Devon people on the county’s biggest causes of deprivation

Devon is known for its uniquely pretty towns and villages – but hidden behind the expensive postcodes are some of the country’s most deprived areas.

Jess Morcom 

Recently, Devon Live launched its campaign, Hidden Devon, a series of campaigns highlighting issues that lie beneath the surface of our county, including deprivation.

Last year, the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) statistics were released, which showed that the area around Clarence Place in Stonehouse, Plymouth, is the most deprived in the county.

The figures took into account various factors, including income, crime, employment and education.

They also revealed that overall, 17% of neighbourhoods in Plymouth and 16% in Torbay, are among the most deprived 10% in Devon.

Many non-deprived people live in deprived areas, and many deprived people live in non-deprived areas. It is important to note that the index is designed to identify and measure specific aspects of deprivation, rather than measures of affluence.

But we wanted to know if residents of Devon agreed with these results.

We asked readers where they thought was the most deprived neighbourhood in Devon – and most importantly, how it could be improved.

A staggering 25% of participants, that took part in the survey, thought that Torquay was the most deprived area in Devon, followed by Paignton, which gained 20% of the vote.

In addition, 12% of readers that took part said that they thought Plymouth was the most deprived in the county, although no specific parts of the city were listed.

Newton Ferrers, Tiverton, Exeter and Torbay were also popular suggestions.

The majority of readers thought that unemployment or underemployment was the main concern within the deprived areas of Devon, with this option gaining over 40% of the vote.

A further 29% of readers opted for homelessness being the main problem in the deprived town or neighbourhood.

A lack of adequate schools, as well as lack of support for arts and culture were also suggestions.

There were mixed suggestions for ways that Devon’s most deprived towns could be improved.

One reader wrote: “The whole of Paignton needs vast improvement, too much talking from the council, needs more action.

“The so-called town is an embarrassment, from cheap pubs where people just sit on the streets to the terrible bus station and railway – the appearance is horrendous. Very deprived.”

Another said: “Improvements could be made to Torquay by using the many empty and unused hotels, old buildings boarded up to create temporary accommodation for those who wish to turn their lives around.

“More funding is needed to give people the help and opportunities to get them integrated into society where alcohol and drug dependency is no longer their only choice.

“Torbay seems to be a town that’s overlooked and has no funding for fixing the issues and now looks like a town fresh out of a horror or apocalypse film. Shocking reality is no one appears to care about this or those stuck on streets either.”

Another reader said of Torquay: “It’s a shame as the place has really gone down the shoot in recent years, more like driving through parts of the North West now, derelict streets filled with alcoholics and drug addicts. Shocking place to see now.”

A third added: “More jobs in and around the Torbay area. Employment outside of the hospitality industry is lacking following the demise of Nortel, Brookers and WKD. We need more industry and transport links here.”

Meanwhile, one Exeter resident feels as though litter is its biggest issue: “Litter is the main issue its becoming such a dirty area – it needs more rubbish bins, including dog waste bins as the area is also rife with dog dirt.”

Promoting sustainable transport

EDDC’s Local Plan consultation document on the issues and options contains a whole chapter on promoting sustainable transport. This fleshes out policies: to prioritise walking, cycling and public transport and make provision for charging electric vehicles, whilst reducing reliance on fossil fuelled vehicles.

At the same time CPRE launches an online petition calling for a reliable bus service for every community.

EDDC consultation Chapter 11 – Promoting sustainable transport

Para 11.7 As we develop policy for sustainable transport we will also look at other emerging themes and issues that we may wish to address in our plan. Key issues identified so far include:

1. To look more fully at bus routes and accessibility when planning for new development and consider ways we can promote public transport quality and use.

2. Providing and promoting high quality walking and cycling networks and support cycle parking.

3. Focus development in the most accessible locations where most journeys can be made by walking, cycling and public transport.

4. Protect existing valued services and facilities from being lost to other uses.

5. Require large scale development to provide a mix of uses on site and/or show how a range of different uses can be easily accessed from the development by walking, cycling and public transport.

