Breaking: No surprises as EDDC continues as an inclusive, progressive, council

EDDC chooses continuity in leader, deputy leader and most cabinet appointments

At this evening’s annual meeting the following were elected unanimously as:

Chair, Cllr. Eleanor Rylance (LibDem)

Vice Chair Cllr Sam Hawkins (Cranbrook Independent)

Leader Cllr Paul Arnott (LibDem)

Having been elected he then chose Cllr Paul Hayward (Independent) to continue as his deputy.

In a short address Paul Arnott outlined his intention to continue giving priority to three topics::


The environment

The East Devon economy with emphasis on sustainability

He announced nine cabinet members who included eight from the retiring cabinet :

Climate Action Cllr Marianne Rixon (LibDem)

Coast, Country and environment Cllr Geoff Jung (LibDEm)

Council and Corporate coordination Cllr John Loudon (Independent)

Democracy and  Transparency Cllr Sarah Jackson (Independent)

Tourism, leisure, sport, culture Cllr Nick Hookway (LibDem)

Economy Cllr Matt Hall (LibDem) (new cabinet member)

Finance and assets Cllr Paul Hayward (Independent)

Strategic Planning Cllr Olly Davey (Green)

Sustainable homes and communities Cllr Dan Ledger (Independen)

Assistant portfolio holders will be announced in due course when the newly elected members have settled in.

Breaking: Boris Johnson ditches government-appointed lawyers for Covid inquiry

What a waste of taxpayer money – Owl

Boris Johnson will no longer work with government-appointed lawyers for the Covid inquiry, after he was referred to the police over further potential rule breaches during the pandemic. 

Allies of the former PM said he had lost all confidence in the Cabinet Office, which handed over the material.

The Cabinet Office said officials had been obliged to disclose the documents under civil service rules.

No 10 said neither ministers nor the PM were not involved in the decision.

East Devon Annual Council today 6.00 pm, The Ocean, Exmouth  

The outgoing council was controlled for the past three years by a Democratic Alliance comprising members of the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Independent East Devon Alliance, and an Independent who came together for form a new political group.

Will such a  “coalition of the willing” be formed amongst the new council members?

We will discover tonight.

This meeting is being recorded by EDDC for subsequent publication on the Council’s website and will be streamed live to the Council’s Youtube Channel at

Seaside town ‘hollowed out’ as residents ‘driven from homes’ by rowdy tourists

Furious residents say they are being driven from their seaside town by holiday rentals that have “hollowed out” their community.

Alice Clifford

People living in Whitstable have expressed frustration that homes previously filled by locals are now being used by visitors throwing loud parties, blocking driveways, taking up vital parking spaces and leaving the streets covered in rubbish.

With long-term neighbours being replaced with a constant stream of unfamiliar faces, people are feeling as though the town has been ripped of its sense of community.

Those desperate to find a solution attended a meeting last Friday to discuss ways to regulate the industry, hosted by members of Canterbury City Council’s Green Party in a bid to find a way to balance the issues with the benefits of tourism.

One woman said she “really struggles as a resident of this town” as working from home has become an impossible task with constant noise.

Another added: “People don’t care where they park – it’s cheaper to pay a fine than pay for a day’s parking.”

People applauded when one local said “there is no longer a sense of community”.

One resident, Jonathan Hollow, added: “I have lived in Whitstable since 2006. I’m right in the centre. When I moved in I had long-term neighbours each side of my terraced house. Now one side is a second home, and the other side is a holiday rental property for short-term lets.

“The owner of the holiday rental property has been very considerate in response to the requests I have made, but he is not there all the time. He can’t legislate for the behaviour of everyone who passes through his house.

“You do get more noise – confusion with people knocking on your door seeing if you can help them with lost keys. Sometimes there are problems with bins being left out on a street.

“All these are incidental nuisances, but generally having this feeling where you know fewer of your neighbours is resulting in a deterioration in the life of the community in Whitstable.

“We do need tourists but we need to find a happy way of living with tourism. I would like to see Canterbury City Council immediately introduce a voluntary code of practice which owners can sign up to that sets high standards for neighbourliness.”

As it stands, a property can be used as a short-term holiday let with no notice or permission needed.

One of the possible regulations discussed was making it so that people hoping to convert future properties into short-term lets have to apply for change-of-use planning permission.

This is something the government is considering, with a new planning use class created for lets not used as a sole or main home.

