it was no coincidence that redundancies soared in October when companies believed the furlough programme was due to end. “The chancellor’s irresponsible decisions haven’t just cost jobs – they’ve left us in the worst recession of any major economy. It was his decision to wind down the furlough scheme before we were out of this crisis, and his decision to wait until the last possible minute to change course,” she said.

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, said the government needed to boost the value of universal credit benefits and invest more money in creating new jobs. “We are staring down the barrel of mass unemployment. There’s no time left to waste,” she said.

The ONS said hiring trends had remained flat in recent months. There were 547,000 vacancies in the three months to November – 110,000 more than the previous quarter but still 31.5% below the number of job openings available a year ago.

The government’s independent economic forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility, estimates that unemployment could increase from the current rate of 4.9% to as high as 7.5% by the middle of next year after the furlough scheme ends – representing 2.6 million people unemployed. The jobless rate had been as low as 4% this year before the Covid pandemic struck.

Mims Davies, the employment minister, said the government was helping people to find new jobs and hinted there was “more to come” to cushion the economic fallout from the pandemic.

“It’s been a truly challenging year for many families but with a vaccine beginning to roll out with more perhaps to follow and the number of job vacancies increasing there is hope on the horizon for 2021,” Davies said.

“Our plan for jobs is already helping people of all ages into work right across the UK, with increased jobcentre support, new retraining schemes, new job placements like Kickstart for our young people and more to come as we are determined to build back better.”

Pay gap in Britain between executives and workers ‘obscene’, says union

Report reveals ‘runaway train’ of inequality in corporate Britain, led by Ocado

Rupert Neate www.theguardian.com 

Unions have described companies who pay their chief executives huge multiples of their workers average salary as obscene, and called on ministers and shareholders to act to end the “runaway train” of inequality in corporate Britain.

A report by the High Pay Centre thinktank on Tuesday revealed that Ocado, the online supermarket, had the biggest pay gap between those at the top and those on the shop floor.

Its chief executive, Tim Steiner, was paid £58.7m last year – which works out at 2,605 times the £22,500 paid to the online grocery delivery company’s staff on average. It means Steiner was paid as much as the average Ocado worker’s annual salary for just one day’s work.

In second place was JD Sports, which paid its chief executive, Peter Cowgill, £5.6m, but paid staff an average of only £18,300. That means Cowgill’s pay was 310 times the median average. Tesco took third place for paying its outgoing chief executive 305 times the median pay.

Laurence Turner, head of research and policy at the GMB union, said: “This shocking and important report provides a vivid snapshot of the staggering inequalities and exploitation in the world of work on the eve of the coronavirus outbreak.

“There is no business or moral justification for paying an executive an obscene ratio of more than 2,000 times the average worker.

“Action is needed, especially at a time when hundreds of thousands of jobs are under threat and households are struggling to make ends meet. Ministers, employers, and shareholders must all put an end to this runaway train.”

The report showed that across the UK’s 100 biggest stock market listed companies, chief executives collect 73 times the amount paid to workers on average.

Luke Hildyard, director of the High Pay Centre, said the report provided “valuable new insight into the corporate cultures and working practices of some of the UK’s biggest employers”.

He added: “These findings show that quite low levels of pay are commonplace for large numbers of workers at many of our major companies. Hopefully the disclosures can help investors, policymakers and of course the companies themselves think more deeply about how to improve fairness at work, and pay for low-paid workers in particular.”

A spokesperson for Ocado said: “The pay ratio is particularly high for 2019 due to the inclusion of the growth incentive plan (GIP), which was a five-year award granted in 2014 and vested in 2019. The level of the GIP payment recognises the extraordinary performance of Ocado during this period when the business grew from a circa £1.5bn business to the multibillion pound technology-led global business we are today.”

The High Pay Centre figures shows that the biggest pay gaps are in the retail sector, where on average bosses are paid 140 times that collected by employees. The smallest gap was in financial services with a ratio of 35:1. The company with the smallest gap was identified as the asset management firm Sanne Group, where the chief executive collected eight times the median pay.

UK companies have been forced to publish chief executive pay ratios in their annual reports following widespread anger over excessive executive pay. The new figures show the relationship of the chief executive’s pay relative to the median and 75th and 25th percentile of the company’s UK employees.

