“Elderly should do community work or lose pension, peer says”

Members of the House of Lords who are not paid a salary may claim a flat rate attendance allowance of £150 or £300 for each sitting day they attend the House. All they have to do is sign in and 5 minutes later they can leave and collect the money. Or, they could dine in their highly-subsidised restaurants first, of course.

“Older people should lose their pensions if they refuse to do community work to stop them being a “negative burden on society”, a former senior Whitehall official has suggested.

Lord Bichard, an ex-chief of the Benefits Agency, said the elderly should get rewards and fines to make sure they are taking a more active part in the world.
The crossbench peer, who also chaired an inquiry into the murder of two Soham school girls, suggested the same tough attitude towards benefit scroungers should be taken with older people.

“Older people who are not very old could be making a very useful contribution to civil society if they were given some incentive or recognition for doing so,” he told a committee of MPs.

“We’re prepared to say to people if you’re not looking for work, you don’t get a benefit. If you’re old and you’re not contributing in some way, maybe there should be some penalty attached to that. These debates never seem to take place.

“Are we using all the incentives at our disposal to encourage older people not just to be a negative burden on the state but actually be a positive part of society?”

His remarks were condemned by pensioner groups as “little more than National Service for the over-60s”.

Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said: “This is absolutely outrageous. Those who have paid their national insurance contributions for 30 or more years are entitled to receive their state pension and there should be no attempt to put further barriers in their way.
“We already have one of the lowest state pensions in Europe and one in five older people in Britain live below the poverty line.”

Dr Ros Altmann, director-general of Saga, said the idea was “very strange indeed”.

“Those who have retired have already made huge contributions to our society and are already the largest group of charity and community volunteers,” she said. “The Saga website has been buzzing all day with angry messages of incredulity.”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9630862/Elderly-should-do-community-work-or-lose-pension-peer-says.html

“COUNCIL TO BORROW £200 MILLION FOR PROPERTY SPECULATION – CHIEF EXECUTIVE BARS COUNCILLORS FROM TALKING ABOUT IT

East Devon District Council is controversially set to borrow £200 million to purchase property. The Council Cabinet agreed its Commercial Investment Framework, which would allow it to do so, on 6 February.

However many EDDC councillors have great concerns about this strategy. As a result, a Notice of Motion (NoM) was tabled by Councillor Roger Giles (Independent – Ottery Town) to be debated at the EDDC full council meeting on 27 February. The NoM was submitted in time, and was supported by more than the required number of other councillors.

However the EDDC Chief Executive Mark Williams struck the NoM off the agenda, on the grounds that the matter had already been discussed at the Cabinet meeting on 6 February.

“The EDDC Cabinet consists of just 10 councillors, and is Conservative controlled” said Roger Giles.

“The investment strategy would massively increase the council`s indebtedness, and is inherently risky. I therefore considered it essential that the whole council should be able to have a full-scale debate, and vote on the strategy.”

“However the Chief Executive has intervened to ban my NoM from being included on the agenda paper. By doing so I believe he has damaged our democratic processes – an action which is deeply regrettable.”

EDDC: “Relocation cost, No Deal Brexit, electric charging points and climate change motions rejected from being discussed”

Owl says: remember, the Chief executive, Mark Williams, is supposed to be a NEUTRAL civil servant and yet ALL of the refused motions are from ALL the minority groups ONLY……!

“Motions to support recycling, to call for a new property ombudsman to streamline complaints against shoddy builders, and for East Devon to get its fair share of the police precept rise will be discussed at next Wednesday’s full council meeting.

But motions over the full relocation costs of the move from Sidmouth to Honiton, to put electric charging points in all car parks, what to prioritise in a ‘No Deal’ Brexit and on climate change will not be discussed.

Various motions that councillors had put forward for debate at East Devon District Council’s full council meeting on Wednesday, February, were rejected by the council’s chief executive, as either the agenda already provides the opportunity for debate or the wording of the motions were inaccurate.

RELOCATION

Cllr Cathy Gardner had proposed a motion calling for the council to commit to publish an annual ‘summary of accounts’ for the relocation project until break-even is reached as relocation from Sidmouth to Honiton was proposed and predicated on the basis that the project would breakeven within 20 years and deliver cost-savings to the council tax payers of East Devon.

