Is repeatedly going balls-deep such a good idea in a leader?

The most optimistic person in the room is Liz Truss, who is sure that Trussonomics is the path forward. “Lower taxes lead to economic growth, there’s no doubt in my mind about that,” she told reporters this week.

But there was no doubt in her mind when she joined the Lib Dems either, or when she called for the monarchy to be abolished, or when she campaigned for Remain.

Is having politicians who go balls-deep on their ideologies, then U-turn and go balls-deep on something else such a great idea? 

(From London Playbook Politico)

New chief constable formally appointed

Get beyond the inevitable photo of Ms Hernandez with the new Chief Constable to read the questions raised by councillors, other than Conservatives, including from Paul Arnott. – Owl

Devon and Cornwall Police’s new chief constable was quizzed on how he plans to tackle hate crime, community policing and violence against women and girls before being formally approved for the role. 

Philip Churm, local democracy reporter

Chief Constable Will Kerr with Alison Hernandez (courtesy: Office of Police and Crime Commissioner)

At a confirmation hearing of the Devon and Cornwall police and crime panel in Plymouth on Wednesday (21 September) Will Kerr OBE, a deputy chief constable in Scotland was endorsed as the region’s new chief constable.  

His appointment follows the retirement of Shaun Sawyer last month who had been in the role for more than a decade. 

Police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez announced at the beginning of the month that DCC Kerr was her preferred candidate for the job, describing him as “an exceptional strategic leader” – but the police and crime panel is required to approve her decision. 

Panel member and Conservative councillor for Woolwell, Nicky Hopwood, urged the new chief constable not to ignore smaller communities 

“Although you’ve invited people from the cities, we are covered in towns and parishes through Devon and Cornwall,” she said.

“So, can I have assurance that the towns and parishes will be equally as well looked after as the cities?”

DCC Kerr pointed to his experience of working with rural communities in Scotland. 

He said: “I am responsible for local policing across the whole of Scotland at the moment and as I’m sure most of you are aware, outside the central belt between Glasgow and Edinburgh, most of Scotland is rural and isolated. 

“It’s a third of the landmass of the United Kingdom and 60 per cent of the coastline. It’s got 90 inhabited islands and quite a few of those have very specific needs, which means that they need a very specific and a very sensitive policing response, which is locally-based, locally respected and recognised and locally present.”

Panel member and Labour councillor for St. Peter & the Waterfront in Plymouth, Chris Penberthy, asked about the rise in hate crime in Devon and Cornwall, in the forms of racism, homophobia and misogyny.  

“Hate crime continues to rise, especially hate crime that is sex or gender-related and that is worrying,” said Cllr Penberthy.

“I just wondered whether you had any thoughts specifically about policing within those protected characteristic communities and your approaches there.”

DCC Kerr insisted he would address the concerns of all communities and explained: “The job of policing is to continue to build trust and confidence in those communities and lifestyle communities who perhaps haven’t had as much trust in the police service in the past to make sure that we continue to get a more realistic reflection of where [hate crime] is happening, both physically within communities and on the streets and increasingly online, which is where the biggest growth of hate crime tends to be.”

Labour councillor for St Thomas in Exeter, Laura Wright, spoke about initiatives with the University of Exeter to help young women feel secure and suggested many women do not feel confident approaching police.

She hinted at the Met’s handling of the case of Sarah Everard’s – who was killed by serving officer Wayne Couzens – and later the conviction of two of his colleagues over racist, misogynist, sexist, homophobic and Islamophobic messages shared in a WhatsApp group with Couzens. 

“What’s your take on making sure that the public have every confidence in our police force here?” asked Cllr Wright. 

DCC Kerr said it was crucially important to restore trust. 

He said: “If women and girls didn’t feel confident in the presence of, or in engaging with, police officers on the street, then our responsibility was to do something about that, not to tell people to wave a bus down, not to tell people to do something that was impractical or give a sense that the victim or somebody who’s scared and on the street might be in some way responsible for what has happened.”

A question was also asked about political impartiality.  East Devon council leader Paul Arnott (Democratic Alliance Group, Coly Valley) highlighted the chief constable’s appointment by Tory commissioner Alison Hernandez and said: “What will you do if you find you have to conduct an investigation in which actions of that political party in Devon and Cornwall come into question?”

DCC Kerr offered reassurance and said he would remain completely independent of political groups: “Please don’t labour under any worry or misapprehension that after 33 years in policing and having worked for 26, 27 years in Belfast, I absolutely understand what the boundary lines are. 

“I will not hesitate to take whatever action the policing needs to take to protect the integrity of the rule of law.”

After his appointment to the role DCC Kerr said: “I am delighted to have been appointed by the police and crime commissioner as chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police.  

“This is a force with an impressive and proud heritage, and a policing style rightly grounded in neighbourhood policing and on local community needs.  

