Operation “Red Meat”

Last night the Home Office was not denying suggestions, first reported by ITV’s Anushka Asthana, that a ministerial direction has been put in place over the policy [migrant processing]. If true, this would mean that Patel has given the Home Office a formal instruction to proceed despite an objection raised by its permanent secretary. Senior civil servants seek ministerial directions in cases where they have concerns about the legality, propriety, feasibility or cost of a proposal. This is quite rare — the IfG counts 46 ministerial directions in the last decade — and would add more fuel to the fire. David Normington, a former Home Office perm sec, told Newsnight that the policy “is inhumane, it’s morally reprehensible, it’s probably unlawful and it may well be unworkable.”

Politico London Playbook

English regions to lose out on post-Brexit funding

Levelling down, the national picture – Owl

A government fund designed to replace EU grants lost due to Brexit has been criticised as “nothing more than an outrage” that will leave English regions tens of millions of pounds worse off than when Britain was in the EU.

Josh Halliday www.theguardian.com 

The Conservative’s 2019 manifesto promised “at a minimum” to match the average EU subsidy of about £1.5bn a year to help the most deprived parts of the UK.

But details of the government’s Shared Prosperity Fund show that it will hand out only £2.6bn over the next three years and will not match the previous EU funding level of £1.5bn a year until 2025.

The settlement has been strongly criticised by thinktanks and political leaders including the Welsh government, which said it was due to lose out on more than £1bn in funding over the next three years.

The thinktank IPPR North said the government’s Shared Prosperity Fund was a 43% cut in real terms compared with the average annual EU grants of £1.5bn between 2014 and 2020.

Dan Jarvis, the South Yorkshire mayor, said his region was owed £900m in funding to match what it would have received if the UK had remained in the EU. However, it has received little more than £38m over a three-year period.

He said: “This announcement is nothing more than an outrage; a cynical Conservative con that utterly fails South Yorkshire and drives a coach and horses through the government’s levelling-up agenda.”

The Department for Levelling Up insisted that it was “delivering on the UK government’s commitment to match the average spending of EU structural funds” by matching the EU’s £1.5bn in 2025. It said areas would continue to receive EU funding until the end of 2024.

However, regional leaders and policy experts accused the government of using “smoke and mirrors” by counting old EU money over the next two years.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership, which is chaired by the former Conservative chancellor George Osborne, said regions in the north of England would receive up to 37% less funding under the new government fund than they would from the EU.

In north-east England, one of the most deprived regions of the UK, this amounted to a difference of £71.3m over the next three years, it said.

Henri Murison, the director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “We were promised that no nation would be worse off post-Brexit but, when you take out the smoke and mirrors, the data doesn’t lie.

“These funds helped young people find work, supported small businesses and backed vital medical research – cutting it will have catastrophic consequences for our economy.”

Neil O’Brien, a levelling up minister, took to Twitter on Thursday to defend the scheme, insisting that the government was “matching in real terms what each place got on average from the [2014-2020] programme”.

However, this includes a count of old EU money still being delivered to these areas. IPPR North said the government’s promise to match EU funding was “far from reality” in two out of the next three financial years.

It described the announcement as a “serious blow for levelling up” that would stifle ambitious long-term investment. Whereas EU grants were delivered over seven years, the Shared Prosperity Fund model is for only three years.

Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, said: “The UK Shared Prosperity Fund will help to unleash the creativity and talent of communities that have for too long been overlooked and undervalued.”

Cornwall set to get less than half of its replacement EU funding

An example of “Levelling down”. Read how Tories try to spin this as a success. – Owl

Richard Whitehouse www.cornwalllive.com 

Cornwall is set to get less than half the amount of money it was expected to get from the EU before Brexit. The Government has announced that Cornwall will get £132m from the Shared Prosperity Fund over the next three years, it had been expected that Cornwall would have got around £100m a year if we remained in the EU.