6. Set walking distances from new homes to a range of identified services (including bus stops) – generally 800m is a comfortable walking distance.31

7. Set targets for new development relating to the proportion of people who will walk, cycle and use public transport.

8. Identify and protect sites and routes which could be critical to widen transport choice.

9. Provide for large scale transport facilities such as public transport projects and roadside services.

10. Recognise the importance of Exeter airport with the expectation of a specific policy for the airport and its future.

11. Consider levels of car parking in new development and the need for electric charging for vehicles, specifically given the proposed ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

12. Recognise the importance of providing adequate overnight lorry parking facilities.

13. Require cycle racks and electric charging for bicycles.

Respondents are asked: Question 24 – Do you think these are appropriate sustainable transport policy areas to be addressed in a new local plan and are there any other major policy areas that you think we should be addressing?

Meanwhile CPRE launches online petition calling for a reliable bus service for every community

Save rural life – buses for every community

We all have the right to a full, rich life – wherever we live. But without regular bus services, many people in rural communities are being cut off, isolated and left without the means to live an independent life. 

The people living in our towns and villages deserve better. 

As we start to rebuild, will you join us in calling for a reliable bus service for every community, wherever they live? 

This situation isn’t inevitable. It’s the result of decades of underinvestment from successive governments leading to unreliable bus services. But we know it can be done differently.

We must act now if we want to create a truly thriving countryside for all. 

More buses means: 

  • Less traffic and air pollution 
  • Better access to local green space for everyone 
  • More spending on our local high streets 
  • Access to training and jobs for everyone 
  • A ticket out of loneliness and isolation for our friends and family. 

If people across the country speak with one voice, we know politicians will have to listen. With just a few clicks, you can be part of this. 

Planning applications validated by EDDC week beginning 11 January

Swathes of England’s vital flood defences ‘almost useless’

Thousands of England’s vital flood defences were in such a state of ruin last year they would fail to protect communities from extreme weather, an investigation has found.

Josh Halliday

More than 3,400 of England’s “high consequence” flood assets, defined as those where there is a high risk to life and property if they fail, were judged by the Environment Agency to be in such a bad condition they were almost useless.

This means that more than one in 20 of the country’s crucial flood defences were in disrepair in 2019-20, the highest proportion in years. This rose to nearly one in 10 in the regions battered by Storm Christoph last week.

The findings comes from Environment Agency data obtained by Unearthed, the investigative arm of Greenpeace UK, and shared with the Guardian. Doug Parr, the chief scientist and policy director at Greenpeace UK, said: “The poor state of so many critical flood defences in England is putting thousands of people and homes at risk. This is unacceptable.”

Most of Britain was placed under a weather warning for snow and ice on Monday after an Arctic blast of cold air hampered the recovery effort from Storm Christoph, which caused at least 600 homes to be flooded as two months’ worth of rain fell in 48 hours in some areas.

The Environment Agency said its 2020 recovery programme inspected more than 20,000 assets and that they were “winter ready” either through repairs or, if not, “robust contingency plans are in place”. It said that 95% of its 78,000 flood assets, which range from embankments to culverts and tidal barriers, were in good condition and that repairs were prioritised when there was “significant threat to lives and livelihoods”.

The Unearthed analysis found that 3,460 of England’s most important flood defences were judged by the Environment Agency to be in a poor or very poor condition in 2019-20. This accounts for 5.9% of the total, the highest proportion in years, up from 4% in 2017-18.

Of the 3,460, 791 were judged “very poor”, meaning they had “severe defects resulting in complete performance failure”, essentially rendering them useless. The remaining 2.669 were in poor condition, meaning they have defects that would “significantly reduce” their performance.

Just under half of England’s 59,000 vital flood defences are managed by a complex array of third parties, including government departments, local authorities and private landowners. The figures show that 8% of those managed by third parties are in poor or very poor condition, compared to 4% of those overseen by the Environment Agency. In the picturesque district of Hart, in Hampshire, all of its vital flood defences are managed by third parties and nearly half are in a state of ruin.

Experts have warned that the UK faces an increased risk from more extreme and unpredictable weather owing to the climate emergency. Major floods had been expected every 15 to 20 years in the last century but in the past decade this has shortened to every two to five years.

The Environment Agency has said it needs £1bn a year to build and maintain England’s flood defences, significantly more than the £5.2bn announced by the government for 2,000 new projects up to 2027.

Parr urged ministers to increase funding to better protect England’s flood defences and stop building on high-risk floodplains. He added: “We know that the climate crisis is making our winters wetter, increasing the risk of floods across the country. We’ve had warning of the climate threat for years so there’s no excuse for not being prepared.”

