Devon flood victim calls marines to help clear up garden

Royal Marines have helped a woman clear up her garden after it was covered in mud following a flash flood.

By John Ayres & Rebecca Ricks

Royal Marines from the Commando Training Centre, in Lympstone, Devon, came to the aid of Ms Pinfold

Hilary Pinfold, from Newton Poppleford in Devon, said she contacted the local barracks and was “delighted” when more than 40 marines turned up to help.

Dane, one of the marines, said it “feels good” to be able to help the local community.

A 6ft (1.8m) wall in Ms Pinfold’s garden collapsed during the downpours, and the downstairs of her house was also flooded.

Ms Pinfold’s garden following the flood

“We were getting a bit downhearted at the weekend about the amount of work that we’ve got to do and didn’t see, even with volunteers, how we could get it done,” she said.

Ms Pinfold, a nurse, said she made a phone call to the local barracks, Commando Training Centre, Lympstone, after a friend suggested they might help.

Royal Marines helped to build a sandbag wall to offer some extra protection to the garden

“What they’ve done in just a few hours is amazing, it would’ve taken weeks.

“This is part of what King Charles III said in his Coronation mandate, that he wanted to see communities working together and I think that’s what you’re seeing here.”

Newton Poppleford was badly hit by the flash flooding

Matthew, one of the commandos, said: “She needed help digging up all the mud that came through from the farmer’s field.

“It [the garden] looks quite good now, but it was quite a mess when we first got here. It was under a lot of mud and we just had to shift it out the way.”

Ms Pinfold said builders were expected to start work on her house in late June.

Major Devon hospitals told medical services require improvement

Medical care and surgical services at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital (RD&E) and North Devon District Hospital (NDDH) have been rated as ‘requires improvement’ following an unannounced inspection instigated by 16 ‘never events’ being reported at the sites between March 2021 and November 2022.

Anita Merritt

Never events are serious, largely preventable patient safety incidents that should not occur if healthcare providers have implemented existing national guidance or safety recommendations. It promoted independent health and social care regulator Care Quality Commissions to inspect the hospitals at the end of 2022.

Areas of concern found included a ‘high number’ of staffing shortages, long increasing waiting lists, surgical outcomes not always meeting national standards, action not always being taken quick enough for patients at risk of deterioration and significant challenges with the new integrated electronic patient record system.

The results of the inspection of diagnostic services, published today, May 26, state the RD&E has declined from a rating of ‘good’ to ‘requires improvement’ overall for medical care. It was rated as requires improvement for being safe and well-led. Effective, caring and responsive categories were inspected but not rated.

Surgery at both locations, dropped from good to requires improvement overall as did the ratings for safe and well-led. How responsive, caring and effective the service is was inspected but not rated. Medical care at North Devon District Hospital remains requires improvement overall. It was rated as requires improvement in safe and well-led. Effective, caring and responsive were inspected but not rated.

Diagnostic imaging at both locations was rated as good overall. It was also rated as good for being caring, responsive and well led, and requires improvement for safe. As per all CQC inspections, diagnostic services were inspected but not given a rating for how effective they are as it is not usually used for treatment.

This is the first inspection of the trust since the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust and Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust merged to form the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in April 2022. The aim of the merger was to combine resources and expertise to provide acute, community and specialist services across North Devon, Mid Devon East Devon and Exeter.

Corporate and clinical services are in the process of being merged. The inspection was one of a number of CQC visits that will form the Royal Devon’s overall trust rating.

The trust had a separate well-led inspection earlier in May which looked at the leadership and governance of the organisation. A further report and an overall trust rating is expected in the coming weeks.

Cath Campbell, CQC deputy director of operations in the south, said: “Our inspection of Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust was prompted by concerns about the number of never events that had taken place. Although we understand the pressures that healthcare providers have faced, and continue to face, never events are precisely that – they should never occur.

“If they do, it’s important they are thoroughly investigated to ensure they don’t happen again. Once an investigation has taken place learning should be shared with all staff and that wasn’t always happening.

“The trust had mitigated risks by putting in place a never event investigation report. While individual investigations into each never event had taken place, the trust also recognised the need to join up the learning and communicate this between all trust locations as it wasn’t currently happening.

