Another (lack of) productivity headache for our Local Enterprise Partnership

How fortunate that ex-EDDC Leader Paul Diviani and current DCC Leader John Hart have managed to pass on responsibility for DOUBLING growth in Devon and Somerset by 2030 (not forecast for any other part of the UK economy) to our Local Enterprise Partnership – of which their councils are now very minor members!!! The parcel passed.

The tragedy being that this spurious forecast is now indelibly integrated into “unicorn under magic money tree” thinking at all levels.

Productivity went into reverse in the first quarter of the year, raising questions over why Britain is no longer churning out the efficiency gains of the past.
Output per hour worked fell by 0.4 per cent in the three months to March compared with the previous quarter, the Office for National Statistics said.
Compared with the first quarter of last year, productivity was 0.9 per cent higher, but this was still very sluggish against the trend rate of growth of almost 2 per cent a year that was routinely chalked up before the financial crisis.
The ONS said that the productivity puzzle remained unsolved and raised possible concerns about inflationary pressures building. Earnings and other labour costs grew by 3.1 per cent over the year, up from 2.9 per cent in the previous quarter.
With wages growing faster than productivity, firms face potential profit constraints in the short run and longer-term pressure to raise prices.
Over the past ten years, productivity growth has been the weakest since modern records began and appears to be the slowest since the early 1820s, when Britain was emerging from the Napoleonic wars.
After previous downturns, productivity has initially stalled but subsequently recovered to trend rates of growth. Productivity is the key factor for a lasting rise in living standards.
Economists have proffered a number of possible explanations for the productivity freeze, including the relatively low level of business capital investment and the reluctance of banks to lend since the crisis.
Others believe the productivity number is understated because of the difficulty of measuring intangible output benefits from the digital economy.
In the ten years since the last productivity peak in the fourth quarter of 2007, output per hour worked is only 1.5 per cent higher. It would have been 20 per cent higher by now if pre-crisis trends had continued.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said the latest figures were “disappointing but not surprising” given the strong job creation numbers in the quarter and weak economic growth.
Other analysts said that wintry weather in the first quarter would have hit productivity levels in some industries.
The ONS next week reveals the first of its estimates for monthly GDP as well as a rolling three-month figure. Previously it had stuck to quarterly numbers. Britain will be the first advanced economy to try to estimate total national output every month.
One drawback, however, is that it will delay publication of the traditional calendar quarterly number. The Bank of England will not have the benefit of the full second-quarter GDP number when it decides whether to raise base rate early next month.”

Source: http://www.thetimes.co.uk
2 mins read
Patrick Hosking, Financial Editor
July 7 2018, 12:01am, The Times

EDDC Planning: One rule for the businesses, one rule for residents?

How very differently EDDC planners seem to have treated an Ottery St Mary resident with a basic and simple planning question, demanding £40 to start a conversation, compared to an out of Devon business person who may be seen as saving their hide over the Exmouth Seafront debacle!

The Sidmouth Herald reports how EDDC planners tried to get £40 out of Ottery local Adrian Forster who just wanted to know if he needed to go through building regulations to renew his roof.

http://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/fees-for-planning-advice-virtually-a-scam-says-householder-1-5580051

He is apparently not the first to be charged for the privilege of speaking to a planner. (Tip – ask a decent builder not EDDC or, if you can wait for an answer, put in a Freedom of Information request (FOI)!).

Contrast this with how a planning inquiry and subsequent requests for information were dealt with concerning the “Exmouth Eye” business.

In a January 2018 an FOI request was made to EDDC about a planning inquiry submitted by EDDC staff member Alison Hayward (to her planning colleagues) concerning some possible irregularities in the application form for this business.

Investigation showed that the form categorically stated that a named planner had given pre-planning assistance or prior advice (17/2944/FUL). EDDC was asked by FOI for information about that advice. EDDC stated that the pre-application advice was purely verbal advice given to the agent about what needed to be submitted with the application and was not recorded in any format, so presumably the advice was given free of charge and no receipt was issued for any payment.

