East Devon shows support for Ukraine amid ‘horror’ of Russian invasion

East Devon District Council has joined the show of support for the people of Ukraine and their families, following the Russian invasion. 

person Philippa Davies www.exmouthjournal.co.uk

The county and district councils have condemned Russia’s actions and pledged to work together to support Ukrainian refugees seeking sanctuary in the UK. 

They have also agreed to give particular support to families in Devon whose relatives in Ukraine are fleeing the conflict. 

East Devon District Council Chair Councillor Ian Thomas said: “On behalf of East Devon District Council, I want to express horror at the unprovoked invasion and heinous treatment of the sovereign nation of Ukraine and its people by Russia.  

“These are uniquely challenging circumstances. Whilst movement of displaced refugees from the war zone is at an early stage, it is clear that an enormous level of support is needed.   

“I’m confident that East Devon officers and members will step up to the plate in response to this humanitarian crisis, taking an active role with our local government partners in support of wider refugee needs.  

“In the interim, we have joined with many across the globe in a statement of solidarity and support for Ukraine, by flying the nation’s flag at both Blackdown House in Honiton and Exmouth Town Hall.  

“It is unbelievable and heart-breaking to see this tragedy unfolding before us. We can only hope that sanity, humanity and kindness will soon be restored.” 

East Devon District Council Leader Councillor Paul Arnott added: “The constructive and practical engagement of all the Devon districts, working under the Team Devon flag with the County, is absolutely essential. The challenges this crisis will inevitably provide need direct political solutions both nationally and locally, and East Devon, as part of Team Devon, will make sure that our response meets the expectations of our many concerned residents.” 

Individually, councils have also taken steps to cut Russian links, such as through contracts for energy provision.  Any few remaining investments within the Devon Pension Fund that are linked to Russian assets are being sold off quickly. 

Devon councils say they have long worked together, alongside health and voluntary sector partners and local communities, to provide safe sanctuary and resettlement for refugees, most recently Syrian families and those fleeing conflict in Afghanistan. 


Starmer calls on Tories to sack co-chair Ben Elliot over party links to Russia

Keir Starmer has called on the Conservatives to sack their co-chair, Ben Elliot, for being “at the heart” of links between the party and Russian money.

Rowena Mason www.theguardian.com 

The Labour leader said Elliot should step back from his role or be removed after revelations about his firm’s Russian business and the Tories accepting donations from wealthy Russians or companies linked to Russia.

Elliot has been chair of the party while it has taken donations from Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of Vladimir Putin’s former finance minister, and Aquind, a company co-owned by the billionaire Viktor Fedotov.

Neither is subject to any sanctions and the Conservatives have previously said in relation to Chernukhin and Aquind that all donations were “properly and transparently” declared in line with electoral law. Chernukhin, who has British citizenship, has condemned the invasion of Ukraine and called Putin’s regime “despotic”.

Elliot is also co-owner of Quintessentially, a “concierge” service for the super-wealthy that has counted many Russians among its clients, including reportedly Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner who has also faced calls from Starmer for UK sanctions to be imposed on him.

Quintessentially this week deleted a webpage detailing its presence in Russia, with about 50 staff in the country.

An archived page version said: “Quintessentially Russia has nearly 15 years’ experience providing luxury lifestyle management services to Russia’s elite and corporate members. Our office employs over 50 lifestyle managers, each of whom has completed a specialised training programme. They work around the clock 365 days per year to provide personal concierge services to each member. From restaurant bookings to backstage concert access, a bespoke luxury lifestyle is at our clients’ fingertips.”

A spokesperson for Quintessentially said the group “completely condemns President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine” and was monitoring its member base to ensure it was not servicing any individual or corporate body on sanctions lists, confirming that there were none so far.

With concerns heightened after the invasion of Ukraine, Starmer said it was time for the Conservatives to act to remove Elliot. Speaking during a visit to Birmingham Erdington, where Labour won a byelection on Thursday, Starmer said: “I think there is growing concern about the links between the Conservative party and Russian money. Ben Elliot is at the heart of that. We need to strip Russian money away from our politics, not to allow it to influence our politics.

