East Devon Alliance Councillor Gardner clarifies Sidmouth Herald EDDC debt story

Owl reported this story from the Sidmouth Herald in full yesterday:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/04/22/more-than-86-6million-in-outstanding-loans-is-owed-by-east-devon-district-council/

East Devon Alliance councillor Cathy Gardner has contacted EDW to clarify the story:

“To my knowledge (as a District Cllr), EDDC has over £80m in debt because it had to borrow money to hold on to its council housing when the conservative government were making councils sell it off. So this is debt for a good & bad reason!

I’m surprised that the ‘politically neutral’ press officers have not added this to their comment to the Herald. I’ve objected to the council proposing to borrow money to invest in commercial property (to generate income), something else forced on them by the conservative government cuts to council grants (now zero).

The relocation from the Knowle is another matter. If re-elected I will continue to push for transparency on costs and to see if any of the Conservative group can ever prove break even.”

“Number using food banks in part of Devon doubles in six months”

“The number of people using food banks in the Sid Valley has more than doubled in the last six months.

The Sid Valley Food Bank’s co-ordinator Andie Milne told East Devon councillors on Wednesday night of the alarming numbers of people and the stark rise in numbers of people they are seeing.

She said that six months ago, they were dealing with 15 families a week, but last week, more than 30 families came through their doors, with 36 children being helped.

And she added that last week they helped a family from Axminster as there was no help available in the East of the county for them, and raised concern over what would happen to the emergency food bags located at the council’s Knowle HQ, that sometimes are refilled four times a week, when the council offices move to Honiton early in 2019.

Her comments came prior to the full council unanimously supporting a motion brought forward by Cllr Cathy Gardner, of East Devon Alliance, calling for a report on the potential impacts of benefits changes and spending cuts on people in East Devon and whether there was a need for further support from the council in supporting the roll-out of Universal Credit, homelessness prevention or for local food banks.

Proposing her motion, Cllr Gardner said: “Most of us are doing okay and are comfortable, some are doing extremely well, but some are struggling, and we have a civic duty to see if we can do more. I would be horrified to learn if a child suffered as we failed to something in some way to help.

“I am not criticising the council or the hard work that our officers do to help people but simply to ask if there is anything more that we could do, as we know that people are struggling with Universal Credit.

“If the report says it is all perfect, then we can rest easy, but I want the report to come forward so we can be seen as outstanding, caring and vigilant.”

Cllr Marianne Rixson, supporting the motion, added that some people are being forced to use food banks just to make ends meet, even though they are in employment. …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/number-using-food-banks-part-2323249

East Devon Alliance councillors spur council to decry poverty in East Devon

“The number of people using food banks in the Sid Valley has more than doubled in the last six months.

The Sid Valley Food Bank’s co-ordinator Andie Milne told East Devon councillors on Wednesday night of the alarming numbers of people and the stark rise in numbers of people they are seeing.

She said that six months ago, they were dealing with 15 families a week, but last week, more than 30 families came through their doors, with 36 children being helped.

And she added that last week they helped a family from Axminster as there was no help available in the East of the county for them, and raised concern over what would happen to the emergency food bags located at the council’s Knowle HQ, that sometimes are refilled four times a week, when the council offices move to Honiton early in 2019.

Her comments came prior to the full council unanimously supporting a motion brought forward by Cllr Cathy Gardner, of East Devon Alliance, calling for a report on the potential impacts of benefits changes and spending cuts on people in East Devon and whether there was a need for further support from the council in supporting the roll-out of Universal Credit, homelessness prevention or for local food banks.

Proposing her motion, Cllr Gardner said: “Most of us are doing okay and are comfortable, some are doing extremely well, but some are struggling, and we have a civic duty to see if we can do more. I would be horrified to learn if a child suffered as we failed to something in some way to help.

“I am not criticising the council or the hard work that our officers do to help people but simply to ask if there is anything more that we could do, as we know that people are struggling with Universal Credit.

“If the report says it is all perfect, then we can rest easy, but I want the report to come forward so we can be seen as outstanding, caring and vigilant.”

Cllr Marianne Rixson, supporting the motion, added that some people are being forced to use food banks just to make ends meet, even though they are in employment.

Cllr Eleanor Rylance said that the national picture showed there were 2.5m people living just 10 per cent above the poverty line. She added: “A small reversal of the economy could put 2.5m people below the poverty line in weeks. We all know of people who are struggling and other who could very soon be struggling.”

The motion received unanimous support from across the council chamber, with Conservative councillor Mike Allen said that he really liked the motion and thanked Cllr Gardner for bringing it forward.

He said: “If you work in a food bank, you get to understand how little accidents or small things can trip someone into a poverty – be it a divorce or splitting up with a partner, or a jobs loss, which leads to a massive hole in your income and you cannot afford what you used to take for granted.”

Cllr Jill Elson, portfolio holder for sustainable homes and communities, said that the council worked very closely with food banks across the district and that council staff were currently co-located in the job centres in Exmouth and Honiton to get the 1,013 people in East Devon claiming Universal Credit and were going the extra mile to help them, be it by helping them fill in the forms or giving them food bank credits.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/number-using-food-banks-part-2323249

EDDC Independents call for action on poverty

Owl says: prediction – watch all these motions get watered down or struck out by block+voting Tories!

