Local author’s new book about local effects of austerity

Philip Algar is an active campaigner in his local town of Ottery St Mary.

HARD TIMES, HARD LUCK
Austerity, anger and adventure

by Philip Algar

“In his latest book, local author Philip Algar paints a sympathetic picture of the fictional Devon village of Woodfield Magna. Like so many across the country, it is decaying. The young people, lacking local employment, affordable homes and public transport, are moving away. Those who remain, mainly the elderly and financially challenged, are confronted by the closure of local hospitals, libraries, bus routes and social services and by more crime and other challenges reflecting the government’s austerity plan.

The locals discuss serious matters, such as whether the name of the pub should be changed, and lesser topics such as global warming, but their efforts to publicise their plight, on television, reveal a government plot to curb free speech.

One elderly resident, whose pension is lower than it should have been, because of the suspect actions of a very dubious businessman, dubbed the ugly face of capitalism, needs an operation to eliminate constant pain. The NHS will not assist for some time and he cannot afford to use the private sector. He and his friends, trying to help him, become involved in an unlikely adventure that emphasises the problems that millions face and which captures the interest of the entire nation and the attention of the government.

This satirical story, characterised throughout by a sustained and quiet humour, paints an understanding picture of village life and mocks many aspects of contemporary society.”

HARD TIMES, HARD LUCK (ISBN number 978-0-244-53385-4) is available from The Curious Otter Bookshop 10 Mill Street, Ottery St. Mary EX11 1AD price £8.99 or from the author direct on philipalgar@btinternet.com at the same price, including postage and packing to UK addresses.

Buck stops at councils for poor rural broadband

“A council-run broadband group has been branded “incompetent” for repeatedly terminating contracts and failing to deliver broadband after a decade.

Last month, Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) began its fourth procurement for a new supplier.

Graham Long, chairman of campaign group Fast Broadband for Rural Devon & Somerset, said the problems needed to be “lanced” and suggested bringing in new operators.

Council-run CDS declined to comment.

Campaigners have highlighted the lack of certainty around the roll-out due to funding arrangements with central government.
About £20m is needed to complete the work but this money was not set out in September’s Spending Review.

The review normally covers three years but this year only covered one.

‘Track record’

Farmer, Steve Horner, from Yarcombe, struggles with a slow internet connection.

“The only way they can recover is by replacing the current team in Exeter… they have to be replaced with competent people who have a track record.”

Mr Long said: “This is a boil that needs to be lanced and my suggestion of bringing in other operators is a way to lance it.

“My conclusion is CDS is currently gambling on that problem being solved by November next year when they expect to sign contracts, and whatever government we have at that time guaranteeing that money would be provided.”

The project is also subject to EU state aid rules and under the terms of approval the work needs to be completed by 2020.
CDS, which is run by Somerset and Devon county councils, has terminated three large contracts so far, twice with BT, and last year with Gigaclear.

People in affected areas believe any supplier would face the same problems as Gigaclear of laying cables underground.
“Some of the roads didn’t have proper foundations so they couldn’t use narrow trenches so had to do a lot more work,” Mr Long said.

Gigaclear connected about 3,000 properties before its contract was terminated.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-50490118?

If you don’t fill out this consultation you might lose out on rural broadband

“People in Somerset and Devon are being asked which areas have the biggest need for broadband, ahead of the process to appoint a new contractor.

In September Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) terminated its contract with Gigaclear as it significantly fell behind schedule.

CDS wants to establish which areas lack infrastructure and where the private sector has no future plans to invest.

A replacement contractor is likely to be in place by next November. ‘Biggest impact’ CDS is a partnership between Devon and Somerset county councils to deliver broadband to rural areas.

Responses to the consultation will help inform how the contract is shaped.

The procurement process is due to begin next month.

Devon County Council’s cabinet member, and CDS board member, Conservative, Rufus Gilbert said the consultation would help them set out the proposed areas and where to focus efforts.

Somerset County Council has added that it wanted to ensure the public funding as the biggest impact in increasing coverage.

The consultation closes on 10th December.

Consultation here:

How you can (try to) get a cash machine back in your community

“… Following our analysis, Link launched its Community Access to Cash Delivery Fund, which invited local communities to apply for a free-to-use cash machine. The network today announced it had already had 100 applications in the first month.

As a result, the new tool has been developed to meet the swell of demand.

