Residents’ parking going up

First rise since 2015

The cost of residents’ parking permits is set to rise under plans revealed by Devon County Council.

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter

If approved, the price of permits will increase to £35 for a property’s first vehicle, a rise of £5. Second permits will then be priced higher depending on the vehicles’ carbon emissions, while extra permits on top of that will cost £65.

All residential permits currently cost £30; a price the council says hasn’t increased since 2015. The price for a business permit for one vehicle is also going up to £35.

Explaining the move, which does not apply to Plymouth and Torbay, the county council said the consumer price index has increased approximately 19.5 per cent since the last rise – more than the planned base permit increase of approximately 17 per cent.

Under the proposed new scheme, which follows a public consultation, the only residential permits that will be priced according to a vehicles’ carbon emissions will be the second one in a household.

They will be £45 for electric and low-emitting vehicles in Band A (less than 100g/km), £55 for Bands B – K (101-225g/km) and £65 for the worst emitting vehicles in Bands L – M (226+ g/km)

A property’s first permit will be £35 irrespective of carbon emissions, as will the £65 price for a third vehicle or any additional ones.

Permits will also be required for motorcycles (first permit £35, second permit £45, extra permits £65).

Once the new scheme has been adopted all future permits will be issued virtually, which the council says will benefit the environment and see a reduction in waste.

It claims the new pricing structure will “positively affect a reduction in consumption of fossil fuels in private vehicles by encouraging the uptake of fuel efficient/low emission vehicles and discouraging multiple car ownership.

“It is hoped more [people] will consider changing the mode of travel or adopt other sustainable modes of travel.”

Other changes to the permit scheme include:

  • Refunds will be issued for part-used virtual permits.
  • Introduction of virtual visitor permits which will be available as an alternative to physical ones.
  • £30 per batch of 350 hours (allocated in 1 hour sessions) for schemes operating at all times (24hr/7days).
  • £30 per batch of 200 hours (allocated in 1 hour sessions) for schemes not operating at all times.
  • Virtual visitor permits will be required for motorcycles.
  • Refunds will be issued for part-used batches of virtual visitor permits.
  • New £10 administrative charge for essential visitor permits.
  • Price for Exmouth (Langerwehe Way) business occupier permits and charity business permits increased to £35 for each permit.
  • Supported living and school business permits introduced at charity business permit rate.
  • Proof will be required for all applications.
  • Exemption for car club vehicles from residents parking restrictions (including limited waiting and pay & display with exemptions for residents permit holders).

A report, due to be presented to a meeting of the cabinet later this month – rescheduled because of the queen’s death – also provides information on how Devon’s system compares to neighbouring local authorities.

Plymouth and Torbay currently charge £30 each for residents permits, with a maximum of two per household, while the prices differ completely in Cornwall and Somerset.

A first Cornish household permit costs £50 and £75 for the second. Only two are allowed per household.

Somerset’s scheme is based on the carbon emissions of vehicles for the first permit. They cost £60 as standard, but are discounted by either 100 or 50 per cent if a vehicle emits less than 100g or 110g/km. Second permits cost a flat fee of £100.

Devon’s ruling cabinet will consider and vote on the changes at a meeting on Monday 26 September.

Bank expected to unveil big rate hike on Thursday

Markets think the Bank of England will unveil the biggest hike in interest rates for over three decades when its decision makers gather for a delayed meeting. 

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is expected to increase rates by 0.75 percentage points to 2.5%.

It would be the highest interest rate that the UK has had since the financial crisis. In December 2008 the base rate was slashed from 3% to 2%.

It would also be the highest single increase to interest rates since 1989.

Next week’s Bank of England meeting is crucial

“Investors think the most likely outcome is that the MPC will increase the Bank rate by 75bp (0.75 percentage points) on Thursday,” said Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

But he said that economists are expecting a smaller rise, to 2.25% – the same 0.5 percentage point change as the Bank’s last hike.

“For a start, hawkish surprises from the MPC have been far less common than dovish ones over the last year,” he said.

“In addition, Governor Bailey openly referred to a 50bp hike ahead of the August meeting, but has not given markets a nudge to price-in a 75bp hike.

“We think that the MPC still will deem a 50bp increase to be consistent with its pledge to act ‘forcefully’, if it sees signs of more persistent inflationary pressures.”

ING economist James Smith said that the Bank of England will have to react to recent falls in the price of the pound. Sterling hit a new 37-year low against the dollar on Friday.

“Next week’s Bank of England meeting is crucial,” he said.

“It will tell us not only how worried policymakers are about the slide in sterling and other UK markets, but also how the Government’s decision to cap household/business energy prices will translate into monetary policy.”

