Housing crisis ‘pricing people out’ in Devon

Members of Barnstaple Town Council are urging the Government to help alleviate the current housing crisis in the region.

Lewis Clarke www.devonlive.com

Councillor Peter Leaver put forward a motion which was approved at the council’s meeting declaring a crisis in the rented housing market in the area.

He told the meeting that the situation has become ‘heartbreaking’ in North Devon with stories of people being made homeless.

Cllr Leaver said: “Parishes across North Devon including Bideford and Ilfracombe have declared a crisis in the rented housing market in their areas.

“I’m asking that we do the same here in solidarity with them.

“I’m sure that all of us who have been on Facebook or who watch the television have heard the heartbreaking stories of families being made homeless in North Devon through no fault of their own. This is because of the change in private renting.”

He said private rented accommodation was now being used for holiday lets, meaning as tenancies come to an end, people had nowhere to move into.

“The blame for this is being talked about; faults in the planning system and the council not getting its act together, although our district council is doing a lot about this,” Cllr Leaver added.

“It has to be said North Devon has over-delivered on housing in the three years up to January 2021 by one and a half times what is expected.

“All of the major housing allocations in the Local Plan now have at least outline planning consent.

“This is not a matter of building ourselves out of a problem, there are other measures which need to be taken into account.

“This motion asks the town council to recognise this crisis in North Devon which affects everybody, not just the coastal communities but towns as well.

“Secondly, we write to our MP and government to propose some straightforward measures which can be taken very quickly to help alleviate the problems happening this autumn as we move into winter for people likely to lose their houses.”

Cllr Ian Roome backed the motion, saying: “North Devon needs more social housing to rent.

“The increase of people claiming Universal Credit is 114 per cent in England but in Devon 144 per cent.

“In North Devon it is 188 per cent of over 50s claiming.

“It’s because homelessness is not only about homes, but also about wages.

“We pay less in North Devon than anywhere else.

“The house prices are sky high compared to anywhere else. We need more social housing for rent, not to buy.

“People can’t get a mortgage, and people are being priced out of the housing market.”

How to get your Covid booster dose in East Devon

The first Covid-19 booster vaccinations have been administered in Devon.

Philippa Davies sidmouth.nub.news

The jabs are being offered to people most at risk from Covid-19 who have already had two doses of a vaccine. In line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, they will receive either one dose of the Pfizer vaccine or half a dose of the Moderna vaccine.

The priority list includes:

• people aged 50 and over

• residents of care homes for older adults

• frontline health and social care workers

• people aged 16 and over with a health condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19

• carers aged 16 and over

• people aged 16 and over who live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)

People who are pregnant and in one of the eligible groups can also get a booster dose.

How can I get my booster?

The NHS will contact all those who are eligible for the jab by letter, text or email. Most will receive an invitation to book their booster dose through the National Booking Service within the next three weeks, and the jab will be given at least six months after they had their second dose. People are being urged not to contact the NHS for their booster dose before then.

The nearest mass vaccination site for people in East Devon will be the Greendale Centre on the A3052. The jabs will also be offered at pharmacies and GP practices, and there will be pop-up vaccine clinics, as with the initial vaccination programme.

Vaccine teams will visit care homes and offer both staff and residents the vaccine at the same time.

Third doses for people who are severely immunosuppressed

A third dose is being offered to people over 12 who were severely immunosuppressed at the time of their first or second dose, including those with leukaemia, advanced HIV and recent organ transplants. This offer is separate to the booster programme.

These people may not have a full immune response to vaccination and therefore may be less protected than the wider population. These patients are being identified through their GP or consultant and invited to book their third dose. There has been high take-up of this offer in Devon.

Lord Bethell and Matt Hancock to hand over private messages – Good Law Project

A good day in court.

goodlawproject.org

For months, Government has been refusing to hand over evidence in our challenge concerning Abingdon Health, the testing company awarded £85 million worth of contracts without competition. Yesterday we took Government to Court to fight for this evidence – and we had a good day. 