But it would only apply to new hosts and not existing second homes already used as holiday lets.

Sophie Williams, 52, welcomed the idea. She said: “Having a holiday let next door, I didn’t initially know it was happening. There was a person knocking at my door because he couldn’t get in. That was one of the first incidents I dealt with.

“It’s not always parties late at night, although last New Year’s Eve a party went on until 8am.”

She added: “I like to sit and read in my garden and their garden has been done up beautifully for barbecues so there are garden parties three times a week in the summer. It’s upsetting and makes me not want to live there.

“I think they should be paying council tax because they have taken away a property that should be residential.”

According to rough data obtained by Councillor Clare Turnbull, Canterbury City Council could be missing out on almost £500,000 of revenue.

This is because hundreds of holiday lets in Whitstable are not registered for council tax and don’t pay business rates either.

At the meeting, people voted in favour of introducing council tax for second homes and owners of holiday lets. Some feel the tax should even be doubled for people with second homes – something councils running tourist hotspots across the country are considering.

Limiting the number of nights each year a property can be rented out for was also suggested among other ideas.

While welcoming regulations, resident Jo Taylor feels they need to be tougher, saying: “This is not a witch hunt. We still want people to come here for their holidays but it needs to be a nice place for residents too.

“We have quite a few holiday lets down our road and people are coming and going all the time. You don’t know who these people are. At least when you have neighbours you recognise who is who.

“Because there are so many holiday lets and not enough family homes, you don’t see as many people in the winter so the community is losing out massively.

“Lots of the shops are shut in the winter, the restaurants are closed, the people in the shops take less money because we’re a seaside town and there are not as many people staying here.”

She added: “The regulations suggested are all a bit too ‘light touch’, they need to be more dynamic and forceful. The people who own the holiday lets need to be more accountable for what happens in them.

“We need to be able to know how many properties we are dealing with because we are saying all this, but we don’t know the full facts. I would like to see more meetings like this, so we can get an in-depth view on how we can get that balance.”

Another person, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “Holiday lets mean there are fewer rental properties for young people and families. The homes that are left, nobody local can afford because the rents sky-rocket with demand.

“People are moving further away just so they can afford to live.”

Rebecca Sewell from Tankerton runs the house-keeping business Halos and earns around 70 per cent of her income through holiday lets.

While she supports the industry, as a local she also welcomes regulations.

The 49-year-old said: “While I do have concerns about people having affordable homes to live in the area, I also have invested interest in holiday lets being here. The housekeeping jobs provide income for local people and for the town. They support women in particular back into work after having children.

“Holiday lets have driven prices of the rental market up, but the flip side is it does provide work. I can see both sides which is why I came to the meeting to see if there is a way to balance that.”

It wasn’t just concerned neighbours who attended.

One man who lets out his spare room to tourists, while still living in his home, also welcomed regulations. But he felt they should be on a different scale for set-ups like his.

Most people agreed these types of lets are more sustainable and cause less problems for the town. As a result, the majority agreed regulations for these types of lets should not have to follow such strict rules.

The meeting was held following an online consultation sent to residents in September asking for their views.

While emotions were high from people desperate to find a solution, there was also a sense of hope that balance could be found. Residents’ responses and views on the proposed regulations will be combined for the next stage of the consultation locally and nationally.

Cllr Turnbull said: “People made strong contributions to the ideas behind the registration scheme and the change of use and regulations. It’s a massively emotional issue and I think the main point was it’s about the community.

“What was a close knit, really vibrant town, is becoming hollowed out by holiday lets taking over people’s homes that were habited by young families before with children going to local schools.

“It is driving people out of the town which is desperately sad. People who want to stay in the town that have always lived here can’t find rental properties or they can’t afford to buy because the prices have gone up so high.

“The council is due to set up a working group on this issue to recognise this is an important issue in Whitstable. I’m going to make sure they deliver on this working group and they take the issue seriously.”

Labour councillor Pip Hazelton, recently appointed as the new-look city council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “We want to see as much affordable accommodation made available to local families as possible.

“We do understand we need to balance that with tourism. We shall be setting up a cross-party politically balanced working group to look into exactly how we will do this as soon as possible. This will be an opportunity to delve into the complexities, government guidelines and legislations, while looking at the needs of our district.

“There isn’t one simple answer. What we don’t want is communities hollowed out and destroyed by holiday lets. People are seeing homes as an investment to be exploited rather than homes for local people.”

