“Senior role in East Devon’s ruling cabinet has been axed”

So, the “transformation” role in Ben Ingham’s TiggerTory cabinet has been abolished by said leader.

How convenient – no more pesky questions about the Leader’s pre-election promise to move from a Cabinet system to a committee system, more representative of the diverse groups that now exist.

Councillor Millar, understandably, believed “transformation” meant changes to the way officers AND councillors would work. Instead it seems Leader Ingham sees “transformation” as applying to more commercialisation of council services and more revenue-boosting asset-sweating or selling. In other words, a continuation of the previous Tory policies – local government as business rather than public service.

More BOGOF (buy one, get one free) than transformation!

“… No reason for the decision of the leader of the council to not replace the portfolio holder position is stated in the papers ahead of the meeting. …

Instead, the cabinet collectively will take on responsibility for delivery of the Council Plan and the associated strategies of Fit for Purpose, Careful Choices and Commercialisation of Services.

The report says that Cllr Jess Bailey, Corporate Services Portfolio holder, will take on responsibility for Digital by Design and Systems Thinking, while Cllr Geoff Pook, Asset Management Portfolio holder, will now be responsible for Commercialisation of Assets rather than Revenue Generation.

… Next Wednesday’s meeting will also see changes made to committee membership as a result of the political balance of the council changes following Cllr Millar’s resignation from the Independent Group.

The council now consists of 19 members in the Independent Group, 19 Conservatives, 11 from the East Devon Alliance, eight Liberal Democrats, two Green Party members, and one Independent, Cllr Millar.

Sitting as an Independent, he is entitled to two seats across all the committees, and the full council is recommended to approve a proposal that would see the ruling Independent Group lose a seat on both the Overview Committee and the Licensing and Enforcement Committee.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/senior-role-east-devons-ruling-3442021

“Devolution white paper announcement accompanied by hint on unitary push”

So, Blackdown House could be a super-white elephant … worth less than Knowle, even at the Knowle’s knock-down price!

“Local areas could get more powers and cash from central government – but face government pressure to adopt unitary models, following this week’s Conservative Party conference.

Speaking this week at the conference in Manchester, chancellor Sajid Javid announced that the government was rebooting its devolution drive, promising a new white paper on the issue.

He said the move would give “more local areas more local powers to drive investments in the infrastructure and services they know they need”.

The English devolution white paper will set out how further powers and funding would be devolved across England, the Treasury said in a statement.

Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Henri Murison, welcomed the announcement, “particularly if it extends to taking more control of existing local spending from Whitehall, as well as retaining taxes raised locally and allowing areas to capture the additional revenues their investments generate.”

He said that passing investment directly to mayors and combined authorities was the best way of funding local transport services. …”

Devolution white paper announcement accompanied by hint on unitary push

Car park charges and whelk stalls – a councillor comments

From the blog of East Devon Alliance Sidmouth Rural Councillor John Loudoun, who comments:

  • “I attended last evening’s District Council Cabinet meeting to join 23 other Councillors in voicing our opposition to the proposed increases in parching fees at some car parks and changes to the number of publicly available spaces at others.
  • In particular I was concerned about the proposals as they will detrimentally affect the car parks in Sidbury and Temple Street, as well as the Ham East, Ham West, Roxburgh and Mill Street car parks.
  • The meeting ended up in a farce as the Cabinet carried out a Dutch auction when it came to trying to agree by how much it would increase the parking fees. It was no way to run a whelk stall!”

“Last evening the District Council’s Cabinet met to consider a much-trailed report on changes to car parking arrangements and fees across East Devon. Those of us who are not Cabinet members, about 48 of us, are able to attend and make comments on any of the issues under consideration.

In total 24 non-Cabinet District Councillors spoke on this issue. Because there were so many of us wanting to speak, we were restricted to only two minutes to say what we wanted to.

Before any of us spoke we heard from two members of the public, one of who was James McClean who owns Sidmouth Pets in Temple street who made an impassioned set of arguments as to why the Temple Street car park should not be changed from a free car park to a pay and display one. James is collecting signatures, so please pop in and sign his petition.

I spoke out against the proposal to increase the price of parking in Sidmouth’s Ham East, Ham West, Roxburgh and Mill Street car parks. The proposal is to encourage drivers to use the Manor Road car park instead as it will remain at the current fee.

Not only might an increase, of, as proposed 50% mean that less people use our car parks, but this could lead to less people shopping in Sidmouth. Sidmouth and its traders don’t need this as the shops across Sidmouth and other local high streets are struggling.

It could also mean that drivers might decide to use the private car park opposite the Bedford Hotel as its closer to the town centre than the Manor Road car park is.

I also spoke against the proposal to turn Sidbury’s small free car park to one where only permit holders or residents who have paid for a reserved space can park there. This is a ridiculous proposal! The car park is well used every day and also during many evenings.

