“Kiss of Death” for Alison Hernandez?

BoJo “big fan” of Devon police commissioner

Paul Nero www.radioexe.co.uk

WATCH: PM gives thumbs up to Alison Hernandez

It’s often the kiss of death for beleaguered politicians…the prime minister has thrown his weight behind Devon and Cornwall police and crime commissioner.

Boris Johnson has used his appearance at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday to say he is a “big fan” of Alison Hernandez.

Mr Johnson made was responding to a soft underarm question from Anthony Mangnall, Conservative MP for Totnes, who asked if the prime minister would support  ‘counsel advocate’ schemes, such as those introduced by Ms Hernandez in the south west.

Councillor advocates are volunteers from each council in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly who provide a communication conduit between the police, the commissioner and the public.

Not surprisingly, the PM said he would support the scheme launched by Ms Hernandez, the Conservative commissioner who was re-elected for a second-term in May. He said she’d done “absolutely the right thing” by introducing the scheme and that he was a “big fan” of hers.

Every three months, the councillor advocates for each policing area meet with a representative from Devon and Cornwall Police, a Community Safety Partnership (CSP) representative and a police and crime commissioner community engagement officer.

These meetings allow them to raise issues on behalf of their council’s communities while also giving the police and opportunity to update councillors on relevant information or to request support with a specific issue. 

Members are also invited to attend regular exclusive events to gain a greater understanding of policing and how to help keep their communities safe.  Previous talks have been given by firearms officers and operators from the police’s drone team.

Exmouth seafront will “delight visitors”

Nearly 10 years after redevelopment plans for Exmouth seafront were first proposed, a longer term vision for the site that will “delight visitors” will come forward soon.

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

Ten years on, more plans expected

In 2012 plans were introduced to redevelop the area between the old lifeboat station – now a rowing club –  and the Maer. Since then, several iterations of plans have failed, with the scheme being referred to as ‘Exmouth’s Brexit’.

While phase one – the relocation of the Queen’s Drive road – and phase two – the watersports centre – have been completed and are open, phase three remains in doubt.

Planning permission for the redevelopment of a 3.6-hectare swathe of Queen’s Drive has been granted, and has been implemented, the council says, with the realignment of the road, but the attractions currently on the Queen’s Drive space – the replacement for the former Fun Park – only have planning permission until March 2022, with no further extension allowed under planning law. 

Plans for the longer term future will be presented to the Queen’s Drive Delivery Group in September and they will consider uses next season.

Cllr Nick Hookway, chair of the group said: “The Queens Drive Delivery Group considers that the Phase three site offers great potential for a range of attractions that will delight visitors. Plans will be shortly considered on what attractions can be put in place to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June 2022.”

Cllr Paul Arnott, leader of the council, added: “Since taking over the administration a year ago we have placed Exmouth seafront and town at the centre of our efforts. We have tried hard to maximise councillor and public engagement and having sorted out summer 2021 our focus will turn to the long-term.

“The seafront has been a divisive issue for the community, and we are determined to proceed with consensus and with respect for local views.”

Additional funding for a staffing resource to support the phase the project and other projects in Exmouth over the next two years has been agreed with recruitment for these posts to follow shortly.

“Once these staff are in place they will be building on the initial work that has been undertaken in recent months on the Levelling-Up bid working with key stakeholders in Exmouth,” a council spokesman said.

“They added: “The Queen’s Drive Delivery Group which for the past nine months has met in public is next meeting in September and will consider uses for the area next season and in particular the planning implications of this.”

THE HISTORY OF QUEEN’S DRIVE

In 2012, plans to redevelop the area between the old lifeboat station and the Maer, known as the Splash Zone, formed part of the Exmouth Masterplan which sets out future regeneration.

The controversial plans divided opinion in 2013 when more than 500 people completed questionnaires. More than half (52 per cent) of respondents  were in favour of the overall proposals, with 41 per cent against.