The Rooftop Revolution Report – CPRE

CPRE has published groundbreaking new research into the true potential for generating the electricity we need from rooftop solar. 

Our report shows the opportunities are huge. Putting solar panels on new buildings and over car parks alone could generate nearly the same amount of clean electricity as 10 new nuclear power stations.

And if we make use of low-cost opportunities for solar panels on the rooftops of large buildings like warehouses, the evidence shows that 60% of the solar panels our country needs can be sited on rooftops. 

But if we don’t make use of our rooftops, solar panels could swallow up 180,000 hectares of our countryside – an area larger than the size of Greater London! 

Executive summary 

The accelerating climate emergency poses the single greatest threat to the countryside. Without urgent action, iconic features of our landscapes, including English oak trees and our rare chalk streams, could be lost from many places, throwing the survival of much of our best loved wildlife into doubt. 

At the same time, the increased risk of severe flooding caused by climate change threatens both rural communities and our food security. Recent research by CPRE, the countryside charity, shows that more than 60% of England’s finest agricultural land is within areas at the highest risk of flooding. For these and many other reasons, it is essential for the countryside that over the coming decade we cut our carbon emissions. Critically, we need to complete the transition from reliance on fossil fuels to a new era of renewable energy. 

Yet, despite the urgent need to exploit the best opportunities to generate the renewable energy our country needs, we have a vast and largely untapped resource: roofs. Along with surface car parks, roofs provide space to generate solar-powered electricity, very close to where it is needed. Making the best possible use of solar on roofs and car parks is a solution that will enjoy almost universal support. 

By contrast, greenfield ground-mounted schemes done poorly can cause harm, provide little benefit to rural communities and become bogged down in contentious planning disputes. This briefing looks both at the potential of rooftop renewables and at the interventions needed to deliver them. 

To better understand the full potential of rooftop solar energy in this country, CPRE commissioned experts at the University College London (UCL) Energy Institute to undertake an independent review of the land use implications of meeting targets, drawn from a series of well-established net zero greenhouse gas emission scenarios. Using this data, UCL has produced assessments of the total energy that could be generated from solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on rooftops across England as well as the land area that may be required for wind, ground-mounted solar and biomass in England in net zero scenarios. 

Key findings

• Although ground-mounted solar projects will be needed in the short term to hit national decarbonisation, installing solar panels on new buildings, existing large warehouse rooftops and other land such as car parks, could provide at least 40-50 gigawatts (GW) of low carbon electricity, contributing more than half of the total national target of 70GW of solar energy by 2035.

• Longer term to 2050, and with further investment, there is potential for up to 117GW of low carbon electricity to be generated from roofs and other developed spaces, reducing the need for greenfield ground-mounted solar in the medium to long term. 

• Meeting national solar energy targets through ground-mounted schemes alone could require between 0.9-1.4% of the land in England, covering as much as 1,800 square kilometres/ 180,000 hectares of our countryside – an area larger than the size of Greater London (157,000ha)

Are debt levels falling or just forecast to rise less steeply?

Jermy Hunt slammed for using statistics, and confusing words, to imply debt is falling when it isn’t.

Worrying trait in a Chancellor, but he is a Conservative. – Owl

The official statistics watchdog has reprimanded the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, after he claimed public debt levels would fall in the coming years, when in fact they are simply forecast to rise less steeply than previously expected.

Peter Walker 

The head of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA), Sir Robert Chote, said the watchdog’s regulatory arm had spoken to Treasury officials to warn them about accuracy after a complaint by the Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle over a tweet the chancellor sent on 25 April.

Saying the government had “made progress” on the public finances, Hunt wrote: “By 2027-28, headline debt levels are reduced by £53.7 billion.”

Eagle, a former Treasury minister who sits on the Treasury committee, wrote to Chote, noting that the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts indicate that public debt will rise between now and 2027-28, including a £90bn increase from 2026-27 alone.

She said Hunt appeared to be referring to a fall in the OBR’s current projection for headline debt in 2027-28 compared with the same forecast in last year’s autumn statement. Eagle wrote: “I am concerned that government ministers are using misleading statistics publicly regarding the economy, and believe it is critical that figures used are accurate.”

In a reply, Chote said Treasury officials had confirmed this was what the tweet referred to: a reduction in the size of the forecast increase of debt, not a fall in the debt itself.

