30,000 Devon households to be hit by end of Universal Credit uplift

The end of the temporary £20 a week uplift in universal credit payments is expected to affect 30,000 households in Devon. 

Ollie Heptinstall www.midweekherald.co.uk

The figure, which excludes Torbay and Plymouth, was revealed at a virtual meeting of the Team Devon local outbreak engagement board this week, made up of local authorities including the county council, police and NHS. 

Presenting the economy briefing compiled in August, Keri Denton, the council’s head of economy, enterprise and skills, told members the end of the uplift would amount to a reduction of £31 million in support to families. 

“Obviously the greater impact will be on the lowest income households, and obviously they tend to be in our areas of deprivation. And that will have consequences for the health and the social wellbeing of our residents, some of the demand we’re seeing appear in the health system,” she said. 

However, Ms Denton described the number of universal credit claimants in the county as ‘rapidly reducing,’ going down from five per cent in May 2020 to 3.6 per cent in June 2021. 

The briefing adds there is “anecdotal evidence (so far) of highly significant increases (doubling in some instances) in food bank usage in Devon during the pandemic lockdown periods and more widely worry about food insecurity, especially among those with children.” 

Following the meeting, Councillor Alistair Dewhirst said the number of households impacted by the end of the £20 uplift was “absolutely terrible.” He describes poverty as a major issue. 

“At the Devon County Council scrutiny committee I chair, we decided to put poverty on our list of urgent actions to look at. 

He added: “I think it’s very interesting that [on Thursday] I understand the prime minister was put on the spot and asked if he could live on universal credit and he refused to answer that.” 

Speaking to reporters on a visit to the United States, Mr Johnson said: “I have every sympathy with people who are finding it tough and I really really do, but I think we have to recognise that in order to maintain the covid uplift you‘ve got to find another five or six billion in tax, that would have to come out of people’s pockets.”

Cathy Gardner: Our final hearing is October 19th 


The final hearing is now only a few weeks away, beginning on the 19th October for 4 days. This is a momentous occasion. The Court is the only forum which has the power to rule that the actions of the Government were unlawful and breached the human rights of vulnerable care home residents. We believe that the Government have violated the most fundamental of rights – the right to life – and discriminated against the elderly and disabled residents of care homes, with devastating consequences. The evidence shows that the health and wellbeing of care home residents were simply not considered when the Government decided to clear the hospitals to “Protect the NHS”. Testing capacity was not utilised and basic advice on wearing PPE and isolating new admissions was not given. Even worse, it seems that care home operators were given misleading and downright dangerous advice by Government so that they would be persuaded to take in new residents who could spread Covid to other vulnerable people within the home.

What is truly shameful is the Government’s ongoing refusal to acknowledge the serious errors of judgement they made. Unbelievably, they still maintain that there was a “protective ring around care homes” when it is plain and obvious that the very opposite is true.  Equally shameful has been their ongoing refusal to disclose key documents that explain why they made the decisions they did. We appealed to the Court of Appeal for disclosure of these documents but were unsuccessful. The Court of Appeal was concerned to keep the final hearing date and one of the factors which worked against us was that the extra time and work involved in the Government undertaking more disclosure would risk losing that date. We therefore press on for the trial on 19th October.

My legal team have been hard at work and have now filed our Skeleton Argument with the Court. This document is the last formal document we send to the Court before the final hearing. It explains why we believe the Government, and the NHS, have acted unlawfully, in endangering the lives of care home residents. It can be found here.

I am very grateful to everyone who has given financially to help us bring this case. We still have a deficit of £35,000 and I would be grateful if you could consider giving one last time and sharing this crowdfunding page with others. Thank you for your support in seeking to hold the Government to account for their truly shocking failures.

‘Openness, Transparency and Democracy’

From Stephen Pemberton, letter published in the Sidmouth Herald: 

EDDC Licensing Committee Agree Sidmouth Town Council and Jazz and Blues Festival Arrangements. 

It’s sad to see that the EDDC Licensing Committee would agree the Application by the proposed Jazz and Blues Festival for 2022, with the backing of Sidmouth Town Council, on the basis of no information and no consultation with the necessary Statutory Bodies, with only the promises and assurances that they will act in the best interests of Sidmouth. 

