Exeter set for ‘profound changes’ post-covid

“Coronavirus has revealed structural weaknesses in the economy….”

“There will be more housing in the city centre, higher than we are used to, and at a greater density…..”

Is “build, build, build” GESP now just a bad dream and well and truly dead and buried? – Owl

Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk 

Profound changes in everyone’s behaviour will be needed if Exeter has any chance to meeting an ambitious target to be carbon neutral by 2030.

As the city aims to build back better when the pandemic ends and tackle climate change, a warning has been issued that lives are going to change.

An event organised by a sustainability group called Exeter City Futures heard that that coronavirus has revealed structural weaknesses in the economy. Attendees explored how Exeter could build a vibrant economy as well as address the challenges of the pandemic and the climate emergency.

Through a process called ‘clean growth’, they aim to create high-value jobs, economic growth and an improved quality of life by cutting carbon emissions. 

Karime Hassan, CEO and growth director of Exeter City Council, said that the goal of net zero requires institutions in the city to pull together and to build a stronger city as part of a Net-Zero Exeter 2030 plan. He said: “It positions the city in terms of the issue of clean growth andt the city that we want to create which is more inclusive, sustainable, and healthy as a city, and we have to pull in the same direction.

Cllr Rachel Sutton (Labour), deputy leader and lead councillor for Net Zero Exeter 2030 at Exeter City Council, added: “This is a both exciting and terrifying time for everyone across the globe because as we were starting to get the head around the climate emergency. When we got overwhelmed by the pandemic, the climate emergency hasn’t gone away while we have been trying to get our heads around living in the pandemic.

“There will be more housing in the city centre, higher than we are used to, and at a greater density. When we build, it will be energy efficient and I hope others will follow and we intend to make sure people in council homes have houses fit for purpose.”

Glenn Woodcock, director of Oxygen House, the company behind Exeter City Futures, said that even before covid the area faced profound economic challenges. He said: “The multiple between people’s earnings and the cost of a house has gone beyond what we can tolerate in a modern economy but that being is exacerbated by covid. This is more than just a crisis in the atmosphere but a catastrophe in global warming in every one of the ecosystems and our ecologies.

“The pandemic, like a brutal and relentless hurricane, has stripped back to reveal the structural weaknesses in the economy, and we have to look at how we eat, clothe ourselves, entertain ourselves, our education, our healthcare from scratch.

“Clean growth is not returning to what we did yesterday – it doesn’t mean throwing it away but recognise we have to make some profound changes – but a place like Exeter is well placed to rise up to the challenges, and we can all do something about at least one of them.

“Our lives will change over the next 10 to 20 years and they have to, but this is not something to resist or be afraid of but that we have to embrace. Clean growth is giving power to the elbows of the people here to inspire people to follow in their footsteps, and to bring as much energy and excitement to the challenges as we can.

”Kalkidan Legesse, owner of Exeter sustainable fashion shop Sancho’s, said there is huge demand for change in the city but there needs to be support for businesses to engage in the digitised economy. “But we cannot take a one size fits all approach and when we are imagining the clean jobs, who are we imagining them for? One of the reasons we don’t see more progress in the green economy is that it doesn’t serve everyone’s interest, so do we understand what the opposing fortunes are and how can we address them?”

Off to the Taunton racecourse?

Based on anecdotal evidence, Owl knows many over 80’s in East Devon yet to receive an invitation for locally administered vaccination. In contrast, Owl knows of some 75+ getting the jab in Exeter.

Vaccines to given to over 70s and clinically extremely vulnerable

Annette Belcher www.devonlive.com 

Millions of people aged 70 and over and those clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid-19 will be next to get the vaccine, it has been announced.

These next two priority groups will be invited to get their vaccinations from Monday, January 18.

The NHS has so far been working to vaccinate the first two priority cohorts recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which are care home residents and staff, and those aged 80 and over and frontline health and care staff. 

