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Local Conservatives have a nerve

Local Conservatives have a nerve boasting about putting ‘meat on the bones’, when their government has both stripped funding and hoisted council tax

From the blog of Martin Shaw County Council Candidate https://seatonmatters.org/

Posted on May 3, 2021

MAJOR SLEAZE

The Conservative candidates for Seaton and Axminster, in a paid advert in the Midweek Herald, say they are working to put ‘meat on the bones’ on the services we need in the area. This is incredible hypocrisy after their government has spent over a decade stripping the same services back to the bone.

Devon County Council’s funding has been reduced by far more than £100 million per year. Highways and Libraries are on standstill funding, i.e. reducing in real terms.

Austerity is still with us

Lest you be fooled by loose talk about austerity being over, let me remind you that golden boy Rishi Sunak has made it very clear that most areas of public services will be on starvation rations for the foreseeable future. Even local NHS managers are expecting funding constraints to return with a vengeance once the Covid emergency is over. These are the Government’s political choices, while they spend lavishly in other areas.

Local cuts

When you vote, just remember that in the last few years, Seaton, Axminster and Honiton hospitals have lost their beds because of Conservative spending cuts. NHS Property Services, which owns the hospitals, spurred on my the government’s incentives for property sales, put the Seaton and Axminster hospital sites forward for housing development.

Colyton Fire Station was almost closed for the same reason. Colyton Health Centre faced possible closure because NHS PS hiked their service charges 5 times. The town’s public services could have been decimated for the sake of land sales.

Only vigorous protests by the local communities, with my support as County Councillor, have held the line in these three cases. On the other hand, Conservative councillors from East Devon voted through the cuts in hospital beds.

‘Cutting Council Tax’ – a pure lie

Local Conservatives’ nerve is almost on a par with that of the well-known liar Boris Johnson, who last week claimed that the Conservatives were ‘cutting council tax’. That will be the same Conservatives who have RAISED Devon’s council tax by 30 per cent in the last 6 years, at the same time as CUTTING services.

Boris Johnson Does Not Need To Resign If He Has Broken Ministerial Code, Minister Says

Boris Johnson does not necessarily have to resign as Prime Minister if he is found to have broken the ministerial code, according to foreign office minister James Cleverly.

Adam Payne www.politicshome.com 

Cleverly, the Conservative MP for Braintree, told Sky News on Monday that if Johnson is deemed to have breached the rules stipulating how ministers are expected to act when in office, it is not as “straightforward” as simply stepping down.

Cleverly said the ministerial code was “there for the guidance of the Prime Minister in appointing ministers” and that it was too “simple” to say Johnson himself should resign if an investigation finds he has breached it.

Douglas Ross MP, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday that the Prime Minister should resign if is found to have breached the ministerial code.

“Of course, I think people expect the highest standards of those in the highest office of the land,” he told Marr when asked whether Johnson should step aside in those circumstances.

The Prime Minister continues to face pressure to explain who initially paid for the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.

Johnson insists he has covered the cost of the work, which is believed to have come to £58,000, but has repeatedly dodged questions over who paid for the refurbishment in the first instance, amid claims that it was initially funded by donors to the Conservative party.

There are three investigations into the refurbishment, including an Electoral Commission probe.

However, Johnson as arbitrator of the ministerial code will get the final say on whether he has broken the rules, regardless of what the investigations looking at the refurbishment conclude.

Cleverly was reluctant to discuss what should happen if Johnson is deemed to have broken the code, telling Sky News he did not want to “speculate as to what the outcome of things might be”.

“The Prime Minister has already set out his explanation,” he said.

“He has answered the questions that have been put to him. I don’t know any more detail than what the prime minister has already said.

He added: “Until we know what’s in the report it’s pointless speculating about what actions might be taken. 

Northamptonshire elections bring hope of fresh start after years of turmoil

 “The way that they’ve drawn the boundaries is likely to deliver the best electoral prospects for the Tories, which literally means you’re rewarding failure.”

Jessica Murray www.theguardian.com 

Home to what was once branded the worst-run council in the country, local elections this week mark the start of a new chapter for Northamptonshire.

After years of council turmoil including bankruptcy, a corruption scandal and failing social services, when people head to the polls on Thursday they’ll be voting for the first time to elect two new unitary authorities hoping to start afresh.

It’s the first local elections in the area since 2017, after the vote was delayed first for the restructuring process and then Covid. “It’s been a long time coming, we haven’t had an election for years, so I think everybody is keen to see democracy in Northamptonshire again,” said Robin Burgess, the chief executive of the Hope Centre in Northampton, which works to address poverty in the town.

“I think there is a degree of willingness by politicians to break away from the rather tragic history [of the old councils]. They were very damaged entities and going forward, I think they all want to be seen to be new.”

Poverty has soared in Northampton, with the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the town more than doubling since the start of the pandemic, one of the sharpest increases in the country. And, with a lack of leadership and funding from local authority sources, charities and social enterprises have had to step up.

“The voluntary sector has been incredibly influential in terms of filling the void of leadership by politicians over the last couple of years because the system has been so broken locally,” said Burgess, whose charity now helps coordinate a network of 40 foodbanks across west Northamptonshire, many of which have sprung up over the past year as demand has increased.

But there is hope the two new unitary authorities, which have replaced the previous county and borough council system, will help improve services and get the area back on track again.

“We have all got a vested interest in making the new West Northants [council] successful because we’re all daily impacted by what has gone wrong,” said candidate Danielle Stone, leader of the West Northants Labour group. “I think it’s important that we renew our mandate, too. We’ve been without a mandate two years, and that’s very uncomfortable.”