“There will always be this danger if the Conservative government doesn’t go really hard on this that people will say it must be because you are reliant on Russian money that you are not going more quickly.

“So, it’s in everybody’s best interests that Ben Elliot steps back from his role – and I think he should actually be sacked from it.”

A Conservative source said: “This Conservative government has been leading the world in arming and training Ukrainian troops and imposing severe sanctions on Russia while Keir Starmer attempts to score cheap political points.”

In a reference to a row over support for Stop the War, the source added: “He would be better off trying to rid his own party of the Putin apologists who blame Nato for the invasion of Ukraine, many of whom sit as Labour MPs.”

Abramovich has said he is a non-political person and was not linked to Putin or the Russian state.

Meanwhile the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith called for British politics to be “scrubbed clean” of Russian money, saying: “It’s all political parties: we’ve all got to clean house … I think it should all be revisited, all of what went on in the past.”

Duncan Smith suggested it was not just politicians who had been too lax about accepting Russian cash but also “lawyers, estate agents, accountants – enablers” who should now reconsider their roles.

David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, called on the government to use legislation due to be passed next week to force UK citizens to sever their links with Russian companies if the government believed they were connected to the Kremlin.

“We are in an economic war,” he said. “One of the things we should do in the economic crime bill is that we should require British citizens not to hold posts on the boards of companies which the government believes have a link with Putin. They should certainly not be in receipt of large sums of money from such companies.”

Johnson speeds up sanctions: “grace period” to be “slashed” to just six months!

Commentators and the Opposition parties continue to press the government to speed up sanctions.

Tom Peck, again, in yesterday’s Indy:

” … If you’re wondering why it is that France can just seize a superyacht that belongs to Vladimir Putin’s de facto deputy, Igor Sechin, while the UK makes vague commitments to maybe do this kind of thing in 18 months or so, you might find the answer just by staring out the window.

By staring, that is, at the grey spring sky and the driving rain and wondering just what it is that makes this dreary windswept island the go-to destination for the world’s super-rich. They’re here because we want them to be here. We have welcomed them, and their money, in ways that France, Germany, the US, and everywhere else in between would simply never do, by offering them tax arrangements that are an affront to the basic dignity of every British mug that actually works for a living. …”


Boris Johnson has backed down on plans to allow Russian oligarchs 18 months to register ownership of luxury properties in the UK, slashing the proposed “grace period” to six months.

And he announced plans to streamline the process of sanctioning individuals with links to Vladimir Putin, by removing the legal requirement for government lawyers to show that measures are “appropriate” before implementing them.

Is this the best that our “world leading” government can do? How long does it take to “register legitimate ownership”- Owl

Cullompton homes rejected to preserve countryside character

Plans for 21 homes near Cullompton have been refused because of their impact on the countryside.

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

The application would have led to the properties being built at Westcott, a small community by the main road to Exeter which is home to The Merry Harriers Inn.

A report to the Mid Devon planning committee on Wednesday said the mix of single and two-storey homes, nine of which are classed as ‘affordable’, had been designed “to a high environmental standard” and included solar panels.

But it concluded the scheme was “located in the countryside and outside of a defined settlement within the local plan.”

It added: “The development will result in a market led housing scheme in an unsustainable location that fails to preserve the character and appearance of the countryside.”

Officers therefore recommended refusal, a sentiment shared by members of the committee.

Speaking at the meeting, applicant Mr Rowe claimed the council’s planning team had previously supported his application for Westcott, only to change their stance in January.

He said “like stupid sheep” he and his team had agreed to alter a previous application to the updated low-energy one, on the basis of having officers’ support.

Mr Rowe then warned that his appeal statement: “has been prepared and written” should his proposal be rejected, “and this time we will have no hesitation in claiming full costs. This is over a six-figure sum.”

However, members of the council were told the application was located outside a settlement boundary not included in the local plan, a decision unaltered by the location of a bus stop nearby.

A planning officer added that it was not considered to be an “exception site” to this rule, due to the majority of the homes being planned for sale on the open market.

Members refused the scheme by a margin of eight to none, with three abstentions.