PM told he is ‘toast’ as refugee scheme ‘pouring goodwill down drain’

Meanwhile Tory MPs “party through the cost of living emergency” by attending a “champagne bash” on Tuesday night.

One rule for them, another rule for us. – Owl

Andy Gregory 

Boris Johnson has been told he is “pretty much toast” if handed a Partygate fine, as the prime minister endured a grilling from senior MPs on the Commons liaison committee.

At PMQs hours earlier, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford accused the Tories of “partying through the cost of living emergency” by attending a “champagne bash” on Tuesday night, days before an energy price hike hits millions of families.

The bereaved families of Covid victims chanted “shame on you” as Conservative MPs entered the dinner party at the Park Plaza hotel, which came as the Metropolitan Police confirmed an initial 20 Partygate fines, prompting renewed calls for Boris Johnson to resign.

Meanwhile, Michael Gove’s Homes for Ukraine scheme has faced scathing criticism. The Home Office has said just 2,700 visas have been granted to people hoping to come to the UK under the initiative – despite applications reaching 28,300.

Robina Qureshi, director of refugee homelessness charity Positive Action in Housing, said the “goodwill of British people is being poured down the drain.”

“We are disgusted and ashamed,” she said.

Exmouth traders’ dismay over ‘massive hike’ in grassed outdoor seating rents

Interesting to read this in the light of Owl’s earlier post: “Local Tories sink into Nauseating Hypocrisy”. 

In their latest leaflet, endorsed by Simon Jupp, Tory attack dogs write: “Conservative councillors are…… questioning the use of tax payers money to subsidise one business over another.” (Obviously only applies where it suits!)

It is also interesting to note that Simon Jupp fails to mention that from Friday the VAT on the hospitality sector will rise from 12.5% to 20%.

East Devon deserves better, Simon. – Owl

Will Goddard 

An example of outdoor seating on a grassed area of the Strand in 2021 (The Grapevine Brewhouse)

An example of outdoor seating on a grassed area of the Strand in 2021 (The Grapevine Brewhouse)

Several Exmouth businesses have objected to rises in rental costs for using grassed areas on the Strand in Exmouth.

The charge paid to East Devon District Council for using the areas for outdoor seating was £100 last year, the businesses said. Now, it’s into the thousands.

For example, Franklins Cafe and Bar said it would now have to pay £1,700 (£4,080 pro rata), and Spoken £6,000 (£14,400 pro rata) for the grassed areas.

These charges are unrelated to the outdoor seating on the paved areas of the Strand, which cost £100 per year from Devon County Council.

Oliver Bainbridge, owner of The Grapevine Brewhouse near the Strand, said: “Our rent last year was £100. This year, it’s going to be £4,500, which is obviously a massive hike of 45 times the previous year.

“We are very aware this is public land and we need to pay for this. We don’t want this for free, what we want is a sensible and measured approach.”

‘East Devon deserves better’ – Simon Jupp MP

The businesses are being supported by East Devon MP Simon Jupp.

He said: “Charging businesses in the Strand several thousand pounds to put out a few tables and chairs is unacceptable.

“The government relaxed the rules around alfresco dining to help cafes, bars and restaurants after a difficult two years.

“I have called on East Devon District Council to rethink their rip-off rent increases which won’t help struggling businesses.

“After doubling the price of parking and announcing plans to close public toilets, local businesses need all the help they can get. East Devon deserves better.”

Response from district council

East Devon District Council has said that the issue is about whether or not it’s appropriate for the council ‘to subsidise local businesses that adjoin the Strand in Exmouth’.

Using an outside agency, the council has also said that negotiations with traders for the Queen’s Drive Space on Exmouth seafront have been ‘very successful’ – and it can see ‘no reason’ why it can’t be the same for traders on the Strand.

A spokesperson for East Devon District Council said: “This matter is the subject of a commercial negotiation that began last week.

“At its core is the issue of whether it is appropriate for the council to subsidise local businesses that adjoin the Strand in Exmouth.

“This happened during the COVID lockdown period when stringent social distancing arrangements were in place but as we know we are all now learning to live with COVID.

“Our request is that the traders interested in a space now engage with the council’s agents and we look forward to saying more in the very near future.

“We recently completed very successful negotiations through the same agency for pitches at Queen’s Drive Space on Exmouth seafront and can see no reason why the Strand traders would not wish to engage in the same process.”

Local Tories sink into nauseating hypocrisy

East Devon Tories, with personal endorsements from Neil Parish and Simon Jupp, have really sunk to new depths in their latest newsletter. (Owl received a copy from an outraged correspondent).

Amongst the tendentious attacks on the performance of EDDC’s Democratic Alliance Coalition, is this  mendacious little gem paraded as Example No4.

Does this stand a moment’s scrutiny?- The facts checked

Leisure East Devon Ltd was established as a not-for-profit Industrial & Provident Society (IPS) on 1 January 2006 with the specific purpose of managing the EDDC leisure activities previously operated through the Council’s Leisure & Lifestyles Team on a 30 year lease at a peppercorn rent, with EDDC paying an annual service charge. In other words Leisure East Devon was set up by EDDC’s Conservative councillors as an outsourcing operation.

[The name was changed in 2014 to “LED” when all IPSs were converted into regulated Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies. (Before that, unlike charities, IPSs were unregulated). This change also reflected the fact that LED had also taken over management of South Somerset District Council leisure facilities.]

The original ambition appears to have been to generate £1.6m working capital (on annual turnover of approx £5m) and gradually reduce EDDC support. This has never been achieved and EDDC has had to provide LED with annual grants, as required to balance the books. In 2012, for example, this grant amounted to £1.1m and in 2017 EDDC budgeted for £893,720. Over the years EDDC has also paid one-off sums for refurbishment. In other words Conservative controlled EDDC has always subsidised LED and it can hardly be described as “freestanding”.

In June 2015, The Tory EDDC engineered a take-over of the lease of Exmouth seafront “Ocean” facility by LED. Conservative Councillor Andrew Moulding, chairman of Exmouth Regeneration Programme, said: “This is fantastic news for everyone who lives in Exmouth or who comes to the resort for holidays or leisure” Some disagreed when they looked at the generous guarantor terms provided for LED (tenant) and Harlequins (landlord) by EDDC. In other words EDDC Conservatives were quite content to subsidise one business over another and intervene heavily in the local leisure market.