Cllr Gardner said: “Whilst some of this information is already available we feel it is vital for the ongoing costs to be published to show confidence that this project will breakeven. A majority of Councillors voted for relocation on the basis that money would be saved on energy bills. We are left unsure of whether breakeven will ever be proven.”

But an EDDC spokesman said: “The rejected motion contained inaccuracies and omissions that had the potential to mislead councillors and it was also premature. It is however proposed to bring a report to the next meeting of the Cabinet that will summarise the position reached with regard to the sale of the Knowle and the relocation. Cllr Gardner can raise the matters she is concerned about as part of the debate into that report.”

The motion would have called for the accounts to include

energy costs for the Knowle for the past 20 years (for comparison);

energy costs for both Blackdown House and Exmouth Town Hall per year;
the capital receipt for the sale of the Knowle;

a Red Book valuation of Blackdown House as of 1 March 2019;

the full costs for the relocation project since its inception, including: project management; removal, furnishing and equipment;

staff retraining and travel expenses;

new-build costs for Blackdown House; refurbishment costs for Exmouth Town Hall; and any other associated costs.”

CLIMATE CHANGE

Cllr Matthew Booth’s motion had called for the council to recognise that Climate Change and Global Warming are the key issues of our time, to acknowledge the strong concerns of young people in particular the recent walk out of school children and for the council to commit to introducing a policy of carbon measurement and reduction within all aspects of its own activity.

He said: “I personally do not care how we begin to do this, or who does it, but that we act now not wait for some planned strategy in the future.”

An EDDC spokesman said that the issue of climate change emergency is acknowledged to be of critical importance but that it would be appropriate to wait to see what Devon County Council decides. They added: “Currently, however, the County Council is considering its position and will shortly debate the matter. As we are in a two tier area it is appropriate for the District Council to assess the position taken by the upper tier authority and then respond accordingly. The public would expect us to work in partnership with the County Council rather than unilaterally.”

ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING

Cllr Eleanor Rylance had submitted a motion calling for the council to plan for and implement over the next five years a full rolling renovation programme of its car parks estates to fit and bring into operation electrical charging points at every space for domestic cars, and cycle parks with charging points for all types of cycle and that there should be mandatory EV charging points for the parking spaces of every new-built house in East Devon.

She added: “This council should approach the future of electrically-powered domestic vehicles with enthusiasm and proactivity, play a positive role in helping develop the use of electrical and should make this infrastructure, that will be a necessity within the next ten years, available in advance of full electrification of domestic vehicles in 2042.

But an EDDC spokesman said: ““The agenda already provides an opportunity for this issue to be raised so this motion was inappropriate.”

BREXIT

Cllr Rylance had also submitted a motion that said in the event of a No Deal Brexit or a version of Brexit that causes significant disruption, the council should approach this event as a situation of emergency in respect of its most vulnerable residents, dedicating any available human, material and financial resources required to palliate any negative outcomes for these groups, but the motion was rejected.

Talking about all the motions, a council spokesman said: “The council agenda for February contains the most important annual decision, namely the setting of the budget and the approval of the Council Tax for the forthcoming year. The process leading to this meeting has included several meetings where members were encouraged to raise all items of future relevance so these could be assessed as part of our service planning process and for assessment as part of the budget.

“It is unfortunate that some members did not take these opportunities and have chosen instead to submit their proposed motions.

“It is also noted that the wording of the motions was not checked in advance with relevant officers who would have been able to give timely advice as to their wording.”

But motions on the police precept, protection for new home owners and supporting recycling will be discussed.

POLICING

Cllr Tom Wright’s motion says: “In view of the £24 per band D property increase in policing precept, this council urges the Chief Constable to recognise the needs of East Devon when deciding how to allocate extra resources. East Devon residents are the biggest contributors to the police budget in Devon, other than Plymouth. It is only fair that we should get a fair share of the larger cake.”

NEW HOMES

Cllr Douglas Hull’s motion says: “The Government has stated that it would therefore be introducing as a priority a new property ombudsman to streamline complaints against shoddy builders. As a council that not only provides an excellent and highly regarded building control service but also has seen significant levels of new building in its district, we call on the government to fulfil its pledge to provide this much needed remedy for homeowners as a matter of the highest priority.”