In December 2013, East Devon District Council’s Development Management Committee gave the go-ahead for the development of Queen’s Drive.The outline permission includes the realignment of the road and a proposed new watersports hub, cafe and public open space.

East Devon District Council were then working with Moirai Capital Investments of Bournemouth. Plans included luxury flats, shops, eateries, a multi-screen cinema and a new Harbour View Café and coastwatch tower.

At the same time, a new action group was launched to ‘save’ Exmouth seafront from developers, with Save Exmouth Seafront concerned that the £18 million redevelopment would mean some of the town’s oldest most popular businesses closing.

In October 2015, the Carriage Café on the seafront left the town. It had been open for nearly 50 years. Around the same time, more than 1,000 residents and visitors took part in the Exmouth Seafront Survey, initiated by Cllr Megan Armstrong. Led by author and analyst Louise MacAllister, the survey aimed to discover if plans for a multi-screen cinema, outdoor water splash zone and adventure golf park were wanted.

Organisers said the survey showed 95 per cent were against the redevelopment, it showed widespread support for the businesses occupying the seafront and that many Exmouth residents felt their concerns regarding the plans had been ignored.

In April 2016, Exmouth residents went to the polls in a referendum. Called by concerned residents, the parish poll saw 4,754 people – 18 per cent of the electorate – take part. Around 95 per cent of participants wanted more consultation.

The summer of 2016 saw Moirai Capital Investments sacked because of the time it had taken for them to develop more plans. September 2016 saw Jungle Fun and Arnold Palmer Putting Course close. Hours earlier, locals and tourists flocked to the attractions for one last round. 

In November 2016, campaigners in Exmouth staged a protest march calling for further consultation. Save Exmouth Seafront protesters marched through Imperial Road, The Strand and Alexandra Terrace before finishing on the seafront.

April 2017 saw an application for the seafront redevelopment approved. It meant the council could now go ahead and redevelop a 3.6-hectare swathe of Queen’s Drive, but had no plans to do so. Had the application been rejected, it would have meant the outline permission for redevelopment would have lapsed and sent the project back to the drawing board.

A bid to reprieve the Fun Park from closure failed two weeks later, when East Devon councillors voted 26 to 21 against extending its lease. The contents of the Fun Park were auctioned the following day. The Harbour View café was also due to close at the same time, but its lease was extended.

October 2017 saw an Exeter company, Grenadier, reveal plans for the Watersports Centre, before submitting the formal planning application in February 2018, which was then approved in June 2018.

The temporary attractions for the seafront at the Queen’s Drive Space, which include the food and drink area and the dinosaur-themed play park opened in May 2018. Permission was initially granted for one year, followed by a second permission for a further three years. That expires in March 2022, and the council will not be able to apply for any further temporary use.

Work began at the end of 2018 to realign the Queen’s Drive road, which was completed in June 2019, although questions have been raised about where the funding for the road, which East Devon District Council paid for, actually came from.

At the end of 2019, HemingwayDesign and Lambert Smith Hampton submitted their vision for Phase Three for Exmouth Seafront to East Devon District Council. Suggested uses for the site include a new two storey café/restaurant on the existing Harbour View café site, a mix of playspace (including free play) and open public space on the remainder of the site, and an 60–80 bed, three-to-four star hotel.

In February 2020, East Devon District Council’s cabinet agreed to launch a marketing exercise to identify developer or operator partners. But the council’s scrutiny committee then unanimously agreed that the panel for the purpose of agreeing the selection criteria for the commercial development was not properly balanced, and expressed anger at how they felt Exmouth residents were not being listened to.

That process was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and a change of administration.

At a meeting of the Queen’s Drive Delivery Group last October, Tim Child, senior property & estates manager, said that it was not usual for a temporary permission to be renewed for a third time unless there are exceptional circumstances regarding why a permanent planning solution cannot be brought forward for the site with a detailed planning application, adding: “If it is not permissible to pursue a further temporary planning application, the council needs to consider what it will do with the site from March 2022 when the site has to close.”

