(Tory) Council leaders, don’t you just love ’em – not!

Current leader of EDDC, Paul Diviani, and his Tory friends on the council voted against hospital bed cuts at EDDC (which is toothless on this matter) but he then voted FOR the same cuts at Devon County Council, which has just a few gnashers, but where former EDDC Leader and DCC councillor for Whimple, Sarah Randall Johnson, silenced a legitimate opposition debate on closures using very dubious tactics against her arch-enemy (campaigner and ouster from her EDDC seat) Claire Wright:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/08/12/conduct-of-health-committee-members-investigated-by-devon-council-diviani-and-randall-johnson-heavily-criticised-for-behaviour/

Now the former Leader of Grenfell Tower Council joins the merry band:

The council leader who presided over the Grenfell Tower disaster offered paid “advice” on public sector cutbacks – and tried to “whitewash” his CV in the process.

Nick Paget-Brown resigned as leader of Kensington and Chelsea council after the authority’s woeful response to the deadly inferno drew widespread criticism.

He has remained a councillor but has attracted fresh ire from survivors and rival politicians after advertising his own company – NPB Consulting – on his new Linkedin profile.

The firm, of which he is managing director, offers specialist advice on “financial planning in an age of austerity” to other councils.

Paget-Brown is also accused of hurling a “final insult” to victims as he has omitted his experience as council leader from his CV’s career history, leaving a space between the end of his time as deputy leader in 2013 and founding NPB in 2017. His appointment as leader was mentioned elsewhere. …

Paget-Brown used the networking site to advertise his skills, including “policy analysis, seminars, briefings and drafting assistance for organisations working with local authorities”.

Emma Dent Coad, the Labour MP for Kensington, said: “Paget-Brown’s attempt to whitewash his career by becoming a cost-cutting consultant is the final insult.”

Moyra Samuels, co-founder of the Justice 4 Grenfell campaign, said: “To effectively say, ‘I’m moving on swiftly to my next project’ shows complete disdain for this community.”

At the time of his resignation, Paget-Brown said he shared responsibility for the “perceived failings” of the council. “

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/grenfell-paget-brown_uk_599a96bbe4b0e8cc855e707e

Only “perceived” note …

Is EDDC gearing up for even greater development for 5-year Local Plan review?

All Local Plans have to be reviewed every five years. Though it is likely that the next Local Plan won’t be very local as “Greater Exeter” will almost certainly be what is put forward, East Devon being only one part of it.

Now it seems the current Local Plan didn’t go to plan!

The number of new homes being built in East Devon has dramatically dropped, government data has revealed.

In total, 620 new properties were completed by private developers and housing associations in 2016/17.

But this is more than 250 homes fewer than were built in 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 – where an average of 836 new properties were finished each year.

In the last decade, a total of 4,690 properties have been built and completed in the district and more than 12,600 new homes were finished across Devon. …

http://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/number-of-new-homes-being-built-in-east-devon-dramatically-drops-1-5155038

In fact 2013/14 and 2014/15 and 2015/16 were the result of the years during which the developer free-for-all took place when EDDC had no Local Plan and no 5 year land supply so we had a situation where, under government rules, developers could build any amount of houses practically anywhere. So it’s hardly surprising there was a boom.

So, it now appears that, in fact, the number of houses EDDC had expected to see built this year haven’t materialised.

That could mean that more will be front-loaded to a revised (probably Greater Exeter) plan. And/or the whole area might be back to not having a 5-year land supply so it will be a developer free-for-all – again.

What is VERY interesting is that around 37% of all new homes in the whole of Devon have been built in East Devon in the last decade.

Perhaps time for other parts of Greater Exeter to take the strain in the coming decade?

Does our councils promote social value when funding public services via charities?

This is i portant be ause, more and more, councils are sub-contracting their responsibilities for health and social care to charities.

Small charities that deliver public services have a problem.

The government grants that once helped to fund this work are drying up fast – their total value halved in the decade between 2004 and 2014, according to the NCVO, and has continued to drop ever since. This leaves organisations dependent on income from local council contracts, where the complex tendering process is stacked against smaller providers. At risk of being squeezed out completely, they face what the Lloyds Bank Foundation earlier this year called a “broken commissioning landscape”.

The government knows this is a problem. The House of Lords select committee on charities expressed concerns back in 2016, recommending that the government takes steps to promote commissioning based on impact and social value rather than simply on the lowest cost.

The Social Value Act, introduced in 2012, is one of very few ways in which central government can influence who is commissioned to deliver local services. It requires councils to think about the social, economic and environmental benefits of their decisions when they commission contracts above a certain value (around £170,000).