But Stone is concerned the new setup means poorer urban areas such as Northampton are likely to be governed by a Conservative-majority council mainly made up of people from wealthier, rural areas. “Our concern is we’re going to be ruled by people who’ve got absolutely no understanding of our communities, and all the kind of inner-city pressures that we have to cope with on a daily basis,” she said.

Sally Keeble, a former Labour MP for Northampton North, said: “The way that they’ve drawn the boundaries is likely to deliver the best electoral prospects for the Tories, which literally means you’re rewarding failure.

“Also quite a number of the people who were responsible for what happened both in Northamptonshire [county council] and in Northampton [borough council] are standing for election again. It really beggars belief that the same people are able to sit and run the same authorities.”

In the town of Corby, which was previously the only Labour-led authority in the county and the only council to vote against the restructuring plans, there are also concerns about being incorporated into what will probably become a Conservative-controlled authority.

“Corby has got its own culture and traditions, it’s got its own needs. I think there are a number of towns scared their voices are going to be lost in this,” said Matt Keane, a Labour candidate and former mayor of Corby. Families in the town have already been hit with a council tax bill increase as reduction schemes across different council areas were brought together.

After an Ofsted report in 2019 which found child protection services in Northamptonshire were failing to keep children safe, these will remain under the control of an independent children’s trust, led since December by Colin Foster.

“It’s been the hardest few months of my professional life, if I’m honest; it’s been really tough. But we’re already making improvements and I feel quite hopeful about the future,” said Foster. “This is the best chance Northamptonshire has had in about eight years to be what communities deserve.”

Northampton Conservatives were contacted for comment.

Johnson aide ‘advised on planning law shake-up’ while employed by property firms

Boris Johnson’s former top aide Eddie Lister was involved in discussions on a massive shake-up of planning laws despite being employed by two major property firms, it is claimed.

Pippa Crerar http://www.mirror.co.uk  (extract)

Industry insiders told the Mirror that the senior aide, who stepped down as No 10 came under pressure over conflicts of interest, had been advising on the proposals.

Whitehall sources also suggested that Lord Udny-Lister had been involved as the Downing Street policy team drew up the plans with Robert Jenrick’s Ministry of Housing last year……

Exeter goes for “car free” development: 51 flats approved, Exmouth Junction

But no parking spaces

“We cannot cram more vehicles onto the roads. Unless we blow up and redevelop the whole city, that won’t change, so the only way to support this is for developments that are car-free. This is the way forward, and these homes are badly needed so I will vote in favour.” – Cllr Rob Hannaford.

Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

All flats, no cars (courtesy: Eutopia Homes/LDRS)

Plans for 51 new apartments on vacant land at the former Exmouth Junction have been approved.

It is the second phase of the major development next to Exeter’s Morrisons supermarket to be approved after Exeter City Council’s planning committee gave the go-ahead for 400 new homes, a care home, and new green spaces in March.

The flats will be built on a brownfield site historically been a railway goods yard, rail sidings and coal concentration yard, before most recently being used for surface storage.

As part of the second phase of the development, Eutopia Homes asked for permission to add an L-shaped apartment block as a ‘gateway building’ into the main site.

The new apartment block will consist of 26 one-bedroom flats, 20 two-bedroom flats, and five three-bedroom flats, with the ground floor featuring a residents’ entrance and communal amenity area, lift to all floors, plant space and internal bike and bin store.

The flats would also have a ‘communal amenity’ on the ground floor, roof terraces, private outside space for some ground floor units, over 100 cycle spaces, and there would be improvements around the entrance to connect to existing cycle paths and widening existing footways for pedestrian access to Prince Charles Road. It will be a ‘car free’ development.

Cllr Richard Branston raised concerns over whether the scheme would be ‘over development’ and whether the car free nature would result in parking pressures in the surrounding areas. Cllr Yolanda Henson said that she didn’t think it was a high quality scheme and while there was a need for more housing, “this too big in an area and crammed in.”

But Cllr Rachel Sutton said that the council cannot get away from the fact there is a desperate need for new homes for people struggling to get on the housing ladder.

She added: “It is difficult as everyone says stop building in the suburban areas and the fringes of the city and when an application comes in for a brownfield site, people say they don’t want that either. If you don’t take brave decisions to put forward car-free development, you’ll never have car-free developments, and there is more to like than not to like.”

Cllr Rob Hannaford added: “We cannot cram more vehicles onto the roads. Unless we blow up and redevelop the whole city, that won’t change, so the only way to support this is for developments that are car-free. This is the way forward, and these homes are badly needed so I will vote in favour.”

And Cllr Ruth Williams added: “This will be ideal for people to rent properties and not to need their own transport. We have to build up rather than out as if we build out then we have to use green spaces. We are desperate to find more social housing for Exeter, and those who need homes would be welcoming this development.”

Recommending approval, the report of planning officers, said: “The proposed development is considered to be acceptable. It will be a car-free development, which is considered acceptable for the site by the Local Highway Authority, and it will therefore support the ambition of the city to be net-zero carbon by 2030. The design and scale of the building are considered to be acceptable.

“It will follow the same architectural approach as the main Exmouth Junction development and act as a ‘gateway building’ to this site. It will make effective and efficient use of the land in accordance with local and national policies. It will deliver housing helping the Council to achieve a 5 year land supply.”

Councillors voted by seven votes to four to approve the scheme.