In March 2020, although the Conservatives lost control in 2019, EDDC, under the Ben Ingham regime, completed the acquisition of the Ocean Blue leisure complex on Exmouth seafront for £2.7m using the council’s Commercial Investment Fund. (Ben Ingham, despite claiming to be “Independent”, continued with Conservative policies). The East Devon Watch post: “The sad planning saga of Exmouth’s Albatross, the Ocean Bowling Alley.” chronicles the events from 1993 to 2020. This purchase is the inevitable result of the Conservative led strategic interventions in the “regeneration” of Exmouth Seafront over this period which has turned out to be a commercial failure. In other words it is Conservative intervention in the local leisure market over more than two decades that has been a signal failure.

In June 2020 Democratic Alliance Coalition inherited this mess

In October 2020 LED estimated a loss of £1.3m in the current year as a result of COVID-19 restrictions over the leisure centres it operates in the East Devon area. It asked for funds ranging between £616,000 and £1.276m from EDDC. As a charitable trust it is unable to claim 75 per cent of lost income under a central government scheme whereas leisure facilities operated directly by Local Authorities can do so. Note that this is a Conservative imposed double whammy.

Yet in March 2022 Conservatives have the cheek to proclaim:

“EDDC owned leisure facilities have taken a huge financial hit during the Covid pandemic with the Council subsidising the activities of LED, a standalone company. Conservative councillors are concerned about these costs and are questioning the use of tax payers money to subsidise one business over another. This money could have been spent on keeping our public toilets open and prevent car parking increases.”

 Owl’s question to Conservatives:

When did you first have qualms about using taxpayers money to subsidise the “standalone” LED you created, especially in its relationship with the Harlequins “Ocean Blue” centre in Exmouth? 

Have you sanctioned Councillor Andrew Moulding for his playing off one business against another in 2015?

Why did Conservative councillors intervene so heavily in the local leisure market, with little or no consultation, for over two decades?

And has Simon Jupp MP fought really hard to get the 75% covid rebate paid to LED? East Devon deserves better  (to coin one of his very own phrases). 

Owls’ advice: Take anything said by a Conservative with a great big pinch of salt. Like Boris Johnson, it won’t stand much scrutiny.

In Touch or Out of Touch?

Simon Jupp on “moral bankruptcy”

Looks to Owl like Simon has been asking another of his “planted” questions in the House.

Photo of Simon JuppSimon Jupp Conservative, East Devon

I thank my hon. Friend for the strength of the Government’s response to the moral bankruptcy that P&O Ferries demonstrated at the Select Committee last week, and I welcome the Government’s commitments to protect seafarers in the future. Does my hon. Friend agree that every step needs to be taken to ensure that seafarers are properly protected in the future?

Photo of Robert CourtsRobert Courts Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Moral bankruptcy is precisely the point; my hon. Friend puts his finger on it. We are taking every step. We will come forward with a package. We want to make sure that we get this right and are keen to make sure that people are protected

Remember the government and Grant Shapps knew about the P&O sackings 24 hours in advance, but failed to intervene.

 In October of last year, new laws preventing businesses from laying off staff and taking them back on with different – often worse – pay and terms were rejected by the government, on the instructions of Boris Johnson.

Which way did our indignant Simon Jupp vote then? – Owl

‘It’s OUR local’ – East Budleigh celebrates reopening of pub now owned by the community

An East Budleigh resident who drank his first-ever pint of beer in the Sir Walter Raleigh pub in 1957 had the honour of officially reopening it as a community-owned venue. 

Philippa Davies 

Trevor Hayman, 78, cut the ribbon on Sunday, March 27 in front of a crowd of local residents who are now shareholders in the pub, after they joined forces to buy it. 

Trevor Hayman with pub committee chairman Mark Duffelen – Credit: Elsa White

Mr Hayman said: “I have lived in East Budleigh all my life and it is wonderful that the village has managed to save this wonderful pub. It gives me the greatest pleasure to open the Sir Walter Raleigh as our very own community pub.” 

With the pub officially open, residents gathered inside to raise a glass to their successful takeover. 

It had taken just six weeks and five days – from the day that the steering group launched the share offer in January – to complete the purchase of the Sir Walter Raleigh. In that time more than 300 people gave their commitment by becoming shareholders, volunteering, and committing to use the pub. 

More than 90 East Budleigh residents were directly involved in the venture, offering help with legal issues, marketing, refurbishments and general maintenance work. A new landlady and landlord, Carol and Darren Yates, were appointed to run the pub, having previously successfully managed the Bowd Inn and Blue Ball Inn near Sidmouth. 

Following the purchase, an army of volunteers came forward to redecorate the 16th-century pub in time for its grand reopening on Mothering Sunday. 

Pub committee member and East Budleigh resident Judith Venning said: “We thank all those local businesses who have given their time for free or at a discount. We have received offers of help across all areas of the refurbishment. What a wonderful community we live in!” 

The revamped Sir Walter Raleigh will soon also have a café, with volunteers serving hot drinks and cakes from 9am until 11am, prior to the pub’s lunchtime service. Walt’s Café will open on Monday, April 11. 

Resident and committee chairman Mark Duffelen said: “I very much hope that everyone will love what’s been done, and most of all love visiting the pub.” 

The pub will be open seven days a week, Monday 12-3pm and 5.30-11pm (no food, chef’s day off), Tuesday – Saturday 12-3pm and 5.30-11pm (food served 12-2.30pm and 6-9pm) and Sunday 12-3pm and 6-10.30pm (food served 12-3pm). 

Customers can keep up to date by visiting the pub’s Facebook page @sirwalterraleighpub, while a new website is being designed. For further information or to make a booking, email or call 01395 442510. 

Johnson could be forced to release secret Lebedev dossier

Labour will tomorrow try to force the government to release secret papers relating to Boris Johnson’s controversial appointment of Evgeny Lebedev to the House of Lords.

Adam Bychawski 

Tuesday’s vote will call on Steve Barclay, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to give up all documents held by Number 10 and the Cabinet Office relating to advice from the House of Lords Appointments Committee about Lebedev’s appointment. Deputy leader Angela Rayner will also use the vote – officially a ‘humble address’ – to ask for records of meetings at which the appointment was discussed.

