Tour not touring here

Devon misses out in 2022

The Tour of Britain will not return to Devon this year, but the county council hopes it will host stages again in the future.

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

Last week the locations for this year’s tour were announced, with Devon missing out on hosting in 2022, despite the success of last September’s event.

Set to a backdrop of glorious sunshine beamed to TV viewers across the world, over a hundred riders raced from Sherford near Plymouth to a packed Queen Street in Exeter, via a circuitous route including Dartmouth and Dartmoor.

The 115-mile course looped around the South Hams and Dartmoor, passing communities including Totnes, Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Ivybridge, Yelverton, Tavistock, Princetown and Moretonhampstead on the way.

Organisers said it attracted the biggest crowd of the 2021 race and brought in an estimated £4.2 million for the local economy. More than £41 million is estimated to have been earned in Devon by the Tour of Britain’s 13 visits since 2007.

However, Dorset has instead been selected as a south west host for the first time.

A Devon County Council spokesperson said: “Historically the race has rarely been routed through the same part of the country on consecutive years and we wait to see which parts of the country the tour has in mind for future races.

“Devon has hosted or co-hosted the tour 13 times and it has always proved an extremely popular event. We would welcome the opportunity to be able to host either the men or women’s tour again in the future.”

Responding on Twitter to the news, Councillor Stuart Hughes (Conservative, Sidmouth), the county council’s highways and cycling chief, said it won’t be in Devon this year because the Tour is “getting so popular everyone wants a stage,” adding he hoped it would return in 2023.

Threat to Devon bus services

The bus recovery grant, introduced last year to help operators cope with the drop-off in passenger numbers through the pandemic, is due to end in April. The govermnent is yet to announce whether more money will be forthcoming.

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk 

Last month the boss of Stagecoach South West said passenger numbers were still down by around 30 per cent on pre-pandemic levels. Some services have  been reduced therefore, and there are concerns more cuts will be needed without additional cash.

In a written question to a meeting of Devon County Council’s cabinet last week, councillor Rob Hannaford (Labour, Exwick & St Thomas), warned bus operators were facing a “funding cliff edge amid more cuts to vital routes.”

He asked transport cabinet member Andrea Davis (Conservative, Combe Martin Rural) what work is being done to assess the impact of bus service changes.

Her written response stated: “Officers from our transport coordination service are working with our local bus companies on the possible impacts of the emergency covid funding coming to an end and what this may mean for commercial and Devon County Council supported local bus services.

“With the recovery in passenger numbers having stalled due to the Omicron variant, without this funding, in the short-term services will be further reduced. This is likely to have a greater impact on areas with less frequent services.

“Taking this into account, I have written to the minister responsible for buses asking for urgent clarity on the funding.”

Cllr Davis also confirmed the council had yet to hear about a £34 million bid to the government for its ‘bus improvement plan,’ submitted at the end of October.

The county’s proposals, being developed in partnership with Devon’s bus companies, aim to make buses cheaper to use, greener, more frequent and more reliable.

Also included are plans for regional zone tickets to simplify fares, by working with neighbouring councils, and bringing in ‘young person’ tickets for 16 to 18 -year-olds – one of the age groups that rely on buses heavily.

Cllr Davis added: “To meet the ambitions of this plan we need a stable, attractive and affordable public transport network across the county to build on.”

It comes as transport bodies and the Local Government Association (LGA) called on central government to “urgently extend” the bus recovery grant from April, warning of a potential 30 per cent reduction in current bus services when support ends.

David Renard, transport spokesperson for the LGA, said: “Councils across the country are working with local operators to continue to deliver lifeline bus services despite the pressures of the pandemic. Greater usage of public transport helps to alleviate congestion and reduce harmful emissions in our communities.

“Government funding has helped keep buses on the road, allowing operators to close the gap between the costs of providing local public transport and the reduced revenues from much lower numbers of passengers than normal.

“Passenger numbers have not returned to those seen before the pandemic and without continued support, it is clear that some routes will no longer be viable and will have to be reduced.

“This will have a devastating impact on people who rely on these services to get to work, visit family and access vital services, including doctors and affordable food shopping.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The government has provided an unprecedented £1.7 billion in support to over 160 operators to keep services running during the pandemic, and we’re working closely with the sector to understand the potential challenges and mitigations once it ends in April.”

Woman in agony waited eight hours for ambulance

Brixham woman, 97, in agonising pain forced to wait eight hours for ambulance

Colleen Smith www.devonlive.com

A 97-year-old Brixham woman was left on the floor “in agony” waiting for an ambulance for more than eight hours because of shortages in the NHS.