Vaccinating the first two groups will remain the priority, but vaccination sites which have enough supply and capacity for vaccinating further people are allowed to offer vaccinations to the next two cohorts – those aged 70 and over and clinically extremely vulnerable people.

This will allow areas that have already vaccinated the majority of care home residents, frontline health and care staff and people aged 80 and over to keep up the momentum and start vaccinating further at-risk people, helping the NHS to reach the Prime Minister’s commitment of offering vaccinations to the first four priority groups by the middle of February.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “[Monday] is a significant milestone in our vaccination programme as we open it up to millions more people who are most at risk from Covid 19.

“We are now delivering the vaccine at a rate of 140 jabs a minute and I want to thank everyone involved in this national effort.

“We have a long way to go and there will doubtless be challenges ahead – but by working together we are making huge progress in our fight against this virus.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock added: “Now that more than half of all over-80s have had their jab, we can begin vaccinating the next most vulnerable groups. Where an area has already reached the vast majority of groups 1-2, they can now start opening up the programme to groups 3-4.

“We are working day and night to make sure everyone who is 70 and over, our health and social care workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable are offered the vaccine by the middle of February and our NHS heroes are making huge strides in making this happen.

“This measure does not mean our focus on getting care homes, healthcare staff and those aged 80 and over vaccinated is wavering – it will remain our utmost priority over the coming weeks to reach the rest of these groups.”

The guidance from the Government and the NHS to local vaccination services remains that they should still offer the vaccine to each of the priority groups in the order set out by the JCVI.

Make May elections in England more Covid-safe, Labour urges

Labour has urged ministers to make May’s elections in England more Covid-secure, after the emergence of a Cabinet Office document that warned the pandemic could severely hamper the process and put millions off voting.

This is not the first post on the problems of the May elections. Most of the discussion has been about the voting process, very little on canvassing. – Owl

Severin Carrell www.theguardian.com

The paper raises the possibility that even if coronavirus infection levels are relatively low, it could be difficult to attract enough election staff, and that safety fears may “disenfranchise large proportions of [the] community”.

Labour is calling for safeguards such as the possibility of spreading voting over several days, or having an all-postal vote, options that have been prepared for elections to the Scottish parliament, also due to take place on 6 May.

The Cabinet Office said the elections document dated from May 2020, and that the scenarios were part of a planning exercise, rather than predictions.

Election officials have already said that the English elections will be logistically complicated, not least because they comprise two sets of votes – this year’s, and those postponed from May 2020.

There will also be ballots to elect the London mayor and assembly, a series of other mayors, and police and crime commissioners (PCCs), with some voters facing up to seven separate ballots.

Although they will be protected by plastic screens, there are concerns about attracting enough volunteer election staff – especially given that many tend to be older – and about finding venues.

The May 2020 Cabinet Office document, seen by the Guardian, sets out two hypothetical scenarios. In the first, even though the Covid outbreak has been largely contained, the double set of elections causes “significant challenges for administration and supply”.

The other scenario theorises some limited social distancing measures, even as “overall normality is returning”. Under this, the document posits staff shortages due to redeployment of council officers, home working, and health worries for at-risk staff, plus a greatly increased number of postal votes.

It also sets out the idea that social media posts “inciting fear of continued spread of Covid-19 threaten to disenfranchise large proportions of [the] community”.

Cat Smith, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, said it was “deeply concerning that ministers have failed to introduce new voting methods used across the world to ensure polls can go ahead safely”.

She said: “Labour has consistently called for safer voting methods to be introduced, including voting over multiple days and all-postal voting. Ministers have had many months to make the necessary changes to protect our democratic process, but instead they are treating these elections like business as usual.”

While the government has said it will set out its plans for the elections in England soon, there is currently no provision for changes such as spreading the vote over several days.

Each UK nation organises its own elections. Scotland and Wales are holding elections on the same day for their parliaments, and for PCCs in Wales. There are no elections in Northern Ireland this year.

