Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 29 August

[Apologies for the delay in posting these – Owl]

EU To Bring In Windfall Tax On Energy Firms’ ‘Extraordinary Profits’

We are still waiting for Liz Truss’ and Kwasi Kwarteng’s “special fiscal operation” which will bypass much of the analysis and scrutiny a formal budget gets. – Owl

Alexandra Rogers www.huffingtonpost.co.uk 

The EU is planning to bring in a windfall tax on energy firms so their huge profits can be “shared and channelled to those who need it most”.

Ursula Von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said it was “wrong” for companies to make “extraordinary” profits on the back of consumers and the war in Ukraine.

The move is in stark contrast to the approach taken by Liz Truss, who last week ruled out bringing in a fresh levy on the companies’ excess profits.

The EU is also proposing to cap the revenues of electricity-producing companies that are making extraordinary profits thanks to the war in Ukraine and climate change.

Von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that the proposal could raise 140 billion euro (£121 billion) to help people hit by spiralling energy prices.

During her state of the European Union address, Von der Leyen said: “These companies are making revenues they never accounted for, they never even dreamt of.

“In our social market economy, profits are OK, they are good.

“But in these times it is wrong to receive extraordinary record revenues and profits benefiting from war and on the back of consumers.

“In these times, profits must be shared and channelled to those who need it the most.”

She added: “And because we are in a fossil fuel crisis, the fossil fuel industry has a special duty, too.

“Major oil, gas and coal companies are also making huge profits. So they have to pay a fair share – they have to give a crisis contribution.”

The EU’s intervention is likely to lead to increased calls for a further windfall tax on UK firms.

A windfall tax on the UK’s oil and gas sector introduced on May 26 remains in place but there have been calls from Labour for it to be extended due to the worsening economic situation.

In her first week as prime minister, Truss unveiled a £150 billion package to cap energy bills at £2,500 for the next two years, saving the typical household £1,000 a year.

The policy has been welcomed as a much-needed intervention but the funding of it — through government borrowing — has been criticised by those who do not believe the taxpayer should shoulder the burden.

During prime minister’s questions last week, Truss ssaid she was against a further windfall tax when challenged by Keir Starmer.

“I believe it is the wrong thing to be putting companies off investing in the United Kingdom, just when we need to be growing the economy,” she told the Labour leader.

The 27 member states that make up the EU are also struggling with the cost of living crisis that has taken hold in the UK.

Since the outbreak of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, EU member states have sought to wean themselves off Moscow’s exports, which in turn has pushed prices up as demand for other supplies intensifies.

Russia has already cut gas supplies partially or entirely to 13 member countries in response to the EU’s decision to impose sanctions of Moscow for its continuing aggression against Ukraine.

In her speech, Von der Leyen said there needed to be a “deep and comprehensive reform of the electricity market” to reduce the influence of natural gas on the way that prices are set.

Southern Water alters pollution alert tool to curb automatic red alerts

This month Southern Water announced changes to the Beachbuoy map, which means it will no longer automatically flag all raw sewage releases into bathing waters via storm overflows.

This is a result of a  “software upgrade” apparently – Owl is unconvinced

Sandra Laville www.theguardian.com 

A water company has changed its pollution alert map for the public to stop issuing automatic red alerts after a discharge.

Southern Water attracted public criticism this summer for releasing raw sewage via storm overflows after heavy rain along coastal Kent. Campaigners used social media to widely share the company’s Beachbuoy map, which marks beaches at risk of pollution from raw sewage discharges with a red cross, often revealing that much of the coast has been affected.

After storms in August at least nine Kent beaches were issued with pollution alert warnings and the Environment Agency issued a “do not swim” warning for beaches across much of the north and south-east Kent coasts.

This month Southern Water announced changes to the Beachbuoy map, which means it will no longer automatically flag all raw sewage releases into bathing waters via storm overflows.

Instead Southern Water is analysing the overflows by modelling tides and weather, before deciding which are likely to cause water quality problems at beaches.

