Cathy Gardner legal challenge: False start!

Because of its importance, and the volume of material to consider, the case is being rescheduled to give it more time in court. 

This must be immensely frustrating to both Cathy Gardner and Fay Harris, and potentially more costly. – Owl

From the case page of crowd justice

Having launched my case against the Government and the NHS  on 12 June 2020 for the many failures to protect care home residents (including my father), the case eventually came before the Court for trial on Tuesday this week (19/10). It has been a long and hard road to get to this point. The Government have resisted us at every turn and sought to conceal key documents that explained what advice they had been given and why they decided what they did.

On Tuesday the Court told us that they considered there was much more information that they had to consider than time allowed. Although the previous judge ruled that the case could be heard in 4 days, the judges hearing the case this week decided that, because of the importance of the case and the volume of material, a longer hearing would be needed. This is likely to be early next year. Whilst the delay is frustrating, a longer trial will give us more opportunity to expose the detail of the Government’s failings to the Court. A longer hearing will ultimately help justice to be done.

I am so grateful to everyone who has given to the case. Without you I would have had to have given up long ago. The decision of the Court to adjourn the Trial means your help is needed again and more than ever. If you are able to give again please do so, and please also share this page with friends and colleagues. Thankyou for your support and generosity. 

Motion opposing end of Universal Credit £20 uplift passes in district council

Coalition politics in action, what a welcome change from the “Old Guard” – Owl

Joe Ives, Local Democracy Reporter

The government needs to reverse its decision to end the £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift according to a cross-party motion passed by East Devon District Council (EDDC) this week.

The boost to payments, which began in March last year to help with the financial pressures of the pandemic, ended on October 6. The government’s decision has proved divisive and has come under criticism from across the political spectrum, including from many Conservative MPs. Tory councillors on Exeter City Council voted with other parties this week in support of a motion to ask the government to review the decision.

However, some people have defended the switch to pre-pandemic rates, saying the country can’t afford to continue with the uplift. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a think tank, making the uplift permanent would cost taxpayers around £6 billion a year.

Latest figures show more than 2,300 households are on Universal Credit across East Devon. Earlier this year an analysis by the Trade Union Congress, a federation of trade unions, predicted the south west would have the highest proportion of low-income workers affected by a £20-a-week cut.

Following a vote at a full council meeting this week, East Devon councillors agreed to write to the prime minister and the chancellor asking them to re-introduce the £20 payment “as a matter of urgency to the thousands of individuals, families and their children in East Devon that will be adversely affected by this cut in financial support to the most vulnerable.”

Councillor Paul Millar (Labour, Exmouth Halsdon), who introduced the motion, told the council: “With rising energy prices somewhat out of the government’s control, this is the one lever government can pull to help the situation.

“This particularly affects residents in our area due to the gulf between wages and rents and house prices in our district.

“Some cynics may argue this letter will achieve absolutely nothing and that may well be the case but I think we have a duty to our residents to say we are doing all we can to try to help this situation and let them know that we are against this ill-timed cut.”

Councillor Megan Armstrong (Independent, Exmouth Halsdon), who chairs the the council’s poverty working panel, said: “If every council in the country writes to the chancellor and prime minister in the same vein we might actually achieve something.”

Councillor Jack Rowland (Independent East Devon Alliance, Seaton), portfolio holder for finance, also supported the motion and called the decrease in Universal Credit “pernicious.” He said the impacts of the cut will be worsened by escalating energy costs, the recent end of the furlough scheme, rising inflation and the increase in national insurance from April next year.

Council Steve Gazzard (Liberal Democrats, Exmouth Withycombe Raleigh) said: “I’m really pleased to be able to give my support to this motion. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that there is a crisis looming at this present time.”

He said more and more people have come to him seeking the help of food banks since the end of the uplift and added: “We all know people in our own villages and towns that are absolutely struggling.” Cllr Gazzard said he worried struggling families will “be put through hell” trying to balance bills over the Christmas period.

In passing the motion, the council also agreed to promote employment programmes and to request its cabinet to look at ways of putting additional resources into the council’s anti-poverty strategy.

However, Councillor Colin Brown (Conservative, Dunkeswell and Otterhead), leader of the Conservative group at EDDC, criticised the move and pointed to the government’s recent launch of the Household Support Fund, a £500 million kitty for councils in England to help people meet daily needs such as food, clothing, and utilities. Devon County Council, of which EDDC is a district, received £5 million pounds from the fund at the start of October.