It comes after Boris Johnson denied allegations that he had intervened to secure the peerage for Lebedev, who is a close friend, in July 2020 after intelligence services warned it would be a security risk. Lebedev, whose father is a former Russian spy, has fiercely denied posing any such risk to the UK.

Last week, former Number 10 adviser Dominic Cummings turned up the heat on Johnson by claiming he was in the room when the PM was told by Cabinet Office officials that there were “serious reservations” from intelligence services about his plan to appoint Lebedev.

Cummings went on to claim that Johnson had “cut a deal” with officials to present a “sanitised” version of the security report to the House of Lords Appointments Committee, which is responsible for scrutinising the nomination of new peers.

openDemocracy previously revealed that Johnson had a “personal” meeting with the Russian-born oligarch just days after telling the British public to avoid ‘non-essential contact’ in March 2020.

Lebedev is the longstanding proprietor of two British newspapers – The Independent and the Evening Standard. His father, from whom he derives his wealth, is the billionaire oligarch and former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev.

Lebedev Jr has previously defended Vladimir Putin and questioned Russia’s involvement in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, the Kremlin critic poisoned with polonium at a London hotel.

Johnson has maintained a close relationship with Lebedev Jr since they met in 2009. He attended at least four parties at the Russian oligarch’s Umbrian villa during his time as London mayor, using Lebedev’s private jet to fly there and back to London.

Earlier this month, The Sunday Times reported that the head of MI6 had expressed concerns that the Russian businessman was “keen to ingratiate himself with the British establishment” a decade ago.

Rayner accused the prime minister of putting “personal interest before the public’s”.

“The British public have a right to know if and how an individual of apparent concern to our intelligence services was granted a seat in the heart of our Parliament by Boris Johnson, against security advice,” she added.

Since taking up his peerage in December 2020, Lebedev has spoken only once and never voted.

In February, he wrote an open letter to Putin, in which he urged the Russian president to “bring this terrible conflict in Ukraine to an end”.

Sidmouth: Walkway to Jacob’s Ladder beach cordoned off after cliff fall

An area of the walkway between Sidmouth and Jacob’s Ladder beach has been cordoned off after a cliff fall yesterday morning (Sunday 27 March).

Will Goddard

Jacob's Ladder, Sidmouth (Nub News, Will Goddard)

Jacob’s Ladder, Sidmouth (Nub News, Will Goddard)

The rocks fell on the path below Connaught Gardens. East Devon District Council and Beer Coastguard closed the path as there were still loose rocks on the cliff face which could pose a danger to the public.

A spokesperson for Beer Coastguard said: “We closed the path along with the council to protect the public as there was still loose rocks on the cliff face.”

Person collapses on Jacob’s Ladder beach

Beer Coastguard also assisted in helping an individual who had collapsed on Jacob’s Ladder beach on the evening of Saturday 26 March in a separate incident.

The person was taken to hospital.

A spokesperson said: “Tasked with Exmouth Coastguard, the Hazardous Area Response Team and SWAST, to a collapsed person on the beach, the casualty was stabilised before being stretchered to the Ambulance for onward transport to hospital.

“We wish them a speedy recovery.”

Big regional divide on some energy bill charges

South West to see one of the biggest price hikes – why?

More Tory levelling-up in action – Owl

Sharp rises in standing charges on standard electricity bills will see customers face very different cost increases depending on where they live.

By Rebecca Wearn Business reporter, BBC News

Customers in South Scotland, Merseyside, North Wales and the South West of England will see the daily payments double from April.

Those in London and the East of England will see increases of less than 60%.

All consumer bills include a standing charge; a fixed daily payment covering the costs of supply and other levies.

The regulator Ofgem caps them for consumers on standard default tariffs in England, Wales and Scotland, although the cap varies by region.

Standing charges are not the biggest part of an energy bill, but they are set to rise by more than £71 a year on average in April.

‘Not surprised’

Jeehan Saleh and Hesham Hussain told the BBC the wide regional differences were unfair at time when energy bills are soaring.

They say they “weren’t shocked” when they learned that standing charges where they live in Garston in South Liverpool would rise by double that of other areas.

“Surprise, surprise, Liverpool again isn’t it,” said Hesham.

“It’s always us being hit the hardest,” added Jeehan. “There’s people in poorer areas where we work who are choosing between food bills and energy bills. Thankfully we’re not in that position but it’s not too far from home. You’re already feeling it in so many areas, this is just another hit.”

The standing charge has always varied depending on where you live, due to different costs to supply homes with power in rural or more remote areas.

However, BBC research has shown that the increase this spring varies disproportionately in different parts of Britain, when comparing standard variable tariffs for electricity paid for by direct debit.

Analysts told the BBC that local suppliers are moving charges which were once part of a consumer’s unit price for energy (which now has a tight upper limit on it) over to their standing charge. They are also increasing standing charges to the maximum level for each region, which means a big jump for some places.

The average increase – of just under 20p per day – will add more than £71 a year to a standard electricity tariff. But in North Wales and Merseyside, the South West, the Midlands, South Scotland and South Wales the rise will add over £80 a year. In London less than £30 will be added.


The cap on standard charges will increase more in some areas than others

Price per day for Single Rate Electricity Meter from April 2022 by British region in order of percentage charge.

  • London: up 8p a day to 31p – a 38% increase
  • Eastern: up 13p a day to 36p – a 58% increase
  • South East: up 17p a day to 40p – a 73% increase
  • North West: up 17p a day to 40p – 73% increase
  • Southern: up 18p a day to 41p – an 80% increase
  • Yorkshire: up 21p a day to 46p – an 81% increase
  • North Scotland: up 22p a day to 48p – a 83% increase
  • Northern: up 21p a day to 46p – an 85% increase
  • East Midlands: up 20p a day to 43p – an 88% increase
  • Midlands: up 22p a day to 46p – a 92% increase
  • South Wales: up 22p a day to 46p – a 94% increase
  • Southern Scotland: up 24p a day to 47p – a 100% increase
  • South Western: up 25p a day to 49p – a 101% increase
  • North Wales & Merseyside: up 23p a day to 45p – 102% increase

The changes are slightly different for customers using prepayment meters.

It comes as households in England, Scotland and Wales prepare for an even bigger hit when the energy price cap – which limits what consumer pay per unit of gas and electricity – also goes up in April.