“I have already been impressed by the excellent work that goes on every day and I look forward to meeting the diverse communities living in this fantastic part of the country. It will be a privilege to serve as your chief constable, and I’m very much looking forward to starting in this role.”

DCC Kerr spent over 27 years in the Police Service of Northern Ireland and joined the National Crime Agency (NCA) on secondment in 2017. He was awarded an OBE in 2015 and joined Police Scotland in 2018.

He is a member of the Justice Board for Scotland, a member of the Sentencing Council for Scotland (a Ministerial appointment) and was elected as the UK’s delegate to Interpol’s executive committee.

Rising sea levels are set to change Devon coast forever

A new map shows how key landmarks on the Devon coast face being swamped by tidal surges due to rising sea levels caused by global warming. Scientists say the rate of rise is increasing, with levels forecast to be around 35cm higher by 2050 and 1m by the end of the century.

Edward Oldfield

An interactive online map produced by Climate Central shows the land at risk from storm surges without sea defences. In south Devon, the modelling for a 1m rise shows parts of Paignton seafront under water, along with land alongside the River Exe Estuary including most of the sand bar at Dawlish Warren. In North Devon, the waters would cover low-lying land on the estuaries of the Taw and Torridge rivers, including parts of Braunton Burrows and Westward Ho! Beach.

Sea levels have risen by around 16.5cm (6.5ins) since 1900, but the Met Office says the rate of rise is increasing and now stands at between 3mm and 5.2mm a year – more than double the rate in the early part of last century. This is exposing more parts of the coast to powerful storm surges and winds, damaging the environment and homes.

Scientists say average global temperatures are rising due to the effect of man-made greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels. That is causing the water in the seas to expand and polar ice to melt, increasing the volume of the seas. The temperature rise is said to be contributing to more extreme weather, with heavier rain and fiercer storms, causing an increased risk of river flooding and land being inundated.

In March 2018, low-lying land on the seafront at Paignton was flooded by a storm surge and the main A379 was partly washed away at Slapton in the South Hams. In 2014, there was a major breach of the railway line at Dawlish in 2014 when part of the Victorian sea wall was washed away.

Map showing the effect of a 1m rise in the sea level in North Devon (Image: Climate Central)

Around 500,000 homes around the UK will be at risk from flooding, scientists say. An estimate of nearly 200,000 homes and businesses at risk of abandonment around the coast has been made by researchers at the Tyndall Centre, in the University of East Anglia, in data published in June.

The government is funding a series of schemes across Devon as part of a new £5.2billion six-year programme of investment in flood and coastal defences announced in July to protect the most at-risk properties, doubling the amount spent in the previous six years.

Map showing the effect of a 1m rise in the sea level at Paignton (Image: Climate Central)

Plans are being prepared for a new 1m high flood wall to run the length of the seafront at Paignton. Without the scheme, more than 350 homes would be at risk from flooding, with sea water forecast to sweep in through the town centre and across the railway line as far as Hyde Road.

At Exmouth, a £12m scheme has improved defences on the Exe estuary and seafront against tidal flooding, to protect more than 1,400 homes and 400 businesses. In Exeter, a £32m scheme to improve defences alongside the Exe protects more than 3,000 homes and businesses.

In East Devon, a £15m scheme is being carried out to restore the flood plain of the River Otter, allowing reclaimed land to be flooded rather than try to hold back rising sea levels.

Map showing the effect of a 1m rise in the sea level at Dawlish Warren (Image: Climate Central)

The government has set out a strategy to reach Net Zero by 2050 – the point when the output of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming like carbon dioxide is reduced and equals the measures to take them out of the atmosphere.

Low-lying areas of the Devon coast are particularly at risk from tidal flooding, and an increase in storms from climate change could also speed up erosion. Changing weather patterns are seeing more rainfall, which increases the flood risk from rivers.

This summer the UK has recorded its highest ever temperature after the Met Office issued a red warning for heat and thermometers topped 40C in Lincolnshire.

Devon MP backs calls to support coastal communities

No this Conservative MP is not Simon Jupp (he’s focussed on the hospitality sector). – Owl

Lewis Clarke 

Calls have been made for the reintroduction of the Coastal Communities Fund. During a debate on Coastal Communities on September 8, Selaine Saxby MP called for the reinstatement of the dedicated Coastal Communities Fund and in the Minister’s response, referring to the ‘alphabet soup’ of funding streams and the fact the Coastal Communities Fund has now closed she stated:

Minister, Lia Nici, said: “With regard to other funding streams and the success of the Coastal Communities Fund, it is right that we now focus our regeneration efforts around coastal communities through our larger and more expansive programmes as part of a more joined-up approach to levelling up. As we have heard from many Members today, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is not the only Department touched by coastal communities.

“There are also the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport—the list goes on—but I will go back into the Department and make sure that we are talking across all Departments to ensure that we get those benefits that Members are looking for.”

The Coastal Community Fund has helped support both the Ilfracombe Water Sports Centre and the North Devon Leisure Centre.