It is used to visit our two shops, our Church our Village Hall, our Parish Rooms and Sidbury Primary School. Without our free car park visitors to all of these venues would be forced to clog up Ridgeway, park on the A375 making access through the village even more difficult, or park in other parts of the village where residents will be hugely inconvenienced.

Sidbury’s car park is also used by many who live in the centre of the village and who either don’t have either off road parking spaces or have space outside or nearer to their homes.

After all of the 24 non-Cabinet members had spoken the Cabinet then debated the proposals. Oh dear! This turned into a complete farce as different Cabinet members proposed various amendments to the proposals and the Leader, Ben Ingham, who was chairing the meeting, totally failed to keep control of the discussions and in so doing added to what was already a confusing Cabinet debate.

After what seemed to be forever, the Cabinet, although not by a unanimous vote supported a set of slightly amended proposals keeping the intent to increase parking fees, although by not quite as much, in all the various car parks identified. The Cabinet settled on a 20% increase in these car parks after the Leader had in effect carried out a Dutch auction with numbers appearing to be plucked out of the air.

This was no way to make decisions which include increasing parking fees. Instead of pulling the report and reviewing it in light of the total opposition of the 24 Councillors who spoke against the proposals we ended up with a set of Cabinet decisions taken through a bidding process.

This matter will not end here. The Cabinet Minutes which will record last evening’s decisions on car parking will be presented to Full Council on 23 October. Councillor’s will have the opportunity to challenge the Minute and even vote against it, thus rescinding the decisions made by Cabinet.

Members of the public too can attend the Full Council and put across their points of view on this and any other matter.

Alternatively, a Motion could come from a Councillor which calls for the car parking proposals to be scrapped. This is set to run for a while longer!

If you are interested in reading the full proposals that were discussed last evening at Cabinet follow this link –

https://democracy.eastdevon.gov.uk/documents/s6966/Car%20Parking%20Tariff%20Review%20-%20Careful%20Choices.pdf

Want to park in Seaton when car park charges are hiked 50%? Buy a coach (free parking)!

Car parking charges are going up in ALL East Devon car parks by 50% and there will no longer be any free parking anywhere – except for coaches in Seaton it seems.

EDDC says it is to boost tourist numbers at the EDDC-owned but Devon Wildlife Trust-run Seaton Jurassic Centre. Can it do this? Favour free parking for council-owned facilities only?

“Seaton’s busiest car park is facing a 50 per cent price hike – while charges at another site could be scrapped to make it a ‘coach-friendly town’.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) is considering both moves among sweeping changes to its tariffs.

A year-long trial of free parking for coaches at Seaton Jurassic is being proposed in a bid to boost tourism.

The authority is also planning to increase the hourly rate at the Orchard car park from £1 to £1.50.

An evening and overnight levy would also be introduced as the facility. …

““During June and July, our coach parking revenue here was less than £100 so the risks associated with responding favourably to this request are minimal. …”

Bid to make Seaton a ‘coach-friendly town’ – as busy car park faces 50% price hike

“We can revive Britain’s high streets. But developers stand in the way”

“… there are just fewer and fewer drivers of footfall. You cannot get your hair cut online, so barbers – like nail bars, tattoo parlours and tanning salons – buck the downward trend. But we only need so many of these. Greggs and to-go food stores are buoyant; gyms and takeaways are the only sectors showing double-digit net growth, says PwC. But even that feels precarious. Delivery apps are driving growth in the takeaway sector but, if in-person purchases fall, these could quickly migrate to so-called dark kitchens on industrial estates.

“The reality is we may need fewer high streets in the future,” says a PwC spokesperson. “This opens opportunities to repurpose high street space, while [evolving] to meet consumer demand.”

But what will that look like? In 2011 Mary Portas, retail expert and Cameron-era government consultant, lobbied for an anti-clone-town drive to remodel high streets around independent shops. But bar a few niche fashion, gift or record shops, supermarkets marched relentlessly on. The butcher, baker and candlestick-maker now work in Tesco.

Consequently councils and property developers increasingly want to use food and drink to seed regeneration, many inspired by Altrincham’s Market House. In 2010, 30% of Altrincham’s shops lay empty. In 2014, the Market House opened – a communal dining hall of independent kitchens attached to a speciality market – and, since then, a remarkable ecology of bars, restaurants and coffee shops has evolved around it. Footfall has risen sharply, shop vacancy rates have fallen to 9.7% and brands such as JD Sports and Nando’s have moved into the town’s once-failing shopping area.

Market House’s operator, Nick Johnson, a former board member at property company Urban Splash, claims for the £635,000 it cost (£435,000 came from Trafford council, Johnson contributed the rest) : “It has probably delivered the greatest regeneration outputs of any project in 25 years.”

Little wonder councils love the idea: it allows them to cost-effectively reinvent one of the few central sites they still own, the market.

There are similar schemes in development countrywide. But it will be tough to repeat Altrincham’s success. First, it is a relatively affluent Greater Manchester town bordering Cheshire; and second, Johnson’s unorthodox curation of some exceptional foodie talent (like the artists on his friend Tony Wilson’s Factory records, none of the Altrincham traders have signed contracts) has provided an X factor that councils and developers will find hard to mimic.