That meeting saw councillors agree and express a desire to ‘Get Seafront Done’, as Cllr Joe Whibley put it, but that as Exmouth is the biggest town in East Devon, it was critically important to the economy and the reputation of the council that they do the right thing and get a scheme that is both popular with the residents and viable in the long term.

While subsequent meetings of the Queen’s Drive Delivery Group have taken place, none have seen the longer term future of Queen’s Drive and Phase 3 discussed in any detail. Their next meeting is scheduled for July 13, with the following meeting on September 7, with the council saying the latter is likely to be when future plans will be discussed.

The ultimate decision over what happens with Phase three will lie with the council’s cabinet.

New plan for cameras to catch out Devon drivers

Cameras are set to be installed to prohibit motorists from driving through a ‘bus gate’ to access a new housing development in Barnstaple in order to better manage traffic in the area.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

The North Devon Highways and Traffic Orders Committee, when they meet next Wednesday, are being recommended to revise the access arrangements for a large housing development at Larkbear being constructed between Old Torrington Road and the A361.

Planning permission has been granted for over 200 new homes, with the potential for more to be constructed in the future, with the existing arrangements which require traffic to access the estate via Bickington Road and Old Torrington Road to north leading to congestion.

This is because a ‘bus gate’ is currently in place, preventing access from Gratton Way, which mean most vehicles are banned from driving through the ‘gate’, which despite the name, does not feature a physical barrier.

But the proposals, which have been backed by residents and officers, would revoke that traffic regulation and introduce a new bus gate on Old Torrington Road, to the north of the junction with Gratton Way, which would be enforced by cameras.

This would mean that traffic would be directed through Gratton Way to the new development, the crematorium and properties at the southern end of Old Torrington Road instead of from Bickington Road (A3125), in order to better manage traffic in the area and reduce congestion due to the new housing development.

The proposed changes to the Restrictions in Old Torrington Road in Barnstaple

The proposed changes to the Restrictions in Old Torrington Road in Barnstaple

The proposals and associated works are being funded by the housing developer for the Larkbear development, Persimmon Homes and the camera enforcement equipment for the bus gate would also be funded by the developer, councillors on the HATOC will be told.

Only buses, emergency vehicles and bicycles would allowed to pass along the section of road, which would be monitored by cameras which recognise number plates, and those breaching the restrictions would be liable for penalty charge notices.

Meg Booth, chief officer for highways, infrastructure development and waste, in her report, said these proposals would reduce congestion and traffic queuing on Old Torrington Road at the A3125 and the alternative of not implementing the proposed bus gate would cause too much congestion.

Consultation with residents throughout May and June had seen 224 responses received, of which 174 were in favour and 47 objected, and Mrs Booth added: “After considering the comments, it is recommended that the new bus gate and associated waiting restrictions on Old Torrington Road are introduced as advertised. It is also recommended that existing bus gate on Gratton Way is revoked as advertised.”

The North Devon HATOC, when they meet on Wednesday, July 7, are recommended that the proposed bus gate and waiting restrictions on Old Torrington Road be implemented as advertised and the traffic regulation orders be made and sealed, and the existing prohibition on Gratton Way be revoked as advertised and the traffic regulation order be made and sealed.

Under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, councils are allowed to carry out a number of measures under the banner of civil parking enforcement (CPE), including fining people for misusing bus gates.

However, measures like this cannot be implemented purely to generate revenue – they must be put in place to make the surrounding area safer or to improve traffic flow.

House prices at an all-time high in Exeter

New figures have revealed that Exeter is now the 10th least affordable location in England for first-time buyers.

Howard Lloyd www.devonlive.com

The first Homes scheme affordability index – compiled by online mortgage broker Mojo Mortgages – looked at various factors affecting home affordability in June 2021 including house prices, average annual salary and monthly take-home pay to work out where in England was most and least affordable.