“Inspectors found staff knew how to safeguard people. They also treated people with kindness and compassion, considering their individual needs and preferences.

“Following the inspections, we reported our findings to the trust. Its leaders know what they need to do to improve services, and where there’s good practice on which they can build on.”

The inspection report does not reveal details of the 16 never events that were reported by the trust. The concerns highlighted by inspectors include:

  • The service had a high number of vacancy rates at all levels. There was a high reliance on a locum workforce. Due to the shortages on most shifts, some people had to wait longer to receive help with food and personal care.
  • In medical care, people’s documentation and risk assessments were not always completed. This meant staff did not always identify or act quickly enough for patients at risk of deterioration.
  • In medical care staff did not always know if people had enough food and drink to meet their needs and improve their health as it was not recorded.
  • In surgery, outcomes for people did not always meet expectations based on national standards. The surgical division was under pressure with long waiting lists which were increasing.
  • In surgery and medical care, there were challenges with the new integrated electronic patient record system as a complete oversight of the service provided was difficult. Some audits that were required had been postponed during the pandemic and the results were currently unavailable due to the introduction of a new integrated electronic patient record system. This did not give sufficient oversight of performance and how to improve.
  • Staff were not always competent in using the new integrated electronic patient record system.
  • At the safety and risk meeting in October 2022, the trust acknowledged they were not completely assured that all the steps identified to minimise the amount of never events, were being taken. While individual investigations were completed, the trust did recognise the need to join up the learning and communicate this between all trust locations.

However, inspectors also praised the hospital in a number of areas. Inspectors note people didn’t stay in hospital longer than they needed to as managers and staff started planning each person’s discharge as early as possible.

Staff were said to be open and honest and understood the duty of candour. They gave patients and families a full explanation if and when things went wrong.

If staff were concerned about people’s mental health, it was noted the service had 24-hour access to mental health liaison and specialist mental health support provided onsite by the local mental health trust.

In diagnostic imaging services, inspectors found staff were discreet and responsive when caring for people. They took the time to interact with people and those close to them in a professional, respectful, and considerate way – to ensure people understood every issue.

Chris Tidman, the trust’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are pleased that our diagnostic imaging services have been rated good. We are of course disappointed by the results in our medical and surgical services, however, we feel it is a fair reflection of the challenges the trust and our teams were under at the time of the inspection.

“We are a learning organisation and we welcome feedback from the CQC and their response to our never events, which will help us to continuously improve our services for our patients and communities. We are reassured that the majority of the areas for improvement were already known to us, and work is underway to raise standards and performance.”

The report describes the challenges caused by the rollout of the trust’s electronic patient record.

Chris said: “Epic brings us huge opportunities to modernise the care we provide to our patients, but with a new system of this size we always expected it to take time to become embedded, so we were not surprised to see this reflected in the report.”

Inspectors also highlighted how patients were treated with compassion and kindness, and examples of positive-team working, staff feeling empowered to raise concerns and treating patients according to their individual needs.

Chris added: “As a leadership team, we are extremely proud of our staff and we encourage them to be proud too, of everything they do every day for our patients.”

Ministers step in at Woking council as debts forecast to reach £2.4bn

Ministers have appointed external commissioners to in effect take control of a Surrey council with debts expected to reach £2.4bn – 100 times its annual net income – after spending heavily on commercial property.

The council, which was run by a Conservative administration when the investments were made but now has Liberal Democrat leadership, said it welcomed the move as the “challenges are so significant that the council and its officers cannot deal with these on its own”.

We will be living with Conservative legacy problems such as this for years to come. – Owl

Peter Walker

Woking borough council, which spends £14m a year and has an annual net income of £24m, now has a total debt of £1.9bn. But it is forecast to hit nearly £2.4bn by 2024-25, a written statement from Lee Rowley, the junior levelling up minister, said.

The council, described by Rowley as the most indebted council in England compared with its financial resources, risks effective insolvency after a surge in debt interest costs on its investments including a shopping centre, residential tower blocks and a 23-storey Hilton hotel.

