Exmouth – Pollution Alert live:

Storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location within the past 48 hours.

Exmouth is a large sandy resort beach at the mouth of the River Exe backed by a promenade and the town. A memento of its Victorian heyday fine gardens and parks also back the beach. There is a sewer overflow discharging through an outfall to the south east which may affect bathing water quality especially after heavy rainfall. Exmouth

Pollution Alert: Storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location within the past 48 hours.

Remember Jupp just over two weeks ago

….In recent years, a spotlight has been shone on storm overflows and CSOs. Water tourism is booming across our region, including windsurfing in places such as Exmouth and Sidmouth in my constituency. However, there is another reason why people have finally started talking about the issue: the Conservative Government have put in place a plan to improve our water, giving us all an opportunity to hold water companies to account.

!……Of course, in a perfect world, we would stop sewage spills completely and immediately. Sadly, that is virtually impossible in the short term; because of the pressure on our water infrastructure, we would risk the collapse of the entire water network, and the eye-watering costs involved mean we would need not just a magic money tree, but a whole forest.

Virgin pauses Spaceport Cornwall work

Will it ever start again?

Cornwall Council has invested more than £10million into Spaceport Cornwall. 

Richard Whitehouse, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

Spaceport Cornwall and Cornwall Council have said that they want to “grow the space cluster” in Cornwall despite its main operator Virgin Orbit announcing it was pausing all activity. The US firm announced this morning that it was stopping all activity and that almost all staff would be on furlough as it tries to secure new investment.

The announcement comes just weeks after Virgin Orbit undertook its first launch from Spaceport Cornwall which ended in failure following an anomaly with the rocket which was set to launch small satellites into space. Virgin Orbit is a key partner with Spaceport Cornwall and currently the only company which has launch capability.

In its statement today Virgin Orbit said: “Virgin Orbit is initiating a company-wide operational pause, effective March 16, 2023, and anticipates providing an update on go-forward operations in the coming weeks.”

There were concerns about what January’s failed mission could mean for Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit has been reported as saying that it was unlikely to attempt another launch this year. It had originally been expected that the company would carry out several launches a year from Cornwall.

Spaceport Cornwall is a horizontal launch site which is suited to Virgin Orbit’s system which uses a modified jumbo jet with a rocket launcher system attached under a wing which is capable of launching satellites into orbit. The plane can take off from Cornwall and then deploy the rocket whilst in flight.

The site at Newquay is the only spaceport in the UK which has a licence, although a vertical launch spaceport is currently being developed at a site in Scotland. It is expected to have its first launch by the end of 2023.

Cornwall Council has invested more than £10million into Spaceport Cornwall and claimed that the venture will result in hundreds of new jobs and attract businesses in the space industry to Cornwall. There are already many companies in the Duchy which have links to the space industry including Goonhilly Earth Station.

Both Spaceport Cornwall and Cornwall Council issued identical statements in response to today’s announcements from Virgin Orbit. Cornwall councillor Louis Gardner, Cabinet member for the economy, said: “It is clearly a difficult time for the Virgin Orbit team as they navigate the next stage of their company, and we will await further information from them as events unfold. 

“Our focus at Spaceport Cornwall is to continue to grow the space cluster in Cornwall, alongside progressing relationships with spaceflight operators. We remain the only licensed spaceport in the UK and our plan is to build on that position.”

The Tory party’s ‘fill your boots’ philosophy continues

Letter to the Independent 16 March

The Independent’s editorial on Jeremy Hunt and the £1bn apprenticeship rip-off was a fascinating read. Hunt must have noticed it, and if he does not it will reflect badly on him and his government. The question as to why we are funding “apprentice” courses for top executives on £100k a year is not difficult to answer.

It is the product of the Tory view that the public purse is their pork barrel. The notion that funding the MBA of an active employee on a six-figure salary, plus benefits no doubt, is equivalent to a young person learning a skill for life from an employer at what is frequently a low wage is an absurdity. And they are funded in mutual competition from the same pot!?

Like the needs of the Tory party and the needs of society, they are poles apart. It is ironic that Tory governments, while dipping their oversize and grasping mitts into public funds, simultaneously maintain the tax havens and trust arrangements that ensure supporters and funders do not contribute their fair share of tax to the public resources they consistently plunder.