Mubin Haq, chief executive of the Standard Life Foundation, said: “There is great potential for rethinking pay, benefiting those on lower incomes. Nowhere is this more stark than in the retail sector, which has the highest levels of inequality. During the pandemic the industry either relied heavily on government support or made significant profits. Rewards are not being fairly shared, but companies can begin to make plans to reduce the gaps that exist.”

Coronavirus: tensions over handling of UK Covid vaccine rollout

Vaccinating the population against Covid-19 will cost up to £12bn, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has disclosed, amid details of tensions between health bodies over the rollout.

Rajeev Syal www.theguardian.com 

The National Audit Office said the government would spend up to £11.7bn on purchasing and manufacturing Covid-19 jabs for the UK before deploying them in England.

A report released on Wednesday reveals officials from Public Health England complained that they had been cut out of key decisions despite having previous experience of vaccine delivery programmes.

Meg Hillier, the chair of the Commons public accounts committee, said the report showed that the government was right to have backed a number of vaccines but the accountability arrangements were “highly unusual”.

“The organisations who know how to carry out mass vaccination campaigns didn’t always have a seat at the table when decisions were taken.

“The logistical challenges of vaccinating tens of millions of people – on top of the other pressures on the NHS – can’t be underestimated,” she said.

The report examined how the government has approached developing and planning for a mass vaccination programme.

Kate Bingham, the venture capitalist and chair of the vaccine taskforce, was appointed in May and reports directly to Boris Johnson. She has been in charge of selecting which vaccines to purchase and securing UK access to sufficient quantities.

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) and Public Health England are leading on the operational delivery of the vaccination programme in England.

The report disclosed that Public Health England raised concerns in June that “operational experience of vaccine deployment was not represented within the senior boards and groups of the Taskforce”. It was not until September 2020 that both Public Health England and NHS England and Improvement had regular senior representation, the report said.

Current government plans are to vaccinate up to 25 million people with two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine throughout 2021, but these are subject to change depending on vaccine developments, the report said.

The public purse may incur additional costs because the vaccine contracts each contain a form of indemnity protection for the pharmaceutical companies in case of any legal action arising from adverse effects from the vaccines.

No cap has been applied to the amount the government could have to pay if there is a successful claim against the companies in four of the five contracts agreed so far, auditors warned.

The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as 40 million of the Pfizer/BioNTech, seven million of the Moderna, 60 million of Valneva SE, and 60 million of the Novavax jabs.

The Pfizer vaccine is already being rolled out by the NHS after it was approved by the regulator.

Bingham, who is married to the treasury minister Jesse Norman, is expected to leave her post at the end of this year.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “Thanks to the work of our Vaccine Taskforce, the UK is now in an exceptionally strong position with a diverse portfolio of 357m doses of some of the world’s most promising vaccine candidates.

“To ensure our country is in the best position to make any Covid-19 vaccine available as quickly as possible and respond to future pandemics, we have worked to build an entire domestic vaccine manufacturing base from scratch by investing in state-of-the-art facilities across the country.”

UN aid agency Unicef will help feed BRITISH children for the first time in its history after Covid

The United Nations humanitarian aid agency Unicef has launched an emergency response in the UK for the first time in its 70-year history. 

Antonia Paget www.dailymail.co.uk 

Unicef will help feed children left in difficulty as a result of the coronavirus crisis by providing food boxes to struggling families.  

The UN agency launched the domestic emergency response for families in Southward, south London, in reaction to the ‘unprecedented’ situation brought on by the Covid crisis.   

It comes after Unicef compared the plight of children left hungry due to the pandemic to the effect of the Second World War on youngsters. 

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner called the need for Unicef’s intervention a ‘disgrace’, adding: ‘It should have never come to this.’ 

Unicef will help feed children left in difficulty as a result of the coronavirus crisis by providing food boxes to families in partnership with the School Food Matters charity (pictured). It is the first time in the UN agency’s history they have launched an emergency response in the UK

Some 1,800 families struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic will receive breakfast boxes and bags over the Christmas school holidays, the charity School Food Matters said.

The charity said the initiative has been made possible by a grant from Unicef UK, which represents the first time the organisation has developed a domestic emergency response. 

Anna Kettley, director of programmes at Unicef UK, said: ‘This is Unicef’s first ever emergency response within the UK, introduced to tackle the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus crisis and reach the families most in need.