This means officials are encouraged to do more than simply favour the lowest bidders; they are invited to consider what else a provider could contribute to the area. One organisation might be committed to employing local people, for example. Another might offer to work with small community groups, or bring together existing networks of GPs, schools and others to coordinate services more effectively. The aim is to level the playing field, and enable non-profit providers – such as charities, social enterprises and community businesses – to compete with big private companies.

The government promised a review of the act back in February, something tantamount to an acknowledgement that it is not having the desired impact. Those plans have since been derailed by the snap election and the review is now promised “in due course”.

With the review still pending, we at Power to Change spoke to (pdf) community businesses across England, to find out what changes could be made to improve the situation.

The organisations we spoke to were positive about the aims of the act, and confessed that the commissioning landscape would be “much bleaker” without it. Some councils even welcomed the fact that the act gave them, as they saw it, “permission to explicitly consider social value”.

But many community businesses dismissed the act as “tokenistic”, complaining that it made little practical difference to how councils commissioned or from whom. We found limited evidence that the act actually affected their decisions about whether to tender for contracts: organisations who wanted to work with their council said they would have gone ahead regardless.

If the government wants to improve the impact of the act, our research has some simple recommendations.

Lower the financial threshold

Fairer UK charity contracts will demand long-term government support
The act only applies to local authority contracts worth more than £170,000. Very few community businesses operate at that kind of scale, particularly those committed to working only in their local area. A lower threshold would bring more small organisations into play, either as providers or, more likely, as partners.

Apply it to goods and works, not just services

The principles behind the act are very popular with government, councils and community business alike, so extending it to contracts for goods and works would be another way to introduce social value into commissioning. In his report into the act in 2015, for example, Lord Young celebrated parliament’s decision to commission bottled water for two years from a social enterprise whose profits were shared with the charity Water Aid. There is no reason this sort of innovation shouldn’t be more widespread.

Offer more support for potential providers

Providing more support and guidance, especially some highlighting successful practice, could boost take-up of the act. For commissioners, this could mean giving examples of where they have made savings or improved outcomes through commissioning with social value in mind. For small voluntary or community-led organisations, this could be examples of similar organisations that successfully engaged with the process.

Access to data on the progress and effects of the act is also limited. We recommend the introduction of an open-source, central dataset on the use of the act across local authorities in England, including monitoring data on social value outcomes.

Promote the act more

Our research found an alarming number of social enterprises and community businesses either weren’t sure how the act worked or hadn’t heard of it. The government should give the act greater publicity, targeting community groups who might want to take up the opportunity it offers. For the same reason, the guidance surrounding the act needs to be much clearer and more accessible.

Explain how social value is measured

It can be fiendishly difficult to measure social value, but it can be done – and local groups told us that councils could do more to explain how they will be assessed. This could start with commissioners consulting interested parties locally on what sort of measurements they will be using and how they will be collected, not least so that local groups can decide whether or not to apply for a contract in the first place.

Encourage councils to take risks

New charities minister, but government isn’t interested | Asheem Singh
Local authorities like to praise the not-for-profit sector for bringing more innovation and greater flexibility to social problems. But this does not always extend to commissioning decisions, which can favour large, well-known private firms over smaller groups. This may be understandable, but councils will need to overcome this risk-aversion in the future.

Make the act part of wider social change

The act requires councils only to consider social value in commissioning. But not every local authority limits itself to this: Oxfordshire county council and Somerset district council were celebrated last year by Social Enterprise UK for incorporating the act into a wider agenda for social change. This meant using the act to focus on a whole strategy to strengthen the local area, something commissioners all over the country could learn from.

Russell Hargrave works for Power to Change”

https://www.theguardian.com/voluntary-sector-network/2017/aug/15/seven-ways-improve-social-value-act

Twiss in charge of infrastructure money

Stakeholders? Bet it isn’t us but developers he’s talking about! Exmouth’s Queen’s Drive access for Grenadier, “improved access” to Feniton, Gittisham and Cranbrook western extension here we come!

“Since September last year, EDDC has been charging Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) on certain types of new development.

The council passes 15 per cent of this income, or 25 per cent if a neighbourhood plan has been completed, to town or parish councils, with the remainder to be spent by EDDC.

The council is now inviting stakeholders involved in the delivery of infrastructure to bid for this cash by September 22, with a final decision to be made in February 2018.

Councillor Phil Twiss, EDDC’s portfolio holder for strategic development and partnerships, said: “The CIL is a fairer, faster and more transparent way of funding infrastructure delivery.