Cllr Brown said: “In view of the fact that this household support fund has now been made available, I cannot agree to writing to the government asking for temporary measures to be extended as this new support fund will be available on a basis of those who are actually in need.”

The motion passed despite most of the council’s Conservative Group abstaining from the vote.

In a statement, the Labour group at EDDC, consisting of councillor Jake Bonetta (Honiton St Michael’s) and Cllr Paul Millar, said the Conservative Group’s failure to support the motion was “cowardly” and “heartless”, adding: “People living in East Devon, so many of whom work already, are facing an unimaginable winter ahead – facing a stark choice between heating, electricity, and food.”

In a separate statement, Cllr Bonetta praised Conservative councillor Mike Allen (Honiton St Michael’s) for defying his party to vote in support of the motion.

Critics around the country argue the £20 reduction Universal Credit has increased pressure on the 5.8 million people on the benefit in the UK. Last month, homelessness charity Crisis warned the move could put 100,000 private renters at risk of homelessness.

Speaking in September, transport secretary Grant Schapps defended the cut to Universal Credit, saying: “I think most people recognise that if it’s brought in for the pandemic, it’s going to end as we move back to people going back to work and more normal times.”

In a supporting document for the motion passed by EDDC, Cllr Millar argued that savings from the end of the uplift will be lost by councils spending more to provide emergency temporary accommodation and that it would put further strain on the NHS as it deals with the physical and mental impacts of homelessness.

It has been revealed recently that EDDC spent just over £400,000 on temporary accommodation for people in the 2020-21 financial year. The rise, attributed in large part to the impact of the pandemic, is a 140 per cent increase on the 2018-19 financial year when £286,000 was spent.

PM used £2.6m Downing Street briefing room ‘to watch new James Bond film’

Boris Johnson used the £2.6m Downing Street briefing room for a private screening of the new James Bond film, No 10 has admitted. 

The government has been under fire for spending millions on fitting out the room only to scrap plans for the White House-style press conferences that were to be held in it.

Instead, the room is used for twice-daily briefings with political journalists, but has been unavailable for the last two days for unspecified “events”.

At first Mr Johnson’s spokesperson would not confirm that No Time to Die was screened there last night for the prime minister and his staff, as The Times reported, saying he did not know the nature of the event that took place.

Later, a No 10 spokesperson said: “Yesterday, the prime minister met with Pinewood Studios, Universal Pictures, Eon Productions and the BFI to congratulate them on the success of the latest James Bond instalment – a testament to the talent of British creative industry.

“An evening film screening took place for staff, who made voluntary donations, with all proceeds going to Sarcoma UK [a cancer charity].” Installation costs were said to have been paid by the companies involved.

The plan for televised press conferences was scrapped six months ago, after No 10 got cold feet over the prospect of the prime minister’s spokesperson facing an intensive grilling from reporters.

Labour accused Mr Johnson of a “vanity project” in creating the room, but the government argued it needed a “modern press facility”, and it did stage a media briefing by health secretary Sajid Javid this week.

The cost of the refit of No 9 Downing Street was revealed to be £2,607,767.67, largely excluding VAT, after a Freedom of Information request.

The bill included £1,848,695 for the “main works”, £198,024 on “long lead items”, and £33,395 on broadband equipment.

Allegra Stratton was due to front the televised briefings, but was instead handed the job of government spokesperson for the Cop26 climate summit.

While the briefing room was being used for “events”, the prime minister’s spokesperson has held briefings, without cameras, in No 10 instead.

The culture secretary during the fitting out of the new facility, Oliver Dowden, insisted that the venue was “not a waste of money” because the room previously used for press conferences was too small and “not fit for purpose”.

The “modern press facility” was similar to those used by other leaders around the world and would be available for future governments, not just the current one, he said.

Devon pupils losing out on £223

“Levelling up”. This is another example of all talk and no action. The reward for voting Tory! – Owl 

Anita Merritt 

Every pupil in Devon school is now getting £223 less in government funding than the national average, prompting a direct plea to the prime minister for help.

For many years, Devon councils and teachers have been lobbying the government for more cash under its fairer funding campaign.

In October 2019, it was announced the South West would receive a five per cent increase in per pupil funding in the next financial year.

However, new figures show every pupil in a Devon school currently receives £5,145 per pupil, compared to the England average of £5,368.