The Scottish parliament passed legislation in late 2020 allowing for May’s Holyrood election to be held over two days, for vote counting to take longer, for an all-postal vote election, or even to delay the election if it seen as too unsafe to stage on 6 May.

Political parties are likely to put heavy emphasis on postal voting to ensure voters are not put off casting ballots in polling stations, but Scotland’s election management board says polling stations will be safe.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said the elections document set out “hypothetical, made-up scenarios used in a planning exercise by officials back in May 2020. The document clearly states that the scenarios are not predictions.”

They said: “Last week, the government set out its action plan to roll out vaccines at pace. We are working closely with the electoral sector, public health bodies and political parties to identify and resolve challenges in the successful delivery of the polls this May. We will set out this detailed planning in due course.”

COVID-19: Councils losing tens of millions of pounds supporting businesses through pandemic

Local authorities are losing tens of millions of pounds supporting struggling business tenants through the pandemic which could have dire and long-lasting consequences for local services, Sky News has found.

Helen-Ann Smith, business correspondent and Madeline Ratcliffe, economics producer news.sky.com

Freedom of Information requests reveal English councils have already written off at least £19.7m associated with measures to support local businesses, including rent relief, rent renegotiations, payment holidays or business tenants going into administration.

A further £5.8m was lost as a result of Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs). These are arrangements where companies on the brink of insolvency negotiate debt repayments with their creditors in order to stay afloat – in this case, rent and rates paid to the council.

Lost income from business tenants is just one factor currently wreaking havoc with local authority budgets. Following 10 years of austerity and cuts, many fear it will amount to a crisis for local services.

Of the 272 councils who responded to Sky News, 124 – or 46% – confirmed they had lost income as a result of their own business support measures, such as rent holidays or having rent withheld since March.

Between 100 councils, £19.7m had been lost as a result of business measures. Barnsley was the worst affected, having written off £2m by mid-November.

In Barnsley town centre it is easy to see why as whole streets are now shuttered, with businesses reliant on support packages to survive.

Carl Esberger, who runs BigWicks homeware shop, sums it up:

“As long as I can keep a high street presence I will, but I think if there were no grants available for the high street, then I would be closed – like many have,” he said.

The pressure also comes at a time when many councils can ill afford it.

Austerity hit local government hard. Barnsley council’s budget is already roughly 45% of what it was a decade ago, which has meant fewer libraries, family centres and street services.

“Over the last 10 years we’ve made about £120m worth of cuts,” said Sir Stephen Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council.

“Next year, we have to find another £7m. So just when we thought we were getting out of austerity, things were beginning to bottom out, COVID’s come along and given us some more.

“You’ve got this income gap that maybe is not temporary but permanent. And how are we going to deal with that?”

The only way, he says, is by cutting local services. The impact will be felt in communities.

Charlotte Williams runs The Station House Association charity that provides early years care for vulnerable families and, although it is independent, it does receive some funding from the council.

“The most important work that we do with the council is the preventative stuff, and that’s always the stuff that seems to get cut,” she said.

“On a really practical basis for our families, there’s a need for lots of little bits of help and support.

“If you take any one bit away, it’s a bit like playing Jenga – you can take a few bits away and families survive, but if you take enough of those little slivers of support, it collapses and we go back to a time where unemployment is normalised, we go back to a time where people are solely reliant on benefits, we go back to a time where people are living in poverty.”

She said she worries about the coming years.

“We are pretty resilient people in Barnsley, you know we’ve been through quite a lot, but you can only chip away so much,” she added.

Nationwide, CVAs were responsible for a further £5.8m hit to councils, with a number of household name businesses availing of them.

Travelodge has CVAs in place that affects 15 councils. Mansfield District Council alone has lost £1.1m as a result of Travelodge’s CVA.

The company, whose shareholders include Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, was forced to amend its restructuring offer to landlords last year after it faced backlash.

New Look, which has also received criticism for its use of CVAs, was responsible for hundreds of thousands of pounds in losses for 10 council landlords as well.

