“Requiring voter ID in British elections suggests the government is adopting US ‘voter suppression’ tactics”

“This week’s Queen’s Speech revived proposals to introduce photographic ID requirements for voting in British elections. The Democratic Audit team assess the available evidence on the likely consequence of such a measure, and consider whether the legislation tackles the right priorities for improving our elections on which there is consensus, or suggests moves to enhance Tory election chances via excluding voters presumed unfavourable to them….”

Requiring voter ID in British elections suggests the government is adopting US ‘voter suppression’ tactics

“Food bank users in Devon reach a record high”

And remember – you can’t just turn up at a foid bank: you have to be referred by a doctor, social worker and the like. And many recipients are from working families.

“The number of people using food banks in Devon has hit a record high, and Universal Credit has been blamed for contributing to the problem.

Figures provided by the Trussell Trust, a charity that works to end the need for food banks in the UK, more than 24,000 emergency food parcels were issued to people in need across our county in 2018/19.

One in three of these food parcels, or 8,242, was for a child.

Campaigners say “enough is enough” and warned Universal Credit is adding to the huge numbers of people who don’t have enough money to “cover the basics” such as food. …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/food-bank-users-devon-reach-3422071

“To save on teaching costs, school heads are increasingly busting the 30-child limit — illegal for pupils under seven” [including Broadclyst]

“Broadclyst school [photograph from article above]in Devon has a specially built classroom where 67 children are taught simultaneously. Though unions say such class sizes are detrimental to learning, the school’s head teacher insists pupils are offered an “excellent education”.

It looks more like a lecture theatre than a primary school classroom. Welcome to Broadclyst Community Primary School in Devon, where year 6 pupils are taught in a class of 67 — sometimes with just one teacher.

A Sunday Times investigation has found that cash-strapped primary schools are packing pupils into giant classes to boost their budgets. A school receives between £3,500 and £5,000 a year for each child. More than 559,000 primary pupils were taught in “super-size classes” averaging more than 30 children last year, compared with 501,000 five years earlier, according to our analysis of official data.

In parts of northwest England — including Oldham, Bury, Trafford and Tameside — a quarter of primary children are being taught in such big classes, as per-pupil funding encourages heads to fill their classrooms.

It is illegal to teach children under the age of seven in classes of more than 30 pupils, but there are no such rules for older children. But we have found that nearly 5% of pupils aged 5-7, roughly 73,000 children, were taught in classes of more than 30 last year. Some heads use just one teacher for occasional classes of more than 60 pupils. Broadclyst has one of the highest average class sizes, 42, and at times teaches 67 older children together in a specially built room.

Teaching unions and experts have always warned that such big class sizes damage children’s education. But this weekend Jonathan Bishop, Broadclyst’s head teacher, defended the policy, insisting that the school, about five miles northeast of Exeter, offered an excellent education, and class size “was not the big factor” in a good-quality education.

The school is rated as “outstanding” by the regulator Ofsted.

Bishop said: “I do not think 30 is a magic number to get better-quality education. It is not class size that dictates the quality of education. Our year 6 classroom has got 67 children in one room. There are times when one teacher teaches those 67 children. Is that wrong? Of course it is not wrong.

“Our year 6 classroom is designed like a lecture theatre: I can seat 67 children in there. I know I will be public enemy No 1 by saying this.”

Experts warned that the UK was moving inexorably towards the giant classes found in parts of Asia.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

AveragecUK earnings increase 2p per hour in two years – top 1% earnings go up £7 per hour in same period

“The top 1% of high earners in the UK have enjoyed a 7.6% real terms pay increase over the last two years, while the average worker’s pay rose by just 2p an hour.

A TUC analysis of government hourly pay data between 2016 and 2018 shows thatpay among the very top earners increased at a faster rate than any other group.

People in the top bracket saw their pay increase by an average of 7.6% from £58.73 in 2016 to £63.18 in 2018, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) annual survey of hours and earnings. Over the same period, the real terms pay of average workers rose by just 0.1% or 2p to from £12.71 to £12.73.

