Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 4 October

Healthcare in Devon on ‘red alert’

Devon’s healthcare system is currently on ‘red alert’ as services continue to be ‘very busy’, with hospitals struggling to cope with patient demand and staffing numbers.

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com

Today the RD&E has confirmed it is back down to OPEL 3, also known as red alert, after having previously been at the highest level – OPEL 4, also known as black alert, this week.

It is issued when demand within a local health and social care system escalates to a level in which organisations are unable to deliver comprehensive care.

The alert was issued due to the hospital having to deal with ‘extremely’ high numbers of people attending A&E and medical referrals, along with a reduced workforce due to sickness.

It has not been confirmed how long it was on ‘black alert’, but Devon health services provider NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has confirmed that the system as a whole is on OPEL 3, but is still ‘very busy’.

Dr Paul Johnson, chair of NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We really need you to support us. Please ask yourself whether you have a genuine life-threatening emergency before attending an emergency department (ED).

“If you are not in the right place, you may be redirected to a more appropriate service. This is because we need to safely prioritise those with the most urgent need.

“We are also asking people to pick up friends or relatives as soon as they are well enough to be discharged from hospital. This frees up beds for other patients who need them.

“Finally, we are seeing high numbers of children coming to hospital. There is a really useful HANDi paediatric app for advice on common childhood illnesses and when to seek help.”

There are other ways people can support services. These include:

  • Using your local pharmacist for minor conditions such as insect bites, ear ache and skin rashes.
  • Using NHS 111 – online or by phone if you need advice or medical treatment quickly and can’t wait to see your GP. If you need to be seen by a Minor Injuries or Emergency Department they can book you in.
  • Getting vaccinated against Covid-19. Have both jabs and your booster if you are eligible
  • Staying away from hospitals if you have Covid symptoms, or diarrhoea and vomiting.

Thousands of affordable UK homes ‘won’t be built because of safety crisis’

Plans for thousands of affordable homes face being scrapped as billions of pounds are diverted to fixing the building safety crisis, builders have said.

Robert Booth www.theguardian.com 

Clarion Housing Group, the UK’s largest provider of affordable housing, has told the Guardian it is on course to build 1,800 fewer affordable properties over the next five years as a result of the crisis. Another large provider, which asked not to be named, said it would build 2,000 fewer in the next 10 years – a 15% drop – because of the crisis. The largest providers of cheaper housing in London have also estimated they will need to spend £3.6bn on post-Grenfell repairs in the next 14 years, an amount which could provide more than 70,000 new homes.

The impact of the cost of replacing combustible cladding and correcting other fire safety defects discovered on thousands of homes in recent years is being raised with Michael Gove, the secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities, who is under pressure to find a solution to the widening crisis. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is also facing calls to significantly extend the current £5bn building safety fund in the spending review on 27 October.

“Housing associations across the country are redirecting spending towards fire remedial works and away from building new affordable housing,” said Rob Lane, chief property officer at Clarion. “We estimate we will build 1,800 fewer affordable homes over the next five years as a result of remediation costs.”

Private leaseholders are also facing more and more crippling bills from developers and freeholders to fix fire safety defects in flats not covered by the government’s £5bn building safety fund, which applies to buildings over 18 metres in height with combustible cladding.

Last week, Emilie Boswell, 26, was among leaseholders in a block in Leeds who received a bill for £101,267 each for the remediation of their external walls. The building is over 18 metres in height and so may yet qualify for government funding.

Leaseholders in a block in Salford also revealed how an earlier decision by the government to fund all of their repair works was reversed because not all of the works were covered by its building safety fund, leaving them with bills of £20,000 each.

Many building owners and developers are rejecting calls from ministers to fund works which run into millions of pounds per building. Labour and a coalition of Conservative backbench rebels are set to table amendments to the building safety bill which is due to pass through the Commons in the coming session. They want ministers to protect leaseholders against building safety costs which are not their fault.

The warnings about the impact on the building of affordable houses come amid a chronic shortage of cheaper homes. In the first half of this year housing associations and councils built only 16,000 homes, while private companies built 72,000. Councils last week warned that waiting lists for affordable housing could double next year to as many as 2.1 million households in part because of the cost-of-living crisis driving up rent arrears and evictions.