“Pressure to provide more help to struggling families, affected by benefit changes and low wages, is mounting on council bosses.

A motion calling for action will be put forward to East Devon District Council (EDDC) at a meeting on Wednesday (December 12).

The move looks to bring two reports before the authority, from the UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission and the UN Special Rapporteur, which put a spotlight on the impact of benefits changes and spending cuts on people in the UK.

The motion has been proposed by Councillor Cathy Gardner, of East Devon Alliance.

She said EDDC was due to receive a report on the potential impact on residents in East Devon and the need for further support, helping those affected by the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) and supporting homelessness prevention and food banks.

Cllr Gardner added: “Residents in East Devon are not immune from these effects and in fact the rollout of Universal Credit is already having an effect.

“We have seen two homeless people die since 2015, both in Sidmouth.

“An increasing number of people, some with children are relying on foodbanks in all our towns, including Sidmouth, Honiton, Axminster, Seaton Ottery and Exmouth.”

The news comes in the same week that organisers of the Sid Valley Food Bank said that more people were needing help every week. And the numbers of people needing help were higher than they had ever been.

Co-ordinator Andie Milne said the top five reasons were:

• Delays in benefit changing transferring to UC, which could be up to 5 weeks.
• Repayment of loan provided in the case of delayed UC payment.
• Low wages and difficulties paying private rent over the housing benefit cap.
• Zero hour contracts – reduction in hours/sickness.
• Low wage unable to have contingency funds for unexpected expenditure – very noticeable with families needing to but school uniform, coping with school holidays, car repairs, winter bills and household repairs.

Cllr Garnder said: “I’m calling for the council to review whether more support is needed by people in East Devon and whether it can be provided.

“If the council does not have sufficient resources, then we must call on Government to review funding and make changes to Universal Credit. EDDC have statutory obligations, especially for housing, and it’s likely that increased demand will not be met.

“There is an urgent need to provide more social housing as well as support families who are at risk of homelessness.”

Cllr Gardner said there currently were five verified rough sleepers in East Devon – including the gentleman on Sidmouth seafront.

She added there were 27 households in temporary accommodation via EDDC – made up of 16 singles and 11 families, eight single people and two families in supported accommodation in Honiton, eight singles and two families in B and B accommodation, one family in a private sector lease property and six families in the council’s own housing stock that is being used as temporary accommodation.

Cllr Gardner said EDDC was required to help families and individuals in need of housing and was doing so, but Government cuts would likely mean it would not able to provide all the support it does or would want to in the coming years.

An EDDC spokesperson said: “This is one of three motions that are on the council agenda and officers of the council will take any necessary action arising from the council’s consideration of the motions and the decisions that are taken.”

https://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/calls-for-help-for-struggling-families-1-5809034

Security at EDDC buildings at Knowle, Exmouth Honiton and Cranbrook costs us £25,000 per year

“East Devon District Council is spending nearly £25,000 a year on private security firms to patrol or protect council owned property.

The figures were revealed at last week’s full council meeting following a question from Cllr Cathy Gardner.

She asked the leader of the council to confirm whether the council uses private security firms to patrol or protect council owned property, and if so where and at what cost.

In response, Cllr Ian Thomas, leader of the council, said: “We use two different security firms which are employed across the corporate stock.”

He said that the council spends £6,363.35 on security at The Knowle HQ in Sidmouth, £5,450.90 at Exmouth Town Hall, £7,200 at the Younghayes Centre in Cranbrook and £4,200 at the East Devon Business Centre in Honiton.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-46042790

DCC Councillor Martin Shaw (East Devon Alliance) updates on NHS changes

This is a long article but if you want to know where we are with NHS changes in Devon this gives you all the information.

Our pressure has led to Devon NHS joining a national retreat from privatising Accountable Care Organisations. However the Devon Integrated Care System will still cap care, with weak democratic control – we need time to rethink

We must thank ALL our Independent Councillors – particularly DCC Independent Councillor Claire Wright, DCC Councillor Martin Shaw (East Devon Alliance) and EDDC Councillor Cathy Gardner (East Devon Alliance) for the tremendous work they have done (and continue to do) in the face of the intransigence (and frankly, unintelligence) of sheep-like Tory councillors.

At EDDC Tory Councillors told their Leader to back retaining community hospitals, so he went to DCC and voted to close them (receiving no censure for this when Independents called for a vote of no confidence).

At the DCC, Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee Tory members were 10-line whipped by its Chair Sarah Randall-Johnson to refuse a debate on important changes and to vote for accelerated privatisation with no checks or balances.

At DCC full council – well Tory back-benchers might just as well send in one councillor to vote since they all seem to be programmed by the same robotics company!

Our independent councillors: constantly standing up for our local NHS

ITV West Country News, with interviews with:

Claire Wright – DCC Independent Councillor (Ottery St Mary)
Martin Shaw – DCC independent East Devon Alliance Councillor (Seaton and Colyton)
Cathy Gardner – EDDC East Devon Alliance Councillor (Sidmouth)

continually fighting for our local NHS:

Not a single EDDC or East Devon DCC councillor attended the protest, nor did either of our MPs.