Brexit, developers, local plans and devolution

So, we voted out – and suddenly housebuilders (developers) shares plunged by 40%.

There does not seem to be an immediate link with voting out, but there is. We are in for an unstable time. There will be a recession and pundits differ only on whether it will be short (around 2 years) or long (anywhere from 5-20 years depending on who you listen to). House prices will reflect this by falling and mortgage rates may well rise, pushing some into negative equity and others wary of buying in case they fall into negative equity.

Housebuilders will also need to factor in higher import costs coming in the near future when EU trade reduces and new trade agreements have not begun, along with a local skills gap as workers from the EU dry up. Plus likely (possibly temporary)increases in income tax to cover lost government income from (again possibly temporary) shrinking markets. Not to mention higher unemployment benefits to those whose jobs currently depend directly and indirectly on those employers who would normally benefit from being in the EU.

To compound this, many developers have recently taken their huge profits out of their businesses by giving their directors massive bonuses.

All these factors cause a “perfect storm” for Local Plans and the general East Devon economy. Our Local Plan is predicated on continuous growth and increasing employment, fuelling a constant demand for new housing. And, more worryingly, there are penalties if this does not happen. If we (and all other councils) do not maintain a 5-year land supply, we are penalised by having our housing numbers INCREASED by 20%.

Another complication is that, currently, our council (and others) depend for income on the government’s “New Homes Bonus” – the more new homes it gets a developer to build, the more income it gets.

All this conspires to suddenly make our local plans hardly worth the paper they were written on.

Then there is devolution – which in Devon and Somerset also highly depends on housebuilding – having “promised” an extra 176,000 houses over and above Local Plans, and also dependent on continuous growth and constantly increasing employment. It is no coincidence that the Chairman of our Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP: the lead in the devolution bid) is Chairman of big developer, Midas.

Our LEP was also promised “jam tomorrow” funds (over 30 years) from the government AND anticipated masses of EU funding, all riding on the back of a new Hinkley C nuclear power station. All other devolved areas were given similar promises.

Our new government will now have its hands full attempting to negotiate its way out of the EU, rewriting or scrapping those EU laws we have (including those on environmental protection and workers rights) and trying desperately to work out where this notional extra £350 million a week is eventually going to be spent. It has already been promised to the health service, areas currently in receipt of EU regeneration funding and academic research programmes currently supported by EU grants. That is simply an arithmetical nightmare and almost certainly an impossibility.

This leaves East Devon in a precarious position: heavily dependant on new housebuilding and continuous year on year economic growth with constant employment growth and receipt of funds from a distracted government which has also promised to stem immigration – many having voted for this as its first priority. These two priorities will mean little time for other things. Not to mention having to deal at the same time with the implications of Scotland and Northern Ireland’s differing position on their future in the UK and EU.

The Local Plan and devolution deals are now almost certainly of much lower priority to this beleaguered government and this may well lead to unintended consequences the like of which our council and our LEP can only imagine and for which they have no plan B.

Many warned that economic growth and increasing employment between now and 2030, when our local plan ends, was unattainable and that at least one event would intervene for which there was no contingency. Few expected it to happen quite so quickly.

Diviani “trusts the electorate”

“Councillor Paul Diviani, Leader of EDDC, said: “The British people have spoken and why not? They were asked a question and they have answered it.

As far as I’m concerned it was the right answer because I trust the electorate to get the answer right.”


“EU Referendum: “East Devon to be one of the last districts to declare results”

East Devon will be one of the last local areas in the UK to return their EU referendum result. The district will return their verdict at 5am on Friday morning.

Residents in Exeter, however, won’t have to wait as long. The city’s verdict is expected to be revealed at 3am.

South Hams are set to announce theirs 3.30am, Teignbridge at 4.30am, West Devon at 5am, Plymouth at 5am and Torridge between 4am and 6am.

Exeter has many more voters than East Devon, so has Plymouth.


“Welcome to the angry, divided Kingdom”


“As the big vote approaches and many voices say the EU referendum has whipped up the politics of hate, John Harris and John Domokos go on a five-day road trip from post-industrial Labour towns to rural Tory heartlands. In Birmingham, Leave voters cross racial and cultural divides; in Manchester, students uniformly back Remain; while people in the city’s neglected edgelands want out. And one fact burns through: whatever the result, the UK’s grave social problems look set to deepen.”

Whoops! As everyone in East Devon knows, referendums are not binding!

Well, we could have told you that Britain! Here in East Devon our council thinks referendums (referenda for the posh people) are just a minor annoyance and to be automatically ignored.

A really crucial detail about the upcoming EU referendum has gone virtually unmentioned and it is probably the most crucial detail: Parliament doesn’t actually have to bring Britain out of the EU if the public votes for it.

That is because the result of June 23 referendum on Britain’s EU membership is not legally binding. Instead, it is merely advisory, and, in theory, could be totally ignored by UK government.

This incredible detail is explained in a new blog post by Financial Times columnist and legal expert David Allen Green.

Green says that no legal provision was included in the EU referendum legislation that requires UK Parliament to act in accordance with the outcome of the EU referendum.

Instead, what will happen next if the public votes for a Brexit will be purely a matter of parliamentary politics.

The government could decide to put the matter to parliament and then hope to win the vote, Green says. Alternatively, ministers could attempt to negotiate an updated EU membership deal and put it to another referendum. Finally, the government could just choose to totally ignore the will of the public.”

Voting deadline extended to midnight Thursday

The deadline for registering to vote in the EU referendum has been extended, the government has said.

Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock said the government would legislate to extend the cut-off until midnight on Thursday.

It follows a computer glitch which left some people unable to sign up before the original midnight Tuesday deadline.

The Electoral Commission urged people to sign up until the end of Thursday in order to vote on 23 June.

PLEASE do not leave it till the last-minute – do it NOW! With your national insurance number to hand (it is usually on payslips) it will take less than five minutes.


Fixed term parliaments – a headache for the EU referendum

“What do fixed term Parliaments mean?

The new rules require a PM with a Commons majority to call the next general election on a five year fixed timetable.

However, should the PM resign or lose a no-confidence vote, the process to be followed is still unclear. The monarch could ask another member of the largest party to try to form a government. But if they too declined, conceivably the Leader of the Opposition could be asked to and might seek to form a minority government without any immediate dissolution.

To dissolve Parliament early a vote of two thirds of MPs is needed, which would normally require that (most) MPs from both the government and the main opposition should support the motion.”

How effective is Parliament in controlling UK government and representing citizens?

PLEASE register to vote in the referendum, whatever your choice

The deadline to register to vote in the EU Referendum is Tuesday 7th June. It’s easy to register to vote online!

You’ll need to enter some personal information, and you’ll need your National Insurance Number to hand, but it’s really simple and should take less than five minutes.