F40, the campaign group for the 40 worst-funded education authorities in the country, is calling for major new investment in schools and young people as the government prepares to unveil its spending plans for the future.

James McInnes, who chairs f40 and is the deputy leader of Devon County Council, has written to the new education secretary Nadhim Sahawi urging him to fight for greater investment in schools in the Comprehensive Spending Review.

He has also written to the Prime Minister calling on him and Mr Sahawi to resolve long-standing issues over funding for the nation’s most vulnerable children with special educational needs.

Mr McInnes said: “We welcome the additional funding already provided. However, more needs to be done to enable schools to provide extra support and learning to help pupils recover academically and emotionally from the pandemic which has placed greater stress on already tight budgets.

“For a number of years, education funding has not kept pace with inflation, while the demands on schools and teachers have grown rapidly. In real terms, school funding is at 2010 levels. Education requires a substantial uplift to ensure schools are able to provide quality teaching for all.

“While the government is attempting to level up funding, the process is very slow and schools in some areas continue to receive far less funding than schools in other areas as many of the historic inequalities continue to be locked in.

“Many large rural communities and ‘shire’ local authorities still receive inequitably less funding, despite having sizeable pockets of deprivation. The basic entitlement should be enough to run a school, before extra money is added on for deprivation and higher area living costs.

“Early Years has become a major concern throughout the pandemic, with the future of many providers hanging in the balance. Funding for free entitlement has received some support but many providers have lost private parental income. The pandemic has also impacted on the readiness of young children to learn. Without additional funding, the effects will be felt for many years to come.”

Mr McInnes also highlights the severe pressure which many councils are under in spending on children with special educational needs.

He said: “This continues to be a major concern. The number of children with special educational needs, and their complexity of need, continues to grow, with demand far outstripping budgets.

“While we appreciate the increase in SEND funding during the last two or three years, significant additional funding is required for both mainstream and special schools. We urge the government to publish the long-overdue SEND review and to overhaul the SEND system to ensure it is fit for purpose.”

Andrew Leadbetter, who took over as Devon County Council’s Cabinet member for children’s services and schools earlier this year, is also a member of f40.

He said: “Over the coming days, leading up to the Budget and the Comprehensive Spending Review, we will hear from all the spending departments about how they need more money.

“The chancellor will, of course, be seeking to recoup some of the billions of pounds he has spent on the pandemic but it is vital that we invest in our children and their education because the future of our country depends on them achieving their potential.

”I am completely behind this appeal to the prime minister and the education secretary to make spending on our children and their education a top priority.”

The climate crisis is global, but councils can offer local solutions 

“With the right national government support and planning, councils can use their economic power as major employers as well as owners of infrastructure, property and land, and procurers of goods and services, to be the agents of genuinely just transitions.”

But will they get that funding? – Owl

Stephen Smellie 

At Cop26 this year, we’ll hear about diplomats and heads of state negotiating over targets, but when a river bank bursts or a storm hits, it’s our local councils that are left to clear up the mess. When Storm Frank lashed the north-east of Scotland over the new year of 2016, it was council binmen, engineers, housing officers, social workers and home carers who worked day and night mobilising volunteers to evacuate homes and find temporary accommodation for some 300 households.

In the weeks and months afterwards, Aberdeenshire council had to deal with a mile stretch of destroyed road, three washed-away footbridges, and damage to several bridges. This is on top of the clean-up operation and returning families to their homes. Despite financial assistance from the Scottish government, the council was left with a bill of around £15m. This is the less glamorous, but very real work, that goes into responding to climate change.

As we look to the future, the task facing council workers like me is to think how we make our homes and neighbourhoods more sustainable and more resilient, and maybe even fairer along the way.

Starting with our homes, badly insulated housing is responsible for 14% of the UK’s total emissions. It’s a real challenge to retrofit houses and other buildings so that energy is not leaking through roofs and walls. Leaving this to individual homeowners and landlords will result in a disparity between rich people, who can afford cavity wall and roof insulation, and poor people, who will freeze in poorly insulated homes when left unable to meet rising heating bills.

Councils are ideally placed to coordinate social housing resources, while in turn benefiting other households. Local authorities who have retained in-house maintenance teams could retrofit their own buildings – but also, through the enormous efficiencies of scale that a cross-sector project would bring, reduce the cost of making homes fuel-efficient and warm for all other property owners. If you’re going to put scaffolding up to retrofit one house, it’s cheaper to do the house next door at the same time. At the same time, councils would be reskilling their own workforce, while creating industry-standard apprenticeship schemes. These would train young people in the skills needed to succeed in the green economy.