Lane said: “We are making strong progress in our building safety programme and are doing all we can to protect our leaseholders from associated costs but broadening the financial support available would significantly ease the burden and would allow housing associations to redeploy their budgets and scale up delivery of desperately needed new homes.”

Thousands of new affordable and social homes for those most in need could no longer be built because of the crisis, said Kate Henderson, the chief executive of the National Housing Federation.

“Housing associations across the country are working hard to make their buildings safe as quickly as possible,” she said. “However the lack of government funding to remediate social housing buildings means that these not-for-profit organisations are forced to divert in excess of £10bn away from the people they exist to support. It is not right that the poorest people in this country are made to suffer whilst those who created this crisis – for-profit developers who built these homes, and manufacturers of dangerous cladding – are not responsible for these costs.”

She said: “We urge the government to fund the full upfront costs of making buildings safe and claim this money back from those responsible once work is complete.”

The government insists building owners should not pass on the costs of defects, but pay or recover them from the developers or builders responsible. It says this has happened in half of cases where private high-rise blocks were found with similar aluminium composite cladding to Grenfell.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We have committed over £5bn to remove unsafe cladding and we are focused on completing this work to make homes safe. We are also helping more people get on the housing ladder in an affordable way. Last year, we delivered 243,000 new homes and we are investing £12bn to help councils and housing associations provide affordable housing.”

Council to review impact of Neighbourhood Plan on local development decisions

Localism in action.

There are 21 Neighbourhood Plans already adopted (“made” in planning speak) with another 19 in preparation. They all have to conform to the National Planning Policy Framework and the East Devon Local plan. Theoretically any planning decision should take an adopted plan into account.

There are 63 town and parish councils in East Devon. Neighbourhood Plans take a lot of effort and dedication to produce involving the whole community. Two thirds of these councils have felt the need to make this effort. Does this tell us something?

Bishop’s Clyst Parish Council is asking an interesting question.

Other councils surely need to be doing the same. – Owl

Bishops Clyst Neighbourhood Plan Review – Questionnaire

Five years on the Parish Council has decided that it is time to review the Neighbourhood Plan to see what effect it has had on local development decisions and consider whether parts of it need to be updated.

We want to hear the views of everybody in the parish about the type and scale of development that you think is appropriate for our area and amenities that you would like to see in the parish. This is your chance to influence what goes into the Review. There is still time to share your thoughts on the Bishops Clyst Neighbourhood Plan by completing a Questionnaire. We need your response by 8 November.

The Neighbourhood Plan Questionnaire can be found online and submitted electronically at bishopsclyst.org.uk/neighbourhood-plan-questionnaire/

Treasury leak reveals rift between Johnson and Sunak over costs of zero-carbon economy

Confidential documents leaked to the Observer reveal an extraordinary rift between Boris Johnson and his chancellor, Rishi Sunak, over the potential economic effects of moving towards a zero-carbon economy, with just weeks to go before the crucial Cop26 climate summit.

Toby Helm www.theguardian.com 

As Johnson prepares to position the UK at the head of global efforts to combat climate change and curb greenhouse gas emissions as host of the Glasgow Cop26 meeting, the documents show the Treasury is warning of serious economic damage to the UK economy and future tax rises if the UK overspends on, or misdirects, green investment.

Green experts said the “half-baked” and “one-sided” Treasury net-zero review presented only the costs of action on emissions, rather than the benefits, such as green jobs, lower energy bills and avoiding the disastrous impact of global heating. They said the review could be “weaponised” by climate-change deniers around the world before Cop26, undermining Johnson’s attempts at climate leadership on the global stage.

The internal Treasury documents say that while there may be economic benefits to UK companies from swift and appropriate climate action, there is also a danger that economic activity could move abroad if firms found their costs were increasing by more than those of their overseas competitors.

The leaked papers are understood to have been produced to accompany a slide show given confidentially to key groups outside government in the last month. The documents state: “The investment required to decarbonise the UK economy is uncertain but could help to improve the UK’s relatively low investment levels and increase productivity.