“It provides more certainty than the current Section 106 system, which is negotiated on a site by site basis.

“However, unlike 106 money, CIL money can be spent anywhere in the district.

“Unfortunately, the projected income from CIL falls a long way short of the total infrastructure costs required to deliver the Local Plan.

“This is because the legislation requires the charges to be set based on what is viable for developments to pay rather than what is required to deliver the necessary infrastructure.

“CIL was designed to be matched with funds from other sources in order to deliver projects and so difficult decisions will need to be made in terms of prioritising projects and projects should demonstrate what other funding would be used in addition to CIL.

“The CIL pot is never going to be able to meet all demands made on it and we will have a robust and rigorous qualification process in place to ensure that the money is well spent and in the right places.”

http://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/council-looking-to-allocate-money-for-east-devon-infrastructure-1-5155171

Developer Bovis too poor to finish Axminster estate – and “steep slopes” came as a surprise (and Owl says ‘I told you’!)

Owl predicted problems with this development LONG ago:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/04/04/axminster-regeneration/

Recall the site was acquired below market value when Axminster Carpets got into difficulty.

And it seems that Bovis has its own troubles:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/04/30/bovis-slow-down-will-hit-east-devon-hard/

Although again Owl drew attention to another problem affecting house sales on the site:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/12/23/axminster-and-cranbrook-slums-of-the-future-says-councillor-hull-whilst-councillor-moulding-says-nothing/

So, it’s hardly surprising we find that Bovis blames everyone but themselves for their so- called plight – though its directors are probably not too worried about their bonuses:
http://www.constructionenquirer.com/2017/06/21/new-bovis-homes-boss-buys-extra-2m-shares/

“HOUSE building on the Bovis Homes Cloakham Lawn estate could cease unless planning conditions are removed or eased.

Bovis Homes says the scheme is in the process of stalling and, unless it can be brought back into viability, the company will have “no option but to cease work and mothball the development”.

But Axminster Town Council feels it is an attempt by the developer “to wriggle out of its commitments”, with district councillor Ian Hall saying: “‘Trying it on’ comes to mind.”

Bovis Homes has submitted a planning application to East Devon District Council (EDDC) to vary the Section 106 agreement (a set level of affordable housing and contributions towards the local infrastructure and facilities).

The development includes permission for up to 400 dwellings, and the company celebrated the second anniversary of its on-site sales office in September last year.

But a summary of an independent viability assessment, produced by chartered surveyor Belvedere Vantage Ltd, says: “The local market in Axminster has proved very difficult, with interest in the first phase of the development having slowed significantly, resulting in a large number of completed unsold ‘standing units’.”

The summary also referred to a number of physical constraints at the site, and “potential abnormal costs” associated with the constraints, which started to become clear during detailed site investigations after outline planning permission had been given.

Constraints include areas with very steep slopes, a flood plain boundary, two distinct drainage catchments, a watercourse running through the site, the need to maintain access to existing leisure facilities.

The negative impacts, including an inability to plan the scheme effectively, of a tree preservation order are also mentioned.

Axminster Rural district councillor Ian Hall, having declared an interest as he is the chairman of Cloakham Lawn Sports Centre (a Bovis Homes tenant), said in a formal response: “I have absolutely no sympathy.

“This land was purchased by Bovis for £2.9m cheaper than the market price when the failing Axminster Carpets Ltd was winding up.

“Bovis representatives (who were the strong arm of Bovis during the purchase of the land) were very aware of the agreements and were more than happy to proceed with the bargain of the decade.

“I am not one to make unnecessary fuss, although, on this issue, I will not compromise.

“ ‘Trying it on’ comes to mind.”

The independent viability assessment is confidential because it contains commercially sensible information, which is not included in the publicly available summary.

Axminster Town Council has requested more detailed confidential information and, in its formal response to EDDC, said: “The town council objects to this application, which appears to be an attempt by the developer to wriggle out of its commitments.

“There is insufficient information on which to make a well-reasoned response.”

The town council requested a meeting with EDDC and the developer so that it would be able to “respond in the light of more detailed, commercially confidential information”.

The town council also requested a site meeting in the company of a planning officer.

Town clerk Hilary Kirkcaldie said EDDC replied it could not share confidential information, but had appointed an independent viability consultant.

EDDC also expressed a willingness to host a site visit, which is yet to be arranged.

In her formal response to the application, EDDC housing strategy officer Melissa Wall said: “We are disappointed that the applicants have not approached the council before submitting their application to vary the S106 contributions to discuss their viability concerns.