Neither an ambulance nor her GP were able to reach her for eight hours and 15 minutes. Her family said they were told that because the ambulance service was busy and under pressure there was nothing that could be done “unless patient nears death”.

Her son-in-law said that his wife went to her mother’s in Brixham house and remained with her but the family’s patience ran out and he emailed DevonLive at 2.45pm: “Ambulance has now been called three times. GP contacted twice – nothing anyone can do. GP home call unavailable. Ambulance busy therefore unless patient nears death nothing can be done for the time being.

“Meanwhile my mother-in-law remains on the floor in agony.”

He sent photographs (blurred to protect the patient’s anonymity) showing the frail elderly woman on the floor wrapped in blankets while her daughter waited with her.

A spokesman for South Western Ambulance Service confirmed that an ambulance arrived at 3pm: “We’re sorry that, due to the health and social care system being under severe pressure, some patients are having to wait longer for an ambulance. One of the reasons for this is due to the length of time it’s taking us to hand over patients into busy hospitals.

“We are working closely with NHS partners to address these delays, so our crews can get back out on the road for other patients. However, even with the additional resources we are making available, the number of ambulances currently waiting for prolonged periods of time at Emergency Departments inevitably impacts on our ability to respond to patients.”

The ambulance finally arrived at 3pm

The elderly woman fell at her home in Brixham at 6.45am on Tuesday February 15. She had a pendant alarm around her neck which she set off to call for help and an ambulance was summoned at 6.50am.

Bury councillor quits Tory party to go independent in shock move

She says her values no longer align with the party

Paige Oldfield www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk 

A Bury councillor has announced she is quitting the Conservative Party after 22 years.

Cllr Yvonne Wright revealed she will stand as an independent candidate in the local elections in May.

She says she made the “difficult decision” because her values no longer align with the party.

The ward councillor for Tottington, Walshaw and Affetside has been a Conservative councillor since 2000.

In a social media post, she said: “Today I took the difficult decision to leave Bury Conservatives and aim to stand as an INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE in the local elections in May.

“Why?

“My values are no longer aligned to Bury Conservatives… please let me leave it there!

“Note I will not be briefing against anyone and I certainly will not be joining any other party.

“I hope I can rely on your support as you can rely on me to continue to work hard for you as I have for the past 22 years.

“I love my role as a Tottington Councillor and am as keen now to be a good representative as I was back in 2000.

“There is still life yet …in this old gal!”

‘Yours, DC’: David Cameron’s lobbying emails to minister over legacy project

David Cameron tried to lobby government ministers to prop up his failing legacy project despite its failure to hit key targets, The Independent can reveal.

www.independent.co.uk

His intervention on behalf of the National Citizen Service (NCS), which he set up in 2011 to run summer residential programmes for 16- and 17-year-olds, came in August 2020 as the government prepared to engage in a root-and-branch review to completely reassess its youth services budget.

The former prime minister’s youth scheme had raked in £1.3bn of taxpayers’ money since 2011 – 90 per cent of the youth budget – while the rest of the youth sector suffered cuts of 70 per cent.

But earlier this month the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which conducted the review, announced that NCS would have its funding cut to £171m over three years, or £57m a year, a fall from 90 to 30 per cent of the DCMS youth budget. The new culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, is said to be “no fan” of Mr Cameron, having mocked him earlier this year as looking like a “ticket tout”. He withdrew the whip from her in 2012 after she appeared on I’m A Celebrity and failed to disclose her absence to film the show.

In summer 2020, Mr Cameron tried to persuade then-culture secretary Oliver Dowden to back NCS, emails uncovered by a Freedom of Information request show.

In an email dated 17 August 2020, Mr Cameron wrote to Mr Dowden: “Dear Oliver, it was good to catch up the other day and encouraging to hear your continued support for NCS. I also appreciate your honesty around the tough decisions that the Treasury will need to make as part of the upcoming CSR [comprehensive spending review]. I promised to share some facts and figures illustrating how NCS is a force for good in society, as well as outline some of the plans for the future direction of travel under the stewardship of Mark Gifford as CEO.”

Cameron wrote a long and selective spin detailing how NCS is a force for good, admitting that it “needs to reform” but appealing to Mr Dowden “not to forget its strengths” and claiming it would “deliver against the government’s levelling-up agenda”. He ended with a plea: “I firmly believe that NCS has never been more needed” and “will only become more so as the country begins to rebuild post-pandemic.” He signed off, “Yours, DC.”