In the Midlands, South Yorkshire and north-west of England, where nearly 600 homes were flooded last week, 831 of these vital defences are in a state or disrepair – 9% of the total. In Cheshire, where at least 150 people had to be rescued by firefighters last week, 16% of “high consequence” flood defences are in a poor or very poor condition, according to Environment Agency data.

Dan Jarvis, the mayor of the Sheffield city region, said residents would have to endure “sleepless nights” due to a £125m funding gap in its flood defence allocation from Whitehall.

Jarvis welcomed an additional £80m given to the region last week for flood management projects but said this was a “sticking plaster over a much bigger wound”. He has asked ministers for months to fund 27 projects that would protect 10,300 homes, 2,800 businesses as well as crucial infrastructure.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We know how flooding can devastate communities, which is why since 2015 a record figure of £2.6bn has been invested in flood schemes, better protecting 300,000 homes, and over the next six years we are doubling that investment – £5.2bn for 2,000 new defences to better protect a further 336,000 properties.”

What is going on with England’s May elections?

Two different views on the May elections.

What’s the betting that we end up with the worst case scenario: the government pushes ahead only to have to make a U-turn late in the day, when councils will already have spent a fortune in money and time preparing? – Owl

Elections are fundamental to democracy and must be properly managed

Author: Josiah Mortimer

This past week we’ve seen a dizzying array of conflicting reports for the government’s plans for May’s polls, with Conservative party figures suggesting delays are likely, despite official advice that plans are unchanged but ‘under review’.

Last year’s English local elections were already delayed by a year due to the pandemic – so Ministers need to give clarity as soon as possible as to whether the public will be able to exercise their right to vote safely in May.

Electoral experts have warned that despite delaying elections for a longer time than many other countries, the UK government ‘still isn’t ready’ to hold polls under pandemic conditions.

Wales and Scotland are passing legislation on the issue, and having an open debate around any election delay. In Wales, a cross-party working group is regularly reporting on the state of plans and preparations for how to hold May’s Senedd elections safely. In England, it feels like the public are only getting hearsay through selective briefings to journalists. That’s no good for public trust, with fears that partisan interests could come into play when ministers are considered another delay.  

We all deserve openness and transparency over how any decision over a delay will be made. The current stream of confusing reports damages planning and public confidence in the process.

Ministers should set out plans for ensuring democracy can take place safely and securely and make clear when and how any decision over another delay will be made. Wales and Scotland’s contingency plans have allowed proper debate and scrutiny about how the elections can happen safely, and how a delay might work – giving everyone time and space to plan. We should expect the same respect for voters in England.

Elections are not a ‘nice to have’. They are fundamental to democracy and must be properly managed. And electoral administrators need to be properly resources.

May’s elections, which include delayed elections from 2020, will see a bumper set of votes with elections due to be held for English councils, police and crime commissioners, the London mayor, the London Assembly, regional mayors and local mayors as well as elections in Scotland and Wales. Local administrators need resources to prepare properly.

Over 100 elections have taken place worldwide since the pandemic began, including by-elections in Scotland. With the vaccine now being rolled-out, we should be doing everything we can to make sure elections take place fairly and safely.

English council chiefs back postponement of May local elections

A further postponement to this year’s local elections, in the wake of the continuing difficulties caused by the Covid pandemic, is backed by the vast majority of senior council figures across England, the Observer can reveal.

Michael Savage

Only 11% of the senior officials dealing with the forthcoming elections believe they should go ahead in May as planned, despite the government’s determination to press ahead. More than two-thirds (69%) believe the huge set of elections should now take place in the autumn, according to the most comprehensive survey of council chief executives, leaders and officers in charge of organising elections to be conducted on the issue.

A further 14% called for a shorter delay to the summer and 6% backed a postponement beyond this autumn, according to the analysis by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU). Of the more than 350 officials who responded, two-thirds said they were “very concerned” about holding elections in May.

Difficulty recruiting and training electoral workers, complications in ensuring safety of polling stations and concerns that voters worried about Covid-19 may be disenfranchised are among the concerns expressed by those drawing up local election plans. One Conservative council leader said: “It will be a grave error not to act early and announce a delay now.” Another Tory council leader said: “Go for the end of July or October: don’t tempt fate with May, only to have to call them off. I am really concerned about vulnerable candidates.”