We are still involved in the painfully slow process of assessing the PPE contract fiasco, another product of their greedy “fill your boots” philosophy. Hunt must act now; if he does not he underscores yet another Tory failure. We can safely assume that he will not deal with tax havens.

David Nelmes


Budget back to work plan ‘to cost £70,000 per job’

Budget plans to encourage people back to work will have limited impact and cost £70,000 a job, a think tank says.

Value for money? – Owl

By Daniel Thomas, Kevin Peachey & Lucy Hooker www.bbc.co.uk

The changes are expected to bring 110,000 back to work, which the Institute for Fiscal Studies said was “just a fraction” of the those who’d left work over the past two years.

The government will spend billions to boost labour supply via tax breaks on pensions and expanded free childcare.

It said the plans would help to grow the economy and raise living standards.

Paul Johnson, director of the IFS, said the government’s forecaster had calculated the overall plan to boost workforce numbers will cost around £7bn a year and increase employment by around 110,000.

“That’s a cost of nearly £70,000 per job,” he says.

While the chancellor “might have some success” it was likely to be modest given the large number of people “lost from the workforce in the last couple of years”, he added.

UK economic growth has flatlined in recent months and the economy is expected to shrink his year. About a quarter of people of working-age – around 10 million people – do not have jobs.

Persuading workers to work for longer is part of UK plans to boost growth, with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Wednesday announcement on tax and spending being dubbed the “Back to work Budget”.

Mr Johnson said the impact of annual net immigration numbers – assumed at 245,000 – would be far more significant for boosting employment.

The government said its independent finances watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) had revised its outlook for economic growth upwards “by the largest amount ever in their forecasts” as a result of the Budget’s measures.

A spokesman added: “[The OBR] also says extending 30 hours of free childcare to parents of nine months to two year olds… will lead to many more increasing their hours – helping to grow the economy and raise living standards for everyone.”

The Budget also included measures to support disabled people who want to work, programmes to encourage retirees to take on jobs or apprenticeships, and changes to the rules around health-related benefits and universal credit.

On Wednesday, the OBR, noted that the impact of the back to work policies was uncertain, saying the final figure for the number of extra people in work could be half (or double) the main estimate of 110,000 workers.

That could, in turn, double or halve the cost-per-worker of the policy.

The OBR further estimate that extra workers will boost the size of the economy by 0.2% – equivalent to about £4.5bn, some of which the government will get back in extra taxes and a smaller benefits bill.

Ministers ‘ignored’ own adviser over weak targets for restoring English nature

The UK government ignored scientific warnings from Natural England that its nature restoration target was inadequate and would not meet its commitments, new documents show, undermining efforts to protect threatened species.

Patrick Greenfield www.theguardian.com 

In December the environment secretary, Thérèse Coffey, unveiled targets at the biodiversity Cop15 in Canada to reverse the decline of nature in England. They included plans to improve the quality of marine protected areas, reduce pollution and nitrogen runoff in the river system, and restore more than half a million hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside protected areas by 2042.

But documents obtained by Unearthed, Greenpeace’s investigative journalism unit, show that the government’s own adviser Natural England said ministers needed to agree a target of restoring 1.5m hectares of habitat outside existing protected sites, three times greater than the final target, if they wanted to meet a commitment to protect 30% of land and sea. They went on to suggest a minimum target of 750,000 hectares.

UK negotiators played a leading role in pushing for a global target to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030, known as 30×30, but conservationists say that documents, obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, show the government ignored scientific advice on how to achieve it domestically while advocating for it elsewhere.

At Cop15, the UK was accused of hypocrisy for not making the 30% target legally binding while pushing for it in the final text, which conservationists said was a missed opportunity to protect and restore Britain’s rainforests, cold water coral reefs, chalk streams and peat bogs.

“We all found absolutely extraordinary last year when the government didn’t put forward a target for protected areas. It was completely bizarre that the UK government went to Montreal enthusiastic about 30×30 but not having a target at home. Now it’s absolutely clear from this document that in doing so, they were also ignoring or dismissing their own scientific advisers,” said Craig Bennett, the CEO of the Wildlife Trusts.