At the community level, councils themselves are enormous users of energy, from lighting the streets to heating buildings and running fleets of vehicles, so they face a challenge in reducing their own reliance on fossil fuels. However, councils can be a key agent in addressing this.

Local councils could become generators of renewable energy, using council land and buildings to generate wind and solar power for their own and the wider community’s use. This could address issues of fuel poverty within their areas, at a time when the share of household budgets being spent on heating is on the rise. There are costs involved in setting up such schemes, but the benefits would be produced quickly.

Such municipal energy projects could act as a spur to public sector partners, linking community and commercial energy projects into councils’ schemes through local renewable energy grids, avoiding the high cost of relaying energy long distance through the National Grid. With every roof fitted with solar panels, and wind turbines installed on appropriate council land, communities come closer to achieving energy self-sufficiency – an aim attainable within a couple of decades.

The benefit could be amplified if these schemes are connected to procurement policies that support nearby businesses. For example, the Community Wealth Building strategy, launched last year by North Ayrshire council, ensures that much more council spending is retained in the local area.

Of course, to initiate these schemes, councils require government investment. But many of these schemes will repay that investment over a period of 10 to 15 years, through savings on energy bills, the benefits of reducing fuel poverty and an improved local economy. Councils will need to identify the skills required to make this transition, while also recognising that some workers need to be retrained. There will be few jobs for diesel truck mechanics when council fleets switch to electrical or green hydrogen vehicles. As future social housing is built with electrical or pump storage heating, the gas fitters and maintenance teams will need to learn new skills. By working with their employees and trade unions, councils can ensure that these transitions are fair to the current workforce, tenants, service users and council taxpayers.

With the right national government support and planning, councils can use their economic power as major employers as well as owners of infrastructure, property and land, and procurers of goods and services, to be the agents of genuinely just transitions.

Government must get ready for plan B now, Sage advisers warn

Too little, too late. Anyone get that déjà vu feeling? – Owl

Senior scientific advisers to the government have told ministers to start preparing for the “rapid deployment” of basic Covid measures amid rising infections and hospitalisation rates, as local councils and authorities urged Downing Street to “act now, rather than later”.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said in a meeting last week that the reintroduction of mask-wearing, working from home guidance and vaccine certification – key components of the government’s ‘plan B’ – would “reduce the need for more stringent, disruptive, and longer-lasting measures” further down the road.

In minutes published on Friday, Sage said that advice to work from home was “likely to have the greatest individual impact” in cutting infections, which are now increasing in the majority of age groups and regions across the UK, according to official data.

More than a million people were infected with Covid-19 last week, the Office for National Statistics said, with hospitalisations also on the rise in the elderly, as fears grow that vaccine immunity levels are starting to wane among the most vulnerable.

Local directors of public health alongside politicians across England have told The Independent that the government should act immediately in introducing its plan B in order to prevent the NHS from being further overwhelmed.

“I definitely think we should act now, rather than later,” said Alice Wiseman, the director of public health for Gateshead Council. “We need to take action now as the NHS is on its knees.

“The measures are mild and not disruptive. They may not fully solve the issue, but will help to take the heat out of the fire. We could be forced to introduce stricter measures if we leave it too late.”

The intervention from Sage and local leaders adds to the pressure on the government to impose what have been described as “light-touch” measures – a move that ministers are continuing to resist.

“We are sticking with our plan,” prime minister Boris Johnson said earlier this week, while health secretary Sajid Javid insisted that the NHS was currently operating at a “sustainable” level, sparking dismay among health chiefs.

Modelling from Sage found that a “rapid increase in hospital admissions” could happen if the behaviour of the public swiftly returned to normal and the waning of the vaccines’ effectiveness was proved to be significant.

Contact patterns between children have largely returned to pre-Covid levels, though adults are still meeting and interacting less frequently with one another.

However, members of the group predicted that it was looking “increasingly unlikely” that Covid admissions for this winter would rise above the peak seen last January.

One senior member of Sage told The Independent that the recent lab testing fiasco, which saw 43,000 people wrongly told their tests were negative, had disrupted elements of the group’s modelling, meaning that it was “more unsure about the direction of the epidemic”.