To use it you just need to go to the website:

https://www.link.co.uk/consumers/request-access-to-cash/request-an-atm/

fill out your details, suggest a site for the ATM and explain why it is needed.

Link promises it will respond to the requests one by one and assess whether it can find a viable location to get an ATM up and running in the area. …”

‘Request an ATM’ tool launches for areas hit by cash machine closures

Planning, dogs and tails: another correspondent writes

“The East Devon electorate were, indeed, hoping for a significant change by voting for an Independent Council and, therefore, it is frustrating to read such controlling comments from the Tory Councillor Philip Skinner (he who was responsible for the extending mahogany table fiasco and who lives in the rural village of Talaton which is not one of the proposed GESP Clyst Villages) stating that  ‘this is a really exciting project and I hope people grasp it with the enthusiasm, that I have so we get the good things for the area that we live in’!

Who are the ‘we’ he is referring to? Perhaps, not the numerous residents of the 10 rural  village communities of Poltimore, Huxham, Clyst St Mary, Clyst St George, Ebford, West Hill, Woodbury, Woodbury Salterton, Exton and Farringdon who appear to be the prime targets for his exciting large scale development? Living in the small, rural idyll of Talaton, he should be aware that those who have also chosen to live in rural village communities may not wish them to mutate into sprawling suburbs of Exeter and, therefore, many may question Councillor Skinner’s motives?
Yes – we all have to be forward thinking – but aren’t these 10 villages the very essence of the intrinsic nature and indispensable quality of East Devon? Some may be persuaded that the proposed idyllic concept of happy, peaceful, picturesque environments labelled ‘Garden Villages’ would be pure nirvana – but, unfortunately, the vision in planning terms is not always what you get in reality! 
 
Sizeable growth in this North West Quadrant, without adequate road infrastructure improvements in the surrounding districts, already results in the regular gridlock of the entire highway network! ‘The cart before the horse’ approach of continuing large-scale commercial growth and adding more people to the equation before the provision of an appropriate, sustainable transport system is an unsatisfactory method for success.
 
There is no doubt that we must do better with designing new communities than we have in the past and East Devon District Council Planners  are fully aware that there are lessons to be learned from pursuing misguided judgements and courses of action by barking up the wrong tree!
Hopefully, the Independents are canines with character strength and principled, with adequate bite at the sharp end! Dogs can control their tails but often wagging lacks conscious thought!  Canine body language is so much more than just tail movements, so to achieve control, it is very important to pay attention to other factors. Furthermore, excessive tail wagging  can often be associated with fear, insecurity, social challenge or a warning that you may get bitten!

Sick people in Budleigh area can’t get to medical appointments due to lack of voluntary drivers

“People across Budleigh Salterton are missing vital medical appointments due to of a severe lack of voluntary car drivers.

Transport charity TRIP, which runs Budleigh Voluntary Car Service, has eleven drivers helping out, but most can only do limited times and days.

Neil Hurlock, office manager for the charity, said: “We desperately need more drivers.

“We are turning away several people a week because we have not got drivers.

“We had a case where we had no drivers available one day – this happened two weeks on the trot.”

The car service was created to provide transport by car for disabled people or frail elderly people who struggle to use public transport – either because there is no transport available or because they cannot walk to a bus stop or easily climb on and off a bus.

As well as covering Budleigh, the service extends to residents living in Colaton Raleigh, East Budleigh, Otterton, Woodbury, Woodbury Salterton and Yettington.

Mr Hurlock said a lack of on-call drivers could have serious implications to those relying on the service to get to appointments.

He said: “It means some of our users will not be able to attend medical appointments. If we do not get more drivers, then people are unfortunately going to be continuing to miss appointments.

“That is going to have a knock-on effect on their health because they will not be getting to their appointments at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

“We want to make sure these people are attending their appointments.”

The voluntary car scheme sees people utilise their own vehicles to help people visit hospitals and go shopping.

Anyone can become a voluntary driver and full training is provided by TRIP.

The charity also offers the opportunity for those interested to attend a ride-along to see if they are suited for the role.

The charity offers 45p a mile in fuel expenses.

For more information, drop into the TRIP offices in New Street, Honiton, or call 01404 46529.”

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/voluntary-drivers-needed-in-budleigh-devon-1-6329908

Time to ditch Barclays, before it ditches more of us?