RECYCLING

Cllr Peter Burrows’ motion says: “This Council continues to support the fine work done by the EDDC Recycling team in achieving the best results in Devon and to support and encourage local Organisations and voluntary groups who are involved in trying to reduce the amount of single use plastics used in their communities & beaches by making resources and expertise available, where appropriate. The order of priority should be – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. To actively help promote such activities through the Councils social media platforms.”

The full council meeting will be held at East Devon District Council’s new Honiton Heathpark HQ on February 27 at 6pm.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/relocation-cost-no-deal-brexit-2557565

“Local Government on life support”

“Almost all councils in England plan to increase council tax from April and three-quarters intend to raise it above 2.75%, research reveals. Most councils have also warned they will still be reducing a range of services, from adult social care to libraries and recycling, while raising charges and fees.

The Local Government Information Unit thinktank says eight years of austerity have cost English councils 40% of their central funding. Last week Somerset and Northamptonshire county councils reversed winter gritting cuts amid outcry when untreated roads caused car accidents, while unrepaired potholes and cuts to libraries have grated with residents.

“Years of chronic underfunding has left local government on life support,” said the chief executive of the thinktank, Dr Jonathan Carr-West. The local government ministry says councils are to receive an extra £1bn in the coming year.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/14/thursday-briefing-up-goes-council-tax-as-austerity-grinds-on

California abandons high-speed rail link as too expensive

So similar to HS2!
Los Angeles to San Francisco 383 miles for around £60 billion
London-Manchester 330 miles for around £56 billion

At least the Californians had the sense to abandon theirs!

“The big picture: The project was years behind schedule with an estimated completion date of 2033.

It had been hamstrung by political backlash in the state, and polling showed that a majority of Californians disapproved of the plan as costs ballooned.
Similar proposals for high-speed trains on the East Coast, including along the heavily trafficked Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C., and Boston, have also fallen apart due to opposition and massive cost estimates, per the New York Times. …”

https://www.axios.com/california-high-speed-rail-cancelled-gavin-newsom-abf6bc5e-a759-47ae-adcb-92b15cce139f.html

Shipping company with no ships, no backer and the wrong kind of port for the ships they don’t have!

Owl can only assume, after May says she has confidence in “Failing Grayling” yet again today that he must have some Theresa May selfies in his possession …..

” … Grayling is under further pressure to explain how Seaborne was awarded the contract after weekend reports that Ramsgate authorities could not afford to run the port.

The contract was cancelled a day after Grayling contacted Thanet district council to ask it to postpone a budget that would have shut down parts of the port for use by freight shipping.

Questions remain about the viability of Ramsgate’s port for use post-Brexit. It can accommodate ships up to 180 metres long, but modern ships are typically 230-250 metres.

John Davis, a member of the Ramsgate Action Group, said: “You can’t run a double-decker bus service out of a single-storey garage on the side of a bungalow – that’s the problem.”

Questions remain about the procurement process after the DfT relied on an emergency exemption provided for by the Public Contract Regulations Act to award the contract. Eurotunnel has accused the government of “anti-competitive” and “distortionary” behaviour.

Meanwhile, Grayling’s decision to award contracts to three ferry companies, including Seaborne is being challenged at the high court. Eurotunnel, which operates the Channel Tunnel, says the contracts totalling £108m were awarded through a “secretive and flawed procurement process”. But the Department for Transport (DfT) argues that the “extreme urgency” of preparations for Britain’s departure from the EU on 29 March justified the process.

At a hearing in London on Monday, Eurotunnel’s barrister Daniel Beard QC said the procurement process for “additional capacity for transport of goods across the English Channel” had been “undertaken without any public notice being issued”.”

The great HS2 rail heist – Dispatches, Channel 4 8pm tonight

Imagine the public services the cost of this railway line could provide! Originally costed at £32.7 billion, latest estimates put it at £56 billion and rising fast.

“The government will soon start to spend billions of pounds on the HS2 high-speed train line, creating faster connections around England. However, some are questioning if this is the right part of the rail network to receive so much investment.”

Channel 4 synopsis of programme