The TUC said that average pay in real terms, when adjusted for inflation, was still worth less in real terms than before the financial crisis continuing the biggest squeeze on wages since the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, warned that the gap between the richest and everyone else will continue to widen under the prime minister, Boris Johnson’s planned tax cut for high earners, which will cost the Treasury £9.6bn a year, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

“While millions struggle with Britain’s cost of living crisis, pay for those at top is back in the fast lane,” O’Grady said. “We need an economy that works for everyone, not just the richest 1%. Boris Johnson’s promised tax giveaway to high earners would only make things worse. The prime minister is focused on helping his wealthy mates and donors, not working people.” …

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/oct/12/average-uk-earners-gained-just-2p-per-hour-in-two-years-tuc-reveals?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Hard luck if you bank with Barclays and there is no branch or ATM in your town: you can no longer use the Post Office for cash

“A decision by Barclays to pull out of an agreement allowing bank customers to withdraw cash from post offices for free has been criticised as “shocking”.

The bank is the only one to scrap over-the-counter cash withdrawals at Post Office branches, with 28 other UK banks signing up to a new deal that means millions of people can continue to benefit from free access to everyday banking services.

The move by Barclays prompted a wave of criticism, including from a regulatory body, and appears to be linked to a sizeable rise in the bank-funded fees paid to postmasters for providing these services. Barclays has separately announced its own proposals, which it said were designed to boost bank branch demand and improve access to cash. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/oct/08/barclays-withdraw-cash-post-offices?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

“Historic High Street funding winners named”

The south-west, as usual, gets least funding, and, of course, Cranbrook, with no town centre at all, is NOT historic!

“Historic English shopping centres will benefit from a £95m regeneration fund, the government has said.

In all, 69 towns and cities will receive money, with projects aimed at turning disused buildings into shops, houses and community centres.

The largest share of money, £21.1m, will go to the Midlands, with £2m going to restore buildings in Coventry that survived World War Two bombing.

The government said the move would “breathe new life” into High Streets.

The government’s Future High Street Fund is providing £52m of the money, while £40m will come from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). A further £3m is being provided by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Towns and cities had to bid for the £95m funding, which was first announced in May.

The announcement comes after figures showed that about 16 shops a day closed in the first half of the year as retailers restructure their businesses and more shopping moves online.

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC which was behind the research, said retailers had to invest more in making stores “relevant to today’s consumers”, but added that “new and different types of operators” needed encouragement to fill vacant space.

‘Wider regeneration’

The government said the money would “support wider regeneration” in the 69 successful areas by attracting future commercial investment.

“Our nation’s heritage is one of our great calling cards to the world, attracting millions of visitors to beautiful historic buildings that sit at the heart of our communities,” said Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan.

“It is right that we ensure these buildings are preserved for future generations but it is important that we make them work for the modern world.”

Other major projects include a £2m drive to restore historic shop-fronts in London’s Tottenham area, which suffered extensive damage in the 2011 riots.

By region, the funding breaks down as follows:

London and the South East: £14.3m
South West: £13.7m
Midlands: £21.1m
North East and Yorkshire: £17.2m
North West: £18.7m

You can read a full list of the towns and cities that will benefit here

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49692091

but for south-west:

Chard
Cullompton
Gloucester
Keynsham
Midsomer Norton
Plymouth
Poole
Redruth
Tewkesbury
Weston-Super-Mare

“Increasing competition from online outlets is putting High Streets across the country under growing pressure,” said the DCMS.

“As part of the government’s drive to help High Streets adapt to changing consumer habits, the £95m funding will provide a welcome boost.”

Responding to the move, shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said High Streets had been “decimated” by “a decade of Tory austerity”.

He added: “This funding pales in comparison to the £1bn Cultural Capital fund that Labour is committed to, which will boost investment in culture, arts and heritage right across the country, not just a few lucky areas.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49692090

“Sharp increase in families on brink of becoming homeless”

“The number of families at risk of becoming homeless has risen by more than 10 per cent as councils struggle to support people living in overcrowded accommodation or facing eviction.