There is also something about both the Portas and Altrincham models of handmade, artisan-roasted regeneration that, at their most crude, feel a bit myopically middle class. Mishandled, it can create silos of gentrification that alienate residents. Craft markets are great, but where does your nana buy a new washing line?

If town centres are to shrink and be redrawn, surely the ideal would be to intermingle viable businesses that attract different kinds of customers (in age and socioeconomic status), much as Trafford’s Stretford Mall is trying to blend hip new businesses into its established tenant mix. That fosters social cohesion but, commercially, there is strength in numbers, too – in making it easy to shop at Quality Save and Boots, Greggs and Stretford’s new Food Hall canteen, as mood or budget permits.

Not that this future should always have a commercial imperative. As town centres empty, there is a generational opportunity to reverse the gross monetisation of our public realm. This is a chance to make the principles of placemaking – creating inclusive public spaces where people can enjoy their leisure time without spending money – a reality. Nonprofit arts and cultural organisations forced out by high rents could, likewise, come back into empty shop units (long-term, not as a temporary gesture by developers), to re-engage local people with these spaces – and without it costing them £6 a pint.

But will any of this happen? The short answer is no. Councils do not have the money or the compulsory-purchase powers to radically intervene. Enlightened developers are rare. The patchwork of smaller private landlords who own peripheral space in town centres need to fill their properties, hence the fact that cool cottage industries tend to flourish there, in pockets. But the remote coalition of global property management, pension and investment funds that owns most shopping precincts or malls is, at best, distantly concerned with the local population.

Even if the retail property market crashes (in January, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors warned unusually of “potential for significant changes in value”), such owners will consolidate, sell property, bulldoze it and redevelop, and if shopping centres can limp on, they will. Under new permitted development rights, closed high street retail units can now easily be turned into residential property.

Where will those new residents congregate? High streets may yet be reborn as the genuine heart of their communities, protected from commercial pressure, but don’t bet on it – and certainly not online.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/14/britain-high-streets-developers-footfall?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

EDA DCC Councillor Martin Shaw on fire service cuts

From his blog:

Yesterday I attended the private ‘masterclass’ for county councillors with Chief officers Ian Howell and Pete Bond – arranged instead of the public Scrutiny hearing which the Fire Service had refused to attend.

  • I protested about the over-complicated design of the consultation and the way it has closed off opportunities for the public to express views about particular stations – they said it was signed off by the Consultation Institute (I shall be writing to them) but like some members of the Fire Authority, I don’t think it is credible.
  • I challenged the misleading assumptions on which the calculations about ‘savings’ of life are based – they failed to respond.
  • I asked them if they accepted the estimate, based on their own data, that 600,000 people would have increased risk due to slower response times – this would include everyone in the Seaton and Colyton area – again they failed to answer.
  • I asked why they said it wasn’t about ‘cuts’, when papers presented to the Fire Authority showed clearly that saving money is a key driver.

Although I got to raise some other points about Colyton, I was cut off by the chair and didn’t get a chance to come back in. I’ll be writing up a full objection (and a paper for when this comes to Scrutiny – as I have insisted – on 25th September) and will post this here.

“Three things struck me even more forcefully, from this meeting and re-reading the papers in preparation for it:

  1. As with the hospital cuts, the bottom line here is asset-stripping. The sites represent over 80 per cent of the financial gains from the 8 proposed closures.
  2. Even more than with the hospital beds cuts, the ‘alternative’ ( in this case more ‘prevention’) is pathetically weakly developed. They’re selling off the family silver and not giving us any serious detail on what they’re offering instead. In all likelihood, they’ll pocket the gains and the prevention activity will barely materialise.
  3. Finally, they are worried about the high level of negative TV and press coverage – keep up the campaign!

Fire Service chiefs fail to answer questions at Devon County Council private briefing – but they are worried about the level of opposition

Where do profits go when British businesses are sold to foreign companies?

To disguise the fact that we are selling the family silver, these transactions are called “inward investment”. But how is tax levied and where do profits go?

And how come a Turkish pension fund can afford to buy the only British steel-maker left in this country when ours can’t/won’t?

A British windfarm, owned by a Spanish company is sold to an Australian company:

Macquarie buys $1.77 billion stake in mammoth UK offshore wind farm

A British steel company owned by an Indian company is likely to be sold to a Turkish military pension fund:
https://news.sky.com/story/turkish-military-pension-fund-plots-900m-british-steel-revival-11783143

The British-owned Morgan Sports Car company was sold to an Italian company:
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/motoring/morgan-motor-company-sold-italian-firm-bought-a8810156.html

Boots was owned by the Swiss who sold it to the Americans:
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/motoring/morgan-motor-company-sold-italian-firm-bought-a8810156.html

Sainsbury’s and British land sell British superstores to USA:
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/motoring/morgan-motor-company-sold-italian-firm-bought-a8810156.html