“Cost of care will take up most of council tax within two years”

”Most of the council tax people pay will need to be spent on providing care for children and adults within two years, the LGA has warned.

It said almost 60 pence out of every £1 of council tax be taken up by the rising demand for social care and children’s services by 2020, leaving less money for other vital local services, like collecting bins, fixing potholes, buses, street lighting and food safety.

The LGA is calling on the Government to use the Autumn Budget to allow local government as a whole to keep all the business rates it collects to plug funding gaps.

Cllr Claire Kober, Chair of the LGA’s Resources Board, said: “Demand for services caring for adults and children continues to rise but core funding from central government to councils continues to go down. This means councils have no choice but to squeeze budgets from other services, such as roads, street lighting and bus services to cope. Councils will be asking people to pay similar levels of council tax while, at the same time, warning communities that the quality and quantity of services they enjoy could drop.

Local government in England faces a £5.8 billion funding gap by 2020. Even if councils stopped filling potholes, maintaining parks and open spaces, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres, turned off every street light and shut all discretionary bus routes they still would not have saved enough money to plug this gap in just two years.”

Cllr Kober will be interviewed by ITV News today and the story is running across Sky News bulletins.”

Source: Mail p8, Times p2

Pembrokeshire: empty home council tax to rise from 50% to 125% in year 3, 150% in year 4 and 200% in year 5

“Owners of hundreds of empty homes in Pembrokeshire are to be hit by a 125% council tax bill.

Empty homes in the county are allowed a 50% discount to the levy under current arrangements. But from April 2019 this discount will be scrapped, with owners of homes which have stood empty for more than three years being charged 125% of normal council tax.

Pembrokeshire council voted the plans through at a meeting on Thursday.
The council introduced a 50% premium for owners of second homes back in April and voted to extend it into the 2018-19 financial year. It will now look at giving the cash to local communities for projects.

Currently, there are 1,206 empty homes in Pembrokeshire, which are subject to a council tax discount. However, this will be scrapped under the changes and all properties which have been empty for three years from 1 April 2016 will be subject to a 25% council tax premium.

Homes which have been empty for four years will be taxed an extra 50%, or 150% tax, and five years or more will pay double or 200% council tax.
The council also voted in an amendment for an appeals process for homeowners trying to sell or refurbish their properties.”


“Transformation plans” – a mortal danger to the public?

Our council talks a lot about its so-called “transformation plans” which are supposed to make it leaner and meaner – doing more with less. Except, of course, for its relocation plans, which get more and more bloated with every passing week (“doing the same with more”?).

It trumpets its plans – nay strategy, here:


There are objectives in it such as “WorkSmart”, “centred”, “clear”, “simple”, “fast”, “organised” and “rational”. As if our council was currently WorkDumb, off-centre, opaque, complex, slow, disorganised and irrational was the alternative. Hhhmm – let’s not go there!

But one word is missing – SAFE.

In the light of the Grenfell Tower disaster, we have seen that ALL of the above can impact directly on council tax payers to make them less safe – as cost-cutting (the REAL meaning of transformation plans) is the major driver.

The London Borough of Newham is so concerned that it has paused its transformation plans on hold saying:

“… Inevitably…in a programme of this scale there are certain areas which have associated risks to delivery both in timing and quantum. Due to the sheer complexity and scale of what the transformation programme is trying to achieve, there are risks attached with the programme being able to deliver fully against its target. Therefore, an adjustment of c£2m has been made to recognise potential non-delivery of savings/income shortfall for 2018/19.”


So, we (and EDDC) must ask: how far is too far?

And is the council’s relocation being done at great expense, when that money ought to be ploughed back into services that have been cut to the bone and may be much less safe for us all? In its race to be bottom of council tax bills has it also been a race to the bottom for our safety?

This is, of course, a national problem – driven by austerity cuts. But have our councils (DCC and EDDC) and other institutions such as the NHS been too passive or even too welcoming of these cuts and too conveniently blind to see their consequences?

Ottery St Mary complains about rubbish rubbish collections

Comments from Ottery Matters blog”

“… My parents has been missed ever since the new service started. Tbink they eventually got it collected last Friday after making several calls to EDDC.”

… There is an eddc app that you can use to report missed collections too.

… I spoke with the Waste Collection team earlier this afternoon – there as a long wait on hold, and when I eventually got through I was told that there have been hundreds of complaints about non-collection. Apparently many homes have been missed off the new routes.

First week of new scheme (in the heat wave) we had no collection and ended up with hundreds of maggots crawling out and over our food waste bin. Disgusting!!

So it seems like the new scheme is having major teething issues – and EDDC is failing to get the contractor to get on top of the issues.

… Neither has ours in Knightstones.

… We’ve been waiting 3 weeks in rockbeare! Well just our lane actually! Think we’ve been erased from the map!

… General enquiry. Has anyone else’s recycling not been collected for the last 2 weeks or is it just sunnyhill?”

EDDC wants us to donate to Sidmouth beach protection!

Presumably so their £10 million vanity relocation doesn’t have to be cut! Note: only Sidmouth beach management plan is being dealt with this way (so far) – no other town. We pay council tax – now we are expected to make donations! Though perhaps they will soon install a “make donations to our relocation” boxes in the Knowle reception!