Cornwall Council had previously submitted a bid to the Government to get £700m over the next seven years to match the funding which would have been provided by the EU. In one report, the council said that it was “crucial” that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly continued to receive that level of financial support.

The new funding announcement has been welcomed by the Conservative leaders at Cornwall Council and Cornwall’s Conservative MPs. However, other councillors have expressed concern about the reduction in funding and accused the Government of breaking promises.

Whilst the total funding from the Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) will be less than that which could have been received from the EU, the Government has highlighted that Cornwall is also receiving funding from other sources as well, such as Town Deals and the Levelling Up Fund. However, critics have previously pointed out that those funding streams were available to all parts of the country whilst Cornwall’s EU funding had been awarded because it was recognised as being one of the poorest regions in the EU. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously stated that Cornwall would get at least the same level of funding it would have received if the UK remained in the EU.

Minister for Levelling Up Neil O’Brien said: “The UKSPF will allow local leaders and communities in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to directly tackle the issues affecting their local area, whether that’s access to more opportunities or high street regeneration. I look forward to working closely with local leaders in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to see the creative, ambitious choices that communities make as they level up and take charge of their destinies.”

North Cornwall MP Scott Mann, who on his Facebook page claimed the Government would “fully match EU funds”, said: “This investment is a huge win for North Cornwall and means that we have delivered on our manifesto commitments and funding promises made during the Brexit referendum. Residents will be able to see the impact of this funding on their communities in the coming years and I am proud to have been able to play a part in delivering it. I look forward to speaking with community groups and elected local leaders to see how best we all think this money can be invested.”

Cornwall Council leader Linda Taylor said: “The government has confirmed today that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will receive £132m from the £2.6bn UK Shared Prosperity Fund over the next three years [2022-2025]. We welcome this significant allocation as part of securing additional powers, and even more investment for Cornwall through an ambitious County Deal later this year.

“The Shared Prosperity Fund will enable the council to start delivering on the ambitions set out in the suite of housing, transport and sustainable growth plans that comprise Prosperous Cornwall 2050 agreed at council earlier this week.”

Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay, said: “It is great news that the Government has today confirmed what it has said all along, that Cornwall will not lose out with its replacement for EU funding now Brexit has taken place. In fact Cornwall has by far the largest amount of SPF funding per head of anywhere in England, recognition that we remain at the forefront of the Government’s levelling up agenda.

“Crucially this funding will be much easier to administer and deliver than the unwieldy, poorly targeted and often unspent EU funding, and will be managed locally, by the people who know the area best. Excellent news for Cornwall and I look forward to seeing the funding programme develop so we can continue to deliver for our Duchy.”

Jayne Kirkham, leader of the Labour group at County Hall, said on her Facebook page: “Wondering if anyone else has noticed that £129.5m over three years isn’t the same as the £100 million per year we’ve lost by not being in the EU? In fact, it’s less than half.

“But ‘Scotland and Wales will receive the same in real terms as they used to under EU funding, and an index of need will be used to allocate to authorities and regions within Scotland and Wales’. I’m sure the Tories said that in the budget about Cornwall too. Are they trying to quintuple count the 2019 Towns fund again? Or claim we’ll be ‘running off’ the EU money from 2020 as far ahead as 2025? Yet again, they’ve come up short for Cornwall. Over £150 million short.”

Independent councillor and former leader of Cornwall Council Julian German said on Twitter: “So Kernow gets far less than promised: UK SPF £132m over next three years. Watch the Tories come up with their phoney soundbites. Who’s surprised? What a sad state our country is in.”

Independent councillor Tim Dwelly said: “When the Government pledged categorically to match Cornwall’s EU funding (£100m a year) some people fell for it. Others like me predicted it wouldn’t happen. We could see how little was earmarked in the budgets. Now Cornwall is to get just £129.5m over three years from the new Shared Prosperity Fund. Not £300m. Just 43% of what it should be. The equivalent of £43m a year not £100m. This, I’m sorry to say, is what many of us call levelling down. Making Cornwall poorer as a result of a direct Government decision.”

