Mrs Russell (Tory candidate Seaton) responds again

PLEASE NOTE THIS WILL BE THE LAST RESPONSE TO MS RUSSELL BEFORE THE ELECTION AS SHE HAS ALREADY HAD ENOUGH COLUMN INCHES TO PROPOUND HER VIEWS

Mrs Russell responds again – however some points in her response have never been brought up by Owl, only by commentators on her original response. Much is repeated. And once again she confuses East Devon Watch with East Devon Alliance – two totally different entities (though EDW DOES have a predisposition to the aims of EDA and independents it is NOT a mouthpiece of that group). Owl reports what it wants and takes no direction from any party or person. Should another party or group take control of EDDC rest assured it will be scrutinised as closely as the current ruling party.

Her comments on the closure of the local community hospitals is particularly interesting.

“Thanks for your comments – despite what is continually misreported – I do live locally – my only owned property is in Seaton which I have just finished doing up. My daughter is at school in Axminster where I am a local school governor, another daughter works in Colyford, one about to go to university (admittedly up north) and I still have children (grown up ) who live in Sussex. If you are aware of the electoral system you will know that County elections do not run concurrently with Town and District – I am therefore mid term as a County Councillor and you are correct I have no intention of abandoning the electorate who voted me in midway through a term – that would demonstrate that I was more a fair weather councillor than a committed one – what’s more I have made no secret of that with the electorate on the doorstep. I am not hundreds of miles away – it is precisely 170 miles to my division – most certainly a long journey. But from my division it is 100 mile round trip to County Hall in West Sussex anyway- so I am used to driving lots and lots of miles. My attendance is the high and meetings clash on occasion when you are busy but rest assured if elected I will ensure I fulfil both my local and strategic role at EDDC.

With regards ‘no understanding of local issues’ – firstly I have not received any biased briefings from the local Tory party. I am an experienced Councillor and I can see the issues you face – the challenges of local economic development and the impact in one part of the town (upper end of Queen St particularly which is roughly 5 minutes from my home) as an example – we are facing them too in the south east and the same problems if not already here are headed this way. I know the focal point of the entire EDA campaign is the hospital -yet surprisingly the conversations I have had on the doorstep with voters have not included any mention of the hospital by them. Secondly, it is disingenuous to say that EDDC refused to obtain the hospital as a community asset – when actually a hospital does not meet legislative criteria i.e. for the social wellbeing of the community. The ACV law relates to buildings such as village pubs and shops – not hospitals. Finally if the NHS do not want to sell it, how can the District Council ever hope to acquire it?

Re a Linked in Profile? I do not use Linked in – only Twitter and Facebook. But my life has been in Construction but I am not known for being a greedy person – being the only councillor who did not take her entitlement to the small allowance for East Grinstead Town Council and a regular donator to community initiative funding applications via the Crowdfunding mechanism we have in West Sussex (similar to the one in Devon) and other charities may give some indicator to the contrary here.7

Re my ‘singling out’ of the EDA – in actual fact the EDA have gone to great lengths to try to smeer and dish up dirt on me not to mention the reference on this blog to myself being the ‘Hermione Grainger of local politics with far right links’. One EDA member has gone to the extreme lengths of contacting my local parish council and the County Council – to ensure that I am compliant in attendance and claims of expenses which of course has been clarified. With regards the East Devon Watch as it appears to solely promote positively the EDA candidates and is negative towards others, you will have to forgive me if I tend to think there is a strong connection there.

To suggest I have far right links because a logo has appeared on the ‘likes’ of my Facebook page is a joke. If you could find I had real links to the far right (i.e. membership to a far right organisation) that would be a different matter – but of course you won’t. The simple fact is – like a lot of people in Seaton and in the country – I voted to leave the EU and that’s all there is to it, but for the record I am also of Cornish and Irish descent, grew up in London, lived in Sussex and now live in the West Country.

In terms of my commitment as a Councillor – if one were to really get into the fabric of where I am still currently representing, they would see the results I get for the community – including most recently saving an elderly day care centre from closure – hailed as the deal of the century by many as not only did it save the day care from closure, it enabled other community groups to remain in situ, found a new home for the local Age UK and freed up a delapidated old building for the District Council to turn into social housing.