The Judge ordered the search of Matt Hancock’s WhatsApp messages and personal email accounts. We believe this is the first time a Judge has ordered a Minister, or ex-minister, to hand over their personal WhatsApps and text messages.

In fact, the Judge seemed to share our view more generally that Government’s explanations for why they haven’t recovered information from Ministers’ devices simply do not stack up, and he ruled as follows:

  • Lord Bethell must provide a Witness Statement to the Court to explain – once and for all – what happened to his phone.
  • Government needs to provide a Witness Statement to the Court explaining how they are going to ensure they recover all the necessary data from Bethell’s phone.
  • In addition to coughing up Lord Bethell’s private emails, Government must also trawl Matt Hancock’s personal emails and WhatsApps for relevant information as to how these contracts came to be awarded with no competition. 

We will now get to see previously hidden messages from the Ministers involved in awarding these lucrative contracts. We will also issue an application against Professor Sir John Bell in respect of his documents (to cover WhatsApp, University of Oxford emails and personal emails). He has previously refused to share any of his records, despite his hugely significant role in the contract awards. 

Will these documents shed more light on the murky goings on in the awarding of these contracts? Contracts which Ministers overruled their own legal advisors to sign, leaving taxpayers with a multi-million pound bill when it turned out the tests didn’t even work.

The Judge remarked yesterday that Good Law Project is “holding the government – correctly – to high standards of conduct, both in the awards of contracts and generally” – and we will continue to do so. 

We will be publishing more extraordinary revelations later this week.

Exe Valley by-election today

In the 2019 election the Exe Valley ward was contested by only two candidate who polled as follows:

Fabian KIng Liberal Democrat    378 votes

Kevin Wraight, Conservative      289 votes

This time Labour has joined the fray. So much then for all the talk about forming a “progressive alliance” to counter the dominance of the Conservative Party under the first past the post system at the next general election!

This what Martin Shaw wrote on on the bias that the first past the post “winner takes all” system produces between votes cast and seats gained in his “Seaton and Colyton Matters blog after this year’s County Council elections:

Analysis of the 6th May [County Council] election results shows the challenge facing the opposition in future elections in East Devon. The bottom line, reported here before, is that the Tories got 83.3 per cent of the seats for 43.8 per cent of the vote. The non-Conservative parties and Independents between them got 16.7 per cent of the seats for 56.2 per cent of the vote.

These figures make an overwhelming case for (1) proportional representation and (2), so long as we’ve got the First Past The Post system, a Progressive Alliance, if the opposition is to win under the existing system.

Indeed a serious worry emerges. The Tory share of the vote which gave them this majority of seats, 43.8, was 7.6 per cent higher than their vote in the EDDC elections of 2019 – when they lost control of the council for the first time. The Tory vote in 2019 was exceptionally low (the result of the pre-Brexit confusion), meaning that even with split opposition votes, they lost a lot of seats.

If the Tories consolidate their return to their normal 40-45 per cent range in 2021, the current progressive majority at EDDC will lose ground unless more serious steps are taken towards a Progressive Alliance strategy. See longer post here.

Candidates explain why they want your vote

Joe Ives – Local Democracy Reporter www.devonlive.com

Voters in Exe Valley, a ward in East Devon, will go to the polls on Thursday to elect a new representative for East Devon District Council.

The by-election was called following the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Fabian King in July, who said he was stepping down to focus on his business which had been affected by Covid.

The vote will be a three-horse race between Mike Daniel (Labour), Kevin Wraight (Conservatives) and Jamie Kemp (Liberal Democrats).

Polls will open at 7am on Thursday, September 23, and close at 10pm.

The three Exe Valley candidates have explained why they are standing, what they see as the most important issues in East Devon and in the Exe Valley in particular, and what they would like to do if elected.

Mike Daniel – Labour

1. Why are you standing?

“I’m standing for the same reason I think many candidates choose to, which is that I want to do more for the area I live in and feel that this is a great way to do so.

Beyond that I know I can bring a unique background as a district councillor in that I have years of experience working in local government as I currently work for Devon County Council as part of the highways department. This experience means I understand the quirks of local government from both sides and that I’ll be able to hit the ground running faster than others.”