“The government’s out of touch with the public. Britain is a country of nature lovers. We get inspired on a Sunday night by watching that latest David Attenborough series. And yet, we see the government not doing anything like enough [on nature],” he said.

The shadow environment secretary, Jim McMahon, said the Environment Act targets were insufficient and said if elected, his party would have an ambitious plan to restore nature in the UK.

“The fact that the government ignored its own statutory adviser when producing its insufficient and delayed Environment Act targets tells you all you need to know about the Tories’ attitude to our environment. The environment secretary’s targets inflict more toxic air and sewage dumping for longer on the country. It’s clear that the Tory party has given up on governing.”

A Defra spokesperson said: “We have full confidence in our Environment Act targets, which were established through intensive consultation with businesses, land managers, environmental organisations, including Natural England.

“The final suite of targets – including our commitment to restore or create more than 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitats by 2042 – are stretching and will require a shared endeavour to be delivered. Through the Environment Act we have ensured a robust legal framework to hold current and future governments to account on these targets, protecting nature for generations to come.”

‘Some people can no longer afford to work for us’: low pay forcing staff out, Environment Agency chief says

The Environment Agency will push for a higher pay rise for staff this year, the agency’s chief has said, as he told MPs it was “wrong” that some are using food banks or having to leave the organisation because their pay is too low.

By Tevye Markson www.civilserviceworld.com 

Outgoing Environment Agency chief executive Sir James Bevan told MPs yesterday the department is looking into whether it can make a pay business case to the Treasury, whereby it would offer “transformations” in exchange for higher-than-average pay awards.

“We have not been able to pay our staff, for a decade or so, pay that reflects the increase in the cost of living,” Bevan told the Treasury Committee this morning.

“The net effect of that has been that people are significantly poorer than they were and… some people can no longer afford to work for us.

“So people have left us over the last year to two, almost always saying ‘I really don’t want to leave but I can’t afford to work for you’. And I think that’s wrong.”

He added: “People work for us because they want to create a better place. That’s fantastic, but sometimes they want to buy a house or they want to put food on the table, and they’re being forced to choose to go elsewhere.”

Bevan warned last year that the government’s 2022-23 pay offer of 2% – plus a £345 performance-related bonus – was “unjust, unwise, and unfair” amid the cost-of-living-crisis. He said his staff were “experiencing real hardship” as inflation soared, and some were using foodbanks, in a letter to the then-environment secretary George Eustice.

Overall, Environment Agency wages there have fallen by more than 20% in real-terms since 2010, according to the Prospect and Unite unions. Members have walked out in the last few months over the pay concerns. 

Bevan told the Treasury Committee that pay erosion is not only bad for staff, but also “bad for the country” because of the benefits and outcomes these staff are delivering.

The departing chief, who confirmed some staff are still using food banks, said “extensive” discussions with the government and unions about the issue had led to the decison to seek an abover-average pay award this year.

‘We’re doing well despite the challenges’

Despite the pay issues, Bevan, who is leaving the Environment Agency at the end of the month, said the organisation has begun to overcome some of its recruitment challenges.

Prospect warned last year that the organisation was struggling with “severe recruitment difficulties” for some roles because of poor pay and record turnover levels.

“We have been running very high vacancy levels,” Bevan admitted.

“A year or so ago, we were running a 10% average vacancy level across the organisation, and in some of our most skilled and technical qualified jobs like electrical engineering it was a 50% vacancy rate and that was starting to have an effect on our ability to operate the things we do.”

The Environment Agency’s workforce has increased from roughly 10,500 to around 12,250, the organisation’s chairman Alan Lovell confirmed to the committee.

However, the new recruits’ backgrounds mean difficulties remain in delivering the organisation’s objectives.

“These tend to be younger people or people coming in from different industries and they need training and capacity building and that takes time,” he said. 

“So even though we are more or less back to the headcount we wish to be, we are not able to deliver all the outcomes to the extent that we would want.”

Bevan said the Environment Agency is also doing well at motivating staff “despite the challenges”.

“I know that because I’ve just seen the results of our latest staff survey and that is showing an increase in motivation, [which was] already high but it’s higher,” the chief exec said. 