Explaining the change on its website Southern said: “In September 2022, we upgraded the map to take into account the impact a release has on a local bathing water, based on the location of the outfall, the duration of the release and tidal conditions at the time.

The Southern Water Beachbuoy map marks beaches at risk of pollution from raw sewage discharges.

The Southern Water Beachbuoy map marks beaches at risk of pollution from raw sewage discharges. Photograph: Southern Water

“For instance, if the outfall is 5km [3.1 miles] out to sea, the release was short and the tidal conditions meant there could be no impact on a bathing water, we no longer turn the bathing water icon red.”

The company said the releases were still available on its website in the accompanying table of combined sewer overflow (CSO) locations. It said most of its outfalls were long sea outfalls and where they are close to bathing waters they were designed with bathing waters in mind.

Ed Acteson, of campaign group SOS Whitstable, said he believed the changes were a way of turning a red map to blue to avoid bad PR.

“They are no longer indicating every CSO release on to beaches on their map, which is what it was set up for,” said Acteson. “They say they are taking into account the impact the release has on local bathing water but they don’t have the information to make that decision. The map has been covered in red recently; it is bad PR for them. It has been shared across social media and caused an outcry. That is what they are trying to avoid.”

Mike Owens, of Hayling Sewage Watch, analysed the data on the map on Wednesday morning. He assessed there were 15 out of 83 beaches marked blue that would have been red before the latest software update because outfalls were discharging raw sewage nearby.

“This is a question of trust in Southern Water to provide accurate, open and transparent information,” said Owens. “They say that they want to improve the user’s experience but manipulating data without giving us detail is most unhelpful and frankly neither open or transparent.

“They say they are using tide and weather and location to determine whether the discharge impacts on water quality on a beach but there are not showing us how they are making the calculation.

“I don’t know how they are doing it and how they have implemented it so quickly.”

Owens said for 246 outfalls the company would need to analyse the granular detail for every parameter in making a decision about whether a discharge impacted on water quality – including data for several different tide times, wind speeds and weather.

“If you multiply those together that is quite an astonishingly large amount of data.”

Martin William, Beachbuoy product owner at Southern Water, said: “This is an important step for the tool, ensuring we provide accurate, fair and clear information to wild swimmers, kayakers, paddleboarders and all users of the beautiful beaches across our region.

“Beachbuoy is leading the way in providing near-real time data about storm releases, but we must ensure it goes further to inform the public about the impacts to the watercourse and not limit their enjoyment of their local bathing water. We’ll never hide data though, with all releases still available on the website.”

South west water fined £233,000 for supplying “Just add lemon” water

A Court has fined South West Water £233,000 for supplying water unfit for human consumption affecting Bratton Flemming and other communities in North Devon in 2018.

South West Water had told customers to add a slice of lemon to the water but the court found that blaming the weather wasn’t acceptable and that South West Water should have reacted earlier to algal bloom in summer 2018.

According to a report on last night’s BBC Spotlight.

This is why your drinking water tastes weird at the moment 

(Extract) www.devonlive.com

“It’s the terrible taste of it, so earthy and mouldy flavour. How much longer do we have to put up with it?”

“Why is our water slightly brown and tastes like mud? What’s going on?”

“Some customers in north east Devon may have noticed a change to the taste or smell of their tap water over the last two weeks.

“The warm, dry weather has caused a natural change in the raw water at Wistlandpound reservoir, which supplies Bratton Fleming and Horedown Water Treatment Works.

“The earthy or musty taste is not harmful to health.

“We have installed an extra treatment stage at both water treatment works, and customers should notice a return to normal over the next few days.

“In the meantime, chilling a jug of tap water in the fridge and adding a dash of lemon can assist with lessening the taste and odour issue.”

Kwasi Kwarteng Wants To Scrap The Cap On Bankers’ Bonuses

Got to get your priorities right.