In February, Woking said it was at risk of issuing a section 114 notice, which signals insolvency. Councils cannot technically go bankrupt, but such a move obliges central government to intervene to ensure local services are sustainable.

Rowley’s statement said the council faced “the most challenging financial position of any local authority in England”, and that his department had increasing concerns about the size of the debt and how it was being managed.

In January, the levelling up department commissioned three experts on local government to carry out an external review. While this has not yet been published, and is likely to be redacted in part due to commercial sensitivities, Rowley quoted it as concluding that there “is no realistic route to the council returning to financial sustainability alone”.

He has thus appointed the same three experts to become commissioners with wide-ranging powers over the council, including financial and commercial decision-making, and restructuring the authority.

They are Jim Taylor, who was chief executive for three metropolitan councils; Carol Culley, the deputy chief executive of Manchester city council; and Mervyn Greer, a senior Cabinet Office official with responsibilities for local government.

The decision to appoint the three, taken by Michael Gove, the communities secretary, “reflects the acute situation in Woking and the urgent need for commissioners to begin work immediately to ensure that the council takes steps to secure compliance with their best value duty”, Rowley’s statement said.

The council, which was run by a Conservative administration when the investments were made but now has Liberal Democrat leadership, said it welcomed the move as the “challenges are so significant that the council and its officers cannot deal with these on its own”.

Ann-Marie Barker, its leader, said: “My administration is very clear about the huge challenges facing the council due to the legacy of both the extraordinarily high and disproportionate levels of debt that we have inherited from the previous administration. We are also very clear and focused on the significant risks that the council is now facing up to as a result of that debt.

“We also recognise that these challenges are so significant that the council and its officers cannot deal with these on its own. We therefore fully acknowledge and accept the findings of the report and welcome the support set out by the minister in his letter.”

New Council Chair plans to water ski in the Estuary!


This refers not to our new Chair but to the Chair of Teignbridge District Council (and it’s a man obviously) – Owl

The new chairman of Teignbridge District Council claims he will unite the community and water ski in the Teign Estuary during his year of office.

Guy Henderson, local democracy reporter 

Long-serving Cllr Chris Clarance (Independent, Shaldon and Stokeinteignhead) was chosen to chair the council for the coming year after spending the last 12 months as deputy.

“He has performed admirably as deputy chair,” said proposer Cllr Martin Wrigley (Lib Dem, Dawlish NE). “He has navigated our way through some interesting discussions.  I also like the fact that as an Independent he can ensure openness and transparency.”

Cllr Clarance was elected by 32 votes to nine, defeating Cllr John Radford (South Devon Alliance, Kerswell-with-Coombe).

He told a meeting of the full council on Tuesday: “I consider this to be a great honour, and I hope all council members will have confidence in me.”

He named the Devon Air Ambulance as his chosen charity for the year, and pledged to raise funds by water skiing at Coombe Cellars, as he had during a previous stint as chairman a decade ago.

He will not be able to tackle the famous ski jump this time, though, as it has been removed since his first leap.

“I hope to bring members together to work for the good of the community,” he went on.

And he broke the news of the death of former chairman Mike Walters. “He was in relatively recent times a member and chairman of this council,” he said.

“I have fond memories of Mike. Our condolences to his family. It is very sad.”

Cllr Clarance’s deputy will be Cllr David Cox (Lib Dem, Teignmouth Central)

Westminster Debate on short-term lets. Startling statistics but a lightweight performance from Simon Jupp

Kevin Forster MP (Con) Torbay led a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday on short -term holiday lets and the planning system.

The purpose was to air the problem and consider the Government’s proposal to tweak the planning system as a solution.

A Correspondent has filleted some nuggets of information (so you don’t have to read it all)

First a pithy quote from Luke Pollard MP (Lab) Plymouth:

”The south-west has enough houses; we just do not have enough homes for people to live in.

Now some interesting stats:

In ENGLAND although there is no single source of data on short-term lets “one plausible estimate” is 257,000 properties. (Report commissioned in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport )

In DEVON there are 13,363 second homes, an increase of 11% from last year.