He added: “My role since the last council election has been to be shadow cabinet member for economy. I know a lot about these funds because when Cornwall Council was not Tory (much better times) I had the job overseeing funds like this. I was persistent on the need for Government to match EU investment in Cornwall. Those funds brought us countless improvements like fibre broadband, a university, airport and harbour and dual carriageway investment, innovation centres, business grants and support. The list is long.

“After the Tories took over Cornwall Council, aggressive MPs like Steve Double and council leader Linda Taylor were furious when I predicted Cornwall was about to be levelled down. They were wrong though and all that hot air they let out must be making them feel more than a little embarrassed today.”

When Boris Johnson “puts the record straight” on partygate: remember this…

…In December, the prime minister told a television news reporter that there had been “no breaches of the rules” in Downing Street, and that, “the guidelines were followed at all times”. This was said directly in response to Allegra Stratton saying the same thing, on camera but in private, and then being unable to prevent herself from laughing at the utter ridiculousness of it.

The news reporter, ITV’s Carl Dinnen, had the sense, back then, to follow up with another question. Was Johnson personally satisfied that the guidance had been followed at all times, that he had personally investigated the matter himself. “Did you investigate that yourself? Are you satisfied yourself?” he asked.

“I am satisfied, myself, that the guidelines were followed at all times,” came the answer, and with it the now-trademark smirk, which has come to be understood as Johnson’s mark of honest dishonesty. It’s the smirk that seeks to collude with the interlocutor, to acknowledge that all present must surely know he is lying….

(Extract from Independent article:)

Boris Johnson’s pals severely underestimate the intelligence of the British public and it shows

Woodland Trust reaches £2m target to buy scenic East Devon site earmarked for rare wildlife haven

The Woodland Trust has successfully secured more than £2million to buy a ‘stunning’ East Devon site it wants to transform into a haven for rare wildlife.

East Devon Reporter eastdevonnews.co.uk 

Charity chiefs faced a race against time to hit their target to purchase the 134-acre plot near Lympstone.

They want to create an attraction set in a scenic rural valley close to the Exe Estuary that will be free for people to enjoy.

An appeal has raised a seven-figure sum in just a matter of weeks.

It was kick-started by a generous £750,000 grant from Biffa Award, a partnership with Lloyds Banking Group, and support from The John Swire 1989 Charitable Trust.

The charity – celebrating its 50th year – netted enough to buy the site, but still needs to secure £275,000 to manage its transformation into a ‘resilient and thriving wooded landscape’.

The charity says it will start consulting with neighbours and local people on plans to bring the vision into fruition ‘over the coming months’.

First trees being planted in the autumn.

The 134-acre East Devon sire is near to Lympstone and the Exe Estuary. Image: Woodland Trust

The 134-acre East Devon sire is near to Lympstone and the Exe Estuary. Image: Woodland Trust

The Woodland Trust’s Paul Allen said:  “The site is a remarkable opportunity to contribute to nature recovery in Devon, creating, through tree planting and natural regeneration, a vibrant mosaic of woodland and wood pasture together with open grassland spaces.

“Its existing hedgerows, veteran trees, streams, copse and wooded valley provide a good basis for this unique woodland creation project.

“The proximity of it to nature reserves including the Pebblebed Heaths and the Exe Estuary adds to its significance. It will improve the ecological connectivity and resilience of the landscape, as we face the twin threats of the climate and nature crises. “

The trust has pledged to end the use of plastic tree shelters and use a range of techniques to introduce native trees and shrubs suited the characteristics of the local and wider area.

It will showcase the ‘multiple benefits’ of trees and woods for climate adaptation, nature recovery and resilience, natural flood management and carbon capture.

Mr Allen added: “With access for local people to a new green space a central part of the project and their involvement key to its success, this project will contribute to health and well-being at a time when this is sorely needed.

“The support from the public has been invaluable to this project. We couldn’t have got to this point without them, and we’d like to express our heartfelt thanks for their support us to secure this land for wildlife and people.”