CVAs are supposed to be the last resort for companies looking to renegotiate debts on the brink of insolvency, but some believe they are now being used unnecessarily.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “What we’re seeing is an increasing use, misuse of CVAs, cynically being used by owners who have taken value out in the good times, not prepared to invest back in the bad times.

“They are taking advantage of the legislation and the way it’s currently framed in order to write tear up leases, walk away from obligations freely entered into at our expense.”

The companies insist the CVAs were necessary.

A New Look spokesman said: “We launched our CVA in August last year out of absolute necessity, to safeguard the company, our employees and our suppliers.

“It was a measure we were forced to take as a result of COVID-19 changing the retail environment beyond recognition.”

Steve Bennett, Travelodge property director, said: “The COVID-19 situation has created unprecedented challenges for the whole UK hospitality industry, we have worked closely with our landlords to try to find the best possible path forward.”

Sky News’ FOI also confirmed Boots has withheld hundreds of thousands of pounds from councils.

The company was widely criticised last year for aggressive rent renegotiation during the pandemic, withholding service charges and rent due from its landlords.

Sky News’ figures reveal one council was owed as much as £143,000 in rent by Boots by the beginning of December.

“I’m pleased to say that the vast majority of our landlords we’ve now come to an agreement with and we’re now paying our rent as normal and I think that’s the way we want to be, but I just didn’t think it was fair that we should carry the whole burden.”

The December 2020 Local Government Finance Settlement does set out an increase in core funding for English councils of up to £2.2bn and highlighted £3bn of additional support for COVID-19 costs.

However, of the £2.2bn increase in core funding, £1.9bn is expected to come from increases in council tax bills of up to 5%. It assumes councils make full use of the allowable increases.

Taunton Racecourse the latest Covid-19 vaccination site from next week

TAUNTON Racecourse is being turned into a large Covid vaccination centre from Monday (January 18).

The site will open seven days a week, 8am – 8pm to offer the Covid-19 jab to people across Somerset, supporting the accelerated roll out of the local vaccination programme.

[Owl has already received reports of over 80s in the western half of East Devon receiving letters of invitation who have yet to be invited to a more local centre. It seems the “within 45 minutes” is a bit elastic. Just how well is Devon currently being served and are these mega site being given priority over GP run services see this post? Accessibility is an important factor for the elderly.]

Phil Hill www.somersetcountygazette.co.uk

The racecourse will be providing vaccines for people in the highest priority groups including the over 80s and health and care staff.

Health and care organisations have been working together over the last few weeks to put detailed plans in place to prepare the site to deliver the large scale vaccination programme.

Alison Wootton, Joint Senior Responsible Officer for the Somerset Covid-19 Vaccination Programme, said “This is a really exciting development in our local fight against the coronavirus pandemic. We are really pleased to use the racecourse setting in addition to the thirteen GP-led community sites and two hospital hubs already in place”

“We know that many people have been eagerly awaiting the news of any additional large scale vaccination centres and we’re confident that this large scale site will rapidly increase the number of people that can be vaccinated quickly and safely across Somerset.

“We are very grateful for the phenomenal support of all our health and care colleagues for their enthusiasm and dedication in the roll out of our vaccination services across Somerset, and to the hundreds of volunteers who have offered their time to support the smooth running of our new vaccination centre and our GP led community sites.”

Over the weekend, NHS letters will be sent to local residents from the priority groups who live up to 45 minutes away from the new site.

People will be invited to book their jab through the new national booking services by phone, or online. The centre will be an additional option for people to have their Covid-19 jab, but people can also choose to wait to be called by their local GP surgery if they prefer.

Trudi Grant, Director of Public Health at Somerset County Council said: “I’m thrilled Taunton Racecourse is set to start vaccinating those in priority groups from Monday. This will substantially increase the number of vaccinations we are delivering across Somerset and help protect our most vulnerable from this deadly disease.

“I want to thank everyone who has been involved in setting up and organising all our vaccination centres in such a short space of time, including the NHS, Somerset County Council staff, our District Council partners, community groups and volunteers. This really is the largest vaccination programme ever delivered in our living history.