In Totnes in south Devon, there are 3,454 Airbnb lets. But houses available for long term rental in Totnes number 34 properties.

In CORNWALL, there are approximately 25,000 second and holiday homes.

Holiday lets have grown by 661% in Cornwall in five years, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

There are 23,500 households on the housing waiting list.

“One of the villages just down the road from where I live is over 70% second homes already “(Luke Pollard )

In NORTH NORFOLK, Wells-next-the-Sea, 40% of all homes are now second homes or holiday lets.

Villages such as Morston, Salthouse, and Blakeney, where every new build house now goes for £1 million, over 50% of the homes are holiday homes or holiday lets.

Some 2,700 families and households are on the North Norfolk District Council housing list

In CUMBRIA there are 8,384 short-term lets of which 75% are Airbnbs.

There are only 232 long-term rental properties available in the whole of the county of Cumbria.

Why has this happened?

Why have our local councils not been given the powers to balance the needs of the economics of tourism with the basic human need of local families to have a safe, affordable place to live?

The minister has the final say:

The Minister Rachel Maclean outlined the details of the proposal to enable local authorities, if they wish, to require planning permissions for change of use to short term and holiday lets.

In passing she boasted that the government delivered 232,000 additional homes—a 10% increase on the previous year. This included “over 632 affordable houses” (Can this be right? Is the Minister, like many of the rest of us, confusing “affordable”, 20% off market rate houses, with old fashioned “council houses”?)

Just to remind you, East Devon has a waiting list of over 4700 individuals and families .

What contribution did Simon Jupp make?

Below is his speech verbatim.

Frankly, this correspondent is unimpressed. 

Simon seems more interested in name checking and political point scoring than adding anything constructive to the argument. Compared to his peers, he comes across as an intellectual lightweight.

[Tim Farron rather than Richard Foord spoke for the LibDems, Speakers are chosen to give political balance. Richard Foord managed one small interjection. So only Jupp got to speak for East Devon]

Simon Jupp:

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster) for securing this morning’s debate on short-term holiday lets and the planning system.

I represent a glorious part of the UK. It is understandable that many people want to visit East Devon year after year: we have the Jurassic coast, stunning food, rolling hills, country pubs, quaint bed and breakfasts, and historic attractions. Many jobs in our communities depend on visitors enjoying the variety and availability of accommodation options. Visitors, in turn, spend money locally year after year.

Homeowners benefit from the flexibility offered by short-term lets. For many, it is an important second income at a time of high inflation. However, the soaring numbers of short-term lets and second home ownership make it more difficult for so many local people to own a home of their own. I live in Sidmouth, where a glance at the estate agent’s window reveals the reality: local people are being priced out of the market. It is a similar story in Beer, Branscombe, Budleigh Salterton, Exmouth, Topsham and Seaton. Many local people find it increasingly difficult to get on the property ladder, given the high prices advertised. Homes are often being sold to cash buyers from elsewhere within days of being advertised.

I hope the key message of today’s debate will be that we need to get the balance right. Homes to buy and for long-term rent are out of reach for many people who grew up in Devon, like me, or who work locally or need the support of family to look after a loved one. Our country and our county need strong communities all year round, not places that are ghost towns half the year. What have the Government done, what will the Government do and where could the Government go further?

The Government have been listening to the concerns of colleagues, particularly those who represent tourist hotspots in Devon, Cornwall, Norfolk, the Lake district and Yorkshire. There have been welcome measures. The Government have already introduced higher rates of stamp duty for additional properties. They have closed business rate loopholes. They plan to let local authorities double council tax on second homes, as has been mentioned. That is a great start, but more action is needed, specifically on short-term lets. That is why I welcome the introduction of a registration scheme through an amendment to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, which will bring short-term lets up to a higher standard and provide much-needed data on activity in local areas.

This debate is timely, because the consultation on how the registration scheme will be administered is still open; it closes in roughly a fortnight. There are also plans to restrict the ways in which homes can be flipped into short-term lets by bringing in new permitted development rights for a change in use from a C3 dwelling house to a C5 short-term let. Councils would then have the option to limit the use of those permitted development rights, such as in certain geographical areas with the highest number of short-term lets. Let me tell you: East Devon is definitely one of those.

