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Compensation for homes affected by South Devon Highway

More residents whose homes have decreased in value because of the proximity of the South Devon Highway will finally receive compensation payments.

Joe Ives, local democracy reporter 

Devon County Council’s ruling cabinet approved a £5 million fund this week, which will also go towards outstanding payments from the road’s construction, including surveys and contract commitments.

The £110 million expressway opened in December 2015, linking Torquay with Newton Abbot and bypassing the village of Kingskerswell. It has eased congestion between the towns and ended the misery  – of both residents and drivers – caused by congestion at Kingskerswell.

Data from earlier in the year also found that, since opening, levels of pollution in the village have dropped ‘like a stone’. Previously, it had been so bad that it was designated as an air quality management area requiring statutory monitoring of pollution.

However, many homes near the South Devon highway have dropped in value and are therefore eligible for compensation under the Land Compensation Act 1973. Homeowners were told they would receive their claims within five years of the road opening, but almost six years on some are still waiting.

The pandemic is to blame, at least in part. A reduction in traffic caused by lockdowns and more people working from home meant accurate noise measurements couldn’t be carried out.

Last year, leader of Devon County Council John Hart admitted that while some payments had been made, progress for others had been slower than hoped – partly due to the pandemic which also meant some meetings were postponed.

Councillors had previously been told that more than 800 residents initially submitted claims, but only 270 were eligible for part one – defined as compensation if the value of property “goes down because of pollution or disturbance from the use of a new or altered road.”

Providing an update, a Devon County Council spokesman said: “To date we have agreed 78 part one claims of varying value.

“With new claims continuing to be received and negotiations ongoing, it’s not possible at this stage to confirm the number of valid claims. However we can confirm that we are progressing with further offers and negotiations with agents.”

At the cabinet meeting, Cllr Hart was told that the £5 million fund includes money for land compensation and that payments are now being made to residents.

Experts warn of large hidden costs in UK’s social care shake-up

Many people will still rack up sizeable costs when it comes to paying for social care, experts say, despite government pledges to protect families from “potentially catastrophic” bills.

Rupert Jones 

Ministers last week announced a huge shake-up of adult social care and how it is funded – but, as with many financial deals, there is plenty of small print that could catch out the unwary, and detail yet to be published.

One key announcement was that from October 2023 no one in England would pay more than £86,000 for the care they require in their lifetime.

While the government has pointed out that under the new rules, some people could see the amount they have to pay cut by £100,000 or more, it was less keen to clearly spell out that “daily living costs” in a care home – accommodation, food and so on – would not count towards the new lifetime cap.

“Board and lodging” costs would easily be one third of the total bill, says former pensions minister Steve Webb, now a partner at actuaries LCP.

With the average cost of a residential care home for an older person estimated at £35,000-plus a year, that could mean a £12,000-a-year bill for living costs, and a lot more in some cases. For a nursing home, the total average cost is significantly higher – just over £48,000 a year.

Ros Altmann, another former pensions minister, told the Observer that by the time they reached the £86,000 cap, some people would probably have spent £150,000 or more.

It’s also important to note that, with living costs excluded, it would take a typical care home resident a little over three and a half years to hit the cap. Unfortunately, a significant number would not make it to that point because they would die before then.

Webb reckons the new lifetime cap will “benefit very few people for many years to come”. He adds: “No money which people have spent to date, or spend before October 2023, is expected to count. The clock will start at zero in October 2023.”

Webb and Altmann were more positive about another planned change. Currently in England, if someone has assets worth more than £23,250, they are responsible for the full cost of their care in a care home, with no cap on costs. Under the new system, anyone with assets below £20,000 won’t have to make any contribution from their savings or the value of their home. Those with assets from £20,000 to £100,000 will be eligible for some means-tested support. Those with assets above £100,000 must meet all fees until their assets fall below £100,000.

So how might it all work in practice? The government has given the case study example of “Yusuf” in his late 70s, who has lived on his own since his wife died 10 years ago. When she died, he downsized from their family home to a smaller property worth £180,000. As a result, he has £70,000 in savings. Yusuf develops dementia, can no longer cope at home and needs to move into residential care. He ultimately spends eight years living at the home. Yusuf’s care home costs £700 per week, or £36,400 a year.

Officials say that under the current system, over that eight years, Yusuf would spend a total of just over £290,000 on his care from his assets and his income (he has a pension of £210 a week), and as a result would only have £72,000 left in assets.