“We narrowly favour a 50bp hike on Thursday, taking the Bank Rate to 2.25%, although 75bp is clearly on the table and we would expect at least a couple of policymakers to vote for it.”

He said that rates will likely rise again in November and December, hitting 3% by the end of the year.

The decision to hike interest rates is a bid to keep inflation under control. It is the best tool that the Bank of England has to steer inflation – currently at 9.9% – back to its 2% target.

But the decisions will also have major impacts on people’s finances, not least those with mortgages who will need to start paying more for their home loans.

The MPC was originally set to announce its decision on Thursday September 15, but delayed this for a week due to the Queen’s death.

NHS to increase beds to head-off winter hospital crisis

This is reported as costing £24m within the county.

Stand up all those, mostly Conservatives, who backed the closure of the community hospitals. – Owl

Edward Oldfield

Plans are being put in place to open more beds at Devon hospitals to head-off a winter healthcare crisis after one of the busiest ever summers for the NHS. An extra £5million is being spent in Plymouth which alongside Cornwall is among the worst in England for ambulance handover delays.

Some of the money will go on 41 extra beds at Derriford Hospital and community hospitals to ease the pressure on the emergency department. In the rest of Devon, £19million is being spent on creating extra capacity in the NHS for the winter. That includes £6million on creating 37 extra beds and spaces at Torbay Hospital, 18 at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, and 11 at North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple.

The extra £24million has been secured from national funding to tackle the pressure across the NHS in Devon. More patients will be treated at home in so-called ‘virtual wards’, where support from clinical teams is provided remotely through the use of apps, platforms and devices which can monitor pulse, heart rate and breathing.

The £5million project will create three virtual wards covering Plymouth, Torbay and South Devon, and East and North Devon, creating the equivalent of around 75 hospital beds. The first of the schemes will go live in December 2022, and will be scaled up through to March 2024.

Patients will be given a choice of being an inpatient or receiving treatment at home, and their home circumstances and available support will be taken into account.

Devon will see £9.8million invested in the hospital discharge process, including for care hotels, agency support, rehabilitation care and support, and for patients with complex dementia. It includes extra capacity for mental health, on top of £219,000 already allocated for winter pressures.

An extra £900,000 is being invested in the handover of integrated community urgent care services to a new provider, Practice Plus Group, in October.

A communications strategy will focus on persuading people to contact the 111 service before going to an emergency department, take up the flu and Covid vaccines, use pharmacies, and use online services.

A report outlining the measures to Devon County Council said: “Devon’s system remains under sustained pressure due to a range of complex and multi-faceted issues – including the pandemic, increased demand, staff shortages, and vacancy rates in health and adult social care providers.

“The cost-of-living crisis is also impacting on health and social care services, not only for our population and our staff, but also in the care market. Staff nationwide have faced one of their busiest summers ever with record numbers of Emergency Department attendances and ambulance services facing extreme pressures, high demand for social care and mental health services, and the impact of another wave of COVID-19.

“As a result, bed occupancy levels in hospitals are high, people are staying in hospital for longer than they need to, and ambulance handover delays are increasing. Ultimately, it means many patients aren’t getting the care they need in a timely way. The past two years has seen significant pressure upon our urgent and emergency care (UEC) services. The workforce is stretched and exhausted, yet it continues to deal with high levels of demand against a backdrop of constraints which affect our ability to treat people.”

The rise in ambulance handover delays at hospitals has been blamed on shortage of beds and delayed discharges to social care. Figures at the start of September showed that in Plymouth, Exeter and Torbay, around one in 10 beds was occupied by a patient who was fit to leave, but was waiting for care to be arranged. In North Devon the proportion was 27 per cent – more than a quarter. GPs are seeing more patients and more complex needs, with appointments up by 8 per cent in the past year. Meanwhile the vacancy rate in the NHS has increased in line with the national picture. In July, there were more than 4,500 vacancies in health and social care in Devon.

National ambulance data for July showed record calls to the most serious incident, and the highest level of patient handover delays.

Last week a senior doctor warned that the NHS is facing a winter crisis as figures show 1,200 emergency patients in Devon waited more than 12 hours for a bed in August. Dr James Gagg said the latest data from the region’s emergency departments was “shocking”, with large numbers of patients “facing extremely long waiting times”. He called on MPs and councils to acknowledge a “looming crisis” facing the health service in the winter and to “act now before it is too late”.

The NHS in Devon says it is facing a “challenging” budget for this financial year, with a need to find savings of £142million. The county council, which funds social care, was forecast in July to face an overspend of £40million, including £6million on adult social care.

The proposals in the winter winter plan after learning from last year, when the health and care sector faced “severe and sustained pressure” due to an increase in demand and the impact of the pandemic.