“However, more green investment is likely to attract diminishing returns, reducing the positive impact of ever more investment on GDP. Some green investments could displace other, more productive, investment opportunities. If more productive investments are made earlier in the transition, this risk may be accentuated later in the transition.”

On the risk of additional costs to companies from green initiatives, the documents say: “Climate action in the UK can lead to economic activity moving abroad if it directly leads to costs increasing, and it is more profitable to produce in countries with less stringent climate policies.”

On the fiscal implications, the documents say the cost of moving towards net zero could mean tax rises because of “the erosion of tax revenue from fossil fuel-related activity”. They say: “The government may need to consider changes to existing taxes and new sources of revenue throughout the transition in order to deliver net zero sustainably, and consistently with the government’s fiscal principles.”

Ed Matthew, campaign director at the E3G thinktank, said: “To governments looking to Cop26, this looks unprofessional and embarrassing. The UK is standing in front of the world at Cop26 trying to galvanise ambitious action from every country. If the government has not presented the robust economic case in favour of action, that’s going to significantly undermine those attempts.”

The Treasury’s approach is also starkly at odds with that of business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and the analysis of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in a report published in July this year.

On the costs of moving towards net zero, the OBR said in its report: “Between now and 2050 the fiscal costs of getting to net zero in the UK could be significant, but they are not exceptional … While unmitigated climate change would spell disaster, the net fiscal costs of moving to net zero emissions by 2050 could be comparatively modest.”

The Committee on Climate Change, the government’s statutory adviser, has also repeatedly said the costs of action are small and diminishing, at less than 1% of GDP by 2050, while the costs of inaction are large and rising.

While there are concerns over how the costs could fall on poorer households, the CCC chief executive Chris Stark has made clear that ministers can choose to distribute the costs and benefits fairly, through the design of green policies.

Whitehall sources said there was a belief that Sunak was keen to position himself as something of a climate-change sceptic in order to boost his popularity with Tory party members, and draw comparisons with Johnson’s green enthusiasms. “Rishi clearly sees an interest in showing he is not really down with this green stuff. He wants Boris to own the whole agenda.”

A source at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy confirmed that the Treasury was “kicking back” against many of the green plans being advanced by No 10 and Kwarteng. “They are not climate change deniers but they are emphasising the short-term risks, rather than long-term needs, which is what we are emphasising.”

In contrast to the Treasury’s caution, Labour committed at its recent party conference to invest £28bn extra every year until 2030 to secure a “green transition” creating good jobs with decent wages in the process.

The leak comes as the government prepares to publish its long-awaited net zero strategy, and heat and buildings strategy, which will contain policies on cutting emissions and creating green jobs, including a ban on new gas boilers from 2035 and grants for householders to move to green heating.

The government’s Cop26 president, former business secretary Alok Sharma, is embarking on a frantic last-ditch round of diplomacy, including with Chinese representatives, amid speculation that President Xi Jinping will not attend the talks. The US and the EU are also talking to key high-emitting countries in the final weeks before Cop26, which opens on 31 October.

The Treasury said: “The government is committed to tackling climate change and the prime minister has set out an ambitious 10-point plan to help us achieve that. The Treasury is playing a crucial role in this effort, by allocating £12bn to fund the plan, setting up the UK infrastructure bank to invest in net zero, and committing to raise £15bn for projects like zero-emissions buses, offshore wind and schemes to decarbonise homes.”

Matt Hancock’s UN posting withdrawn after only four days amid African backlash

“The last thing the African continent needs is a failed British politician. This isn’t the 19th century.”

Caroline Wheeler, Will Pavia www.thetimes.co.uk 

Matt Hancock, the former health secretary, has had a job offer from the United Nations withdrawn only four days after celebrating his appointment on Twitter.

In a tweet on October 12 Hancock, 43, said he was “honoured to be appointed United Nations special representative” on financial innovation and climate change. In a letter also posted on Twitter by Hancock, Vera Songwe, UN undersecretary-general, said his “success” in overseeing the UK’s vaccine rollout was “testament to the strengths” he could offer.

However, it is understood that the UN decided not to go ahead after it was pointed out that special representatives were not allowed to be sitting members of parliament.