Based on the average monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of income, Exeter was the 10th least affordable location in England for first-time buyers with the average monthly mortgage repayment taking up 35.03 per cent of a couple’s take home pay.

This is based on an average property price in the city of £327,165 and an average annual salary of £25,881, with a 10 per cent deposit and a mortgage term of 30 years at 3 per cent interest.

Oxford was the least affordable location for first-time buyers (49.37 per cent) with Bath (47.65 per cent) and London (47.12 per cent) making up the top three highlighting the difficulty of getting onto the property ladder in these areas.

In contrast, it was Bradford that was most affordable for first-time buyers.

With an average property price of £145,981 and an average annual salary of £28,790, this equated to 14.30 per cent in terms of monthly mortgage payments as a percentage of income – the lowest in England.

The figures have been released following the launch of the Government’s First Homes scheme this month, which is designed to help first-time buyers and key workers onto the property ladder in their local areas that might otherwise have had to move to another city to afford their first home.

First Home properties will be priced at a discount of at least 30 per cent of the original market value to allow more affordable deposits and mortgages with prices being capped at a maximum of £250,000 (£420,000 in Greater London).

For example, for those in London that purchase a property under the scheme, they can expect to pay on average around £766 less a month on their mortgage repayments, taking their percentage spend of income from 42.17 per cent to 32.97 per cent – a significant saving.

This discount will apply to the lifetime of the property, meaning that same percentage discount will apply when the home is resold in the future.

“While of course it’s important to remember the 30 per cent plus discount will apply throughout the lifetime of the property, and will apply when you eventually sell for the first time, a First Homes scheme property is still very much worth considering regardless of location as an option for first-time buyers looking to get onto the property ladder,” said Cassie Stephenson, director of mortgages at Mojo Mortgages.

“The savings available – particularly allowing first-time buyers access to higher LTV (loan to value) mortgages through reduced deposits – could also mean better access to lower interest rates and improved overall savings across the lifetime of a mortgage. Plus of course, purchasing a home is a significant long term investment towards your financial future as opposed to lining a landlord’s pocket.

“We’re excited to see how this new scheme develops over the coming months as new properties and developments continue to crop up across England.”

The 10 least affordable areas in England based on mortgage as a percentage of income were as follows:

  • Oxford (49.37 per cent)
  • Bath (47.65 per cent)
  • London (47.12 per cent)
  • Reading (38.98 per cent)
  • Poole (38.72 per cent)
  • Cambridge (38.49 per cent)
  • Brighton (37.19 per cent)
  • Slough (36.68 per cent)
  • Cheltenham (36.38 per cent)
  • Exeter (35.03 per cent)

The top 10 most affordable areas for first-time buyers as follows:

  • Bradford (14.30 per cent)
  • Blackpool (15.94 per cent)
  • Stoke-on-Trent (17.35 per cent)
  • Sunderland (17.56 per cent)
  • Middlesbrough (17.70 per cent)
  • Hull (17.72 per cent)
  • Carlisle (17.82 per cent)
  • Durham (18.10 per cent)
  • Liverpool (18.56 per cent)
  • Bolton (19.19 per cent)

Lord Bethell ‘failed to declare meetings’ with firms that got £1bn contracts

A health minister is facing fresh calls to lose his job after it emerged that he apparently failed to declare a week’s worth of meetings with companies who went on to be granted £1bn contracts.

Nicola Slawson www.theguardian.com

Labour, who had already been demanding that Lord Bethell be fired for using his private email account for ministerial business, are again demanding his removal. The deputy leader, Angela Rayner, accused the Tory donor of “treating the public purse like his personal cashpoint”.

Bethell, who oversaw the award of Covid contracts, has been under pressure for a number of days now. As well as the use of private emails, he has also come under fire for sponsoring a parliamentary pass for Hancock’s aide Gina Coladangelo, with whom the former health secretary had an affair.

