Brexit row over huge revamp of fish quay

Plans for a new £15million extension to the Fish Quay at Brixham have come under fire amid claims the new quay will damage the town’s tourist industry.

Guy Henderson

Yet Torbay Council says the new quay extension is vital for the future of the fishing industry and will create 150 new jobs.

But critics say the benefits will be outweighed by the loss of busy boat moorings and parking spaces for tourists.

Brixham Yacht Club commodore Richard Spreckley said: “This is supposed to be about improving the local economy, but I believe it will have the reverse effect.

“It will decimate parking, which is crucial to tourism. All this is doing is pouring in money to apologise for Brexit, which the fishermen didn’t realise was going to cut them off from their own market.”

The council and the bay’s development agency TDA are bidding for money for the new quay project from the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ fund aimed at areas in need of investment. They expect to hear in the next few weeks if they have been successful.

The application also includes funding for a new high-tech business park at Paignton.

In Brixham, land would be reclaimed to extend the harbour and fish market, with an extra 7,000 square metres of quayside.

This would create more landing space to allow an extra five fishing vessels to off-load at a time. There would be two new auction halls, doubling the current capacity.

The TDA says the investment could lead to an increase in landed fish value of up to £20m per year within five years, generating more than £11m a year for the local economy.

Torbay Council Cabinet member Mike Morey said: “Investment in Brixham’s harbour and fish market would help secure the future of Brixham’s fishing sector which has been badly affected by Brexit and Covid-19.

“These challenges and the lack of capacity for boats and landings is preventing the sector from significant growth.”

Mr Spreckley said the yacht club was one of many objectors.

The priority for spending, he said, should be the long-awaited Northern Arm breakwater to protect boats in the harbour from damage in ‘perilous’ weather.

He said: “This proposal will turn the Oxen Cove car park into a mini industrial estate. There will be no pedestrian access, and it will be harder for people to get to the shops.”

Brixham’s fish market is currently enjoying a boom in business, with fish landed in ports hundreds of miles away being brought by road to be sold at the online auctions on the quayside.

But, said Mr Spreckley: “Environmentally the fish quay proposal is ridiculous. This will just lead to more fish being trucked in from all over the country to be sold on the market at Brixham, because Brixham fish has a premium value.

“It will mean more lorries driving through the tourists on the harbourside.”

Mr Spreckley said he also feared the effect of the new plan on the harbour’s sailors.

He said: “The Brixham Junior Sailing Club, which has taught hundreds of people to sail, will lose out. We need access to the water and boat storage, but more importantly we have hosted national championship, with 60 boats and families who come from all over Britain.

“That’s an awful lot of income to the local economy, and that would be massively threatened.

“Putting the existing new pier in the harbour at oxen Cove lost 50 small craft moorings, and this proposal will remove another 45 to 50.

“Rather than sailing being a very popular and affordable sport, that is going to force everyone into marinas instead, and that costs vastly more than a small mooring.

“The TDA is putting all Brixham’s money into fishing at a time when there are fewer fish in the sea.

“The day boats will scarcely get any benefit from this extension.

“The basis of the bid is creating 150 jobs, but the reality is that very few of those jobs will go to local people. In return, we will lose our ability to service the tourist industry.

“We have one of the three best bits of water for dinghy sailing along the south coast, but this will mean that our club will become vastly less attractive.

“People get the impression that we’re all filthy rich, but the reality is that we’re not. It’s a ludicrous idea.

“This club spends much more time organising dinghy championships.

“The thing that concerns me most is the damage it is doing to the harbour. It’s a beautiful safe haven that would be even safer with a Northern Arm.

“This money would have been a good start towards creating a Northern Arm.”

Michael Gove faces calls to return £100k in donations from property developer

New housing secretary Michael Gove is facing calls to return £100,000 in donations he received last month from a property developer, with political opponents warning of a potential conflict of interest.

Robert Booth 

Parliamentary records show that Gove registered two donations of £50,000 from a German property developer, Zak Gertler,three weeks ago. The Gertler family developed offices in Germany and has been linked to property deals in London and Birmingham after moving into the UK in the 1990s. The new housing, communities and local government secretary previously accepted £10,000 from the same donor in July 2016 to help his abortive party leadership bid after the Brexit referendum, and the same amount again in June 2019.