The debate gave MPs opportunities to emphsise the importance of coastal communities and how they need bespoke support.

Sally Ann Hart MP for Hastings and Rye and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Coastal Communities said: “Coastal communities are integral to the UK’s environmental, social and economic wellbeing. The covid-19 pandemic profoundly impacted on our coastal communities, exposing and exacerbating long-standing social and economic structural challenges, which need an urgent and co-ordinated response for there to be a sustainable recovery.

“Coastal communities are also the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, with erosion and flooding posing an ever greater threat to both the built and natural environments.”

Selaine Saxby MP said: “Full-time workers in North Devon currently earn £13.29 per hour, while the south-west average is £14.67 and the Great Britain average is £15.65. Our property prices have shot up by over 22%. We are the second fastest growing property price area in the country, but our house building rate has not grown that much and the vast majority of what is being sold is going in the form of second homes or holiday lets.

“If this continues, we will no longer have coastal communities; we will have winter ghost towns. We need urgent intervention through the Levelling-Up White Paper to tackle the issue.

“Our beautiful area has seen a surge in short-term holiday lets and the second homes market. I very much hope that recommendations of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport consultation on holiday lets registration goes ahead. I also hope that there are opportunities in the Minister’s Department to impose planning restrictions to reduce the number of holiday lets that come to market. When new properties are built, a change of use should be required if they are to become a short-term holiday let. Communities such as mine need homes for people to live and work in. We love our tourists and we would never want to stop them coming, but our housing market has got completely out of balance.”

Tiverton & Honiton MP calls on Liz Truss to take action on cost of living crisis

The Liberal Democrats are calling on Conservative MPs in Devon to back their legislation to offer immediate help to local families and businesses with the cost of living crisis.

Lewis Clarke

Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton & Honiton, Richard Foord, has called on the newly elected Conservative Leader Liz Truss to immediately freeze energy bills, to protect local families and businesses from soaring prices.

It comes as the Liberal Democrats have tabled legislation in Parliament this month, signed by Foord, to cancel October’s energy bill rise – saving the average household around £1,500 this year.

The draft Bill would also offer grants to small businesses of up to £50,000 to cover 80 per cent of their energy bills, saving pubs, restaurants and high street shops from closing their doors this winter.

The Liberal Democrats are calling on Conservative MPs in Devon to back their legislation to offer immediate help to local families and businesses with the cost of living crisis.

Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton & Honiton Richard Foord said: “Liz Truss and the Conservatives have spent months failing to act on soaring energy bills, leaving local residents in despair and small businesses going to the wall.

“They have shown they are completely out of touch with people in the West Country who are struggling to get by.

“It is time that Conservative MPs across Devon finally listened to Liberal Democrat calls to freeze energy bills to save families and pensioners from an economic catastrophe this winter. We have tabled legislation to freeze energy bills, which could be brought in on day one to offer the help that local families and businesses need.

“Liz Truss’ premiership represents more of the same failed Conservative party policies as Boris Johnson, which have led to a cost of living crisis, leaving families and pensioners at breaking point. It’s clear that the country is in dire need of a change.”


Volunteers can’t save our rivers from this tide of filth 


First it was the food banks that stepped in to fill a gap left by the retreating state, as successive Tory governments denied responsibility for the increase in their use.

Now it seems pollution monitoring of English rivers is also to be taken over by volunteers, because after years of severe cuts in the funding and staffing of the Environment Agency, it is no longer able to fulfil its statutory obligations by regularly monitoring all our rivers (Citizen scientists to monitor English rivers in £7m scheme, 14 September).

The Rivers Trust hopes that its £7m “citizen scientist” programme to standardise regular testing in 10 river catchment areas will lead to thousands of volunteers undertaking monitoring that the EA is unable to carry out itself.

Although all this new, regular monitoring sounds good, the volunteers will not be able to take action in response to incidents of pollution. They will need to report them to the EA, and I can find nothing to suggest that it is capable of properly processing and acting on all the pollution reports that will be coming its way. As the Guardian reported in January, the EA has already told staff to ignore reports of “low-impact” pollution events because it does not have enough money to investigate them.

The cynical among us might conclude that cutting back EA funding and letting volunteers step in is just another underhand way of our government implementing David Cameron’s “big society” through the back door.

Gary Bennett


Citizen science is no substitute for a properly funded Environment Agency with teeth, and stronger laws. The classic case in point must be the formerly glorious River Wye, which I visited as a boy. Then it was still the sight that had inspired poets and artists; now, thanks to lax or unenforced planning laws, it is virtually dead, poisoned by the droppings of millions of intensively reared chickens.

No number of citizen scientists will improve this situation; we must either stop eating chicken or ban such factories in environmentally sensitive locations – or at the very least make the polluters pay for cleaning up their mess and ensuring waste no longer gets into the water table.

Anthony Davies

Bude, Cornwall