“As you suggest, some readers of the tweet may have assumed that the chancellor was referring to the forecast change in public sector net debt between the last full financial year and 2027-28,” he wrote.

“Greater clarity and context would have avoided this confusion. The Office for Statistics Regulation [the regulatory arm of the UKSA] has therefore spoken with officials at HM Treasury to emphasise the importance of consistently adopting a transparent and accessible approach to communicating statistics and data in line with our guidance on intelligent transparency.”

Eagle told the Guardian: “As the statistics authority has confirmed, this government has a persistently troubled relationship with the truth – one that is becoming increasingly obvious if you read the fine print.

“It is incredibly disappointing to see the chancellor resorting to using such misleading statistics in a tweet of all places – a new low for the fourth chancellor in a year.”

The Treasury confirmed Hunt’s tweet had referred to the changing forecast for the debt increase, and that it had noted Chote’s points and would take any necessary action.

South West Water under investigation over leaks and usage figures

The owner of South West Water is being investigated by the industry regulator over whether it accurately reported leaks and figures showing how much water is used by its customers.

In August last year Owl reported on how SWW didn’t make it easy to work out what their leakage rate was. It now turns out Owl is not alone.

Joanna Partridge 

Pennon Group, which owns South West Water and Bristol Water Group, told its shareholders that Ofwat has announced an investigation into the company’s operational performance during 2021 and 2022.

Ofwat sets performance targets for water companies on leakage and “per capita consumption”, or the amount of water used by each household. It assesses companies annually and can issue penalties or rewards, depending on how they perform.

The regulator said the penalty could be up to 10% of a company’s turnover. Last year, Pennon brought in revenues of £792m.

Last November, the regulator said it was delaying a decision on whether South West Water was moving towards meeting its own targets on reducing leaks, as it tried to understand how the firm had calculated its performance figures.

Ofwat said it would now conduct a “thorough investigation” into South West Water, which supplies to customers in Cornwall and Devon, as well as small parts of Dorset and Somerset.

David Black, the chief executive of Ofwat, said: “We are committed to holding companies to account for performance and for sharing timely, accurate, and complete data with us and their customers. We want to ensure that is the case here.

“A thorough investigation will now be carried out and we will provide updates in due course on our findings and whether there is any further action Ofwat needs to take.”

Shares in Pennon Group, which is listed on the FTSE 100, slid by about 3% on Tuesday on news of the investigation.

Pennon said its operational performance data is “subject to rigorous assurance processes which include independent checks and balances carried out by external technical auditor”.

The company said it would work “openly and constructively” with Ofwat during its investigation.

Water companies are under increasing pressure to reduce the amount of water lost through leaks, particularly at a time when the government is also aiming to lower the amount of water used by households.

A fifth of the public water supply is lost through leaks in the network, according to the government’s “plan for water” which was released in April, part of its attempts to reach cleaner and more plentiful supplies in the UK.

The government said it made tackling leaks a priority for Ofwat in 2017, although water companies in England and Wales lost more than 1tn litres of water through leaky pipes in 2021-22, according to the industry’s most recent figures.

The figure is equivalent to filling 426,875 Olympic swimming pools or enough water to fill Lake Windermere three-and-a-half times.

South West Water has previously been investigated by the regulator along with five other water suppliers, as part of an investigation into the dumping of raw sewage, a topic which has prompted public anger over pollution in the sea and rivers.

Last week, water companies pledged to triple investment in the sewage system in England to reduce pollution but the move was criticised for passing the £10bn bill for investment, which should have been carried out years ago, on to customers.

Sidmouth’s MP ‘very sorry’ former boss Raab will stand down at next election

Surprise, surprise, Simon’s sorry to be losing his “top cover” – maybe he is feeling a bit exposed?

Blow on the winds of change! – Owl 

Conservative MP for East Devon Simon Jupp has said he is “very sorry” to see Dominic Raab decide to stand down as an MP at the next election.

The announcement reported in The Daily Telegraph comes a month after Raab quit his role as deputy prime minister after an inquiry upheld some bullying complaints made against him.

Simon Jupp, who was a special advisor to Raab when he was foreign secretary in 2019, said: “I’m very sorry to see Dominic Raab decide to stand down at the next election.

“He was a brilliant boss when I worked for him at the Foreign Office.

“Always across the detail, he knew more than most in the room about the topic under discussion.

“Another big loss from Parliament.”

Raab has been MP for Esher and Walton in Surrey since 2010.