Gove is now in charge of planning in England and faces a decision on whether to scrap reforms championed by his predecessor Robert Jenrick, which were set to give developers a freer hand over where and what to build – particularly housing, to meet the government’s target of 300,000 a year.

Gertler is not understood to be involved in housing in the UK, but Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “Conservative planning reforms are already handing more powers to developers, and now it seems the new housing secretary is accepting donations from them too. To avoid any conflict of interest, Michael Gove must return this money.”

Jenrick became embroiled in a conflict of interest row when it emerged that the Conservative party accepted a donation from Richard Desmond shortly after Jenrick approved plans for a £1bn housing development by the property developer.

Steve Reed MP, Labour’s shadow communities secretary, said: “Michael Gove’s predecessor was sacked because Conservative MPs knew his disastrous planning reforms showed their party was in the pockets of wealthy developer donors, so there are serious questions to answer about whether this just means more of the same.”

Gertler has previously invested in commercial property in the UK, according to reports, and owns a UK-registered property services company, Gertler Properties Services, which says in its filing at Companies House that its business includes “development of building projects”.

Gertler, who is German but lives in Israel, according to Companies House records, has been contacted for comment through his family’s company in Frankfurt. There is no suggestion he has requested anything in return for the donation. He is described by the Jerusalem Post as a close friend of Israel’s former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. He reportedly hosted a 70th birthday party for the politician at his apartment in Tel Aviv.

He is among several repeat donors to the new housing secretary who include Lord Harris of Peckham, Charles Wigoder, a telecoms entrepreneur, Alan Massie, also a property developer, and Lord Wolfson, the chief executive of clothes retailer Next.

Meanwhile, the property industry, environmental groups and councils are waiting for Gove to decide how to reform the planning system. Gove was previously the Conservative housing spokesperson, in opposition to Tony Blair’s Labour party in 2006 and 2007, and during that time he suggested that better design of new homes could help reduce antipathy, telling parliament that he agreed with Prince Charles on that.

In one parliamentary contribution, he said: “Many of us believe that housing development should be organic – in sympathy and in tune with the local neighbourhood – so local materials should be used.”

In an interview with Building magazine in 2006, he said: “I don’t like centrally set housing targets. I’d like to see the back of regional government and regional plans and I don’t think having housing targets is helpful.”

Steve Reed said: “If the secretary of state wants to prove that his party is not in the pockets of the development industry, he should confirm that the government’s planning reforms are dead and buried.”

A spokesperson for MHCLG said: “All donations made to the secretary of state have been declared publicly and the proper process followed.

“The department has robust processes in place to ensure any potential conflicts of interest are managed appropriately. Ministers continue to be bound at all times by their obligations under the ministerial code.”

Councils fear social care reforms will fall apart

Boris Johnson’s promise to cut middle class social care fees will cost £1.5 billion a year, threatening to wreck his reforms, councils have warned.

Chris Smyth

Local officials say that ensuring people who pay for their own care do not face higher fees to subsidise council-funded residents will cost more than the extra cash promised last week.

Unless Johnson finds more money at the spending review next month, his plan to cap costs could collapse as it did when David Cameron first proposed it, the County Councils Network said.

People who pay for themselves face care home fees 40 per cent higher than those paid by councils for means-tested places, in a system criticised as a “stealth tax” on the middle classes.

In its blueprint for social care, the government promised to end this “persistent unfairness” by ensuring that people who pay their own fees can get the same rates as councils pay “so that they can find better value care”.

The network, which represents rural bodies, said in a report that either care homes would be forced into bankruptcy or councils would face higher fees they could not afford.

Martin Tett, the network’s spokesman for adult social care, writes in The Times Red Box: “Unless the government fully funds this commitment, either providers will have to accept lower rates for care, affecting their profitability, or councils will have to pay more, which will impact on their ability to balance budgets.”

Tett says that not finding extra money “could . . . result in large-scale care home closures, with 272 care homes already closing their doors in counties over the past three years”.

He points out that when Cameron backed away from capping care costs it was partly because he struggled to find an affordable way to end the fees cross-subsidy. “We are concerned the government has underestimated the consequences of its well-intentioned aims.”

Local bodies estimate that raising council fees to sustainable rates would cost £761 million in rural communities and £1.5 billion across the country.

Last week’s review allocated councils only £2.9 billion over three years for the existing social care system, less than this annual cost and leaving no money over for improving the quality of care or offering it to more people.