A business appears to get free advice, a resident has to pay.

By amazing coincidence, WhatdoTheyKnow.com published a response into two further Exmouth Ferris Wheel FOI enquiries (https://bit.ly/2tCGwX4) The answers suggest that EDDC was somewhat economical with the truth about fees being charged – originally stating that fees charged by EDDC for the wheel to take up a great chunk of Exmouth Seafront were exempt from disclosure.

When pressed, however, they did say: “We are charging £151.80 per operational day and no charge on non-operational days”. Earlier, they suggested free non-operational days were not unique to this Ferris Wheel operator and gave a link to their charging regime.

It seems the operator may be in a unique pisition – as their scheme and rates actually appear to make no mention of free days.

The denial of special treatment for their Ferris Wheel friends looks rather hollow now and the ducking, diving and avoiding providing proper answers to FOI’s might be of interest to the Information Commissioner yet again?

A lesson from pre-application planning advice on how to by-pass local objections, Historic England and the EDDC Development Management Committee

There is a very contentious planning application, an amended version of a second application, on a site in the heart of one of our historic villages.  It is in a conservation area, surrounded by listed buildings where the village has an adopted neighbourhood plan. The Grade 1 listed church overlooks the site.

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The Parish Council oppose this application because the application does not conform to the aspirations and policies within the Neighbourhood Plan. The main priority of parishioners is the preservation of the overall character of the built heritage. The Neighbourhood Plan requires new buildings should “…..respect the local character” and preferably natural traditional building materials and methods should be used. (The proposed two dwellings are contemporary with flat sedum roofs).

Historic England (watchdog of our historic environment) said, in Feb 2018, of the first application:

“… the site in question, sits to the west and is made up of two linear fields that run parallel to the road behind the dwellings. Due to their size and close association to the built environment, it is believed these may have been paddocks for livestock and were potentially connected to the pub.

In recent years, development has occurred to the east in the form of modern bungalows and housing estates. However, these fields act as an indicator of the former rural landscape that characterised the setting of [the village].

A pre-application enquiry has been undertaken with the council, who consider that some form of development may be acceptable on the site. We would highlight the importance of the site as an extant aspect of the former rural setting of the conservation area as well as the contribution it makes in terms of appreciating the former uses of the land and how the development interacted with its rural setting. Therefore, its development would result in some erosion of that quality, which contributes to the significance of the conservation area.”

In spite of this cautionary advice it appears from pre-application correspondence published on EDDC web site that EDDC planners want to facilitate development by ignoring all this, squaring the Councillors and by-passing the DMC.

Applicant’s agent to planning officer e-mail (March 2018):

“We talked about how the application would proceed from this point on, and [X- planning officer] advised that he felt that the team would be supportive of the application, though [sic] that the town council would object as they did before. This would mean that the application would need to go the Chairman’s briefing for delegated approval.

“The process works that when a parish or town council differ in opinion to that of a planning team (planning recommendation report for approval) then the chairman of the planning committee (who meets once a week) would make the decision if the planning report should be followed, and delegated approval is granted, or if it should go to committee [sic].

“The district councillor (Cllr [Y] plus 2 others) will also have a say, though they did not object last time to the two houses, and I [architectural agent for applicant] will be meeting with the Cllr this time to ensure that he understands the application, and the reason for the second application as the district Cllr is allowed to sit in and vote on the delegated chairman’s briefing.”

Historic England continue their concern (May 2018):

“We maintain reservations in respect of the proposal. The orientation of the buildings within the site, their scale and associated ground works to address this issue of height, results in a significant intervention that does not respond to the character and appearance of the conservation area, through the scale and massing of the proposal and its orientation within the plot……..”

And Historic England’s final comment is:

ou could add at the end the final Historic England recommendation:

Recommendation

Your authority should take these representations into account and seek amendments, safeguards or further information as set out in our advice.

Chances of that happening? Owl isn’t taking any bets!