“We’ll continue to contact you when it is your turn to be vaccinated – and please remember to continue to abide by the ‘hands, face, space’ message, even after you’ve been vaccinated.”

The new large vaccination site will continue to offer vaccinations to the priority groups as identified by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation. It is anticipated that once fully operational the site will be able to deliver around 900 vaccinations a day.

Bob Young, Managing Director of Taunton Racecourse added: “Taunton Racecourse is very pleased to be able to help the NHS by accommodating the vaccine centre.

“We are all immensely grateful and full of admiration for our NHS staff and hope that the people of Taunton and surrounding areas will benefit from a vaccination jab as soon as possible.”

People should continue to wait to be contacted by the NHS, either by a letter or phone call – please do not call the race course, or turn up without an appointment.

Healthcare teams are working extremely hard to vaccinate our most vulnerable groups as quickly as possible. Please be patient and the NHS will contact you directly when it is your turn – don’t call your GP surgery or local hospital to ask about your appointment.”

People are asked to support the NHS:

•Don’t contact the NHS or visit any of the vaccination sites to ask about your vaccine – you will be contacted;

•When you are contacted, attend your booked appointments;

•Follow all the guidance to control the spread of the virus and save lives.

Cornwall to host G7 summit of world leaders

Cornwall has been chosen to host the international G7 leaders’ summit in June in what is likely to be a landmark first meeting between world leaders since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Chris Matthews www.devonlive.com

It comes after speculation grew in recent days and was then confirmed by the government earlier today before being formally announced tonight. [16 Jan]

Organisations across Cornwall have welcomed the news, pledging an event that will leave a lasting social and economic legacy to benefit all of the county’s residents.

The major three-day international event will see leaders from the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, as well as invited leaders from Australia, India, and South Korea attend. It could also be Joe Biden’s first trip to the UK as President of the US.

The event will host world leaders at Carbis Bay, with neighbouring St Ives and other sites in Cornwall, such as Falmouth, hosting international delegates and media – with organisers determined to make this an event for all residents in Cornwall to experience and share.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken of the upcoming event, describing it as “a crucial summit”.

It will be the 46th meeting of the G7 leaders. The 2020 event, set to take place in the United States, was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Johnson said: “As the most prominent grouping of democratic countries, the G7 has long been the catalyst for decisive international action to tackle the greatest challenges we face. From cancelling developing world debt to our universal condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the world has looked to the G7 to apply our shared values and diplomatic might to create a more open and prosperous planet.

“Coronavirus is doubtless the most destructive force we have seen for generations and the greatest test of the modern world order we have experienced. It is only right that we approach the challenge of building back better by uniting with a spirit of openness to create a better future.

“Cornwall is the perfect location for such a crucial summit. Two hundred years ago Cornwall’s tin and copper mines were at the heart of the UK’s industrial revolution and this summer Cornwall will again be the nucleus of great global change and advancement. I’m very much looking forward to welcoming world leaders to this great region and country.”

Julian German, leader of Cornwall Council, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the best of Cornwall and the UK on the world stage, and to build our strength and prosperity at home.

“For those reasons we are determined that this event delivers a lasting legacy for our residents, inspires our young people and shows how we can play our part in bringing the world together after the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic – and bringing together all parts of the UK together, leaving no-one and nowhere behind.

“We want a lasting legacy that maximises inward investment, translating our moment on the global stage into trade. A legacy that helps Cornwall bounce forward and make its full contribution to the country’s ambitions in areas like space and satellite, floating offshore wind and other sources of clean energy, and globally significant geo-resources including lithium to power our future.”

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer QPM, of Devon & Cornwall Police, added: “I am delighted that Cornwall will be hosting this landmark event for the United Kingdom in an area that is not only one of the safest in the country, but also combines breath-taking scenery and innovative businesses with exceptional local hospitality.