The consultation is running in parallel to the one on registration schemes, which also closes soon. It is right to give local councils all the tools they need. Those powers should not be mandated by Whitehall officials. Decisions will be made by local people elected at the ballot box. I hope that East Devon District Council will use the tools given to it by this Conservative Government.

Finally, there are areas in which the Government can go further. As I have mentioned before in Parliament, one policy could be to allow councils to reserve a percentage of new builds for people with a local family or economic connection to an area. For example, the purchaser or tenant could have to meet one of the following conditions: that they currently live or work within 25 miles of the property, that they were born within 25 miles of the property, or that they can demonstrate a care network within 25 miles of the property. A covenant would permanently protect a percentage of any new housing stock from short-term let or second home ownership. We undoubtedly need to build new homes in East Devon, but we should aim to look after locals first. The Government can be creative and proactive in looking at all possible options. Only then will there be a better balance.

Obviously there are two sides to this debate, and I do acknowledge that short-term holiday lets bring visitors to the places we love. Visitors contribute a great deal to our communities in East Devon, but their stay is often enjoyable only because of local workers behind the bar of a pub, in the kitchen of a restaurant or tapping on the till of a local high street shop. Those workers need somewhere to live, too. Our economy in East Devon would grind to a halt without them. We need a much better balance for our communities in East Devon for local people, now and for generations to come.

Political groupings within the new East Devon District Council

The Democratic Alliance Mk 2.

Council members may give notice that they wish to be considered as part of a political grouping for the purpose, amongst other things, of assigning seats to committees so as to achieve political balance. 

The formal political groupings amongst members of the new East Devon District Council are listed below

Owl notes that our Labour councillors follow national guidance and stand aloof.

Democratic Alliance Group (29)
Councillor Paul Arnott
Coly Valley Liberal Democrat Leader of the Council
Councillor Christopher Burhop
Newton Poppleford and Harpford Independent
Councillor Sarah Chamberlain
Broadclyst Liberal Democrats
Councillor Olly Davey
Exmouth Town Green Party Portfolio Holder Strategic Planning
Councillor Tim Dumper
Exmouth Halsdon Liberal Democrats
Councillor Paula Fernley
Broadclyst Green Party
Councillor Charlotte Fitzgerald
Budleigh and Raleigh Independent
Councillor Steve Gazzard
Exmouth Withycombe Raleigh Liberal Democrats
Councillor Anne Hall
Exmouth Littleham Liberal Democrats
Councillor Matt Hall
Exmouth Withycombe Raleigh Liberal Democrats Portfolio Holder Economy
Councillor Paul Hayward
Axminster Independent Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder Finance (Assets)
Councillor John Heath
Beer and Branscombe Independent
Councillor Nick Hookway
Exmouth Littleham Liberal Democrats Portfolio Holder Culture, Leisure, Sport and Tourism
Councillor Sarah Jackson
Axminster Independent Portfolio Holder Communications and Democracy
Councillor Richard Jefferies
Tale Vale Liberal Democrats
Councillor Geoff Jung
Woodbury and Lympstone Liberal Democrats Portfolio Holder Coast, Country and Environment
Councillor Jamie Kemp
Exe Valley Liberal Democrats
Councillor Dan Ledger
Seaton Independent Portfolio Holder Sustainable Homes & Communities
Councillor Yehudi Levine
Dunkeswell and Otterhead Liberal Democrats
Councillor John Loudoun
Sidmouth Rural Independent Portfolio Holder Council and Corporate Co-ordination
Councillor Duncan Mackinder
Yarty Liberal Democrats
Councillor Todd Olive
Whimple and Rockbeare Liberal Democrats
Councillor Marianne Rixson
Sidmouth Sidford Liberal Democrats Portfolio Holder Climate Action & Emergency Response
Councillor Eleanor Rylance
Broadclyst Liberal Democrats Chair of the Council
Councillor Simon Smith
Axminster Independent
Councillor Andrew Toye
Exmouth Halsdon Liberal Democrats
Councillor Susan Westerman
Trinity Liberal Democrats
Councillor Joe Whibley
Exmouth Town Independent
Councillor Eileen Wragg
Exmouth Town Liberal Democrats