‘The grant for School Food Matters will address the gap in current provision for children, providing approximately 1,800 children with breakfast bags during the Christmas holidays and February half term.

‘This funding will help build stronger communities as the impact of the pandemics worsen, but ultimately a longer-term solution is needed to tackle the root causes of food poverty, so no child is left to go hungry.’

The scheme to provide food parcels has been made possible by Unicef’s £25,000 grant 

Some 1,800 families struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic will receive breakfast boxes and bags over the Christmas school holidays, the charity School Food Matters said

The Food Power for Generation Covid initiative, in partnership with Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming, and the Southwark Food Power Alliance, has been made possible by Unicef’s £25,000 grant. 

The charity will use the funds to support families in Southwark, South London, by delivering food boxes packed with ingredients for 10 nutritious breakfasts. 

This includes fresh pineapple, oats, desiccated coconut, and rice in addition to whole meal bread, baked beans and milk.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: ‘The fact that Unicef is having to step in to feed our country’s hungry children is a disgrace and Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak should be ashamed.

‘We are one of the richest countries in the world. Our children should not have to rely on humanitarian charities that are used to operating in war zones and in response to natural disasters.

‘Charities and businesses across the country have done a brilliant job stepping in where the Government has failed, but it should have never come to this.’

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman added: ‘We would point to the substantial action we’ve taken to ensure that children don’t go hungry through the pandemic and I would point to the additional £16 million we pledged not too long ago to food distribution charities.’ 

The Unicef grant will ensure families in need are provided with the boxes over the two week Christmas holidays, while an additional 6,750 breakfasts will also be distributed over February half term next year.  

The food boxes are packed with ingredients for 10 nutritious breakfasts (pictured). This includes fresh pineapple, oats, desiccated coconut, and rice in addition to whole meal bread, baked beans and milk

In the past 12 months, the number of families struggling to feed themselves has dramatically risen. 

Research commissioned by the Food Foundation charity earlier this year found more than 2.4million children were living in ‘food insecure households’.

The Trussell Trust, a separate charity that also provides food parcels to hungry families, also said they had seen a shocking 47% increase in need during the Covid crisis. 

These figures came in addition to an unprecedented demand for their services in 2019. 

School Food Matters Founder and CEO, Stephanie Slater said: ‘Families are really struggling and many were facing the grim reality of a two-week winter break without access to free school meals and the indignity of having to rely on food banks to feed their children.

‘We cannot continue to rely on civil society to fill the hunger gap as too many children will miss out on the nutrition they need to thrive.’

It comes as a report from Unicef found child poverty is expected to remain above pre-pandemic levels for at least five years in high-income countries including the UK, Germany and Canada.

The organisation urged the government to increase Universal Credit payments and strengthen ‘child focused social protection systems’.

Joanna Rea, Unicef UK Director of Advocacy, said: ‘Interventions made by the UK Government to date have helped support children and families in the short term. 

‘However, warnings of sustained high rates of child poverty, potentially for five more years, demonstrates an urgent need for the UK Government to prioritise investment in social policies and long-term solutions that place children and families at the heart of recovery plans.’

Ditching Jenrick’s ‘mutant algorithm’ is a win for localism

“The reality of modern Britain is that the local is fighting back”.

Simon Jenkins www.theguardian.com 

Planning secretary Robert Jenrick’s climbdown over his planning white paper is welcome. Its core proposal for houses to be built according to a Whitehall formula – the so-called “mutant algorithm” – emerged in August reputedly at the bidding of the building lobby, eager to boost their development land-banks in the south-east. It has collapsed under a barrage of protest from southern Tory constituencies that faced being concreted over and northern cities that Jenrick was going to starve of housing subsidies.

The reality of modern Britain is that the local is fighting back. It is no longer unusual for provincial counties and towns to be mentioned on the BBC. In one hour I recently heard Manchester, Leicester, Stratford, Hereford and Kent all demanding freedom to fix their own lockdown strategies. Others have sought to regulate their own schools or distribute their own furlough grants. But nothing has evoked greater fury than Jenrick’s stripping local councils of planning powers.

The Jenrick formula demanded that every community in England build a precise number of houses dictated by Whitehall, irrespective of local wishes. It was rumoured to be rooted in the medieval principle that a “local need” for housing was determined by local births, marriages, divorces and deaths, as if today’s population did not travel. This was then adjusted by price to yield a “need” figure.