In Liverpool, David and Joan Boyle told us their energy bill was rising by £700. They are happy they will be able to manage but say they worry about other people.

Elsewhere there was more concern.

“Standing charges should be the same everywhere shouldn’t they,” said Kev Oloughlin. He was enjoying a day out in the sunshine with his son Leo. He told us they’d “normally shop around every year when bills come in, but at the moment it’s pointless”.

He added: “We’re managing alright with things but we’re conscious of having the heating and things like that on. Everyone’s got to tighten their belt at the minute haven’t they.”

The standing charge not only covers costs such network maintenance, administration fees and certain government schemes. It is also the part of your bill that will contribute to the cost of the 28 energy suppliers that have gone bust since last autumn amid a cost crunch sparked by sharply rising wholesale energy prices.

Ofgem told the BBC that the levy added to bills to pay for costs associated with energy suppliers going bust had been spread equally across the country.

It says standing charges in some regions are increasing more than others because of a reallocation of network costs, the level of which differs between distribution networks.

Unavoidable cost

The BBC contacted major suppliers British Gas, Scottish Power, EDF, EOn, Ovo/SSE, Shell, Octopus and Bulb, and almost all confirmed they now have a majority of customers on a standard default tariff, which is controlled by the Ofgem cap.

Three of the biggest suppliers, British Gas, Scottish and Ovo/SSE would not give details on their charges, calling them “commercially sensitive”.

But EOn, EDF, Shell, Octopus and Bulb confirmed they were increasing standing charges on these tariffs in line with the standard charge cap, with example prices (including VAT) from Bulb, EDF and Shell varying from 32p a day in London and 38p in the East, to around 50p in Northern Scotland and the South West.

And it is not an expense that can be avoided by shopping around. While tariffs actively chosen by customers, such as fixed rate tariffs, are not subject to the default tariff cap on standard charges, there are only a handful of such deals on the market.

Moneysupermarket told the BBC that as of 14 March, there were just five fixed tariffs available to consumers. This compares to about 96 fixed deals available at the same time in 2021.

Analysis box by Colletta Smith, Consumer affairs correspondent

Standing charges are certainly not the biggest part of your energy bill, and they are dwarfed by the massive increases in the unit price for the energy you use.

But in normal circumstances an extra £80 a year on your energy bill just from standing charges would not go unnoticed, especially as in some areas they are increasing by a lot more than others. So is something fishy going on?

Ofgem assures me that the extra costs for failed energy companies are being spread equally across the country.

But the Energy Networks Association say that no major network developments have happened in any areas in the last six months that would explain the regional divisions.

Local suppliers are moving charges which were once part of your unit price, which now has a tight price cap on it, and shifting them across to your standing charge. Most suppliers are upping their standing charges to the maximum level for each region, which means a big jump for some places, adding insult to the injury of a whopping energy bill.

Why the UK can’t rely on boosters to get through each new wave of Covid

The take-home message is that the pandemic is very much with us and evolving dynamically, with a long, bumpy road ahead. The option to sleepwalk through this, taking automatic-pilot choices based on what was “good enough” in the first wave is one we adopt at our peril.

(Danny Altmann is a professor of immunology at Imperial College London, who has contributed advice to the Cabinet Office, APPG on long Covid, and the EU)

Danny Altmann 

This time in 2020, we watched with horror as the realities of the pandemic and its death toll unfurled. Most hardly dared imagine that effective vaccines might appear in a fraction of the time taken for previous efforts, effectively stemming the pandemic tide.

But despite the success of the vaccines in greatly reducing the odds of hospitalisation or death, viral evolution had plenty more to throw at us. The onslaught of highly immune-evasive variants was, for most of us in immunology and virology, unforeseen. We’d come to think of the coronavirus family as being rather more stable – less error-prone in terms of mutations – than many viruses. And we had never before had to roll out relatively new ways of developing vaccines, involving mRNA or recombinant adenoviruses, at this scale and in the heat of battle.

Having started out brilliantly, the real-life state of play today is self-evidently suboptimal. The vaccines rapidly induce hugely high levels of protective, neutralising antibodies in most people, but these levels wane within months of each sequential dose. Meanwhile, Omicron and the subvariant BA.2 have managed to mutate almost every amino acid residue targeted by protective antibodies, escaping protection. And so you have the unhappy equilibrium currently endured by the UK: more than 300,000 new cases a day, as of late last week, and a continuing caseload of more than 3 million, with hospital admissions and excess deaths holding steady at a new – high – setpoint. All this despite one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.

We are living in a precarious truce imposed through frequent mRNA boosters to keep the viral caseload “manageable”. But there are signs this isn’t sustainable, and that a strategy simply consisting of boosters in perpetuity may not be fit for purpose. Recent case surges in Hong Kong, Denmark and Scotland emphasise the fragility of that balance. And new evidence from the past two years suggests that encounters with different variants of Covid or different vaccine types can alter the effectiveness of later jabs in surprising ways – an effect called immune imprinting. This raises the possibility that booster performance could be even less predictable and effective in the future.

Sars-CoV-2 began as a single variant, which we term the Wuhan strain. But we now inhabit a world where no two people share precisely the same exposure history: we have never been infected, or were asymptomatically, mildly or severely infected during any or a combination of the Wuhan to Alpha, Delta, Omicron or BA.2 waves, and we’ve all had somewhere from zero to four doses of diverse vaccines. The combination of these exposures gives each of us a unique immune memory repertoire.

Imagine a huge jar of pills of different colours, each especially good for responding to a given present or future variant. Someone whose experience has been an Alpha infection plus three doses of Pfizer may have brilliantly built up lots of green pills at the expense of others. But this is less good for you if the next variant mainly needs yellow pills. It turns out the order and type of exposure can affect how our immune system responds later on.

In a recent paper reported in the journal Science, we compared protective immunity between people infected in the first wave with the original strain and in the second wave with the Alpha variant. In second wave-infected people, encounters with an Alpha infection plus two vaccine doses gave lower protective (known as neutralising) antibody responses against the Wuhan and Beta variant, yet higher responses against Delta. Given the number of vaccines and strains, these interactions are unpredictable, but will shape how our immunity holds for future waves. It needs more investigation.

