Exmouth councillor condemns cuts to homelessness service – Alexandra House

Devon County Council’s plans to stop funding a homelessness prevention service in Exmouth have been condemned by a local councillor.

Philippa Davies www.exmouthjournal.co.uk 

The county council is currently consulting on proposals to end its contract with Alexandra House in Exmouth, which gives supported accommodation to people at risk of homelessness.

It’s part of a cost-cutting exercise that would remove around £1.5 million in funding to various hostels and other services across Devon for vulnerable adults. Alexandra House currently receives nearly £108,000 per year.

Devon County Council said it can no longer afford to pay for the services and will instead increase spending in other areas that support vulnerable children, young people and adults. The homelessness prevention services fall outside the council’s statutory (compulsory) adult social care responsibilities.

But many councilllors are against the cuts. Independent Exmouth town and district councillor Joe Whibley said: ”Alexandra House provides an incredibly important service to the community, helping people to help themselves. We’re starting to see the effects of Devon County’s funding problems hit real people in real, desperate situations, in a county where other social care services are also struggling to cope. and it’s not good enough.

“If this funding withdrawal reduces service, it will ultimately put more pressure on East Devon District Council’s already overwhelmed homelessness team. Central government needs to recognise that district and county councils need a fairer funding arrangement to deliver effective local services.”

Cllr Jess Bailey, (Independent, Otter Valley) told Radio Exe’s Devoncast podcast: “I think it’s the worst possible time and, as a member of the [county council’s] health and adult care scrutiny committee, I will be looking very closely at these proposals. I’m strongly opposed to them and I think it’s removing funding from our most vulnerable residents.

“I’m very disappointed that the county council cannot apparently find the money for our most vulnerable residents and I think, in terms of health inequality, we need to find a way of supporting these people and continuing with that funding.”

The consultation runs until Wednesday, April 19, and can be found on the county council’s website

Bojo to give televised Partygate evidence – 2pm Wednesday March 22

Boris Johnson will give his first televised evidence next Wednesday on whether he misled parliament over Partygate, the privileges committee has announced.

Compelling watching or a complete turn-off? – Owl

Jessica Elgot www.theguardian.com

The committee, which is chaired by the Labour MP Harriet Harman, has said the former prime minister has accepted an invitation to give evidence at 2pm on 22 March.

His appearance will come after an interim report by the cross-party committee found there was significant evidence he misled MPs over lockdown parties, and that he and aides almost certainly knew at the time that they were breaking rules.

The damning report includes one witness saying the then prime minister told a packed No 10 gathering in November 2020, when strict Covid restrictions were in force, that “this is probably the most unsocially distanced gathering in the UK right now”.

Other new evidence includes a message from a No 10 official in April 2021, six months before the first reports of parties emerged, saying a colleague was “worried about leaks of PM having a piss-up – and to be fair I don’t think it’s unwarranted”.

The session will be held in public and includes questioning from all of the committee’s members – four Conservative MPs, two Labour and one SNP.

Johnson has also been offered the chance to provide written evidence to the inquiry setting out his response, should he wish, in advance of the oral evidence session.

Any response will be published, the committee said, and added that it had already disclosed all evidence submitted to the inquiry so far to Johnson “under secure conditions”.

The interim report published last month was intended to give Johnson notice of lines of inquiry before he testifies later this month.

“There is evidence that the House of Commons may have been misled in the following ways, which the committee will explore,” the report said, giving four examples, all backed up by lengthy footnotes.

A formal finding that Johnson deliberately misled parliament could result in him being suspended. Under parliamentary rules, an exclusion of 14 days or longer would mean Johnson’s constituents could seek a recall petition to remove him as their MP, a viable occurrence given the slim majority in his west London seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

Johnson – who was forced out as prime minister last summer after Conservative MPs tired of repeated controversies – responded to the report with an immediate and orchestrated fightback, seeking to discredit the findings and the committee.

East Devon public toilets to be ‘totally updated or rebuilt’ – with others ‘repurposed with commercial activities’

Council chiefs will consider ‘repurposing’ some East Devon public toilets with ‘commercial activities’ – after deciding to keep 28 sites open this summer.

East Devon Reporter eastdevonnews.co.uk 

The district’s busiest loos will also be rebuilt or updated as part of a £3million overhaul.

More details of the refurbishment programme – agreed in February 2022 – will be announced later this year.

Members of East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) cabinet have agreed to keep 28 of its sites in use from April 1 – and they will be open daily from 8am to 10pm.

They include conveniences in Exmouth, Sidmouth, Honiton, Seaton, Budleigh Salterton, Axminster, Colyton and Beer.

Councillor Geoff Jung, EDDC portfolio holder for coast, country and environment said: “We recognise the importance of our public toilets especially at tourist destinations, and therefore we will be operating 28 facilities for the 2023 season.

