Our economic malaise in a nutshell

“Over-investment in domestic property and under-investment in almost everything else”

Larry Elliot, writing in the Guardian, reviews our economic ups and downs throughout the Queen’s 70 year reign. His concluding paragraphs are worth reading. 

70 years on and UK is still mistakenly looking for economic miracle cure 

Larry Elliott www.theguardian.com 

Getting the big picture right – setting interest rates at the right level and having a competitive pound – clearly matters but so does getting the small stuff right. Over the years, too little attention has been paid to the supply side of the economy, in part because the long lead times for policies to work sit uneasily with the demands of the electoral cycle for instant results.

The message from other – more successful – economies is clear and has been clear for the past 70 years. Identify the structural weaknesses of the economy, which in Britain’s case includes over-investment in domestic property and under-investment in almost everything else. Put in place the right policies to remedy the problems. Then stay the course.

Breaking news: Vote of confidence in Boris Johnson is announced

Decision time for Simon Jupp but not Neil Parish as, for some reason, he is no longer an MP – Owl

The chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs has confirmed a vote of confidence in Boris Johnson will be held by Conservative MPs from 18:00 to 20:00 BST.

Sir Graham Brady told reporters that the vote was triggered after at least 54 Conservative MPs asked for it.

No 10 says Mr Johnson “welcomes the opportunity to make his case to MPs”, and that tonight’s vote is “a chance to end months of speculation and allow the government to draw a line and move on”.

Focus groups suggest Tories in trouble in Tiverton 

According to reports in the Independent: James Johnson, co-founder of JL Partners, said the Tories could also face defeat in Devon, with focus groups suggesting that even Leave voters are now ready to help the Liberal Democrats overturn a 24,000 majority in a by-election triggered by MP Neil Parish’s resignation after he admitted watching pornography in the Commons.

“Partygate has changed everything, and that trust has now completely gone in Boris Johnson,” said Mr Johnson. “Also that feeling that he is strong and can get things done has gone. I think these by-elections, and the polls, and the local election results show that Boris Johnson is no longer the asset he once was.”

Also critics have been circulating a briefing paper among Tory MPs over the bank holiday weekend, warning that 160 or more of them could lose their seats in a “landslide” defeat if he leads them into the next election.

Read it on twitter

Raw sewage pours into the sea at two Devon beaches

Pollution warnings have been issued for two Devon beaches by an environmental charity. According to the Surfers’ Against Sewage water quality map, sewers have been emptied into the water at Salcombe North Sands and in Seaton.

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com 

Over the course of the long bank holiday weekend, visitors have been flocking to Devon’s coastlines and river banks during the four-day break. However, the change in weather has not seen so many venture into the water yesterday and today with yellow thunderstorm warnings having been issued by the Met Office.

Surfers’ Against Sewage puts warnings in place on beaches where a sewer has been ‘discharged’ within 48 hours, often due to heavy rainfall causing an overflow of the combined sewage and run-off system. The Cornwall-based charity’s campaign against water pollution has led to the creation of the warning system which advises when swimmers and surfers should stay out of the water to avoid getting sick or ingesting sewage.

These are the alerts where the sewage is coming from today (Sunday, June 5), according to Surfer’s Against Sewage:

Salcombe North Sands

There is a sewer flow discharging into the stream directly on the beach (Collaton Stream) and another that discharges into the Salcombe Estuary offshore of the beach.

The beach warnings in Devon

The beach warnings in Devon (Image: Surfers’ Against Sewage)

Seaton (Devon)

The Seaton Sewage Treatment Works discharges disinfected sewage into the River Axe Estuary two and a half kilometres from the bathing water.

Over the jubilee weekend, Surfers Against Sewage has relaunched its Safer Seas & Rivers Service as new data shows the public are scared to swim outside for fear of dirty waters. The public health information, provided as real-time alerts straight to the user’s phone, helps beachgoers make an informed decision on how, when and where to use the UK’s beautiful beaches and rivers to avoid any potentially harmful pollution coming from sewer overflows and farming run-off.

The charity claims water companies discharged raw sewage into UK waters over 370,000 times in 2021 alone. It says it demonstrates how important real-time pollution alerts are in helping the public dodge poor water quality and have the cleanest and safest experience possible.

The Safer Seas & Rivers Service app – already a trusted source of water quality information for its 88,000 subscribers – enables users to see where untreated sewage has been discharged in real-time. The platform allows the public to check water quality at over 400 bathing locations across England, Scotland, and Wales, submit reports of illness suffered after time spent in the water, and take direct action by contacting their MP and the CEO of their local water company to demand an urgent end to sewage pollution.

In the last 2 years, 640 reports of illness have been submitted through the app, ranging from ear and eye infections to gastrointestinal and diarrhoea.

Prime Minister extols the value of truth!

The Bible reading chosen for Boris Johnson to read at the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in St Paul’s Cathedral was from Philippians 4. 4-9 . This included the following sentiments:

“…whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

“Bust up at Top”: the context speaks volumes.

From a correspondent:

The combined roles of Chief Executive Officer, Head of paid services (Human Resources in corporate speak)with that of electoral “Returning Officer”, places a lot of power in one pair of hands. 

Let us review some recent history of leadership in EDDC.

The EDDC Chief Executive has been hauled in front of a Commons Committee in 2014; corporate management severely admonished by an Information Tribunal Judge in 2015; and auditors, in 2016, found weaknesses in accounting for S106 payments. All this raises questions about the oversight and accountability of senior management at EDDC. 

In 2014 Mark Williams was called to the Commons Committee to explain how 6,000 (typo corrected Owl) voters came to be missing from the electoral roll. 

Judge Kennedy, in his Decision Notice of May 2015  on the Information Tribunal concerning EDDC’s refusal to release five documents related to the Knowle move, concluded that EDDC had: “displayed discourtesy and unhelpfulness” throughout. 

Specific criticism included: “Correspondence on behalf of the Council, rather than ensuring the Tribunal was assisted in its function, was at times discourteous and unhelpful including the statement that we had the most legible copies possible. A statement, which was clearly inaccurate…” 

(During the Tribunal hearing the then deputy Chief Executive, Richard Cohen, also made the extraordinary admission that he had not given an original version of a document to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee but an “amended” one.)

A freedom of information (FOI) request in 2016 concerning S106 arrangements and payments between 2014 and 2016 (as Cranbrook development was underway), revealed EDDC held no information on whether there had been any breach of obligation on the part of developers or how much money was owed, possibly going back much earlier. 

In a subsequent formal complaint to the newly appointed external auditors, KPMG found, after sampling cases over just one year, rather than any forensic analysis over many, that there had been a quarter of a million pounds understatement in the past year’s accounts. KPMG concluded: Given the weaknesses identified in the Council’s controls, it is possible that understatements of a similar scale or even larger could be apparent at any point in time.”

Then there are examples of how thin-skinned and dismissive Mark Williams can be in dealing with members of the public. However irritating members of the public may be, it is surely inexcusable for a senior public servant to behave in such a way. Using this tone, the Chief Executive does not come across as  impartial. Many of us have had similar experiences when trying to make a complaint. 

Where are the checks and balances on this power?

A job description was revealed through a 2014 FOI request. Compared to other local authorities it is a bit thin. The key point is that nowhere does it specify who the CEO is personally accountable to.  A recent online search for a more up to date job description proved fruitless. 

These historic events are disturbing, demonstrating an executive making significant mistakes and seemingly impervious to criticism. It is in this context that the Tories lost control in 2019 and “New Guard” took over in 2020.

Where does the buck stop? How do you hold the CEO to account?