In terms of challenging me to do the things mentioned in the final paragraph – most of it I have already answered. I have had discussions on the doorstep with residents who quite understand my need to fulfil my final commitments for the remainder of the term in West Sussex – as I would do in East Devon if the situation was reversed. Councillors should not ‘distance’ themselves from a commitment just because their lives have changed. If I was not intending to cut links with West Sussex I would have re-stood as a Parish Cllr in Sussex – but as you will note I did not. I have already stated publicly that if I get elected I will work hard to deliver the towns ambitions and needs so there is little else I can add to this discussion. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and if elected the town will not be disappointed.

Always happy to meet in person to discuss concerns and views irrespective of the outcome next week.”

Less tax, many fewer services – lowest investment in public services in EU

Spending on public services in Britain would be higher by £2,500 per person each year if the government matched comparable European levels of funding, an analysis shows today.

The Institute for Public Policy Research found that Britain spends about 40 per cent of GDP on public services, down from 47 per cent in 2010. European spending has also fallen, but comparable EU countries still spend an average of 48 per cent of their GDP on areas such as health, education and welfare, the think tank said.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden were classed as the comparable countries.

Britain’s tax burden is also lower than the European average. Employee taxes amount to about 11.6 per cent of average income in the UK, compared with 15.4 per cent in the EU.

The total burden of taxation in Britain is 33.3 per cent compared with 41.8 per cent. The figures, from the left-wing think tank, are likely to be seized on by Labour as evidence that its plan to increase taxes to support greater public spending is not as radical as Conservative critics would claim.

Harry Quilter-Pinner, senior research fellow at the institute, said that its report showed that after years of austerity there was now a need to increase public sector spending. “Our neighbours have consistently invested more in welfare and public services and consistently deliver better social outcomes than us,” he said. “We need a fundamental shift in our approach to investment in this country to deliver high-quality social and childcare, a life-long education system, 21st-century healthcare and a properly funded benefits system. Ending austerity must be more than a political soundbite.”

The report also highlighted international rankings by the OECD that it said showed that Britain was lagging behind comparable European countries in social outcomes. These showed that out of 11 countries the UK was ranked ninth for life expectancy and eighth for child poverty.

The group said that since 2010 life expectancy in the UK, which had consistently risen over the previous century, had stopped rising. It added that health inequalities were also significant, with the poorest in society living 8.4 years less than the richest.

The UK did, however, have the second lowest levels of long-term unemployment and lower levels of insecure employment than most of the other countries surveyed.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

8 days to local elections – today’s picture

East Devon mainstream parties have their party machines and party money behind them (just don’t ask where the money comes from).  Independents operate on tiny shoestring donations from local people – or subsidise their campaigns from their own pockets – plus enthusiastic local supporters giving their time for free. Every board you see for an independent (in a garden or near a road) is produced by local people for people supporting local candidates.

Growth – the good, the bad and the ugly …

“Owl asks: Who is “growth” FOR? Developers definitely, privatised company bosses too – but ‘the workers’ – hhmmmm.”

COMMENT

Devon workers rank among the lowest paid in UK. We are an acute example of what is a general national economic malaise.

For decades Britain has had a big productivity gap compared to our rivals; it’s a result of low pay, inadequate training, and endemic short-termism in investment. It is aided by a “flexible” labour market. Why take risks investing in plant and machinery when you can hire and fire staff easily and still make a profit? Unless we break out of this culture we will continue to have a low paid economy, poor productivity and economic growth. A decade on from the banking crisis, wages haven’t reached pre-recession levels. George Osbourne’s austerity continues.

Heart of the South West, our Local Enterprise Partnership, has set wild targets to raise productivity and double growth by 2038; but don’t have too much faith in an organisation so out of touch with the reality of austerity that in 2017 it secretly voted its Chief Executive a 26% rise.

The flipside is that we have high levels of employment. This may have been a benefit during the depths of the recession but not now.