The bias towards development in the south-east was massive. It decided house-building should decline by 28% in the north-east but rise by 633% in Kensington.

Horsham was told to cram its entire past century of growth into the next 10 years. I am not aware of any country in the world, except possibly China, with so arithmetically top-down a plan. It would have made Lenin blush. Such an idea would not have passed first base under most prime ministers, if only for its political ineptitude.

Policy to Boris Johnson is a matter of slogans. He appears not to have noticed that his cry of ““build, build, build now contradicted his cry of “we must level-up the north”. Nor did he notice that he had opposed 514 homes in his own south-east constituency, including a 12-storey tower that he called “wholly out of character for the locality”. This was laughable, given his tower infatuation as London mayor.

Jenrick now has two tasks. He has promised to bring some sanity to his housing formula. He would do better to scrap it altogether. Local people can best judge whether and where they want their communities to grow, and there is no evidence they automatically oppose it. Besides, they have some collective rights to decide such matters in a democracy.

Subsidies should then be concentrated – as Jenrick now proposes – on the renewal of brownfield land especially outside the south- east. He should honour Johnson’s levelling up. He should worry less about his developers and look at the scandal of empty sites, under-occupancy and housing vacancy. The luxury towers, many foreign owned, that now line the Thames in London are reportedly half empty, but they will doubtless contribute to Jenrick’s 300,000 new “homes”. For most people a home implies a place someone lives, not a shell.

Britain’s housing policy is chaotic. The rental sector requires urgent review. Property taxes are too low, renting is too insecure, but at the same time incentives to sublet empty space are inadequate. It is absurd that repairs and conversions attract full VAT while new-build is VAT-free. If Jenrick is bereft of good advice, ask the Germans or the Dutch.

As for the future of British planning, it is still up for grabs. The reason for the most drastic reform of British planning in half a century was Jenrick’s allegation that “it takes an average of five years for a standard housing development to go through the planning system”. This developers’ gossip is simply untrue. The BBC’s Reality Check could find only five big developments that had taken that long, while Whitehall’s own figures showed that 89% of major applications were decided “within 13 weeks or the agreed time”. Delay was usually caused by developers themselves going to lengthy appeal.

As for landscape conservation, the August white paper implied that, subject to central targets, areas of rural land could still be declared “protected”. The paper nowhere defined what should qualify. Meanwhile, outside these protected areas, almost any building is to be permitted without so much as planning permission. This is like arming the police and allowing them to shoot on sight.

Most protests at the new system have pointed out that the current system is not broken, except insofar as it allows builders to build land banks against rising prices. This is already rampant. The CPRE claims land for 1.3m homes is lying idle, with permits already in place for more than half a million of them.

A planning lawyer of my acquaintance considers the dropped proposals so vague that, far from Johnson’s “build, build, build”, they would have meant the opposite, “a lawyer’s paradise”.

All is not bad. There is virtue in the white paper’s concept of zoning for different degrees of development. There is virtue too in its design code and calls for “more beauty”, though not a whisper about who should enforce it if at all. What is unarguable is that planning matters to the entire appearance of Britain. Bruised and abused over the decades, that appearance remains each generation’s lasting legacy to the next.

Bad planning is for all time. Jenrick has spent the past year playing with dynamite. The former Tory leadership contender Jeremy Hunt accused him of nothing less than undermining local democracy. Now his humiliation of local government has exploded in his face. It shows that two can play at another Johnson slogan – “Take back control”.

Anger after another delay in finalising how town centre will look

The future of Cranbrook has once again been delayed after councillors voted against accepting an offer as to how the new town will be developed, much to the disappointment of many people.

Interesting to note that Simon Jupp criticises the Council for “dithering”. Dithering is what Boris Johnson does.

In this case, although you may not like it, the Council seems to Owl to be consistent.

Remember this was meant to be a showcase for “developer-led” development which has failed to deliver, leaving the Council to pick up the pieces. It’s another legacy problem.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

East Devon District Council’s strategic planning committee had the option of accepting a revised masterplan for the town from the East Devon New Community Partners (EDNCp) when they met on Tuesday afternoon, having previously turned down their vision.

Further negotiations had taken place between the consortium and the council since the October meeting and subsequently councillors heard that an improved offer had been made, one that the council’s strategic lead for planning described as ‘being fit for purpose for the town centre both now and in the future’.