These are complex problems demanding careful research, long-term planning, trials and even some intelligent crystal ball-gazing. We must evaluate many approaches. Some places have announced a fourth dose rollout for first generation Pfizer vaccines (which cross-neutralises recent variants, but very suboptimally); some vaccine makers have pivoted to targeting the Omicron spike; others are working on polyvalent vaccines to include several different versions of spike, or clever structural approaches to target those parts of spike that would be the same across all past and future variants, and maybe even across those coronaviruses still awaiting crossover from bats and pangolins.

This latter approach is exciting and the subject of recent efforts across many teams, including research trials through the US National Institutes of Health and at Cambridge University. There are also advanced programmes considering intranasal – nose – vaccination to achieve local mucosal immunity, increasing the chances of blocking transmission at that site altogether, and vaccine platforms that could be much more durable.

The take-home message is that the pandemic is very much with us and evolving dynamically, with a long, bumpy road ahead. The option to sleepwalk through this, taking automatic-pilot choices based on what was “good enough” in the first wave is one we adopt at our peril. We must look at options besides simply boosting through every successive wave. At a time when the US has cut future vaccine research funding, and the UK also needs to maintain its momentum, this should be an urgent priority.

UK unions: pay better wages or expect a mass exodus of essential workers

In fact EDDC have already had to double the amount spent on adding “market supplements” to wages in the current FY. EDDC’s lowest salary of £9.25 is below the real living wage of £9.90 and this is before the current cost of living crisis. As a result EDDC has commissioned a study to try to get ahead of the game. See below for local and national picture.

EDDC Salary incentives, known as ‘market supplements’, have already cost the authority £137,000 compared to £67,000 for the entirety of the previous 12 months ending in April 2021.

The temporary, fixed-term additional payment is added  to employees’ basic salaries to bring them up to the going market rate for their role, writes Local Democracy Reporter Joe Ives.

EDDC, which employs around 500 people in a permanent and fixed-term capacity, is currently paying 41 such market supplements per month.

A spokesperson said: “Market supplements reflect trends in the marketplace and the difficulty in recruiting suitably qualified staff to the council.

“They are reviewed annually and are a useful tool in filling vacancies where the data shows that the pay we are offering is not comparable and has fallen behind.

“We have seen in the wider economy the difficulties that many in the public sector and private sector businesses have had in recruiting staff and the council is suffering from the same issues.”

A meeting of the council’s Personnel Committee heard the supplements are ‘a last resort’ to compete with other employers.

Its wage bill will rise again in April 2022 when National Insurance contributions for employers and staff rise by 1.25 per cent, costing East Devon a further £119,000 per year.

The Real Living Wage – thought to be the lowest amount of money people require to meet basic needs – is currently £9.90 per hour.

However, EDDC’s lowest salary is £9.25 per hour.

The council says relatively few people are on this level, and that it would look to change this as part of a ‘reward review’ se to be completed in January.

This will assess what changes need to be made to fix recruitment and retention issues.

But the private company undertaking it is has asked for more money on top of the £25,000 already allocated by EDDC.

It says extra work is needed ‘to refine the recommendations and to engage with key stakeholders before having in place a clear set of final recommendations and costings’.

The council will decide later if it wants to pay that supplement.

EDDC is also carrying out a ‘recruitment strategy review’ to see if it can improve its ’employer brand’ and recruit from a more diverse pool of employees in future.

Sidmouth Rural ward member Councillor John Loudoun told the meeting  that portfolio holders often felt ‘anxious’ about having enough staff ,but added that the review showed EDDC was ‘going in the right direction’.

UK unions: pay better wages or expect a mass exodus of essential workers

Toby Helm 

Hospitals, schools and the civil service will suffer a “mass exodus” of key staff unless millions of public sector employees receive pay rises that at least match the spiralling rate of inflation, union leaders warn on Sunday.

After the chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spring statement offered no more money to public services last week, the prospect of long and bitter battles over pay look certain as the cost of living crisis grows.

The prospect of pay disputes with the public sector is another big headache for Sunak, whose net approval rating has dropped to an all-time low of minus 4 points (down 15 on two weeks ago) according to Opinium’s latest poll. Before this week his lowest net approval was plus 7.

Last night, the country’s largest union, Unison, representing health service, education and other public service workers, said that unless members received “inflation busting” rises, staff would leave for better paid work in the private sector.

Unison will give evidence to the NHS pay review body on Tuesday and will also highlight this week how many employers on the high street including supermarkets, coffee shops and logistics firms​, are among those offering wages higher than the lowest hourly rates in the NHS.

One of the main teaching unions, the NASUWT, has already submitted evidence to its pay review body calling for a multi-year pay award for teachers, starting with a 12% award from September this year.

The union says that successive years of pay freezes and below-inflation awards mean teachers have suffered a 19% real-terms erosion in their pay since 2010.

Analysis by the TUC of official data shows that average real-terms pay in the public sector was down £81 a month in January 2022 compared with a year before.

In addition the forecasts alongside the spring statement from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) show that average real pay for all workers (public and private sectors) is set to fall by 2% in 2022.

Preparing the ground for a showdown with government, the TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, told the Observer that public sector employees had worked during the pandemic “through the most intense days of their working lives”.

She added: “We have been holding meetings of public sector workers with their MPs. Many of them were not able to hold the tears back as they spoke up about how hard it has been at work, and how hard it is at home trying to make ends meet.

“The danger now for the whole nation is that we are at a tipping point. Many public sector workers across services like health, education and social care say they don’t know if they can take it any more. If they don’t at least get a proper pay rise and help to reduce workloads, it will be the final straw. A mass exodus would send shockwaves through every community, and it would damage our economy too. Ministers must be much more alive to this danger. They cannot let it happen.”

Recommendations on public sector pay are made to ministers by independent pay review bodies (PRBs) which receive submissions from the unions and employers. Ministers set the remit of the PRBs and can accept or reject their recommendations.

Union sources said it was crucial that ministers now acted to give the PRBs a clear steer that pay should have to keep pace with inflation to avoid a recruitment crisis.

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said the fact that the chancellor had announced no more money for public services in the spring statement “is almost bound to result in more hefty real pay cuts for nurses, teachers and other public sector workers”.

He added: “That will come on top of a decade of cuts during which pay in the public sector has done even worse than that in the private sector. It looks like trouble ahead.”

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “If the government doesn’t deliver inflation-busting wage increases across the entire public sector, staff will exit for better-paid, less stressful jobs. That would leave services unable to cope.