East Devon Conservatives in their local election manifestos claim they are delivering an economy that works for all and will deliver 10,000 new jobs. Doesn’t sound to me as if they are in touch with reality and addressing the fundamental problems either. With low pay, compared with the rest of the UK, the locally employed will always be out-bid for a house by those relocating from more affluent parts. Net inward migration to East Devon, from outside Devon, was 12,400 over the ten years to 2016.

The reality is that we have full employment and an ageing population in which the proportion of those of employment age will only grow at about 0.16% p.a. This results in a need of only around 230 jobs/year, including expected inward migration. For years EDDC Conservatives have been fixated on pushing job targets and using this to justify housing development well beyond what is actually needed. For example, in formulating the “Jobs-led Policy on” strategy for the 2013 Local Plan a target of 950 jobs/year was used to justify building a minimum of 17,100 houses over 18 years. Currently job creation is running at around 260/year. Where does the 10,000 new jobs target come from and who needs the 17,100 houses? It is not difficult to guess who benefits from this policy, but it certainly isn’t a policy that works for all of us.

Have Conservatives finally lost the plot on economic management as well?”

“More than £86.6million in outstanding loans is owed by East Devon District Council”

EDDC blames the overspend on loans (see last paragraph below) on “the purchase of assets related to service delivery, these being assets required “for recycling and refuse collection”. Are we to believe that it has ALL been spent on waste contracts and NOT on the £10 MILLION on HQ relocation (originally described as “cost neutral”)?

Owl would be interested to see a breakdown of the costs (but bets they will be conveniently avoided under a “commercial confidentiality” clause with the contractor …

“The amount the authority has borrowed has also increased by £3million in just one year.

Experts have warned councils are risking taking on too much debt while others say that councils are simply adapting to plug funding gaps made by Government cuts.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy says delivery of public services could be put at risk by unsustainable borrowing, after debt among UK local authorities rose to more than £100 billion.

By the end of December, EDDC’s outstanding loans stood at £86.6 million, according to figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

This was a four per cent increase compared to a year ago, and one per cent higher than at the end of 2013-14.

All the outstanding loans were long-term advances, which last for more than one year and are used to finance large projects or purchases.

The Chartered Institute says many cash-strapped councils are taking out large loans to buy property, as the rent they collect can be higher than the interest they pay on the loans.

Funding for councils fell by almost half between 2010-11 and 2017-18, according to the National Audit Office.

The government’s Public Works Loan Board was the sole lender to EDDC as of December.

The loan board offers low-interest loans to councils, without requiring them to prove they can afford the repayments.

There is no limit to the amount councils can borrow from it.

Don Peebles, head of policy at the Chartered Institute, said: “With government funding in decline, it is unsurprising councils are having to adapt and find alternatives.

“While councils are borrowing for a wide range of purposes, such as building houses and investing in major infrastructure, one trend which has been concerning is the growth in investment in commercial property – which exposes public finances to new risks.”

A spokeswoman for the MHCLG said: “Councils are responsible for managing their own finances and making the right decisions for the communities they serve – including making appropriate investments.

“Guidance on council investments was updated in April 2018 with new codes that strike the right balance between allowing councils to continue to be innovative while ensuring that taxpayers’ money is properly protected.”

An EDDC spokesman said: “The annual increase in borrowing identified was used to finance the purchase of assets related to service delivery, these being assets required for recycling and refuse collection.”

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/outstanding-loans-at-east-devon-district-council-1-6004947

Seaton’s ‘Hermione Grainger’ candidate responds

Response from EDDC hopeful councillor for Seaton below.

Owl’s comments:

Firstly, Owl is legion. There are many, many owls in East Devon!