“East Devon District Council is asking you to help fund a multi-million pound plan to protect the beach in Sidmouth. The council is appealing to residents and visitors to Sidmouth to help contribute financially to the town’s beach management scheme via a donation box on the seafront.

A £5.7million grant from central government will go towards delivering a scheme to protect the coastline. But a further £3.3m of partnership funding is required for the scheme.

A donation box and its accompanying explanatory sign has been designed to help visitors understand the role of the beach in flooding and coastal erosion and has been placed on Sidmouth seafront, and the public are being asked to donate to help fund it.”


EDDC relication costs £10.3 million and counting …

Owl says: are these audited costs or still on

“District chiefs are being advised to press ahead with their £10million relocation from Sidmouth – despite having no guaranteed buyer for their ‘not fit-for-purpose’ Knowle HQ.

East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) cabinet is being asked to sign off nearly £8.7million to press ahead with building work at Honiton’s Heathpark, on top of the approved £1,7million pot to refurbish Exmouth Town Hall.

If approved, the relocation project’s total budget will stand at £10.36million, up from £9.2million in March 2015.

Members will also be asked if they support a further £225,000 cost for an improved access road to the Honiton base when they meet next week.

EDDC originally promised that the relocation would be ‘cost neutral’, that it would not borrow money and the project would not progress before Knowle was sold.

But after refusing PegasusLife’s £7.5million bid to redevelop Knowle into a 113-home retirement community, the authority now has to decide how to proceed with the relocation.

According to cabinet agenda papers, members have three options to choose from:

• ‘Go now’ – press ahead with building in Honiton in anticipation of an acceptable combination of cash for Knowle and prudential borrowing. Work could be completed as soon as December 2018.

• Delay relocation for one to two years, or more, so planning permission for Knowle can be secured to fund the project. EDDC understands PegasusLife is preparing an appeal, which would have to be lodged before June 9.

• A ‘do minimum’ option of giving up on the new-build Honiton HQ, completing the refurbishment of Exmouth Town Hall and modernising a section of Knowle. Essential repairs to Knowle would cost £1.9million, but there is no capital receipt for this expenditure.

Councillors have been recommended to pursue the ‘go now’ option. EDDC maintains that the move will save money in the long-run.

Its development management committee refused PegasusLife’s application because it represented a departure from Knowle’s 50-home allocation in the authority’s Local Plan and due to the lack of ‘affordable’ housing.

EDDC has considered various re-marketing options for Knowle – if a PegasusLife appeal is unsuccessful – that could fetch between £3.22million and £6.8million. One scheme proposes 50 homes, half of which would be ‘affordable’, and could bring in £4.2million.

Critics have long said EDDC could remain at Knowle rather than relocate. The cabinet papers say modernising the former hotel would cost nearly £11.3million, or, for the newer offices, the bill is expected to be more than £5.9million.

The relocation project has cost £1,784,884 to date.

Cabinet members will meet to discuss the options at Knowle at 5.30pm on Wednesday (April 5).”


“All bar one Devon Conservative MPs vote in favour of massive cuts to councils AGAIN”

From the blog of Claire Wright – the MP we needed and should have had.

“Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Every Devon Conservative MP voted in favour of massive cuts to councils this afternoon, except Anne Marie Morris who abstained.

This includes Hugo Swire, who today rather ironically tweeted an article starting with the sentence: “I’m not very rebellious by nature and I don’t think I have ever defied the party whip…”

Devon County Council had written to Devon MPs last month, urging them to vote against the crippling cuts for the third year running and I had written to Hugo Swire also for the third year running, with exactly the same request.

Last night, Devon County Council leader, Cllr John Hart told the BBC he thought the government handling of the local government finance arrangements was a “shambles” because the council was legally forced to set its budget before even receiving the details of the latest round of funding from government.

Then the funding news was received at 11pm on Monday night just 36 hours before MPs would be examining the information for debate and vote in parliament.

John Hart although a conservative council leader, has the guts to stand up to his party seniors at Westminster and openly criticise them. Something he does often and he should be given credit for this.

What a shame our MPs aren’t made of similar stern stuff.

On a more serious note, and this is serious, I was pretty shocked at the paltry numbers of MPs who were present for the debate this afternoon. I think I counted about 30, for what should have been an absolutely key parliamentary sitting as its impact on constituents, especially vulnerable people, is likely to be significant.

Local government secretary of state, Sajid Javid uttered a few warm but empty words about what a fine job councils do, before explaining that they will get no government funding whatsoever after 2019. They will be expected to survive on business rates and council tax income only after this.

This is the seventh year of austerity and Devon County Council has now lost over half of its budget to government cuts. It has coped as best it can but studying the risk assessments in the budget scrutiny papers last month made for sobering reading.

Read here for more detail: http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/fewer_devon_people_to_receive_social_care_as_23m_is_slashed_from_budgets

Returning to the subject of the sadly expected but weak-willed vote by East Devon’s MP, Hugo Swire, how can he justify on the one hand complaining about underfunding for social care – the responsibility of Devon County Council and underfunding of our schools – also under Devon County Council – and then be absent during the parliamentary funding cuts debate, sneaking to the lobby only afterwards to vote in favour of the cuts?

The answer is he can’t. He has simply proved once again that he puts his party before his constituents.

Every time.”