“The event will be a real boost for our communities and especially our young people. It provides an opportunity for all my colleagues within Devon and Cornwall Police to demonstrate our operational excellence and world class policing skills on a global stage.

“We are excited to be playing our part working with and supporting our partners to deliver a safe and secure G7 summit. We have been preparing for this event for several months, including speaking with colleagues who have managed similar events, so we can ensure that we continue to effectively serve our local communities in the run up to, during and after the event.”

Visit Cornwall estimates a total economic impact of the Summit for the county of £50m, including both the immediate benefits of the Summit and related events, and projected tourism growth over the next five years.

Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall said: “Cornwall has been voted the best holiday region in the UK for 10 out of the last 11 years in the British Travel Award but is little known to many countries around the world.

“The G7 Leaders’ summit will shine a spotlight on our very special place and the worldwide exposure is promotion we could never buy.

“It will showcase the beauty of Cornwall and provide an opportunity to highlight our heritage, culture and the connections to each country, which will help drive increased numbers of international visitors to Cornwall over the next decade.”

Mark Duddridge, chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Cornwall’s economy is quickly evolving into one of huge significance to the challenges of the time most notably in the delivery of clean energy from our unique geology and location.

“Underpinned by our digital connectivity and creative expertise our traditional industries are developing their offer to deliver more to their customers whilst supporting the recovery of our climate and ecology.

“We welcome the opportunity to showcasing the new Cornwall to visitors from around the World and sharing our excitement for the changes that are now happening around us.”

Peter Andrew MBE, chair of Corserv Group, said: “The Corserv Group is delighted to have been asked to support the logistical arrangements to welcome the G7 Summit to Cornwall – a fantastic opportunity to raise the profile of our beautiful Duchy.

“Cormac Highways and Environment and Cornwall Airport Newquay continue to work closely with the organising authorities to ensure that the event runs smoothly in June. The Cornwall Development Company will be working hard with partners over this period to secure a lasting legacy in terms of inward investment.

“Over the coming months many of our staff will become involved in the logistical arrangements and we are committed to ensure that the event is a great success for Cornwall and see it shine on the world stage.”

Rural Proofing response will be guided by Labour’s motion says Cabinet at Devon County Council

A motion on “rural proofing” Devon County Council (DCC)’s policies, from Labour’s Cllr Yvonne Atkinson (Alphington and Cowick division), Labour’s lead on rural affairs came before the Cabinet on Wednesday 13th January.

The motion sought to make challenges and opportunities faced by rural Devon integral to policymaking, with Cllr Atkinson saying she tabled it because “ Devon is being left behind by the Tories as they concentrate on the Red wall in the North.” A Rural impact assessment from the outset, including engagement with rural stakeholders, means “the needs of rural communities will become  transparent and would demonstrate whether government or local  policies address the needs of rural communities and rural economies like Devon.”

Cabinet members voted in favour of using Labour’s “Notice of Motion” to guide its response to a promised Government report on rural proofing. A briefing prepared by officers noted that rural England faces new challenges and opportunities from EU Exit, declining farm profitability, changing consumer and live/work patterns, an ageing population, housing affordability, access to services, training provision, banking and high speed broadband in certain areas, climate change and new technology.

The briefing noted rural opportunities in environmental, agri-tech, energy and digital sectors, and strong economic interplay between neighbouring rural, urban and coastal areas. The Government has yet to announce how Devon’s EU structural funding will be replaced, and officers’ briefing called for any new monitoring and assessment duties for DCC to be accompanied by the necessary Government funding for an “equitable result in terms of funding for Devon and its residents and businesses”. Devon’s funding from Government does not address the “additional costs of service provision and difficulty of delivery in rural areas” it said, and the Government should “support fairer treatment in future funding settlements.

Speaking for the motion Labour group leader Cllr Rob Hannaford said he was content Labour’s motion would guide Devon’s response to Government, but Cllr Atkinson points out ”DCC does not have to wait for Government approval to carry out a rural  impact assessment and I urge DCC to make this a standard part of policy and decision making.”