Conservative (17)
Councillor Brian Bailey
Exmouth Littleham Conservative
Councillor Colin Brown
Dunkeswell and Otterhead Conservative
Councillor Jenny Brown
Honiton St. Michael’s Conservative
Councillor Alasdair Bruce
Feniton Conservative
Councillor Fred Caygill
Exmouth Brixington Conservative
Councillor Maddy Chapman
Exmouth Brixington Conservative
Councillor Iain Chubb
Newbridges Conservative
Councillor Mike Goodman
Sidmouth Sidford Conservative
Councillor Derek Haggerty
Seaton Conservative
Councillor Marcus Hartnell
Seaton Conservative
Councillor Stuart Hughes
Sidmouth Sidford Conservative
Councillor Ben Ingham
Woodbury and Lympstone Conservative
Councillor Cherry Nicholas
Exmouth Brixington Conservative
Councillor John O’Leary
Honiton St. Paul’s Conservative
Councillor Helen Parr
Coly Valley Conservative
Councillor Sophie Richards
Sidmouth Town Conservative
Councillor Henry Riddell
Budleigh and Raleigh Conservative

Independent Group (9)
Councillor Jess Bailey
West Hill and Aylesbeare Independent
Councillor Ian Barlow
Sidmouth Town Independent
Councillor Kevin Blakey
Cranbrook Independent
Councillor Kim Bloxham
Cranbrook Independent
Councillor Sam Hawkins
Cranbrook Independent Vice Chair of the Council
Councillor Mike Howe
Clyst Valley Independent
Councillor Vicky Johns
Ottery St Mary Independent
Councillor Melanie Martin
Budleigh and Raleigh Independent
Councillor Tony McCollum
Honiton St. Paul’s Independent

Labour (3)
Councillor Violet Bonetta
Honiton St. Michael’s Labour
Councillor Bethany Collins
Ottery St Mary Labour
Councillor Daniel Wilson
Exmouth Halsdon Labour

Independent Councillor Group (2)
Councillor Roy Collins
Honiton St. Michael’s Liberal Party
Councillor Peter Faithfull
Ottery St Mary Independent

A correspondent writes on Blue Flags

From a correspondent:

Yesterday Owl reported that “The owner of Exmouth Watersports company has written to South West Water claiming that sewage pollution in the sea is damaging his business” and then also reported that Exmouth has been a “Blue Flag” beach for five years.

I was not entirely sure what merited the award for a blue flag so was astounded to read that WATER QUALITY was a requirement.

“The Blue Flag is a certification given to beaches by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).  A beach that has been awarded the blue flag means that it meets the organisation’s standards of environmental management. These standards are for water quality, safety, and public environmental education. Local governments try to get the Blue Flag for their beaches and marinas, to show people that they have high environmental and quality standards.

The Blue Flag is a trademark owned by FEE which is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation. It is made up of 65 organisations in 60 member countries in Europe, Africa, Oceania, Asia and the Americas.”

Perhaps the 32 times that sewage discharged in Exmouth for 418 hours from the Sewage Treatment Works, plus the 39 episodes of 470 hours from Maer Pumping Station in 2022 is considered acceptable. See: Sewage Map | The Rivers Trust (sewage pollution was considerably down last year from previous years due to less rainfall)

I then looked at Sidmouth which has a four year history of an award, 48 discharge episodes totalling 608 hours in 2022.

Seaton, with only two previous awards, experienced 49 discharge episodes totalling 490 hours in 2022.

Beer, the newcomer, experienced a mere few hours of outfall.  Perhaps the only beach which may be said to have met the public’s expectations.

Budleigh Salterton doesn’t have a Blue Flag, why not?

BS experienced a mere 31 episodes of 270 hours duration.

That beats Sidmouth, Seaton and Exmouth. 

Did the FEE know about the Honiton Waste Water Treatment works discharging for 1,966 hours over 115 episodes into the River Otter eventually flowing onto the beach, and then thought twice? (Not to mention Gittisham, another 606 hours and all outfalls south).