“Our plans are now coming together to repurpose some toilets with commercial activities with public access to toilets whilst others will be totally updated or rebuilt to modern hygiene standards, good disabled access, with some providing adult disabled changing facilities.

“These changes will be scheduled to start this autumn to help minimise any disruption locally.”

EDDC says it ‘remains committed’ to a £3million refurbishment programme of its ‘Category A’ toilets.

“Discussions on other public toilets that can be repurposed to incorporate a public accessible toilet will continue through the summer,” said a spokesperson.

The 28 public toilets in East Devon are:

West Street Car Park

Budleigh Salterton
Cliff Path (West End, Steamer Steps)
East End (Lime Kiln)
Station Road Car Park

Jubilee Gardens

Dolphin Street Car Park

Exmouth Bus/Train Station
Foxholes Car Park
Imperial Recreation Ground (Royal Avenue)
Magnolia Centre
Manor Gardens
Orcombe Point
Phear Park
Queen’s Drive/Old Lifeboat
The Maer

King Street
Lace Walk

Harbour Road/ Thury Harcourt Place
Seaton Hole
Seaton Wetlands
West Walk

Arches )paid for and managed by Sidmouth Town Council)
Connaught Gardens, Sidmouth
Long Park, Sidmouth (paid for and managed by Sidmouth Town Council)
Market Place
Port Royal (Alma Bridge)
Sidbury toilets, Sidmouth (paid for and managed by Sidmouth Town Council)

Head of Budleigh Primary warns Jupp and parents of schools ‘crisis’ and ‘lack of trust’

NEU teacher strikes are scheduled to go ahead this week despite union members in Scotland backing a pay deal. National walkouts are planned for March 15 and 16 in schools in England and Wales.

Steve Hitchcock www.devonlive.com 

Unions are calling for above-inflation increases, and want schools to get extra money to ensure pay rises don’t come from existing budgets. The Department for Education said it wanted “formal talks on pay, conditions and reform, ahead of the latest strike days – but only if the NEU called them off.

One school in Devon will be closed on Thursday as staff at St Peter’s C of E Primary School, Budleigh Salterton, take part in a national day of strike action. Headteacher Steve Hitchcock has written to parents to inform them of the closure.

He said that staff feel strongly about striking in order to support our children’s education around staff recruitment, funding and pay, but recognise the pressure of two days of striking and an INSET day on parents, so have tried to compromise by striking on Thursday only. He added: “Personally, I am furious with the lack of engagement from the government, who are refusing to talk to the unions.”

He has written a letter which he sent to the DfE, his MP Simon Jupp, and the parents at our school. Read the full letter below

I felt compelled to reply to your email to headteachers on 24th February 2023. The views expressed here are my own, but I feel my work across my county gives me a good understanding and calibration of the feeling in schools. It is no wonder that the unions did not pause the strike action in the way you wanted. The DfE consistently refuses to listen to the profession and confront reality. My community of headteachers has been meeting with our local Conservative MP for many years, and we sound like a broken record.


The first point I want to make is that there is no trust between the DfE and Headteachers. In order for any profession to thrive, there must be equal measures of challenge and support. The matrix on the right very neatly shows this, and I am afraid to say the staff in your schools are predominantly in the ‘stressed’ box.

Recruitment and retention

The second point I want to make is that the DfE has to confront the reality that there is an acute retention and recruitment crisis in schools. It’s well known that MPs, ministers and certain elements of the population think that teachers are overpaid, lazy and get too much holiday. If that is really the case, then why does no one want to be a teacher (or teaching assistant) anymore? Things are getting worse, not better, as schools are expected to support families with health, parenting, diet, social work and more. These issues need to be taken more seriously by the DfE.


It is incredibly frustrating to hear the DfE use the same line each time there is a criticism of school funding. “The additional £2 billion going into schools in both 2023-24 and the following year means that by 2024-25 schools will be funded at their highest levels in history.” But it is not enough. Relative to both needs and the proportion of GDP of other developed countries, it falls short. A decade of austerity and a pandemic has caused a significant erosion of all elements of schools. My role as a headteacher is more as a fundraiser and community worker than an educator.

Staff pay

To tell staff that they can’t have a pay rise because it would cause inflation is frankly an insult. The point of a pay rise is so our wages keep up with inflation. How is it acceptable to receive a 20% cut in your salary over a decade, whilst being expected to deal with more expectations in school? If I asked my hairdresser to trim my hair and then massage my back, cut my toenails and clean my shoes, whilst taking away some of her equipment and paying her less, she would think I was mad! That’s not an unfair analogy of what is happening in schools.


My suggestions to fix this would be to start a national consultation on the point of schools and education in our country. Society has changed dramatically and the school system has not kept pace with this. A modern school is way more than just a place to learn a curriculum.

Parents no longer have access to support services, more children are in poverty, parents are expected to be in work more, and life growing up (particularly around safeguarding and the online world) is way more complex than in the past. Schools need to be re-imagined and given the resources to meet the needs of a modern family.