At least nine of the undeclared meetings were with firms who later obtained millions of pounds worth of Covid contracts, according to Byline Times.

The list includes meetings with Abingdon Health, SureScreen Diagnostics Ltd, Novacyt, the BBI Group, Oxford Nanopore Technologies, Cambridge Clinical Laboratories, OptiGene, Una Health and CIGA healthcare, which all went on to secure contracts valued at more than £1bn, it was reported.

The commission has been blamed on an “administrative error” and the official records have now been updated for the missing week at the beginning of April last year.

On Tuesday, Downing Street admitted that Bethell had used private emails for government business despite denying it 24 hours earlier. But it defended him, saying he had abided by the guidance.

Bethell, a close ally of Hancock’s, defended his use of email on Tuesday. “In terms of the use of private email, can I just reassure members that I have read the ministerial code, I have signed the ministerial code, and I seek to uphold it in everything I do,” he told the House of Lords.

On Monday, the Guardian revealed that a number of emails were copied into Bethell’s private email account. His address was copied into at least four official exchanges relating to a businessman who was attempting to win government contracts during the pandemic.

Rayner launched a blistering attack on the health minister on Twitter on Wednesday evening. She said: “Matt Hancock’s mate and donor [Bethell] – the minister who handed out taxpayers’ money on his private email – had 27 meetings with companies and didn’t declare them. The companies were given over £1bn in contracts. Lord Bethell must be sacked and this racket must end now.”

She said Johnson had already showed that he “lacks the leadership qualities required” of a prime minister by failing to sack Hancock.

“Lord Bethell has been treating the public purse like his personal cashpoint, using his private email to hand out contracts & not declaring meetings,” she said. “Lord Bethell must be sacked immediately, and we need a full and independent inquiry into the private emails and undeclared meetings across government that have seen taxpayers’ money handed out to Conservative cronies.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “One week’s worth of meetings from Lord Bethell’s returns were not included in the previous transparency returns, due to an administrative error.

“This has now been corrected with the full list of meetings, including those from 1-5 April, available to review in the usual way.”

New Acting CEO at The Donkey Sanctuary following resignation of former chief executive Mike Baker

Charity Commission:  ‘currently assessing concerns relating to the charity’s governance’.

Many may not realise the key part this charity plays in the economic life of East Devon.

It is a very large employer. Owl recalls reading a few years ago that it was the largest private employer in the District and it may still be. In 2019 the charity employed an average of 780 staff, though not all will have been employed in East Devon. For comparison EDDC full time equivalent staff numbers are around 460, and, taking a few companies from the 150 top businesses in Devon and Cornwall: MIDAS group of Exeter employs around 540; F. W S. Carter and Sons around 170; M.J.Baker Foodservices 120.

The Donkey Sanctuary has, over the years, bought five small farms in the district. By doing so the charity helps to maintain the traditional landscape pattern of small fields which might otherwise be uneconomic to maintain. – Owl

Philippa Davies sidmouth.nub.news

A new Acting Chief Executive Officer has been appointed at The Donkey Sanctuary, following the resignation of Mike Baker as CEO.

Meanwhile, the Charity Commission has confirmed that it is ‘currently assessing concerns relating to the charity’s governance’.

A spokesperson for the Commission said they ‘could not comment further at this time’, but explained that the concerns are being assessed as part of a compliance case, which means the Commission is seeking to establish facts. It is not a statutory inquiry, or a finding of wrongdoing.

This afternoon, Tuesday, June 29, a spokesperson for the charity confirmed that Mr Baker had stepped down.

They said: “Following the resignation of Mike Baker as Chief Executive of The Donkey Sanctuary, the Trustees are pleased to confirm the appointment of Marianne Steele as Acting CEO of the charity.

“Marianne is currently Deputy Chief Executive and her interim appointment will ensure a smooth transition of responsibilities.”

