Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 26 April

Alison Hernandez retains Police and Crime Commissioner role

(Despite being bitten by a dog whilst campaigning on election day)

Daniel Clark

Alison Hernandez has retained her role as the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly for the next three years.

The Conservative candidate was re-elected to the role with an increased majority on her 2016 win after counting on Monday.

Incumbent Hernandez was being challenged by Labour’s Gareth Derrick, the Liberal Democrats Brian Blake, and Stuart Jackson of the Green Party, and she came agonisingly close of a first round victory, scoring 49.97 per cent of the votes, just short of the 50 per cent required.

After the second round of voting, which concluded at 10.44pm, after counting for the first round started at 9.30am, she increased her majority to 65.2 per cent, up on the 51.1 per cent she won in 2016 with.

In her victory speech, she set out her stall for Devon and Cornwall to become the safest place in England and to get police officers back on the streets.

She said: “I am elated to get the opportunity for three more years. We have become the second lowest crime area since I came in to office and we want to get to number one, so I want to work with the communities to get there. We want to be so intolerant and create an environment so hostile to crime we stay at number one as well.

“We have to get the officers on the street. We have 317 of the 498 recruited and we want to get them out on the street and on foot patrol and the community needs to see that visibility and that investment on the streets where they live.

“We have had a promise from Government for more than the 498 coming so we have to make sure we get our fair share of that and we will do all we can to ensure we have a sustainable budget, so I am confident that we will be fine.”

She added: “The biggest thing is about reopening front desks and police stations. We already reopened Newquay last year, Tiverton is next in Devon, but I think a few stations in Cornwall are keen to see reopen again, with Penzance particularly and a few others waiting to see if there is support for them.

“Tiverton has a lot of community support and will reopen this year by the autumn and the next thing is to get those police on the street. Rural communities expect those police back on the streets and it will be the chief constable’s number one objective.”

And she continued: “I’ve got an ambitious plan to make us the safest place in the country – we’re already second but I want to get to number one. I need the community’s help to do that and you’ve started that journey this evening by voting for me and I want to thank everyone who took their time to go to the polling station.

“I am looking forward to addressing the community’s priorities and starting work on my next Police and Crime Plan. As we emerge from the pandemic I am heartened by the resilience that our communities have shown and how well Devon and Cornwall Police have engaged with the public, and I intend to build on this approach over the next three years.”

In the first round of vote, Hernandez received 247,173 votes (49.97 per cent), with Derrick on 99,894 (20.2 per cent), Blake on 88,318 (17.8 per cent) and Jackson on 59,242 (11.9 per cent).

Vote share for the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats was up on 2016, with Labour slipping back, while the Greens didn’t stand last time.

After the second round of voting, Hernandez had 275,217 votes (65.2 per cent), compared to Derrick’s 146,979.

Turnout was up on 2016 – 36.7 per cent compared to 22.1 per cent – although slightly impacted by the fact there were only elections in Exeter and Plymouth taking place at the same time five years ago.

The elections were due to take place in May 2020, but were postponed for a year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning that Ms Hernandez will only serve a three year term to return to the usual electoral cycle.

Councillors call for online meetings to continue post-pandemic

Councillors are calling for a law in the Queen’s Speech to allow them to continue online meetings and “serve the best interests of our people”.

By Matt Cole and Jennifer Scott

Local authorities adjusted like most organisations during lockdown by moving their gatherings onto apps like Zoom.

But the emergency legislation allowing the move ran out on 6 May, leaving councils with Covid safety concerns.

The government has launched a consultation on remote meetings to look at potential “next steps”.

But it said there had not been time to bring in legislation to extend it past the local elections – held last week – so it is not expected to feature when the government lays out its plans for the next Parliament in Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech.

A number of councils applied to the High Court to see if existing law would cover them continuing to meet online, but its bid was dismissed, with judges saying MPs would need to pass a new law.

Local online meetings hit the headlines in February after the fractious gathering of Handforth Parish Council, in Cheshire – featuring Jackie Weaver – went viral.

But there is a serious side to the meetings too, with many local representatives saying video conferencing opened up democracy to more people.

Chairman of the Local Government Association, Councillor James Jamieson, said the process was “more sustainable and easier to access” and had “allowed people who work during the day to participate”.

He has the support of Mumsnet, with its chief operating officer, Sue Macmillan, saying the technology had made it more attractive for mothers to get involved.

“Parents of young children don’t put themselves forward to be councillors,” she said.

“The services that councils are responsible for are ones that affect local parents, and we want councils to be reflective of the communities they serve.”

‘Impossible situation’

Justin Griggs, from the National Association of Local Councils, said the decision by government had left local authorities in an “impossible situation”, having to “navigate through changing guidance and rules” to make meetings safe, while continuing with business.

As a result, some councils will be suspending their meetings going forward and delegating decisions to officials, despite the democratic implications.

“While the government was right to praise councils for playing their part in the pandemic, it is wrong not to legislate to allow online meetings to continue,” said Mr Griggs.

However, some councils have pledged to continue Zooming anyway – even without the law supporting them.

media captionViral moments like this Handforth Parish Council meeting could come to an end – but there are more serious reasons for concern too

Woughton Parish Council in Buckinghamshire has seen turnout increase from a handful of residents to upwards of 200.

Councillor Jordan Coventry said: “As a council we have decided that we are going to continue to meet online and serve the best interests of our people the best as we can.

“Why should we spend public money to rent a live space, when we are already one of the most deprived areas in our our local area, in order to comply with a frankly silly law?”

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokeswoman said they recognised that “in some cases remote meetings have widened access to local democracy and enabled councils to conduct essential business throughout the pandemic”.