In the first three months of this year 70,430 households were judged to be on the brink of being made homeless, up from 63,620 in the previous quarter, the latest figures showed.

Local authorities have placed 84,740 families and couples in temporary housing, including 126,020 children, the highest figure in a decade.

A report last month by Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, showed that thousands of children were living in converted shipping containers and office blocks after being classed as homeless.

Yesterday’s figures were published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government a year after rules came into effect requiring councils to do more to prevent people from becoming homeless. It doubled to 56 days the period over which they must assess a person’s risk.

The most common reason for people becoming homeless, affecting 18,150 households, was family or friends no longer being willing to provide temporary shelter. The second most frequent cause was the termination of a shorthold tenancy by the landlord, which applied in 14,700 cases.

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, said more homes should be built for rent by people on low incomes rather than for better-off private buyers.

“It is unacceptable that the number of families living in temporary accommodation has been allowed to reach an eight-year high with no real action to tackle the root of the problem,” she said.

David Renard, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman and Conservative leader of Swindon borough council, welcomed extra funds announced in the budget to support homeless people but said that long-term funding was needed.

“A lack of affordable housing has left many councils struggling to cope with a rising number of people coming to them for help and are having to place more families and households into temporary and emergency accommodation as a result,” he said.

Luke Hall, a housing minister, said the Homelessness Reduction Act, which came in last year, was “helping people earlier so they are not having to experience homelessness in the first place”. He said the latest figures showed that progress was being made. “There is still more to do, though, which is why we have committed a record investment to ending homelessness and rough sleeping for good.”

The government published a separate report which showed that the number of vulnerable people sleeping rough had fallen by one third.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

Does Axminster Tory Ian Hall want to be the next Police and Crime Commissioner – or more?

Image from DevonLive article cited below:

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/how-perfect-devon-town-gained-3267664

Ian Hall (EDDC and DCC councillor for Axminster) has got himself in the news a lot recently with many, many press releases.

He wants all councillors to have (minimal) Disclosure and Barring Service checks at their own expense (even though the council’s officers say it is unnecessary and pointless).

Now, in an article that labels Axminster as “Crackminster” he declares himself an expert in “county lines” drug supply to the town. And disses “incomers” blaming them (and other feckless residents) for the town’s problems.

Rather than look at his town’s problems caused by Tory austerity (closed shops, closed sixth form at the school, closed factory (at which he once worked), large clone estates at every corner with no new facilities, closed community hospital beds, part-time police coverage … all the indications of deprivation and inequality .. . Who does he blame? He he blames the incomers that his party encouraged with its current and future overdevelopment and people who, he says, lack the community ethic and are workshy:

… “Axminster is a wonderful friendly town,” he says. “There is a tipping balance and it only takes one or two coming into the local area to tip the balance. But if they are coming here and adding something to the community I am all for it.” …

… [Ian Hall] says the town needs people who are prepared to work and buy into the community ethic and doesn’t have much time for those that don’t. …”

The article goes on:

“… House prices in Axminster tend to be higher than across the border but wages lower. Ian now travels to Chard in Somerset every day to work, making components for vacuum cleaners. A trip of just 14 minutes. … “

Smacks of ideas well above his party’s reduced police force and closed police stations to Owl. If house prices are high and wages low – who is to blame? Not the incomers who seem to be able to afford the houses with the loans given to them by his party, and who presumably also go to Chard and Exeter to work.

Oh, AND he’s on the town’s Regeneration Board, so he can do something about all these things!

Suddenly, he”s popping up everywhere and has (mainstream, very, very Tory or further right) ideas about everything are everywhere.

So – Police Commissioner? Next Leader of EDDC or DCC? Run against Neil Parish? Ruler of the Universe?

Whatever it is, if dissing his own town and blaming it on lack of community spirit and idleness of some of its residents will get him there – that will be fine, it seems.