In a meeting held on 14 October, Sage concluded that “reducing prevalence from a high level requires greater intervention than reducing from a lower level”. Scientists from the group have communicated to ministers that a relatively light approach, implemented early, will help to make a difference.

Assessing the impact of the plan B mitigations, members said there was “some evidence” that vaccine certification may have a positive impact on vaccine uptake, particularly in younger age groups. The reintroduction of face masks in public spaces is also expected to reduce transmission.

However, a return to working from home is likely to play the biggest role in limiting the current surge in cases, Sage said.

These measures should be reintroduced “in combination”, the group concluded, and advised ministers that “policy work on the potential reintroduction of measures should be undertaken now so that it can be ready for rapid deployment”.

It continued: “Modelling suggests that the stringency of measures required to control transmission of a growing epidemic is increased by a faster doubling time. In the event of increasing case rates, earlier intervention would reduce the need for more stringent, disruptive, and longer-lasting measures.”

The sharp increase in cases that has recently been recorded among school children is now beginning to drift into parental age groups and the elderly, data suggests.

This has coincided with a drop in immunity levels among those individuals who were vaccinated at the beginning of the year, typically the elderly and clinically vulnerable, putting them at greater risk of serious illness.

Research from Public Health England shows that protection against infection following a second AstraZeneca dose falls from 67 per cent to 47 per cent after 20 weeks. Protection against severe disease and hospitalisation falls from 95 per cent to 77 per cent over the same period.

Dominic Harrison, the director of public health for Blackburn with Darwen Council, said the “indicators that are coming out at a national level tell us that we should be acting now”.

“If we leave it too late, we’ll have such high case rates and admission that we might need to take more drastic action,” he told The Independent. “Bring in light-touch measures that still maintain the freedoms we currently have, so mask-wearing, Covid passes and renewed guidance to work from home.”

Backing calls to implement plan B, Evelyn Akoto, Covid-19 lead for Southwark Council, told The Independent: “Once again the government is failing to listen to the doctors and scientists and making the same old mistakes of inaction and complacency.”

On Wednesday, the British Medical Association accused the government of being “wilfully negligent” for not reintroducing rules including mandatory face masks. The NHS Confederation also warned that the failure to implement the plan B measures would hinder efforts to tackle the backlog of 5 million patients waiting for treatment.

Separately, it was reported that the former head of the UK’s Covid vaccine programme, Emily Lawson, had returned to the position, with the government facing calls to accelerate the administration of booster jabs. At the current rollout rate, the top nine priority groups, equating to some 30 million people, won’t have received a third dose until late January.

Private water companies – we need to Take Back Control

Comments on the continued dumping of sewage into rivers yesterday prompted Owl to find this July press article. It is a discussion about the financing of water companies.

England’s water system: the last of the privatised monopolies – for now

Phillip Inman 

Selling Britain’s state-owned water authorities seemed like a good idea to Conservative ministers in the 1980s, when they looked at the bill for upgrading a labyrinth of Victorian sewers and a leaky network of mains water pipes.

Why not let the private sector inject some energy and much-needed cash into a project that a tired public sector management was ill-equipped to handle, they argued.

But since 1989, when 10 regional water authorities were sold, there has been claim and counter claim about the benefits that can be credited to the new private sector owners.

But the industry has defended its record – most recently when the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn threatened to nationalise it in 2017. The industry regulator, Ofwat, claimed £130bn of investment had been made since privatisation and bills were £120, or 30% lower than they would otherwise have been.

Meanwhile, the firms say privately that climate change is responsible for the heavy downpours that cause sewage overflows so is not something they can control or be blamed for.

Critics point out that Margaret Thatcher’s government wiped out the industry’s debts prior to privatisation and since 1989 the industry has loaded it back up again with £48bn at a cost in annual interest of £1.3bn.

Research by David Hall and Karol Yearwood of Greenwich University found that the debt was not used to fix leaky pipes or treatment works but went straight into shareholders’ pockets. Adding up the shareholder dividends paid since 1989, they reached a total of £57bn.

In that time, customers’ water bills have increased by 40% above the rate of inflation. It is the water users who have paid for upgrades to the network, such as they are, while shareholders walk off with cash paid for by higher debt.

This is a strictly English problem. Welsh water became a not-for-profit organisation in 2001 and Scottish Water went into public ownership.