New care home tragedy on horizon as experts warn UK ‘making same mistake again’

Experts and care home bosses have warned government guidance to discharge Covid hospital patients into care homes is still risky despite vaccines.

[Remember the government and NHS have until 22nd January to file their detailed evidence to rebut Dr Cathy Gardner’s legal challenge. – Owl]

Laura Connor www.mirror.co.uk (extract, use link for full story)

Scientists say we could be making the same mistake as last year when the UK recorded 28,186 “excess deaths” in care homes following the discharge of tens of thousands of infected people from hospitals.

The NHS is advising that patients can be moved directly from a hospital to a care home within 90 days of a positive Covid test or the onset of symptoms…..

Simon Jupp asks housing question – the partial answer reveals a great truth

Simon Jupp MP asks pertinent questions concerning the number of housing permissions granted compared to housing starts but doesn’t get a full answer.

The answer he was given indicates that permissions are running ahead of the 300,000 new homes per year target but that the government hasn’t a clue about build-out rates. Yet the Government’s “build, build build” policy assumes that granting permissions is the bottleneck.

Moral – don’t build policies or houses on  shaky foundations.

Nice one Simon!

Housing: Construction: 15 Jan 2021: Hansard Written Answers

www.theyworkforyou.com /wrans/

Photo of Simon JuppSimon Jupp Conservative, East Devon

To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what his most recent estimate is of the number of housing units with planning permission; and for how many of those work (a) has started on site, (b) is due to start on site and (c) is not yet planned to start.

Photo of Christopher PincherChristopher Pincher Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

The latest quarterly National Statistics on planning applications* show that over the past three years 1.14 million housing units were granted planning permission. Planning permissions are typically valid for 3 years before expiry if construction has not commenced. As part of the Government’s ongoing development of the official statistics on housing and planning we are looking at ways to provide more information on the progress of sites with planning permission.

* Source: Table 5 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/945387/Planning_Application_Statistics_-_July_to_September_2020_-_Statistical_Release.pdf

UK to face delay in delivery of Pfizer vaccine

The UK is among several countries facing delays in delivery of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine due to upgrades in its production capacity, the company has said.

Nadeem Badshah www.theguardian.com

The US pharmaceutical firm is increasing production at its plant in Puurs, Belgium, in an effort to produce more doses than originally planned for 2021, temporarily reducing deliveries to all European countries.

Shipments of the vaccine, produced in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech, to the UK are set to be affected this month.

The UK has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

A government spokesperson said: “We are in the process of understanding the implications of Pfizer’s announcement today to our plans. However we continue to plan to hit our target of vaccinating all four priority groups by 15 February.”

The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is also licensed and being used in the UK.

European governments have said the credibility of their vaccination programmes are at risk due to Pfizer’s decision.

“This situation is unacceptable,” the health and social affairs ministers of six EU states – Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – said in a letter to the EU commission.

“Not only does it impact the planned vaccination schedules, it also decreases the credibility of the vaccination process.”

Germany, Europe’s largest purchaser of the vaccine, said that it regretted the “unexpected and … very short notice” announcement as the company had promised “binding delivery dates” until the middle of next month.

Norway and Lithuania had earlier said that the pharmaceutical company was reducing supplies across Europe.

“What we want is for Pfizer-BioNTech to restore their deliveries to the agreed schedule,” Lithuanian health minister Arunas Dulkys told Reuters.

A Pfizer spokesperson said: “We understand a change to deliveries has the potential to create uncertainty.

“However, we can confirm the overall projected volumes of delivery to the UK remain the same for quarter one (January to March).

“We continue to liaise with the UK Government and the Vaccines Taskforce to work through short-term impact of these changes to our January deliveries and support the goals of the UK Covid-19 vaccination programme.”

Boris Johnson said on Friday that the UK has vaccinated more than 3.2 million, with almost 45% of over-80s and 40% of care home residents receiving doses so far.

PA Media contributed to this report.