Hancock, who is the Tory MP for West Suffolk, resigned as health secretary in June after being caught on CCTV kissing an aide, Gina Coladangelo, in breach of lockdown rules.

A UN spokesman said that his appointment had not been “taken forward”.

Hancock was already facing a backlash over the role, with leading figures from across Africa branding it “jaw-dropping”.

After initial reports Dr Ayoade Alakija, who co-chairs the African Union’s Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance for Covid-19 jabs, said: “This is so tone deaf, beyond arrogant that they think we in Africa need Matt Hancock to help 1.3 billion people recover from the pandemic, when he couldn’t manage the one in the UK! The definition of a colonial hangover. Decolonise aid — no, here’s Matty!”

Sagal Bihi, an MP in Somalia, said: “Africa is seen by the West as [the] dumping ground for their locally unemployable shady characters.”

The campaign group Global Justice Now welcomed the decision not to go ahead with the appointment. It had raised concerns about Hancock’s role in supporting the UK government’s opposition to proposals for an intellectual property waiver on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. The waiver, first proposed by India and South Africa a year ago, would allow poorer countries to manufacture their own doses of the vaccines developed by richer countries, providing protection for hundreds of millions of people currently unable to get a jab.

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said: “It is right for the UN to reconsider this appointment. If Matt Hancock wants to help African countries recover from the pandemic, he should lobby the prime minister to back a patent waiver on Covid-19 vaccines. If he’d done that when he was in government, tens of millions more people could already have been vaccinated.

“The last thing the African continent needs is a failed British politician. This isn’t the 19th century.”

More than 1,100 cases of coronavirus found in Cornwall and Devon

More than 1,100 cases of coronavirus have been recorded across Cornwall and Devon in the last 24 hours, according to official figures.

Jonathon Manning www.devonlive.com

The latest statistics show that 411 new cases of the virus were found in Cornwall and the Isle of Scilly, bringing the total number to 51,755 since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, in Devon, a further 759 people tested positive for Covid-19.

It means 107,600 people have caught the virus in Devon since the start of the pandemic.

Plymouth had the highest number of new cases, with 155 found in the last 24 hours. Today’s update means there have now been 28,305 confirmed cases in the city.

Torridge and West Devon reported the fewest cases today, with each area recorded 37 cases.

There were no new Covid-related deaths reported in the region today.

So far 543 people have died within 28 days of catching the virus in Cornwall, and a further 1,259 people have died in Devon.

The Government said a further 57 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Sunday, bringing the UK total to 138,584.

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have been 163,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

As of 9am on Sunday, there had been a further 45,140 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the Government said.

Government data up to October 16 shows that of the 94,756,683 Covid jabs given in the UK, 49,398,211 were first doses, a rise of 23,706 on the previous day.

Some 45,358,472 were second doses, an increase of 32,983.

This is the latest breakdown of confirmed cases across the 11 local authorities across Cornwall and Devon since the start of the pandemic, plus the change in the last 24 hours (in brackets):

  • Cornwall and Isles of Scilly – 51,755 (+411)
  • East Devon – 12,291 (+117)
  • Plymouth – 28,305 (+155)
  • Mid Devon – 6,735 (+86)
  • Torridge – 4,738 (+37)
  • Torbay – 13,548 (+74)
  • Exeter – 13,511 (+62)
  • North Devon – 7,678 (+60)
  • West Devon – 3,951 (+37)
  • Teignbridge – 10,479 (+68)
  • South Hams – 6,364 (+63)

Coronavirus deaths in Cornwall and Devon since the start of the pandemic (and latest 24-hour increase as of October 17):

  • Cornwall and Isles of Scilly – 543 (+0)
  • East Devon – 202 (+0)
  • Plymouth – 265 (+0)
  • Mid Devon – 92 (+0)
  • Torridge – 63 (+0)
  • Torbay – 188 (+0)
  • Exeter – 131 (+0)
  • North Devon – 78 (+0)
  • West Devon – 40 (+0)
  • Teignbridge – 143 (+0)
  • South Hams – 57 (+0)

Total: 1,802 (-)