“New PM given stark warning over future of local councils”

“The next prime minister has just 100 days to “save” local government, a think-tank has warned.

In their first 100 days, the new leader must provide a one-year emergency settlement for local government, drop the council tax referendum requirement and come up with a strategy for health and social care funding.

These are the recommendations from the Local Government Information Unit think-tank, whose Local Finance Taskforce paper was published today. The report is based on evidence taken from 254 senior figures in local government.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of LGiU, said: “The next prime minister will have 100 days to save local government when he is elected on 23 July.

“At the moment, councils have no idea how they will be funded this time next year. They face a financial cliff edge on 31 March 2020 and currently have no ability to budget or plan their services for the year ahead.

“Some may soon be forced to take very difficult decisions, based on their worst-case scenario budget estimates – making redundancies, stripping down services, selling valued public assets – that may turn out to be completely unnecessary.”

LGiU noted, from its previous research, that one in 20 councils fear it will be unable to fulfil statutory duties this year, while one in 10 expects to face legal challenges due to service cuts.

The think-tank called on the next prime minister to set out a plan for local government finance that considers overall quantum, uncertainty and risk, adult social care, business rates, council tax and other sources of funding.

On business rates, LGiU noted that despite a commitment to moving to 75% business rates retention by 2020, there is still little detail on how this will be redistributed, and called for a strategy to published “as a matter of urgency”.

The council tax referendum threshold – whereby councils must hold a local referendum on decisions to increase council tax beyond 3% – is “outdated and ripe for removal” the report said.

“Local government deserves better and local government deserves more,” Carr-West concluded.”

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2019/07/new-pm-given-stark-warning-over-future-local-councils

Grant Thornton (EDDC’s auditors) delay Sports Direct results

Owl says: not the first of the big auditors to get caught up in new, tighter regulation and certainly not the last.

“Retail tycoon Mike Ashley spooked investors on Monday after bosses at his tracksuits and trainers empire Sports Direct were forced to delay publication of its full-year results.

The acquisitive group’s highly-anticipated results were due to be published on Thursday but now the City may need to wait until August 23rd to glimpse beneath the bonnet of the firm.

Fearing the worst, investors fled. Shares slid 15 per cent in early trading on Monday to £2.20 – near to a seven-year low and well below the firm’s 2007 flotation price of £3.00. …

It said that its auditors at Grant Thornton need more time to sign off the accounts due to increased regulation and also pointed to ‘uncertainty’ around the future trading performance of House of Fraser, which it bought in a pre-pack administration for £90million last summer.

‘The reasons for the delay are the complexities of the integration into the company of the House of Fraser business, and the current uncertainty as to the future trading performance of this business, together with the increased regulatory scrutiny of auditors and audits,’ the group said. …”

https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-7248053/Sports-Direct-shares-slump-billionaire-retail-tycoon-Mike-Ashley-delays-results.html

Sidmouth’s over 55 population expected to grow by 15% by 2041

Inly luxury homeowner retirement properties being built NOT affordable homes for older people with lower incomes:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/14/lack-of-homes-suitable-for-older-people-fuels-housing-crisis-report?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Exmouth, EDDC and Grenadier – when does a gamekeeper become a poacher?

“Dear East Devon District Council,

[order slightly changed for clarity]

I am writing to request an internal review of East Devon District Council’s handling of my FOI request ‘Was independent advice sought on the governance of Queen’s Drive Exmouth Community Interest Company’.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/w…

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

Councillor Paul Millar has made some attempt to answer this FOI via Social Media. He provided more detail to my FOI than provided here, in, as I understand it his new role as a director of Queen’s Drive Exmouth Community Interest Company and a Councillor. However, although he asserted this via social media and also announced that there was another new director, according to Companies House, Cllr Stott and Cllr Williamson are still in place.

Are you able to provide more detail on the £200k that Grenadier made a good business case for according to Councillor Millar? Are you also able to clarify the amount of interest chargeable by Grenadier on the loan and other charges that the company is making to the CIC.

There appears to be some splitting of identity here, that may lead to a conflict of interest. For example when is Grenadier acting as a commercial business and when is it acting as the majority shareholder of the CIC? Are you able to offer reassurance and evidence that a valuable community asset is being utilised for community benefit rather than commercial gain?”

When is a public footpath not a public footpath? At Plumb Park, Exmouth

Owl has been passed a copy of a letter (from the writer) sent to EDDC:

“Dear Sir/Madam – I have recently made several visits to this development (EX8 2JB) with a view to our family buying at least 2 purchases there.

On Wed 10th July at around 1230 I attended to see how work was going on and walked the public footpath through the site.

The public footpath runs SSE from Buckingham Close to the vicinity of Green Farm and is marked on OS maps as a Public Right of Way. The building works are all to the south and west of this boundary path.

There was no statutory notice saying that the pathway was closed nor was an advised diversion promulgated. Both these requirements are, I believe, legal requirements, to advise closure.

There were numerous signs warning about the adjacent building site, but from the safety of the public path I was better able to see the areas of build I was interested in. At no time was I in any danger from works vehicles. I passed several workers going to lunch – none of whom commented on my presence.