England’s water system hosts the last of the privatised monopolies. You can shop around for gas and electricity, telephone and broadband. Not water.

Environmental groups argue that climate change means water companies must become part of a coordinated effort to protect water supplies and that this cannot be done while they remain private.

At the moment, they have the resources to outwit the poorly resourced regulators in Ofwat and the Environment Agency. Local councils, which also play a role in protecting watercourses, have also seen their budgets cut and experienced staff losses, leaving them without the clout to confront private sector operators.

Paris and Barcelona are among the world’s major cities to take water under direct control and integrate policies that promote its better use by households, businesses and landowners. It must be only a matter of time before England follows suit.

Storm Aurore, and the Ooops moment for LORP

According to reports, parts of East Devon had some of the heaviest rainfall from storm Aurore with half a month’s rain in just 10 hours.

As reported on Thursday this inundated some construction plant involved in the Lower Otter Restoration Project.

A correspondent has since sent Owl some dramatic photos, accompanied by notes.


This shows the scene about a month ago as new water course trenches were dug in the water meadows north of South Farm road.

With what now seems remarkable prescience, lifebuoys were placed along the trenches. One of these can clearly be seen in the centre.

With most of the hedgerows removed, the inundation gives us a glimpse of what the restored estuary will look like on a very high tide. Though after completion of the project fluvial flooding such as this should drain very quickly. This photo was taken 36+ hours after the storm.

This, again, is a photo taken a few weeks ago from the embankments just north of White Bridge looking towards South Farm road and the site of the old tip. Very much work in progress.

A similar view taken on Friday.

Behind the trucks are more inundated plant and equipment.

This is the view of South Farm road from White Bridge with a lot of floating detritus. The red and white objects are the barriers once used to fence off the road from the working areas.

This is the scene from the Lime Kiln car park looking down on the cricket pavilion. The water enclosed by the embankments reached such a depth that it overtopped them in many places to flow into the Otter. By Friday the level was only about 18 ins or so lower.

Day of Judgement

No sooner had Simon Jupp and Neil Parish voted to allow water companies to continue discharging sewage then they did just that!

Do not swim at these 14 Devon beaches, including Exmouth and Budleigh

Ami Wyllie

Sewage has been emptied into the water at over a dozen popular swimming spots along the Devon coastline.

Environmental charity, Surfers’ Against Sewage, have issued ‘do not swim’ warnings at all 14 beaches affected.

Most of the incidents are due to deliberate discharges after sewers overflowed in Wednesday night’s heavy rain that caused widespread flooding across the county….

Just HOW badly has the Wolverhampton Covid lab testing blunder affected Britain’s outbreak?

A testing blunder at a disgraced Covid laboratory in the South West of England led to thousands of avoidable infections and may trigger a fresh wave in the region, experts warned today. 

Connor Boyd, John Ely Senior 

Up to 43,000 infected people were incorrectly told their PCR results were negative due to ‘technical issues’ at a private facility run by Immensa Health Clinic in Wolverhampton, where workers were filmed playing football and wrestling on shift. 

The affected patients, mostly concentrated in the South West, were given the false negatives between September 8 and October 12, allowing the virus to continue spreading unrestricted within the region.

According to data from the Government’s Covid dashboard, case rates in the South West have doubled in recent days after the error was spotted to reach a record-high. Five of the 10 worst-hit areas in England are now in the region. 

Dr Rupert Beale, an eminent virologist at the Francis Crick Institute in London, described the scandal as the ‘worst f***-up this year by some distance’.

Professor Paul Hunter, an epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline he believed the faulty test results were ‘having an impact’ on case rates and estimated the error led to thousands of avoidable infections. 

A total of 32,815 new cases of coronavirus were recorded in the South West in the seven days to October 15 — the equivalent of 579.9 per 100,000 people. This is up from 16,910 cases, or 298.8 in the previous seven days.

Bath and North East Somerset is now the Covid capital of England, with cases almost tripling in that time to reach levels twice as high as seen during the darkest spell of the second wave in January. It’s recording 877.5 infections per 100,000 people now, compared to 260.7 the week prior……

More details online

At this stage in the pandemic, a positive lateral flow test, followed by a negative PCR, still means a reasonable chance of Covid-19 – Analysis by David Spiegelhalter

Will half-term act as an infection “circuit breaker” within the population of school children, or will we get “seeding” into the wider community if many are brought down to second homes in Devon and Cornwall? – Owl