Under the new regime, the government claims Yusuf would end up spending £123,000 less than under the current system. He would hit the £86,000 cap after three years and four months, and so would no longer need to contribute for his personal care from his assets or his income after that. Beyond this, he would only have to pay towards his daily living costs. He is now left with £173,000, which is 69% of his original £250,000 assets.

In response to this official case study, Webb says that eight years living in residential care “would be at the upper end, I would have thought – I think something closer to three would be more typical”.

He adds: “Although it’s true that with £70,000 in savings, he would currently get zero help, because of the £23,250 capital cut-off, in the new world he still racks up substantial bills until he hits the cap.”

660,000 jobs at risk as UK’s green investment lags

Relative to population, the UK’s green recovery investment is just 24% that of France, 21% that of Canada, and 6% that of the US.

Toby Helm

Up to 660,000 jobs will be at serious risk if the UK continues to fall behind other countries in the amount it invests in green infrastructure and jobs, according to an alarming study published on Saturday.

Coming just two months before Boris Johnson’s government hosts the United Nations Climate conference, COP26 in Glasgow, the report by the TUC makes clear that the impact on employment in the UK as a result of jobs moving “offshore” to countries in the vanguard of green investment and technology will be particularly acute in the UK’s industrial heartlands in the north-west, Yorkshire and the Humber.

Separate research by the TUC in June found that the UK is second from bottom in the league table of G7 economies for its record in investment in green investment and jobs – despite Johnson’s claims to be a leading force in the race to save the planet from global warming.

While the UK Treasury is expected to invest only about £180 per person on green recovery and jobs over the next decade, President Joe Biden plans to allocate more than £2,960 per person on a green recovery in the US: jobs and programmes involving public transport, electric vehicles and energy efficiency retrofits.

Relative to population, the UK’s green recovery investment is just 24% that of France, 21% that of Canada, and 6% that of the US.

The study, launched on the first day of its annual Congress, which marks the opening of the political conference season, says jobs in UK sectors such as the steel industry are at grave risk because manufacturing is still dependent on the environmentally damaging process of burning coal at high temperatures. Other countries are blazing a trail in technologies that allow “green” production of high-grade steel without coal and these pioneers will prosper and expand while “dirty” old producers will wither and die.

Last month the Swedish firm Hybrit announced the delivery of its first consignment of “green steel” to the car maker Volvo while another Swedish firm, H2 Green Steel, is planning a hydrogen plant that will begin production in 2024.

The report says that 79,000 jobs are at risk, as other countries race ahead in green development, in the UK rubber and plastic sector, 63,200 in the UK chemicals sector and 26,900 in iron and steel. In total it says that 260,000 manufacturing jobs could be at risk as well as 407,000 in supply chains.

Alan Coombs, a workplace rep for the Community trades union who has worked at Port Talbot steelworks for 40 years, said: “Companies overseas are already setting target dates for green steel. But the UK isn’t even putting our toe in the water.

“We have families here who are the third or fourth generation working at the plant. If we don’t have apprenticeships in green steel technology soon, there won’t be another generation. If we put ourselves at the forefront of green innovation, we can protect the workforce. But it needs government action.”

The TUC is calling on the government to fund an £85bn green recovery package to create 1.24 million green jobs. In addition it is stepping up calls for a scheme to help protect working people through this and other periods of profound industrial change, which would act as a bridge for those in jobs and industries under threat from offshoring during the global transition to net zero.

The union body says that such job protection schemes exist in Germany, Japan and many US states, producing significant savings on redundancies, training and hiring costs, and enabling firms to keep skilled staff on their books.

The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “The world is moving very clearly in one direction – away from carbon and toward net zero. The UK must keep up with the pace of change. There’s still time to protect vital jobs in manufacturing and its supply chains.

“But the clock is ticking. Unless the government urgently scales up investment in green tech and industry, we risk losing hundreds of thousands of jobs to competitor nations. If we move quickly, we can still safeguard Britain’s industrial heartlands.”

A government spokesperson said: “These claims are untrue and we do not recognise this methodology.

“In recent months we’ve secured record investment in wind power, published a world-leading hydrogen strategy, pledged £1bn in funding to support the development of carbon capture and launched a landmark North Sea transition deal – the first G7 nation to do so – that will protect our environment, generate huge investment and create and support thousands of jobs.”

Boris Johnson crisis as Britons urge PM against 10-year Downing Street bid

Yes – you read it in the Express, but in case you didn’t, Owl posts the headlines!

A survey of Express readers found 56 percent don’t want Mr Johnson to try and beat the Iron Lady’s record, versus 42 percent who do. Mrs Thatcher served as Prime Minister for eleven years, from 1979 to 1990.

James Bickerton