The network also estimates that most requests for care were turned down last year as councils tightened eligibility while budgets were squeezed.

Of the 545,000 people in rural areas who asked for help last year, 58,000 were rejected because their needs were deemed not severe enough.

Jacob Rees-Mogg takes £200,000 hit to his Somerset Capital dividend

Are times getting tougher for those living in the eighteenth century? Doubt it – Owl

Patrick Hosking

Jacob Rees-Mogg is thought to have taken a dividend cut of about £200,000 this year after the City investment firm he co-founded suffered a one-third slide in profits.

Rees-Mogg, who is leader of the Commons, is thought to have received dividends this year of about £600,000 from Somerset Capital Management, down from £800,000 in 2020.

Somerset, which manages investments in emerging markets on behalf of retail and institutional investors, reported profits for the year to March 2021 of £9.7 million, down 35 per cent year-on-year.

The firm warned that it expected profits to fall again in the current year, suggesting that Rees-Mogg is set to take another cut in income next year.

Rees-Mogg, 52, who attends cabinet, is thought to be one of the highest paid MPs thanks to Somerset, which he set up in 2007 and continued to run until 2019 when he severed all direct links with the firm to join the government. He remains a sleeping shareholder.

A year ago he owned about 14 per cent of the London-based firm, but he has pledged to reduce his stake as he sells shares to new partners in the hope of maintaining Somerset as a perpetual partnership.

The profit fall at Somerset came despite the firm lifting its total assets under management from $5.6 billion to $7.3 billion.

The company said that it had been hit by lower management and performance fees, as well as a small rise in costs because of new hires.

Dominic Johnson, chief executive and co-founder, said: “Emerging markets and Asia always have challenges and risks — but that is what makes them such an exciting asset class for active managers.

“We are particularly optimistic about our Asia Income Strategy, which has continued to perform strongly since Mark Williams and the team joined in October last year.”

Somerset has been pushing much deeper into investing in China, a market Rees-Mogg regarded with caution when he was in charge.

Who is worrying more about his KFC than the NHS?

Following on from pubs and hospitality, our MP, Simon Jupp seems to have discovered a new cause to promote. 

Four days ago he asked a written question about labour shortages in the poultry sector. There are only a few poultry farmers in East Devon. So Owl wonders whether Simon is more worried about his local KFC running out or even whether he will get his turkey at Christmas. Why is this an East Devon priority?

Owl, and the correspondent who alerted Owl to this, would rather he had asked what the government was doing to recruit enough doctors and nurses for the NHS.

From the answer, we will all be pleased to know that prisoners can be released early on licence to gain “useful skills and work experience” – an option hopefully not available to help with the NHS, police and other like staff shortages – yet! 

But who knows? 

PS Ever thought of going veggie Simon?

Photo of Simon JuppSimon Jupp Conservative, East Devon

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to tackle labour shortages in the poultry sector.

Photo of Victoria PrentisVictoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We are aware of the challenges that the poultry industry has encountered in recent months. Defra continues to monitor the market, and we will continue to work closely with the sector.

Defra is working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to raise awareness of career opportunities within the food and farming sectors among UK workers.

DWP is supporting Defra to develop and deliver a long-term recruitment strategy that supports the domestic workforce into both seasonal and long-term roles in the agriculture sector, including the poultry sector.

DWP has worked with Defra and key Trade Associations to develop a regional recruitment strategy that utilises DWP’s Jobcentre Plus network, fosters strong local links between employers and work coaches, and gives jobseekers the skills and knowledge they need to enter the sector.

All poultry businesses are encouraged to advertise roles through DWP’s Find A Job website, where they can upload and manage their vacancies. DWP does not charge for this service and it is available nationally, including Scotland and Wales.

Defra welcomes the Ministry of Justice‘s work on the Release On Temporary Licence (ROTL) scheme for work across a number of sectors, including the agri-food sector. The scheme aims to help prisoners gain useful skills and work experience as they approach their release.

In 2021 and beyond, food and farming businesses continue to be able to rely on EU nationals living in the UK with settled or pre-settled status. Over 5.1 million EU citizens and their families have been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme and EU nationals who have settled status can continue to travel to the UK to do work in the poultry sector in 2021.

Defra is also working closely with the Home Office to ensure there is a long-term strategy for the food and farming workforce beyond 2021.