2. What are the most important issues in East Devon and in Exe Valley in particular?

“Listening to fellow residents from across the ward over the last few weeks, there’s a real commonality in many of the issues raised, whether it be poor infrastructure, lack of affordable housing, or simply rubbish going uncollected, which is a sense that the area is forgotten or treated as a poor relation compared to other parts of East Devon.

“It was only a few weeks ago now that we all saw this in practice where the Conservative and Liberal Democrats on the planning committee by a majority forced an industrial digestate plant on our area against massive local opposition.”

3. What would you like to do if elected?

“Obviously there are big picture issues that I would like to get movement on such as making sure that the new local plan provides affordable, sustainable housing that the community needs and increased support for our more rural areas who suffer from being cut off in regards to both transport and broadband.

“But the most basic bread-on-the-table issue I want to resolve is that lack of feeling listened to that permeates the area by establishing a frequent series of community forums/councillor surgeries so that people can actually meet with their district councillor on a regular basis and not simply hoping a hidden-away email address is monitored, as is all too common.”

Kevin Wraight –Conservative

1. Why are you standing?

“I have been lucky to live in the Exe Valley for quite some time and now this opportunity has arisen. I want to be elected so that I can work for my neighbours and the area I love so much.

“I am already doing much for the community including working with Network Rail to put signs on the level crossing asking motorists to switch their engines off whilst waiting for trains to pass, which will help to keep the air quality as high as possible for the residents.”

2. What are the most important issues in East Devon and in Exe Valley in particular?

“Having spoken to many Exe Valley residents, I know that broadband is a big issue, especially in the outlying areas. This will be a major focus for me and has highlighted how important it is for homes and businesses to have fast, high-quality broadband connections. The covid pandemic has underlined this with many of us forced to work, study, carry out leisure activities and internet and shop from home.

“The environment is also of major importance to the community, we must fight to preserve it and do our bit towards reducing the effects of global warming in our valley.

“Our communications and infrastructure must be kept to a high standard. By this, I mean the roads, bus routes, footpaths and cycle lanes, and if elected I look forward to working as your [Exe Valley residents’] councillor on these issues, especially looking at ways to reduce the speed of vehicles through our villages which is an area of great concern to many residents. It isn’t about grand plans; I want to work on the day to day issues that can be changed.”

3. What would you like to do if elected?

“If I were to be successful I would begin working with our parish councils to draw up a list of priorities which I can carry forward on their behalf to East Devon District Council, but also to our county councillors and ultimately members of parliament – people I know and already work with. I can’t truly represent the Exe Valley unless I have input from the community and liaising with my neighbours will be my first priority.”

Jamie Kemp – Liberal Democrat

1. Why are you standing?

“I’m standing because I’ve lived in the heart of the Exe Valley for quite a few years now and I care about our communities. Too often, though, the needs of villages in the rural areas are just overlooked, particularly with the Exe Valley and its location – sort of being stuck up in the top corner of East Devon.

“I believe I can provide a voice to make sure that East Devon Council actually listens to the residents of the Exe Valley.

2. What are the most important issues in East Devon and in Exe Valley in particular?

“Obviously we’ve all gone through the pandemic and that’s been quite challenging, I think, for everybody. We face all kinds of uncertainties going forward and we need to maintain our essential services – it’s a definite priority.

“We also need to have proper control of the planning systems. There are too many developments now that are in the interests of a very small minority and not the residents of the Exe Valley – big anaerobic digestate plants and all that. They’re starting to cause issues across the Exe Valley with the scaling up of the industry – if I can call it an industry – and that’s something that’s really really important.”

3. What would you like to do if elected?

“If I’m elected on Thursday, I would like to repay the trust and expectation placed in me by speaking out fearlessly for the communities of the Exe Valley.

Speaking about the current coalition controlling East Devon District Council, Mr Kemp said: “I think the Democratic Alliance is a good thing. It leads to open discussions from different political backgrounds. Rather than fighting against one another, I think it’s very important that we work together.”