At the end of the pandemic there was an opportunity to revolutionise schools (hours, holidays, provision, expectations) which was missed, but it’s not too late to engage in a meaningful re-visioning of schools.

Children and families are still reeling from austerity and pandemic. We shouldn’t have children and families with so much stress, poverty and mental illnesses.

Does the government believe Schools are just about education? In that case, you need to instruct us to stop all the other support work we do, and provide it in another way. Schools are more than education? If we are ‘everything to everyone’ then schools need the funding, resources and recognition.

Whether you like it or not, schools feel the moral imperative to intervene constantly to support our families, with no recognition from the DfE or Ofsted. Imagine a school system where we were recognised for this, through inspection or more public respect from our MPs. It would improve staff wellbeing knowing they were doing more of a service than just teaching the curriculum.


It’s in all of our best interests, but most of all in children’s interests, to resolve these issues in a meaningful way. Strike action has a minimal effect on children’s education and well-being compared to the significant longer term issues that I have described above.

Pupils, families and school staff need way more support than ever before, and the current relationship between schools and the DfE is not going to resolve things effectively.

I would recommend that you:

· Re-imagine the purpose of schools and education in this country.

· Work towards a trusting relationship between the DfE and schools, so there is an equal level of challenge and support.

· Acknowledge the issues that we raise. If we can’t have more money, be clear what we need to stop doing and providing. If you can’t recruit more school staff, lower our expectations on what we can achieve.

· Stop patronising schools by saying school funding is at the highest level ever, when we are saying we need more to meet children and family’s needs, and keep our school buildings in good condition. I hope this is helpful. I would be happy to elaborate further on any of my points

Steve Hitchcock


St Peter’s CoE Primary School

Budleigh Salterton

New boss at Exeter City Council

Exeter City Council has a new chief executive.

At an extraordinary council meeting on Monday [13 March], and following a recruitment process, councillors unanimously supported the appointment of current deputy CEO Bindu Arjoon.

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

She is the council’s first female chief executive and replaces Karime Hassan, who is leaving after a decade in charge.

In a statement, Ms Arjoon said she is delighted. “Exeter is a fantastic city which has built very firm foundations for its future success, and I am looking forward to embracing the opportunities and dealing with the challenges that lie ahead.

“We have a fantastic team at the council who are committed to delivering the best possible services for all of our residents, and together with our partners we will continue to ensure that Exeter remains a city we can all be proud of.”

Ms Arjoon, who has worked in local government leadership for 19 years, is also chair of the governing body of St Leonards Primary School and St Peter’s Secondary School and is currently chair of the Corporation of Exeter College.

Council leader Phil Bialyk (Labour, Exwick) said: “Bindu has been part of our leadership team here at the council for many years. She brings a wealth of experience to the role and has the skills, vision and expertise to make sure that we succeed as a council and as a city, in collaboration with our partners.

“I know Bindu will be a great success and I very much look forward to starting a new chapter in the successful story of this great city.”

Speaking at the full council meeting, co-leader of the opposition Progressive Group, Cllr Kevin Mitchell (Lib Dem, Duryard & St James) added: “I think Bindu’s going to do an outstanding job for the council and, more importantly, also for the city.”

No levelling up fund for Teignbridge

Government rejects bid 

Cross party shots have been fired over the blame for Teignbridge’s failure to secure levelling up funding.

Rob Kershaw, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

Teignbridge District Council applied for £14.5 million of government cash last year to create a cycle route between Newton Abbot and Torquay, and build a rail bridge linking Kingskerswell and Wolborough.

During a levelling up discussion at an executive meeting on Monday [13 March], Cllr Gary Taylor (Liberal Democrat, Dawlish South) criticised members of the South Devon Alliance for not supporting the bid.

“Local consensus is that the South Devon cycleway had been a strong bid,” he said. “And there will have been general disappointment to not have been selected – except of course among South Devon Alliance members, who either did not support the bid or voted against it.”

Cllr Taylor added that the South Devon Alliance members were “content, it would seem, to disadvantage their own residents while preaching the gospel of climate change mitigation from behind the steering wheel.”

Cllr Liam Mullone (South Devon Alliance, College) was not at the meeting, but countered afterwards that the case for the bid was “not well argued’, and the Liberal Democrat party needs to take responsibility.

“It has nothing to do with the South Devon Alliance, which has four members and no power,” he added. “I realise it’s election time, but Cllr Taylor should stop trying to lay the blame for his catastrophic four years of planning failure on other people. The blame lies with him and his Lib Dem colleagues.”

Cllr Taylor’s fellow Lib Dem Cllr Martin Wrigley of Dawlish North East said the council needs to be “brutal” when deciding whether to bid for government funding given that only one in five bids in the second round of levelling up funding were successful.

Councillors unanimously vowed to continue supporting improvement projects in Teignbridge.