Let’s hear it for the Bankers! – Owl

Kevin Schofield www.huffingtonpost.co.uk 

Kwasi Kwarteng wants to scrap the cap on bankers’ bonuses in a bid to make the City of London more globally competitive.

The new chancellor is reported to be considering the move as he steps up government attempts to boost economic growth.

However, ending the cap – which was introduced in 2014 by the European Union – is likely to draw fierce criticism from the government’s political opponents.

The cap limits the amount bankers can receive in bonuses to twice their annual salary.

Its supporters say it is necessary to prevent bankers taking unnecessary risks like those which led to the 2008 financial crash in order to pocket huge bonuses.

But the Conservatives have long argued that the cap hampers the UK’s attempts to attract the best global banking talent.

Former prime minister Boris Johnson was in favour of ending the cap, but feared a huge political backlash if his government went ahead with it.

When the idea was first proposed in June, Labour leader Keir Starmer described it as “pay rises for bankers, pay cuts for district nurses”.

But according to the Financial Times, Kwarteng has told City bosses: “We need to be decisive and do things differently.”

The new chancellor will unveil his plans to boost economic growth in a mini-Budget when parliament sits again next week following the period of national mourning for the Queen’s death.

He will confirm that the government is ending the rise in national insurance payments, as well as scrapping plans to increase corporation tax.

The government has already courted controversy by refusing to bring in a fresh windfall tax on the excess profits being enjoyed by energy firms as a result of the war in Ukraine.

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, yesterday announced that the EU would be bringing in its own windfall tax so the firms’ huge profits can be “shared and channelled to those who need it most”.

‘Ludicrous’ parliamentary recess to delay urgent energy support for businesses

Looks like Simon Jupp MP, great supporter of the hospitality sector, won’t be back in the commons until 17 October.

Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng have other priorities e.g. scrapping the cap on bankers’ bonuses – Owl

Jon Stone www.independent.co.uk

The government has been urged to cancel a “ludicrous” parliamentary recess and recall MPs to work so that they can pass energy bill measures before prices rise in October.

Businesses in sectors such as hospitality and manufacturing have warned they could go out of business this autumn due to soaring prices without urgent government assistance.

The government has pledged to help – but in contrast to its plan for households, support for businesses will require parliamentary time so that fresh legislation can be brought in.

Yet parliamentary business has been suspended following the death of the Queen, and this break is expected to dovetail with a planned recess for parties to hold their conferences.

As a result MPs will not even begin to look at legislation until the second half of October, meaning business may have to wait until November for energy support.

Hospitality chiefs on Wednesday urged the governemnt to cancel the conference recess to get a move on.

“This [delay] is because energy plans require legislation – unlike domestic support – and with Parliament going back into recess next week there may be insufficient time to pass it before price hikes take effect from 1 October,” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry group UK Hospitality. “This is why it seems ludicrous to go ahead with conference recess.”

The prime minister has promised support for businesses “equivalent” to her £2,500 annual price cap for households, but legislation is required to bring it in because there is no existing system like the domestic Ofgem energy price cap for firms.

The government says the details of the legislation is being worked on and it will be delivered in a “timely” manner.

But business chiefs have reportedly been warned in recent meetings that the scheme may not be ready until November.

“It is not worked through yet,” one government official told the Financial Times. “I don’t know whether it will come in before November. There’s some debate about whether it can be brought forward and happen before then.”

Some small firms like pubs and takeaways are already closing as they receive revised energy bills, with predictions that as many as 7 out of 10 nightlife venues could have to shut down.

The 10 day parliamentary suspension plus the conference recess beginning on 22 September means MPs are only expected to return to work in Westminster on 17 October.

Conference season is important to political parties because the events give them a significant media spotlight – but the gatherings are also financially important.

Parties bring in significant revenue selling stall pitches to lobbyists in their conference halls, and there could be significant costs associated with a last-minute cancellation of a major conference venue.

A government spokesperson said: “We will confirm further details of the business support scheme next week. The scheme will support businesses with their October energy bills, including through backdating if necessary.”