“More than 120 MPs have accused Barclays of abandoning its most vulnerable customers amid a growing backlash over the bank’s move to stop its savers withdrawing cash from post offices.

In a damning letter to chief executive Jes Staley, the MPs criticised the bank for the ‘retrograde decision’, which they warned will only add to the ‘cash crisis’.

The politicians, co-ordinated by Labour MP Chris Elmore, urged the bank to reconsider and offered to meet American Mr Staley.

The Daily Mail has been calling on the banking giant to reverse its decision and has encouraged readers affected by it to write to Barclays.

The 124 MPs said they were ‘extremely disappointed’ by Barclays. Their letter said: ‘Quite simply, amidst the current uncertainty many people face around access to cash and wider banking services, this decision appears to be a retrograde step which will impact your poorest customers hardest.

‘It sends a message – rightly or wrongly – that those who cannot properly access the digital economy will have the carpet dragged from under their feet as our high street banks continue to abandon the communities that have sustained them for decades.’

Barclays faced a huge backlash after announcing it would stop its customers from withdrawing cash at post offices in January. The decision is estimated to save the bank £7 million a year, and comes after 3,312 high street bank and building society branches closed their doors between January 2015 and August this year.

At least 481 were Barclays branches, according to the consumer group Which?.

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: ‘Barclays has shown real disregard to the needs of its customers through its reckless move to cease cash withdrawals from the Post Office. MPs are right to challenge this ill-conceived decision that risks leaving many of their constituents facing an uphill struggle just to access the cash they need.

In a damning letter to chief executive Jes Staley, the MPs criticised the bank for the ‘retrograde decision’, over the bank’s move to stop its savers withdrawing cash from post offices, which they warned will only add to the ‘cash crisis’

‘We’re calling on the Government to urgently intervene with legislation that protects cash for as long as it is needed.’

Free-to-use cash machines are also disappearing at an alarming rate. Some 500 were closed every month last year, according to the ATM network Link.

The Access To Cash Review, an independent investigation into the cash crisis, found that about 17 per cent of the UK’s adult population – 8 million people – would find it difficult to function in a cashless society.

Natalie Ceeney, chairman of the Access To Cash Review, said: ‘As [the Daily Mail] has pointed out, this is affecting customers across the country especially those who are older, poorer, living in a remote area or may be disabled. This will be filling up MPs’ postbags, so I’m glad to see widespread support for the campaign.’

Banking trade body UK Finance has repeatedly directed customers who do not live near cash machines or bank branches to the 11,500 post offices across the country which offer everyday banking services. Barclays was also sending out this message as recently as June.

A petition urging Barclays to reverse the decision had nearly 9,500 signatures last night. …”

https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/article-7585989/Post-Office-cash-ban-Barclays-customers-poorest-124-MPs-tell-bank.html

“New report reveals alarming shortage of country doctors”

“Hospitals in rural and coastal Britain are struggling to recruit senior medical staff, leaving many worryingly “under-doctored”, a major new report seen exclusively by the Observer reveals. Some hospitals in those areas appointed no consultants last year, raising fears that the NHS may become a two-tier service across the UK with care dependent on where people live.

Disclosure of the stark urban-rural split emerged in a census of consultant posts across the UK undertaken by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), whose president, Andrew Goddard, has warned that patients’ lives may be at risk because some hospitals do not have enough senior doctors.

Just 13% of consultants appointed in England last year went to hospitals serving mainly rural or coastal areas, with the other 87% being hired by those with mainly urban populations.
…”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/oct/13/nhs-consultant-shortage-rural-coastal-areas?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

Yet another broadband promise …

Owl teserving judgment … but does note Swire’s constituency set to get it long before Parish’s … if it happens.

“More than 300,000 properties are set to benefit from a £250m project to improve broadband connections across the South West.

Jurassic Fibre, which is leading the fibre-optic project, says it is specifically targeting rural communities instead of cities.

Initial testing is being launched in parts of Devon in the autumn before the full rollout in early 2020.

Speeds of 20 times faster than the average UK household are expected.

Michael Maltby, CEO and founder of Jurassic Fibre, said the investment would “radically change” internet options.

He said the plans will reduce the “digital divide” between cities and smaller, rural areas, offering speeds of one gigabyte per second to homes and 10 to businesses. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-49900477?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/england/devon&link_location=live-reporting-story