The proposals include a 2,500 square metres Morrisons supermarket, around 350 town centre homes, a town square, a town hall, a children’s centre, youth centre and library in a single building, as well as land that could be used for a leisure centre, a hotel and retail units.

Artist impression of the plans for Cranbrook town centre

Artist impression of the plans for Cranbrook town centre

But committee members rejected the recommendation to accept the offer and instead voted to go back to the consortium and try and negotiate further to deliver on some of the commitments initially promised that would be dropped.

The news though has angered Cranbrook councillors and the town’s MP Simon Jupp, who said they ‘showed little knowledge of the needs of Cranbrook’.

Ed Freeman, Service Lead for Planning Strategy, told Tuesday’s meeting that following the negotiations, the proposed offer from the consortium has been amended, which included relocating the extra care facility to elsewhere in the town to free up active frontage space on Tillhouse Road. This would also see sufficient space on provided to accommodate a leisure centre alongside the town council building and health and wellbeing centre, while the EDNCp are also suggesting that a hotel could be accommodated on this parcel of land.

The EDNCp are also willing to make land within the town centre available for the Council to acquire, however they have made it clear that they would expect that land should be valued on the basis of a residential use.

Artist impression of the plans for Cranbrook town centre

Artist impression of the plans for Cranbrook town centre

Mr Freeman said: “While the revised offer would not deliver everything sought in the draft Supplementary Planning Document, it would deliver the majority of what is needed and although any hotel delivered on the additional land would not have frontage onto the London Road, in the spirit of compromise the overall offer would in terms of the mix and quantum of uses be acceptable.

“This would provide sufficient land and flexibility to deliver a fit for purpose town centre, both now and in the future as the town grows.

“If you are not content with the revised offer, the SPD is the best way to deliver the town centre, but would be significantly delayed.”

But accepting the offer, while speeding up the delivery process, would see the town miss out on more than £2m of contributing towards formal open space, sports pitches, education, the health and wellbeing hub, and walking and cycling infrastructure in the revised legal S106 agreement.

Cllr Matthew Osborn, from Cranbrook town council, said that he was speaking on behalf of the residents who were sold the dream of moving to a new town and be a pioneer and called for the committee to accept the offer.

Artist impression of the plans for Cranbrook town centre

Artist impression of the plans for Cranbrook town centre

He said: “Like many people, I was amazed by the community spirit and sense of belonging and pride, but the dream has become harder as we have faced false dawns and were over promised and under delivered and we are losing faith in any sign of delivery.

“The residents’ wishes are to have a delivery and to start to believe again that they made the right choice in coming here and the current proposal delivers what the town needs. We have reached the point where officers and councillors and consortium can accept it, so please listen to the people of the town and don’t ignore us.”

Nick Freer, from the East Devon Community Partnership, said that this was now a collective proposal that had been worked on and the first elements of the town centre could be in place within 18 months, but said: “We cannot risk losing the momentum we have built up as the risks and the stakes are too high. We have a proposal that is worked on and that we all can be genuinely proud of.”

Cllr Kim Bloxham said: “These are good proposals for Cranbrook and what the community wants and needs, and for the hope for the residents’ of Cranbrook, accept the offer and allow it to progress without delay,” while Cllr Helen Parr said that it was a much improved offer and that residents wanted it to go forward so they can get on with their lives

Backing the proposals, Cllr Mike Howe said that there were issues still with the offer, but there are issues with every application, and the council were walking the fine line of the balance to get the best out of it now, and a future where they might get something but 10 years late.

He said: “Even with reservations, this gives us just enough to move forward, as we have the majority of the residents in support.”

Cllr Kevin Blakey added: “The vast majority of residents want to see the facilities delivered sooner rather than later, and the offer is now fit for purpose for now and for the future. There are matters of detail to be sorted out but now is the time to prove that the future of the residents of Cranbrook counts. We have a deal that we can progress.”

Cllr Ian Thomas added that the proposals meet the objective to deliver a town centre that the residents want, is supported by their representatives, and meets the reasonable aspirations of the consortium and the council, with much stronger officer support this time, and he proposed agreeing in principle to the Memorandum of Understanding.

He added: “We need to send a clear message and that we have something a lot better than Boris’ ‘oven ready deal’ and that the council is ready to move forward and deliver a town centre that meets the needs of residents and the partners.”