The ex-prime minister received no reply. A week later, on 24 August, his office sent a follow-up email asking if Mr Cameron’s email had been “safely received”. DCMS responded two hours later: “To confirm that Oliver received and read this email with interest and was very grateful for it. I think he was planning to get back in touch with Mr Cameron directly.”

Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell MP said she took a dim view of Mr Cameron’s attempts to secure favourable treatment for his pet scheme. “Rather than continued lobbying for his side projects, David Cameron should lay low given his disastrous interventions, including on Greensill, which has cost the public dear,” she said.

Last year The Independent revealed how Mr Cameron turned a blind eye to the “shocking waste” and failure to meet government targets of his flagship scheme while he was prime minister, ignoring Whitehall and ministerial concerns to instead, as one Whitehall mandarin put it, “stuff NCS’s mouth full of gold”.

But in response to questions from The Independent as to whether Mr Cameron’s lobbying had continued after he left office, NCS chief executive Mark Gifford had sought to distance the NCS “under his tenure” from Mr Cameron, who is still chair of patrons.

In response to questions about whether the NCS board had – during Mr Gifford’s tenure – ever turned to Mr Cameron to lobby No 10, the Treasury or DCMS, Mr Gifford wrote: “NCS Trust can confirm that the board have not turned to David Cameron to intervene with the government on the trust’s behalf.” He also said that while Mr Cameron was “a great source of advice”, the ex-prime minister “would never interfere” in their conversations with the government around funding.

The new email trail raises questions about whether Mr Gifford had been kept in the dark about Mr Cameron’s lobbying efforts on his behalf. Asked to explain why he had said the former prime minister did not lobby DCMS when it was clear he had, Mr Gifford said: “Without seeing the correspondence you say you have, I can only repeat what I have said before. I led the work on securing funding. Mr Cameron did not attend any meetings with me with ministers or civil servants. I always found him respectful of the process.” Mr Cameron’s office did not respond to requests to comment.

High Court rules Dido Harding and Mike Coupe appointments were unlawful 

Good Law Project goodlawproject.org 

In a landmark verdict, the High Court has today [Tuesday] found that the process leading to the appointments of both Dido Harding and Mike Coupe were unlawful. It held that Matt Hancock broke the law in appointing Dido Harding as Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP) and in appointing Mike Coupe as Director of Testing at Test and Trace (NHSTT). The High Court was also clear that the Prime Minister broke the law in appointing Dido Harding as Chair of Test and Trace. 

The Court declared: “The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care did not comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 in relation to the decisions on how to appoint (i) Baroness Harding as Interim Chair of the National Institute of Health Protection in August 2020 and (ii) Mike Coupe as Director of Testing for NHS Test and Trace in September 2020.”

While the formal declaration reflects only the appointments made by Matt Hancock, the High Court is clear that the process adopted by the Prime Minister was also unlawful (paragraph 116). All three appointments breached the public sector equality duty.

In reaching this conclusion, the Court accepted the argument made by race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust and Good Law Project that the recruitment process adopted by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State ignored the need to eliminate discrimination against the country’s disabled and ethnic minority communities, and to ensure they have equality of opportunity.

In appointing the wife of Boris Johnson’s Anti-Corruption Tsar John Penrose MP to Chair the National Institute for Health Protection, the Government failed to consider the effects on those who, the data shows, are too often shut out of public life. The Government also ignored its own internal guidance, which requires Ministers to consider how discrimination law will be complied with. 

The Runnymede Trust and Good Law Project brought the case to highlight what it means to disadvantaged groups for the Government to push its associates and donors into key jobs. The Court’s declaration will have a real impact on how public appointments are made in the future. 

The Government must now take seriously its legal and moral obligations to narrow the disadvantages faced by people with disabilities and those of colour. Public appointments must not be made without taking steps to eliminate discrimination and to advance equality of opportunity, even when normal processes don’t apply, for instance during a public health emergency. The Government will now have to be much more careful to make sure its recruitment processes are fair, equitable and open to all. 


Read the High Court’s judgment here.

The Runnymede Trust is the UK’s leading independent race equality think tank. We generate intelligence for multi-ethnic Britain through research, network building, leading debate, and policy engagement. Since 1968, the Runnymede Trust has strived to build a Britain in which all citizens and communities feel valued, enjoy equal opportunities, lead fulfilling lives, and share a common sense of belonging.

Good Law Project only exists thanks to donations from people across the UK. If you’re in a position to support our work, you can do so here.