“Firms on the high street are paying more to keep and attract the staff they need. That’s what public services need to do too, but it’s the government holding the purse strings.”

The latest Opinium poll for the Observer found 68% of people believe that ministers should be doing more to tackle the cost of living crisis while just 18% said they were doing all they could. Some 57% think the economy will worsen in the next 12 months, against 19% who believe it will improve; 49% believe their personal finances will worsen in the next 12 months against 14% who think they will get better.

Dr Patrick Roach, the NASUWT general secretary, said: “Uncompetitive pay levels are contributing to a worsening picture on teacher supply. Data shows that by 2020, over 40% of those who had entered the teaching profession 10 years previously were no longer teaching.

“Our 2022 teachers’ pay survey indicates that 70% of teachers have considered leaving their job in the last 12 months and that 49% of teachers indicated that their pay had a great deal or a lot of impact on their intention to leave the profession.

“Adding to the pressure on teachers is the soaring cost of living, which is driving more and more into financial hardship. Our survey shows that two-thirds of teachers are ‘somewhat worried’ about their financial situation and 22% are ‘very worried’.”

Latest success for the Chumocracy

Owl wonders if this counts as a “win” in terms of productivity as well: big boost to wealth output (GDP) for little effort?

Government paid firm linked to Tory peer £122m for PPE bought for £46m

David Conn (Extract)

PPE the government bought for £122m from a company linked to the Tory peer Michelle Mone was purchased from the Chinese manufacturer for just £46m.

The extraordinary profits apparently made by PPE Medpro and its partners in the supply chain are revealed in documents leaked to the Guardian, including contracts and an inspection report for sterile surgical gowns supplied by the firm.

Despite being bought at the start of the pandemic and delivered in 2020, the 25m gowns were never used by the NHS after government officials rejected them following an inspection……

Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 14 March

Sunak’s spring statement fell flat because work no longer lifts people out of poverty

A Tory MP was branded was also “callous” for suggesting poverty-hit people are “sitting on benefits” and should “get any job”, as Britain braces for the biggest fall in living standards since the 1950s.

Katherine Fletcher was accused of an “insult” on struggling families after Rishi Sunak’s mini-Budget last week failed to offer the poorest help for the looming cost-of-living crisis despite soaring energy bills and food prices.

The Chancellor refused to reinstate the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and, despite inflation set to average 8% this year, uprated benefits by a measly 3%, meaning low-income families will in fact be hit hardest.

Sunak’s spring statement fell flat because work no longer lifts people out of poverty

Richard Partington 

Where did it all go wrong for Rishi Sunak? The most popular chancellor in four decades now pilloried for a spring statement which failed to meet the challenge of the worst hit to living standards since the Suez crisis.

Attacked for promising tax cuts while stealthily driving up the tax burden to the highest level since Clement Attlee was prime minister in the late 1940s, criticised for putting Instagram moments ahead of the serious task at hand, here was an out-of-touch ivory tower politician who would allow living costs to rise faster than pensions and benefits. It was the mini-budget to please no one.

In an earlier time the story would have been very different. Conservative chancellors promising tax cuts would normally enjoy support from their own party. Prioritising the public finances over benefit handouts should be a surefire winner for any would-be Tory leadership contender.

In the arid desert of support for Sunak, it was noticeable that George Osborne was among the few politicians willing to offer him praise, gushing that the Conservatives had been given back a “long-term economic plan” based on controlling spending, reducing the deficit and cutting taxes.

The trouble is the times have changed. Now is not the moment for an Osborne reboot of “fixing the roof while the sun is shining”. In case the chancellor hadn’t noticed, the economic weather has turned – with more than a million people expected to be pushed into absolute poverty.

A decade of austerity cuts to public services has swung public opinion behind more state intervention, not less, with the response to Covid highlighting how much can be done during extreme shocks to the economy.

That Sunak’s spring statement fell so badly flat highlights three things: how much has changed since Osborne was chancellor, how badly Sunak has judged the cost of living crisis and how poorly equipped the neoliberal toolbox is to deal with the big challenges facing the British economy.

A decade earlier the Conservatives had been on a branding exercise to claim the mantle of the workers’ party, taking aim at benefit scroungers to boost employment and discourage a life on handouts.

Sunak’s approach is in that vein – promoting work as the best engine to lift people out of poverty. Having cut benefits by £20 per week last October despite all the warnings, he was hardly going to turn back now.

However, there are serious problems with this approach when hard work isn’t making life any easier while living costs soar, and after a decade of economic mismanagement from the party of government.

The Resolution Foundation estimates average pay levels are on course to be just £18 per week higher in 2027 than they were in 2008, after adjusting for inflation. The upwards path for wages achieved in the years before the financial crisis has stalled in the decade since.

Far from levelling up or building back better, typical household incomes are forecast to fall by 2% between Boris Johnson’s election landslide in 2019 and 2025, making his the worst parliament on record for living standards.

The Tory advert for the world of work could hardly be worse. Failure to take action on workers’ rights has led to the scandal of 800 seafarers being fired without notice at P&O Ferries. Precariousness of employment and low pay are endemic.

Refusing to boost benefits ignores that millions of the lowest-paid workers are forced to rely on them.

Official figures show as many as 40% out of the 5.6 million universal credit claimants are in work. While the government is raising the minimum wage by 6.6% to £9.50 an hour this April, benefit cuts made last autumn and tax rises this spring mean many on low-pay will still be worse off.

Most people living in poverty are either in work or live in a working household, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. As many as one in eight workers are now in poverty – about 4 million people. That is a rise of about 1.5 million from the late 1990s when one in 11 people in poverty had a job.

While research suggests poverty rates fall sharply when people move into work, it’s clear that even sustained employment does not eliminate a life below the breadline in 21st century Britain. An action plan to improve the outcomes of the economy for workers is needed.

This requires a twin-track approach. Firstly, additional help for the poorest with surging energy bills and the rising cost of a weekly shop. It took Boris Johnson less than 24 hours from the spring statement to admit this might be necessary.

Secondly, longer term measures to get the economy moving and provide access to well-paid, secure employment. This should start with an employment bill to ban exploitative “fire and rehire” practices of the type used by bosses at P&O, as well as ending zero-hours contracts.