“We are open to suggestions regarding changing the tenure and numbers of affordable units in order to assist viability.

“We are hopeful that agreement can be reached between the council and the applicant to ensure that the development can support some form of affordable housing.”

Bovis Homes would not say how many houses have been built and how many are under construction – nor would the company comment on Councillor Hall’s claims.

A spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on live viability applications but we will continue to work closely with the local authorities to deliver the new development at Axm- inster, which is providing much-needed new homes as well as an economic boost and jobs for the area.”

https://www.viewnews.co.uk/housing-development-axminster-stop/

“Inclusive growth” or exclusive growth in East Devon (soon to be Greater Exeter?)

Greater Exeter or Greater East Devon?

A follow-on from the previous post.

“Inclusive growth is emerging as a key agenda in the UK. The general election was fought from both sides with a promise to create an economy that works for everyone.

City leaders across the country are pursuing inclusive growth as a means for addressing some of the big challenges facing their communities, from poor health and economic exclusion to high demand for services and spiralling financial pressures. Our report, Citizens and Inclusive Growth

https://www.thersa.org/globalassets/pdfs/reports/rsa_citizens-and-inclusive-growth-report.pdf

explores how we can build on this agenda and support impactful next steps by engaging citizens as part of our strategy for inclusive growth.

The RSA Inclusive Growth Commission set out a bold vision for a new model of growth that truly moves on from the failed trickle down economics of the past. But it also identified a critical gap in current thinking and practice around alternative economic models: the role that citizens should play in shaping them. A “place based” economy is unlikely to succeed without active citizen and community participation. The RSA’s Citizens’ Economic Council has underlined the real value created by getting citizens involved in shaping economic thinking and policy, both in terms of the quality of decision making and the positive effect it has on people’s skills, as well as their sense of agency, self-efficacy and belonging to their place. …

So how can we take the agenda forward in the UK? It’s clear that citizens aren’t featuring enough in conversations and decisions about devolution and strategies for economic growth and development. The parameters of inclusive growth are largely being set by officials, which has meant that too often we are tinkering at the edges of existing growth models rather than transforming them. Evidence from the report suggests greater involvement of a broad range of citizens (especially those with lived experience of hardship and poverty) may have a transformative effect on priorities and policies for growth, encouraging greater equity and sustainability.

There are ways that government and cities could demonstrate their commitment to citizen engagement in pursuit of inclusive growth. One of our suggestions is that in future phases of devolution, localities should negotiate significant devolved funds that are controlled by their citizens through participatory budgeting. The same could apply to the programmes that ultimately replace EU structural and social funds after Brexit.

Inclusive growth should go hand in hand with an inclusive form of decision making. Towns and cities in the UK have a real opportunity to make this happen. “

https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2017/07/give-citizens-real-power-for-inclusive-growth-to-succeed

Is it time for some more rebellious towns?

Colyton proudly announces itself as “the most rebellious town in Devon” for its part in supporting the Duke of Monmouth against James the Second.

Is it now time for another rebellion?

EDDC is the largest District Council in Devon with a population of about 140,000. It is growing rapidly. All this is happening against the backdrop of relocating EDDC’s headquarters and possible mergers amongst councils, in particular the creation of Greater Exeter.

Does everyone in East Devon want to be part of this process of rapid population growth and incorporation into the Exeter conurbation?

Residents of Exmouth, Honiton and Cranbrook may well look towards Exeter and work in the city, but our more rural and coastal communities increasingly see crowded and congested Exeter as something of which they do not wish to be a part. They tend to look towards the slower population growth and protection of the environment that can be found across the border in Dorset.

Budleigh Salterton, Sidmouth, Beer, Colyton and Seaton, and perhaps Ottery, seem to see themselves more as operating in an economy linked primarily to tourism and agriculture. They have no wish or requirement to be absorbed into the Exeter behemoth. Cleaner and greener.

These communities also have little representation in the hierarchy at Knowle, (or even acknowledged by Greater Exeter) where the leadership is dominated by councillors from Exmouth, Honiton and Axminster.

In such circumstances, and with relocation offering a timely opportunity, is it not time to seriously consider splitting the District Council and introducing a healthy dose of localism?

We already see many functions and services involving cross-authority cooperation. Such sharing of services could and should continue were coastal East Devon to secede. But those coastal communities would have far greater control over their own affairs.

Is it time for Eastern East Devon, or perhaps “Jurassic Devon”, to secede from EDDC and withdraw from the Greater Exeter project?

And maybe join with Dorset’s idea of a Jurassic National Park?

All it takes is a few rebellious people to get it started!