When I got to the end of the path/works I was rudely shouted at by an operative in a dumper truck who demanded to know what I was doing. I simply replied I was looking at the works from a public footpath. He became more authoritative and aggressive so I walked away on the way back. He then had the effrontery to demand a worker escort me “off the premises”. This chap showed me lots of notices such as “Do not enter site”, “Report to site office” but nothing regarding the public footpath. I pointed out to him the several small statutory yellow discs displaying “Public footpath”. But all to no avail.

So what is the position about this footpath? Why are there no statutory notices closing it – the developers Taylor Wimpey surely cannot unilaterally close it. Indeed is the footpath legally closed at all?

I would have thought a clear notice one way or the other is required.”

[author’s name and contact details given]

Tory Councillor blames Tory Government for abandoning Axminster and pleads with Parish and Swire for help

Axminster Conservative Councillor Ian Hall has challenged the area’s two Conservative MPs to press for more credible support from Westminster after the town suffered another in a series of economic setbacks.

The Conservative district councillor, who was re-elected to represent the town in May, despite his party losing control of East Devon after 45 years, says he feels the Tory administration in Westminster has abandoned the town.

This follows news that the Government has rebuffed Axminster’s application for help from a Future High Streets Fund grant at the second stage.

The former Conservative administration at EDDC applied to Westminster in March for Axminster to receive a share of the £675 million set aside as part of Government’s Our Plan for the High Street.

It became clear that Axminster had lost out when the shortlist of successful bids for up to £150,000 was announced last week, with the nearest places to go forward being Taunton and Yeovil.

Ian Hall said: “Axminster seems to be the forgotten town of East Devon when it comes to any kind of support from Central Government. There’s been a catalogue of decisions going against us, which have left those of us who are working hard to revitalise the town during challenging economic times feeling like nobody in power cares about us.

POSITIVE ACTION

“I’ve now contacted our two local MPs – Neil Parish and Hugo Swire – challenging them to press colleagues in Government to recognise that Axminster will be in dire straits if it doesn’t see some positive action”.

In March, Ian Hall described a Whitehall decision to backtrack on an earlier promise of a £10 million grant for the proposed Axminster Relief Road as a ‘betrayal’ because changing the grant to a loan rendered the entire Axminster Masterplan unviable.

Since then, there’s been more gloom for Axminster, with Goulds announcing an autumn closure of the town’s Trinity House department store and McColls newsagent in Victoria Place expected to cease trading.

An angry Ian Hall said: “Enough is enough. Axminster is fighting for its life at the moment. There are people in this town – and I’m one of them – working incredibly hard to keep ourselves afloat against really tough odds. But all we’re getting from this Government [HIS GOVERNMENT!!!] is one kick in the teeth after another.

FIGHTING

“There’s only so much people here on the ground can do. I’m fighting Axminster’s corner at district and county level. But our local efforts can only make a difference if we get support from central funds. No one at Westminster seems to understand the desperate position we are in – let alone care about it. If you take away people’s hope, why shouldn’t they just give up?

“I’m hoping the two men who local people elected to protect our interests [!] will start rattling some cages in Westminster. We will soon have a new Prime Minister and a fresh administration in Whitehall. I’m challenging our MPs to get Axminster on their radar and to secure some tangible recognition of our town’s fantastic record of self-help.

“Meanwhile, we also have a new administration running East Devon. I also challenge them to do their bit, as a matter of urgency, to help our fantastic town to thrive and prosper”.

Clinton Devon Estates and Newton Poppleford – a lesson from Budleigh Salterton

The people of Budleigh Salterton would advise the people of Newton Poppleford not to hold out much hope in acquiring a surgery or anything of benefit to the village. (see East Devon Watch 11 July) They have been down a very similar route with Clinton Devon Estates.

The failure of the BS Neighbourhood Plan to include all the hospital garden as open space, leaving only under a half leased to the new hospital hub left Clinton Devon Estates controlling the other half. A planning application was submitted for the construction of 2 open market dwellings and associated access in its plot. Like Newton Poppleford the estate lodged an appeal against the delay in making a decision by EDDC. However, the Inspector turned down this on appeal concluding that the benefit to the town of building two houses in the garden was outweighed by the negative effect upon the recreational space within this part of Budleigh Salterton.

“In the absence of evidence to indicate that the remaining garden would adequately meet the needs of visitors to the health and well-being hub, in relation to this main issue, the proposal would have a negative effect upon availability of recreational space within this part of Budleigh Salterton, contrary to LP Strategy 6. The proposal would not result in an enhancement of the retained garden and so would not comply with LP Policy RC1.”

So what did CDE do? Did this estate whose motto is

DOING TODAY WHAT IS RIGHT FOR TOMORROW

allow the continued access to this land which cottage hospital patients had enjoyed since 1887?

No, the estate chose to ignore the spirit of the Planning Inspectorate’s decision.

They erected a fence. I am sure many of Owl’s readers have seen the “abomination” (BS Journal Feb. 15 2018) and may have seen children confined to playing in just under a half of the garden.

So those patients living in Newton Poppleford and seeking to consult their GP will have to continue to travel to Ottery St Mary. (Remember that Newton Poppleford is within the Ottery St. Mary practise boundary, not the nearer Sidmouth!) If they rely on public transport there is no direct bus route, patients have to travel into Exeter and out again, a distance of around 23 miles with a round trip time of at least 2hrs 30 mins. (and don’t ask about the cost)!