Chair of Trustees Stuart Reid said: “I thank Mike for his service and wish him well in his future, secure in the knowledge that in Marianne we have a very able and experienced leader with a long-standing commitment to The Donkey Sanctuary.”

“As expected from a charity of The Donkey Sanctuary’s size, we are in contact with the Charity Commission to keep them updated regarding Mike Baker’s resignation.”

Hancock may have gone, but the bill is still on the table!

Press release – Rally and public petition stall will take place this Saturday, 3rd July – the NHS’s 73rd birthday – in Exeter’s Bedford Square from 12 – 2pm, with the theme “For Patients – Pay Justice – End Privatisation.”

Exeter NHS campaigners say that former Secretary of State for Health & Social Care has now gone, but his Bill is still on the table, and it’s one we should all refuse to accept.

Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), along with other campaigning groups like We Own It, and NHS Staff Voices, are calling on the public this Saturday, 3rd July – the NHS’s 73rd birthday – to show their opposition to the Government’s Health and Care Bill, laid before Parliament in May. A rally and public petition stall will take place in Exeter’s Bedford Square from 12 – 2pm, with the theme “For Patients – Pay Justice – End Privatisation.”

Local KONP member Dave Chappell said: “The 2021 Health and Care Bill’s plan for ‘Integrated Care Systems’ (ICS) may sound innocent enough, but in practice we believe these will further undermine the NHS we all want to see. For example, the proposals would give private companies seats on NHS boards, NHS contracts agreed without competition (as we’ve already seen during the pandemic), and more access to confidential patient information, with no clear protection for patient privacy.

“What we need is a national high quality, well-funded, and public NHS for everyone, not the increasing marketisation that successive Governments have pursued for decades. A poll last year showed 3 out of 4 of us want our NHS properly reinstated as a fully public service after the pandemic (the NHS Reinstatement Bill campaign is at http://www.nhsbillnow.org/)”

Contacts:

Dave Chappell (07790727965); davejchappell@gmail.com

Gordon Read (01392 278452); gordon.read.55@gmail.com

Background information and more notes:

Matt Hancock’s disingenuous White Paper ‘Integration and Innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all’ (Feb 2021) sets out proposals for a future management of the NHS and Social Care, merging NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups with other care providers – including Local Councils – into 42 ‘Integrated Care Systems’. The Government has chosen to drive these changes through during the worst pandemic for 100 years, when health and care professionals are exhausted, and local representatives distracted, and when people want to know the reason for excessive deaths from Covid-19. The Bill will not “improve health and social care for all”. It is bad news for patients by making it harder to get treatment, requiring more cuts to NHS services, while there will be more profit for private companies. Added to that is the sneaky attempt to force GPs to give NHS Digital all patients’ personal information, likely to be sold to private companies. This complex legislation needs careful analysis to identify Key Concerns:

·         NHS services will continue to be lost at a local level – community and district hospitals, surgeries, walk-in centres, community clinics and minor injury units (and North, East & West Devon is already over £400 million short).

·         The NHS will no longer be accountable to Local Authority Councils’ scrutiny.

·         Council representatives will be in a permanent minority on the joint decision-making ICS boards.

·         Impoverished Councils will remain responsible for delivering all community health and care but without control over how budgets are allocated within the ICS local health and care system.

·         Rationing of hospital-based care will place greater demands on social and community services (as well as on GPs who provide primary care).

·         Digital – online – Health will be prioritised for development and in time will become the first line of access to the NHS, with online advice and diagnostics replacing face to face consultations with GPs & specialists. 

·         Patients’ voices and concerns will be lost in merged provider networks and bureaucratic systems.

·         Private interests are being embedded into the NHS – not just providing care but running organisations, sitting on boards, deciding budget allocations and models of care, and providing major parts of NHS infrastructure (especially digital and logistics).

·         Corruption and cronyism will become rife, as contracts are awarded with no transparency or competitive tendering.

·         Personal health care records will be available to private corporations.