A decade ago, the public did not believe Labour when the party insisted the best way to cut the deficit was to boost the economy with a Keynesian burst of public investment. Today, the shoe is firmly on the other foot. The Tory argument that the state must step aside and let businesses and workers find their own way through the latest economic shocks falls entirely flat.

Area of Sidmouth beach cordoned off after cliff fall – Sunday

Coastguards have cordoned off a section of Sidmouth beach following a rock fall.

Anita Merritt

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) were alerted by police to assist following reports of the latest collapse of the cliffs this morning, March 27.

An MCA spokesperson said: “Our team from Beer Coastguard Rescue Team went and cordoned off the area to keep people safe.”

It was also confirmed that the local council had been informed and was going to put up fencing. Last summer there were five massive falls in one morning along the cliffs between Sidmouth and Salcombe Mouth.

The area is infamous for dangerous cliff falls and signage at along the edge and on the beach advise visitors to keep well away from the area. In three weeks at the end of May and into June last summer, there were four separate cliff falls prompting safety warnings from the local coastguard.

Behind tourist trap Seaton is a sad reality..

….locals are struggling to afford to stay in this seaside gem as house prices are soaring.

It’s late March and the picturesque seaside town of Seaton is already filling up with visitors as locals businesses begin to prepare for a busy summer. Daytrippers, retired couples and local workers make up for most of the people who I came across on my trip to this sunny spot.

Chloe Parkman 

As a first time visitor to this seaside holiday destination, I was anticipating to find a lot fish and chips shops, ice-cream parlours and tourist stores, and for the most part that was true. However, when walking along the seafront I noticed that there were a couple of empty business units, which were yet open for trade in this prime location.

After speaking with Kinmarie Skinner-Parkes, owner of Beanos, I soon found out that one of the businesses had closed after 54 years of trade, and was due to reopen with a new captain at the helm. Kinmare also told me that, despite all of the positives to this beautiful town, there was a sad reality beneath the surface; locals are struggling to afford to stay in this seaside gem as house prices are soaring.

According to Right Move, properties in Seaton had an overall average price of £299,713 over the last year. The majority of sales in Seaton during the last year were detached properties, selling for an average price of £405,815. Flats sold for an average of £167,903, with semi-detached properties fetching £266,977.

Overall, sold prices in Seaton over the last year were 3% down on the previous year and 8% up on the 2019 peak of £278,174.

A house price increase seems to be common theme across many Devon seaside resorts. And so, I decided to speak with Seaton locals to find out what it is really like to call this town home.

Kinmarie Skinner-Parkes, owner of Beanos

Kinmarie: “I moved to Seaton in 2009, I’m from Beer. I love it here and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I think the only thing is that the house prices have gone up so much that the younger families have had to move out of the area.

“It’s definitely linked to second home owners, in my opinion. There are some real prime locations, like there was a penthouse up for sale for nearly £1million.

“I don’t think any of the locals will be able to afford to buy these houses. Young families won’t be able to afford it so they will need to move out of the town.

“I know quite a few who have had to leave due to the prices. It’s these sort of places where people want to come and retire.

“My family member lives in Plymouth, and they are desperate to come back, but the rental prices are between £650 and £900 per month. You need a good job.

“There used to be a problem with drugs here, but that is phasing out now. I think those people know they are being watched and probably do it in their homes now.

“It’s not a place where you walk around and feel unsafe, not at all. This winter it’s been quite good, really business wise. We have stayed open as much as we can, we are governed by the weather here as we have no indoor area. But we were open and busy in January as it was sunny. Lots of people were coming out and about having a walk.

“One of the businesses next door to us has just gone and it was open for around 54-years. I think the new people are going to reopen it and keep it as it is. But I don’t think the town is lacking businesses as such, there are lots in the town. There are hardly any empty shops really.”

Hospiscare volunteer, Patricia

Patricia said: “I am a resident and I have been here for six years. I love living in Seaton and wouldn’t want to move anywhere else. It does get busy in the summer when people come down, we have all the beach huts here and the fun run on Saturday’s.

“I have worked here since I moved here and there are always people here keeping us going. There are lots of things going on here, I mean we have the tramway.

“Seaton is not a wealthy area, Sidmouth is more wealthy. You have young people and retired people here. We had a young lady here who was homeless, so homeless people are here.

“We have a foodbank here too who help those in need. I don’t think locals can afford to stay here really. There is a house around the corner from me which sold within a day of hitting the market – over the asking price.

“People want to move down here. With the pandemic, they are able to work from home. So I think a lot of people can move here. Renting is horrendous.

“My family members live in Berkshire and they are in council properties as the prices are going up and up and up.

“I don’t think there are that many second homes, but obviously people come down for holidays.”

Elderly couple who have lived in Seaton for 25-years say ‘the infrastructure is not good because the shops are not that full’

An elderly couple, who have lived in the town for 25-years and have been married for over 60-years, say the town is lacking things.

The couple, who wish to remain anonymous said: “The town is lacking things. But all of the towns are in the same boat, Sidmouth is exactly the same, they are all heading that way. And of course, the infrastructure is not all that good because the shops are not that full.

“Everything is getting dearer. The only thing we have in Seaton is the tramway which brings people in. Oh, and the supermarket. The supermarket here is the largest around and because of that people come to it.

“We’ve been together 64 years. We were kids together where we lived together before.

“A lot of houses have been built around the supermarket here which has brought the population up but it hasn’t done much for the infrastructure.

“This is certainly not a rich area, all we know from our point of view is the rates of housing are very high. They say that it’s because the town has got a lot of churches. That usually sets the price of these things.

“This is an expensive area we feel. I wouldn’t say the people here are well off though.

“We have lost a lot of shops here in the town, there are things you can’t get. We had Boots here but that’s gone. It’s been a downward trade here.

“There isn’t a lot of crime in the area, but you do get drugs and things here. From a crime point of you it does happen but not really. We lived in London so we have always been aware, always locking our doors and all that. But we love it here.”

Linda Doughty owner of Coastal Crafts Collective

Linda said: “We have had the business for five years and I know the town reasonably well. I think Seaton is lovely, it’s really friendly. I think it’s an amazing coastline and there is an awful lot to do here.

“It gets busy in the summer but it doesn’t get ridiculously busy. I think a lot of people come here as it is nicely busy as opposed to being ridiculously busy.

“My understanding is that actually the proportion of second homes here is a lot less, for example in the Lyme Regis or Sidmouth area.