Artist impression of the plans for Cranbrook town centre

Artist impression of the plans for Cranbrook town centre

But while Cllr Eleanor Rylance said that while compared to what they initially saw, the proposals were heading in the right direction, she had fears that the MOU would be the ‘high point’ of any offer and not the starting point. She said: “There is lot of potential to deliver what the residents need now but questions over if it will deliver the need for the future residents.”

And Cllr Paul Hayward said that the £2m loss of amenity contributions if they accepted the offer was ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’,

He added: “The residents were sold a dream on a false promise, but someone who is desperately thirsty will pay any price for a glass of water even though there is an oasis over the hill. I am not convinced by the deal and think there is still room for more negotiating. I cannot support this as I don’t believe it will deliver. I hope I am proved wrong, and I don’t want to be proved right, and if I am wrong, then people can have a go at me.”

And Cllr Paul Arnott, leader of the council, added: “There is huge disappointment and it is unacceptable we don’t have an open book here and it is unclear what the land values will be. There is obviously concern about the town square which is just a bit of open pavement.

“We need to find a way out of this but we are underestimating our negotiating position. They have the Morrisons card and everyone is terrified that they may go off and in a strop and open up somewhere else, and that may be a risk we may have to take.”

Artist impression of the plans for Cranbrook town centre

Artist impression of the plans for Cranbrook town centre

He called for further negotiations to take place over the MOU with the outcome of them to either come to the cabinet meeting on January 6, or at the very least within 14 days of that, and then the cabinet can take a look and see what changes can be made, adding: “I’m sorry if it will ruin a few Christmases, but that’s tough.”

Councillors voted by seven votes to six, with one abstention, to reject the proposal made by Cllr Thomas for them to agree to the MOU, before then voting by nine votes to four to agree to further negotiations that will come back to the cabinet early in 2021.

Work on the SPD, which would deliver a more comprehensive town centre but further into the future, will be paused while the further negotiations take place.

But Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon, reacting to the decision said: “Cranbrook residents, some of the highest council tax payers in Devon, look on in disbelief as their voice is ignored and the can is kicked down the road yet again. Dithering by councillors who don’t represent Cranbrook is putting plans for a proper town centre and a new supermarket at risk. It’s time to stop faffing and start delivering what was promised to the people of Cranbrook.”

And in a joint statement, Cllrs Bloxham, Blakey and Sam Hawkins, the three ward members for Cranbrook, said: “The Democratic Alliance members of EDDC’s Strategic Planning Committee once again showed little knowledge of the needs of Cranbrook together with a lack of understanding of the whole planning process within which the town is being delivered.

“Remarks about failure of the developers to deliver on their obligations and comments about the needs of the town now and in the future were totally misplaced and led to a committee decision potentially plunges the town into a very uncertain future.

“Having been involved in detailed negotiations with the consortium for more than a year we had reached a place where there was a very positive proposal on the table. Yet just seven members of EDDC – all part of the Democratic Alliance, none of whom represent the town – decided to reject it.

“The proposal brought forward to the recent Strategic Planning Committee where the developers were not only delivering on all of their obligations (including those not due until later) but also bringing forward many additional town centre facilities including the supermarket, town square, nursery, double the amount of retail premises with further land being handed to the local authority to bring forward more shops, a leisure centre and other potential facilities such as an hotel and business units as well as a town council building that would not just be offices for the council but provide a cafe, meeting and event space, toilets and much needed office space for local businesses to grow.

“But the decision plunges Cranbrook into a further period of uncertainty and instead of enjoying Christmas with the prospect of a supermarket and a town centre in the foreseeable future the future now looks so much bleaker.”

Strong waves smash restaurant window in Exmouth

Strong waves smashed a window – and broke the wall – at The Rockfish Restaurant.

(See radioexe link below for video)

Sam Sterrett www.radioexe.co.uk

Strong wind and rain has caused havoc across Devon this morning (Wednesday 16th December). The Environment Agency has issued multiple flood warnings across the county. 

Exmouth, in particular, was hit hard by the weather. Strong waves smashed a window – and broke the wall – at The Rockfish Restaurant.

The inclement weather is expected to continue until Saturday, says the Met Office, who issued a four-day weather warning for Devon yesterday. We’ll have full updates on Radio Exe through the day. Watch the short video above, taken in Exmouth earlier this morning.