This is against a background  of the STC Town Clerk and Chairman’s ill-conceived Plans which they have forced through, having informed the Organiser that it was all agreed, done and dusted, even before a full Town Council meeting. 

STC meetings have prevented STC Cllrs from raising concerns about the Proposals. 

There is a lack of Scrutiny and Challenge by STC Cllrs, which is their role to do. 

STC have not consulted Sidmouth Town residents on the Town Clerk and Chairman’s proposals, alerted, or informed Sidmouth Town residents of the details of their Plan. 

The EDDC Licensing Committee has now taken on responsibility and accountability from STC through the Organiser for the proposed Event. 

The concerns relate to: 

– Planned excessive numbers of 2,750 attendees at each of the (2/3?) Events for each Event of each day 

– Full Closure of The Ham and The Ham pathway and Cycleway for 14 full days and nights  

– Disruption for all members of the Public and visitors to the Town and esplanade 

– Unsafe, congested funnelling of people at all times of the day and evening down Mill Street and York Street, and around and over the small bridge and along the riverside path to the esplanade 

We shall have to wait to see if the Organiser and their Event Manager have heeded concerns that STC have fully known and proposed, and drastically adjust their arrangements. 

Stephen Pemberton, 

House prices: Young and low paid ‘priced out’ of tourist areas

Young and low paid workers in tourist hotspots are increasingly being priced out of homes, new analysis has shown.


House prices rose up to three times faster in some rural and coastal areas compared to the national average in July, Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures have revealed.

North Devon has seen a rise of 22.5%, while the UK average rose by 8%.

A lack of affordable homes could be contributing to hospitality struggling to fill vacancies, the ONS said.

The average cost of rent in the south-west of England rose by 2.6% in the year leading to August, more than double the 1.2% increase for the UK as a whole.

The ONS said the growth in demand for rental properties “appears to be exceeding supply”.

It added the fall in supply of letting was most widespread in the South West, East and West Midlands.

‘Immense anxiety’

The ONS said: “Rising house prices and private rents mean that some workers are at risk of being priced out of living in rural and coastal areas, contributing to skill shortages in the tourism and hospitality industries that their local economies rely on.”

One couple from Barnstaple say they have been looking for a new home for five months with no success.

Sarah-Jane and Lauren Tolley have three weeks to find somewhere to live after being asked to leave by their current landlady through a no-fault eviction.

Section 21 notices allow landlords to evict renters without a reason after their fixed-term tenancy period ends.

Sarah-Jane explained two years ago they “genuinely had a choice” of where to live, but now are “in a position where we have to take whatever we can get”.

She said the “anxiety is immense” for them both and they were struggling to sleep over fear of being made homeless.

“The pressure that you feel in your chest is just heart-wrenching to think that you potentially might not have a home,” Mrs Tolley added.

The average UK house price was £256,000 in July 2021 – £19,000 higher than a year earlier.

Other rural and coastal areas with house prices rising much above the UK average are Conwy in North Wales (25.0%) and Richmondshire in the Yorkshire Dales (21.4%), the ONS figures show.

ONS house prices statistics

By contrast, house prices in the City of London borough fell by just over 10%.

Nathan Emerson, CEO of estate agent body Propertymark, said the coronavirus pandemic had created a “perfect storm” of housing problems in coastal and rural areas.

He cited the movement of people from urban centres to the countryside, shortage of housing stock, high demand for homes and increases in prices caused by a lack of supply.

“More importantly, we are in a position where that vein will continue for a period of time,” Mr Emerson added.

‘Losing our community’

Emma Hookaway, from Braunton in Devon, launched a Facebook group and campaign for the local community’s access to housing, after also being told she must leave her rental home.

She explained it was “nearly impossible” to find somewhere to rent, with people being increasingly priced out of the market.

Ms Hookaway also described the situation as a perfect storm caused by Covid, with more and more people moving to north Devon.

She argued the area was “losing our real sense of community” with locals unable to compete with the prices those moving in could afford.

“I don’t at the moment feel like my children will be able to afford to come back and move into the area,” Ms Hookaway added.