1. Owl has no party – it has predispositions, but no party.
2. Someone formerly from Slough but well-established in this area ONLY for several years is NOT the same as a dual councillor having to make 340 mile round trips perhaps more than once a week to serve on two different councils at the same time. What happens when there is a clash if meetings? A little disingenuous to suggest it is a similar thing.
3. Owl has had no contact with any Monitoring Officer at any time and considers it a sloppy slur for Ms Russell to assume that it is the instigator (or connected with any instigator) of any such request.
4. She has not addressed her Facebook ‘like’ of a far-right splinter group of the BNP – what does she like about them?
5. See 2 above – East Devon doesn’t want only local-born people as councillors – it want councillors who aren’t skittering around the country trying to serve two masters at the same time.
6. Yes, the electorate will decide.

The comment in full:

“Dear ‘Owl’ (wouldn’t it be lovely if you actually revealed who YOU were and where YOU live?) Your article(s) to me portray the EDA as being pretty inward and parochial, a party where only ‘truly local’ people should be able to stand for Town, District and County Council, A party seemingly not open to ‘incomers’, fresh blood or new ideas – an approach which cannot possibly serve the people of East Devon as well as they could be served. I have watched with some amusement at being described as the ‘Hermione Grainger of local politics’ not to mention the laughable, desperate, notion that I have far right links.

I spent 35 years in East Grinstead and was elected to the local town council in 2015 and the County Council in 2017. No doubt as your spies (if you are not one and the same) have confirmed I am not re-standing at Parish level but I am mid-term as a County Councillor. You will also be very aware of your party’s concerted effort to try to find ways to discredit me through various FOIs but to no avail. Your latest request being for details of monitoring officers to complain about my ‘conduct’ – one wonders if you have any time left to talk to residents and do some campaigning of your own? Of course its not illegal to do any of this and I have nothing to hide, but one wonders why the need to go to such vast lengths – unless you felt I was some sort of threat? If East Devon residents really only want people who have been born and bred in the District, then why do they have a County Councillor who previously stood as a PPC in Yorkshire or an Axminster Parish Councillor who originates from Slough, is currently standing in Yarty but living in Axminster? – no doubt there are others in your network who do not originate from Seaton? Ironically your Yarty candidate has made it clear to me that he has ‘issues’ with Councillors representing two places at once. Well I have issues with Councillors who are also Parish Clerks. Either way it doesn’t matter – both are perfectly legitimate positions to be in at the present time. Overall lets agree for obvious reasons above that it doesn’t matter where we originate from, what matters is that we pledge and do our best to deliver for our community we live in. There is very clear evidence that I have achieved much in West Sussex and I will do the same in East Devon if I am privileged enough to be elected of course.

I appreciate you are keen to know my background so here goes. In actual fact my family moved to the West Country in 2016 due to my husband’s business. We have rented in Axminster since 2017 and have been renovating our house in Seaton. I have commuted to West Sussex since then (yes I really do drive the 170 miles) and reside in East Grinstead with my eldest daughter as and when I need to but spend most of my time in County Hall in Chichester – which is a 100 mile round trip from East Grinstead, so I am well used to driving lots of miles. If you dig a bit deeper you will find that out of the three East Grinstead County Councillors – I have by far and away the highest attendance rate at County Council with the most local results – this despite ‘being in two places at once’ (your phrase). At Parish level I have fulfilled my duties and as an aside taken no allowance for these duties. So I have a track record – and its a good one.

I must correct you though on your election literature content and the comments from the incumbent County Cllr, In actual fact I have a home in Seaton town centre and for clarity it is my only owned property. I shop regularly in the town, am a big fan of the Tramway (the whole family have loyalty cards). I drink and eat in the Malthouse pub. I am a big fan of the craft shop in Queen St where I bought my 20 year old daughter’s birthday presents not so long ago (she works in Colyford by the way). My youngest daughter goes to Axe Valley school where I am a governor. So to say I have no links to the area or do not live in the area is a blatant untruth and I would ask you respectfully to retract this and not waste any further time worrying about where I originate from and how in touch I am with the town – because the fact remains I am more in touch than you think and you probably are.

Ultimately the electorate will decide who they wish to vote in . Either way – elected or unelected, it will not change a thing. I shall finish my term in West Sussex and I shall remain committed to the town I have decided to settle in and support the local community as best I can.

Watch this Space”
[Jacquie Russell – candidate – Seaton]