The postponement of 2020’s local elections in England has meant this year’s were to be the biggest in years. They include county councils, district councils, unitary authorities, mayoral races, police and crime commissioners, and the London assembly. Elections also take place for the assemblies in Scotland and Wales. Decisions over those elections are controlled by their respective devolved governments.

The Scottish government has said it is still planning for elections to go ahead, but has emergency powers to delay or to hold polling over more than a day. The Welsh government has said that it intends to proceed in May, but that “significant uncertainty” around the pandemic means a delay may be needed.

Boris Johnson has backed holding elections in May but has suggested he is keeping the decision under review. However, it is understood that the serious concerns among councils about the practicalities of proceeding with the poll have been made clear to Robert Jenrick, the housing, communities and local government secretary.

Four-fifths of those surveyed by the LGIU (80%) were concerned about their ability to recruit and train electoral workers, with fewer volunteers likely to come forward. Difficulties in obtaining polling and count venues have also emerged, while the usual use of schools as polling stations is also proving contentious. Some traditional polling venues are also being used as vaccination centres. “We will not get all the staff we need and we will be lucky to get the venues for polling and/or counting,” said one electoral administrator. “You can throw as much PPE at the polls as you like, if people do not want to volunteer to work, we can’t run the elections.”

Some insiders expressed concern about the democratic problems created by a further delay. After elections were delayed last May, some councillors and mayors will have exceeded their original mandate by 18 months if voting is delayed until autumn. Some local councillors have already stood down in their area because they could not serve beyond the scheduled end of their tenures last year.

Jonathan Carr-West, the chief executive of the LGIU, said: “Local government is committed to democracy, but the overwhelming view from councils is that it is no longer possible to hold safe and open elections in May. The logistical challenges are formidable and there’s a real risk that we effectively disenfranchise millions of people who do not feel safe going to the polls.

“The worst scenario of all would be for government to push ahead only to have to make a U-turn late in the day, when councils will already have spent a fortune in money and time preparing. Better to take a bold decision now to delay the elections and use the additional time to ensure they can be run safely. Such measures should include the vaccination of poll workers and an expansion of postal voting. Public confidence in elections is an essential foundation of our democracy – once lost, it takes years to rebuild. That risk is not worth taking.”

Full details of the mass vaccination centres opening near you

NHS England has announced that more than 30 new NHS Vaccine Centres will start delivering life-saving Covid jabs this week as the health service continues to accelerate the biggest immunisation programme in its history.

Richeldis Cain

Three of the new large scale sites are located across Devon and Cornwall – these centres will be able to jab thousands of people a week.

In Plymouth, the Mayflower Grandstand has confirmed it will host a mass vaccination centre at Home Park.

Whilst Stithians Showground, near Truro,  in Cornwall and Westpoint, near Exeter, in Devon will also be opening in the coming days.

People aged 75 and over are being invited to book a vaccination at the centres or one of more than 70 pharmacy services now operating across the country.

If they cannot or do not want to travel to a Vaccination Centre people can wait to be jabbed by a local GP service or hospital hub.

The new Vaccination Centres will kick off by jabbing mainly health and social care staff tomorrow (Monday, January 25) before opening their doors to more patients on Tuesday.

The NHS vaccinated over 140 people every minute last week and hopes to do more people this week as more becomes available.

Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi said, “I am delighted we are opening even more places for people to get a jab – as of this week there will be almost 50 vaccination centres, more than 250 hospitals hubs and over 1,000 local vaccination service sites, run by GPs and pharmacies right across the country.

“This will enable us to vaccinate as many people as possible in the weeks and months to come and I encourage anyone who has been invited for a free vaccine to come forward and get a jab.

“Remember, with high levels of infection everyone must continue to follow the rules, stay at home and maintain social distancing – even if you have had the vaccine.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has thanked NHS staff for the vaccination roll out so far but has reminded the public that now is not the time to “drop our guard”.

“Through the vaccines delivery plan, we have made outstanding progress in vaccinating our NHS and care staff and the most vulnerable people in society.

“My utmost thanks go out to everyone in the NHS and all our volunteers who have worked round the clock to make this happen.

“We must not drop our guard. While the vaccine can prevent severe disease, we do not know if it stops you from passing on the virus to others, and it takes time to develop immunity after a jab, so for now, everyone must continue to stay at home to help bring down infections and protect the NHS.”