“One of the reasons is that this is a popular retirement area, I think that’s because it’s flatter than perhaps Sidmouth. And although prices have gone up, it is much more reasonable than Sidmouth or Lyme Regis.

“I would say that although it is a retirement community there are a lot of young people here. It’s a real mixed community which is really nice.

“I am not aware of much crime in the area and I feel safe here. I am certainly not concerned about walking around in the dark or by myself.

“I think the town is back on the up business. I invested in the town five years ago because I absolutely believe the town is on the up. The thing I love about Seaton is that there are a lot of independent and small businesses, rather than a load of chains. It’s a very creative and artistic area.

“I think that gives it a lot more soul and community.”

Visitor – Mrs K Jones

Mrs K. Jones said: “We live in Worcester but we love it down here. We looked to buy a property down here five or six years ago.

“But, it was very difficult because we were living on the east coast and we are of an age where things are difficult to buy a property.

“The prices around here have gone up, the house prices.

“Where we are staying it looks as though people are buying properties. It looks to me like people are buying them and not renting them out, which could mean many people may not be able to come down anymore.

“I think there are a lot of second homes here, and I think over the last two-years people are buying more and coming down. But,I don’t think there is poverty in Seaton, not really.

“I agree that a lot of businesses have closed here. We have been coming down before Tesco opened here. I think Tesco is a good addition but the smaller shops have closed, they are mostly tourist shops now.

“We love it here and will continue to come down as much as we can. But it is a shame that where we are staying, it looks as though they are going to be second homes.”

Awkward moment minister shown how just much school funding has changed under Tories

The education minister was just shown how just much school funding has changed under Tories and it made for awkward viewing.

Kate Plummer

Nadhim Zahawi appeared on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday show today and was presented with a stark graph showing the change in funding per-pupil between state and private schools since the Conservative came to power in 2010.

The gap between state school spending and private school fees in England has more than doubled in a decade.

Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found average private school fees were £6,500 (92 per cent) higher than state funding in 2020-21.

In 2009-10, the gap was just £3,100, or about 39 per cent.

With this in mind, Ridge said: “If you are a parent looking at this, what do you think you would conclude about how the Conservatives prioritise state school pupils?”

Zahawi said that there was a financial crisis in 2008 and we had to “tighten our belts” to “try and get the economy back on its feet”. He then said the pandemic triggered huge spending to “protect jobs” and businesses and that he had secured £7bn of extra funding by 2024/5.

But Ridge wasn’t satisfied with his response. “It’s effectively restoring per-pupil funding to 2010 levels. You’ve got a lost decade haven’t you, effectively of growth in funding for comprehensive schools and state school pupils?

“We had to get through the financial crisis,” Zahawi said.

“On the backs of state school pupil funding,” Ridge replied.

Twitter link here: Susanna Reid (@Susanna Reid) 1648370369

It comes after it was announced that all schools in England will have to open for at least 32.5 hours a week.

The length of the school day is currently decided by the headteacher with the governing body in England but the government think increasing the average school day by around 20 minutes will help students. Zahawi is also due to set out the government’s wider plans for schools in England this week in a white paper.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the show Zahawi defended his predecessor Gavin Williamson receiving a knighthood and said closing schools during the coronavirus pandemic was a “mistake”.

Education cuts in context of Conservative cuts to local authorities – Owl

Central government grants – including retained business rates – were cut 37% in real-terms between 2009/10 and 2019/20, from £41.0bn to £26.0bn in 2019/20 prices. 

Revealed: top 10 children’s care providers made £300m profits

The 10 largest providers of children’s social care placements made more than £300m in profits last year, according to research that will fuel concerns over profiteering by private providers.

Michael Savage  

As pressure mounts within government, regulators, councils and fosterers over the provision of care for the country’s most vulnerable children, analysis seen by the Observer reveals the growing role of private equity companies in many of the biggest suppliers of care home and fostering places.

Profits among the top 20 providers of care home and fostering places now amount to 20% of their income. Despite the pandemic last year, their overall profits rose by more than 14% from 2020, according to the study commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA).

The findings follow a series of warnings that marketisation of children’s social care is leading to some damaging outcomes. Several figures within the sector have reported children being placed far from their support networks where homes could be built more cheaply, or placed with families who lack the skills to provide the right care.

It comes months after a highly critical Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) warned that the UK had “sleepwalked” into a dysfunctional market for children’s social care, with councils struggling to pay for expensive places that often failed to meet the needs of the child.

An official review of children’s social care in England has been commissioned by the government and will report later this spring.

There are hopes that the review will back reforms in England as a result of a growing consensus around the issues within the current system. Councils have reported that spending on residential placements has increased by 84% since 2015, and that they are now diverting funds from areas such as early help for families to meet the spiralling costs.

The LGA’s analysis, compiled by Revolution Consulting, found that eight of the 10 largest providers of children’s social care, which includes fostering, children’s homes and other services such as residential school places, now have some kind of private equity involvement. Total income of the largest 20 was more than £1.6bn, with 60% made by the largest four providers – Outcomes First, CareTech, Polaris and Priory, now called Aspris.

It also confirms many of the concerns over the level of debt taken on by some of the groups, which many council figures believe is making child social care provision even more precarious. Nine of the top 20 providers had more debts and liabilities than tangible assets.

“What matters most for children who can’t live at home is that they feel they are safe, loved and supported, in homes that best suit their need,” said Lucy Nethsingha, deputy chair of the LGA’s children and young people board.

“While many providers work hard to make sure this is the case, it is wrong that some providers are making excessive profit from providing these homes when money should be spent on children.

“Despite increasing their children’s social care budgets, most councils are overspending each year as costs continue to soar. Yet the largest privately-run companies, which provide many residential and fostering homes for children, continue to bring in huge profits. At the same time, many carry significant levels of debt.

“Stability for children in care is paramount if we are to help them to thrive. It is therefore vital that there is oversight of the financial health of these providers to help catch providers before they fall, and ensure company changes don’t risk the quality of provision.”

Outcomes First, CareTech, Polaris and Aspris, were all asked for comment, but either declined to do so or did not respond.

Some recent cases have brought home some of the long-running issues in children’s care. In January, Ofsted inspectors suspended the licence of one children’s home in Bolton after finding that a boy had not bathed, changed his clothes or been provided with a home-cooked meal for four months.