But she said the government “also has an important role in ensuring meetings continue to have arrangements in place that strengthen scrutiny and transparency in councils”.

She added: “That’s why the we have launched a call for evidence on remote meetings and their use during the pandemic.

“This will inform any potential next steps on legislation or guidance regarding their use in the future.”

Reviving Regions: regional scorecards and growth priorities, a sorry record for Devon.

Despite the grandiose productivity and growth aims of our LEP see “Don’t count your productivity Unicorns before they hatch” Devon CC area economic score card is rated by the CBI as below average and losing ground (as is much of the South West though some areas are ranked as below average and improving). See details of the Devon scorecard at the bottom of post.

A sorry record of Conservative economic management both nationally and locally. Despite the analysis, Owl remains underwhelmed by the CBI recommendations.

Building on the CBI’s 2020 report Reviving Regions, the CBI is pleased to share its latest data analysis, providing readers with insights into the economic and social health of their region and its sub-regions.

Hannah Richmond Principal Policy Adviser

The UK has a longstanding productivity challenge

Productivity growth has stagnated since the financial crisis, and this has had a knock-on impact on wage growth and living standards.

Within the CBI’s 2020 report Reviving Regions we set out a series of recommendations to close productivity gaps, and level up the country. These recommendations focused on how to build vibrant local labour markets, how to transform local physical and digital infrastructure to facilitate new ways of working, and how to inspire world-class, innovative businesses to invest in all regions.

These recommendations were underpinned by the idea that interventions must reflect local needs, and that regions should be further empowered if we are to level up the country. This becomes increasingly important given the impacts of the pandemic could affect regions differently.

The CBI’s regional scorecards and growth priorities

In order to support policymakers and businesses understand the unique strengths of regions, and areas of focus for interventions, the CBI has developed a series of scorecards. These provide insights into the economic and social health of the nine English regions, alongside a more detailed picture for sub-regions.

The scorecards include 20 different indicators, focused on a region’s productivity and some of the factors that can influence it. As well as this we have considered metrics such as deprivation and life satisfaction, recognising that productivity alone is not the only factor we should consider in order to level up the country.

Sitting alongside the scorecards for the nine English regions are a series of growth priorities. These have been developed in consultation with local businesses, reflecting both the recommendations within Reviving Regions, as well as the data within the scorecards. These set out top priorities for the local business community and indicate their commitment to work with local and national government to level up their region.

You can find a link to the following nine regional scorecards below: East of England, East Midlands, London, North East, North West, South East, South West, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber. Within each scorecard pack you will find a series of sub-regional scorecards which will provide local insights, as well as the growth priorities. You will also find details of the regional policy lead, should you have any questions, or would like to get involved in the implementation of the growth priorities for your region.

Hold the Plymouth Gold Rush!

Labour accuses minister of ‘catastrophic blunder’ over freeports


Manufacturers based in Boris Johnson’s new freeports will not be able to enjoy the full benefits if they are exporting to a series of countries with which the UK has signed post-Brexit trade deals.

The Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have championed freeports – special economic zones offering tax breaks and lower tariffs – as a part of the Government’s “levelling up” agenda to spread economic growth and jobs across the country.

But Labour said a “catastrophic blunder” means manufacturers operating within freeports could face tariffs on their exports to key markets including Switzerland, Canada, Norway and Singapore, despite the UK’s free trade agreements with those countries.

Officials insisted there has not been an error and businesses will not be shut out of markets in countries the UK has negotiated deals with.

The Opposition suggested that exports to 23 countries with which the UK has signed agreements to roll over deals those nations had with the European Union would be affected.

Labour said trade ministers failed to remove wide-ranging “duty exemption prohibitions” contained in 23 of those agreements.

The prohibitions state that any business which has not paid duty on its imports cannot benefit from reduced tariffs on its exports.

A Government spokesman said: “There is no error and it is not uncommon for free trade agreements to have these provisions.

“Businesses will not be shut out of markets we have negotiated free trade deals with.

“They will benefit from both our free trade programme, and also from freeports, which provide tax breaks, simpler planning restrictions and cheaper imports.”

Where the provisions apply, firms will be able to opt for either “duty drawback” – the refund of import duty when goods are re-exported – or from the preferential rates under the free trade agreement, providing they comply with the deal’s rules of origin tests.

Exports of goods to the 23 countries concerned were worth £35.56 billion in 2019, almost 10% of the UK’s total goods exports, Labour said.

Shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry has written to International Trade Secretary Liz Truss to ask her to clarify the situation.

Ms Thornberry said: “Last November, when the Treasury invited applications for its new freeports scheme, the small print warned potential bidders of the prohibition clauses contained in several continuity trade agreements the Department of Trade had signed in the previous two years.

“But, despite that warning, Liz Truss went on to sign trade agreements with 10 more countries containing the same clauses, including key markets like Canada, Singapore and Mexico.

“It would have taken an hour of discussion and the stroke of a pen to explain the UK’s freeports policy to negotiators from these countries and remove the prohibition clauses from those agreements, and I cannot understand why Liz Truss failed to do that.

“On the surface of it, this looks like a catastrophic blunder by a minister stuck in her silo, and, as a result, I fear that manufacturers in towns, cities and regions across our country who have succeeded in bidding for freeport status risk missing out on access to key markets.”

At the Budget in March, the Chancellor announced freeports at East Midlands Airport, in Felixstowe and Harwich, Humber, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, the Solent, the Thames and Teesside.

He promised “eight new freeports in eight English regions, unlocking billions of pounds of private sector investment, generating trade and jobs up and down the country”.