Bevan said the Environment Agency is able to keep attracting people due to the “astonishing work” on offer – “the chance to make the world a better place, people really will get out of bed for that” – as well as the opportunity to work with “astonishing colleagues”.

“It is a fantastic place to work,” Bevan said. 

He said two kinds of people have joined in the last year: twenty-somethings in their first “real” job who are “delighted to be in an organisation that is full of such great people who are committed to creating a better place”; and people with an existing career – such as police chiefs and senior NHS staff – who want their employer to reflect their values and treat them well.

Another key attraction is flexible working, which has “improved productivity not harmed it”, Bevan said, echoing comments by Disclosure and Barring Service chief executive Eric Robinson that hybrid working had had a “significant positive effect”.

“There will be never be a situation when the EA – or, frankly, most other public sector organisations – will be able to pay top dollar compared with the private sector so we do have to find alternative solutions,” Bevan said.

“Though that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t get a decent wage in the public sector,” he adds. 

Budget: UK on track for ‘disastrous decade’ of income stagnation

The UK remains on track for a “disastrous decade” of stagnant incomes and high taxes, despite cuts to public services, the Resolution Foundation has said in its analysis of the budget on Wednesday.

Phillip Inman www.theguardian.com 

The thinktank, whose stated aim is to improve the standard of living for low- and middle-income families, said typical household disposable incomes were on course to be lower by the end of the forecast period in 2027-28 than they were before the pandemic, when inflation was taken into account.

While the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, had announced an “impressively broad suite of policies” to encourage more people into work, he was unable to change the course of declining living standards, the foundation said.

“Britain’s economy remains stuck in a deep funk – with people supported into work but getting poorer, and paying more tax but seeing public services cut,” the report said.

The UK is forecast to have gone through “the biggest energy and inflation shock since the 1970s, while avoiding a recession, with unemployment peaking at just 4.4%”, it added.

The thinktank said taxes as a share of gross national product were on track to hit 37.7% by the end of the forecast, a 70-year high and a 4.7 percentage point increase since 2019-20, the equivalent to nearly an extra £4,200 for every UK household.

Workers also face paying more to the Treasury because personal tax thresholds have been frozen instead of rising with inflation, meaning wage growth pushes more people into higher rate bands – a phenomenon known as “fiscal drag”.

The Treasury’s independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility, said wages growth over the next five years would force 3.2 million people to pay tax for the first time, put 2.1 million into the higher-rate tax band, and add 350,000 additional-rate taxpayers.

The extra amount paid will rise steadily until 2027-28, by which point the government will be earning £29.3bn a year more in extra income tax.

The rise in taxes will still leave the chancellor with little room for manoeuvre at the end of the OBR’s five-year forecast period, mainly because a short-term lift in GDP growth will fade, leaving the overall tax rate lower.

“If even the slow growth of the past decade had continued, incomes would still be £1,800 higher than currently projected for 2027-28,” the Resolution Foundation said.

It described Hunt’s move to abolish the lifetime limit on tax-free pension savings as a very large boost to the wealthy – saving someone with a £2m pension pot almost £250,000 in tax.

The government argues the move, along with the increase in the tax-free annual savings limit from £40,000 to £60,000, are needed to prevent older NHS doctors from quitting work or cutting back their hours. The change is expected to discourage 15,000 higher earners from retiring early. But the foundation said it could have the opposite effect and allow the better-off to build pension pots so large they would still make an early exit.

Intense cost pressure on public services from stagnant budget allocations and rising inflation were “largely ignored” in the budget, the thinktank said, adding that Whitehall departments outside the protected areas of health, schools and defence faced 10% cuts in real terms to day-to-day spending per head by 2027-28.

This loss of spending power across most government departments will rise to 14% “if the newly announced aspiration for defence spending to rise to 2.5% of GDP is met over the next parliament”.

An increase in investment allowances to encourage businesses to buy IT and new equipment worth up to £28bn over three years represents the fifth major corporate tax change in just two years, “illustrating the lack of certainty that has frustrated businesses”, the report said.

The foundation calculated the policy would deliver a temporary 3% boost to investment, “when what Britain actually needs is a permanent 30% boost to catch up with our competitors in France, Germany and the US”.