Hinkley C subsidising UK nuclear weapon industry

So NOW see just why our Local Enterprise Partnership – where many past and present board members have and had nuclear and arms industry interests – is pouring money into Hinkley C.

Scientists tell MPs government is using expensive power project to cross-subsidise military by maintaining nuclear skills

“The government is using the “extremely expensive” Hinkley Point C nuclear power station to cross-subsidise Britain’s nuclear weapon arsenal, according to senior scientists.

In evidence submitted to the influential public accounts committee (PAC), which is currently investigating the nuclear plant deal, scientists from Sussex University state that the costs of the Trident programme could be “unsupportable” without “an effective subsidy from electricity consumers to military nuclear infrastructure”. …

“What our research suggests is that British low-carbon energy strategies are more expensive than they need to be, in order to maintain UK military nuclear infrastructures,” said Stirling.

“And without assuming the continuation of an extremely expensive UK civil nuclear industry, it is likely that the costs of Trident would be significantly greater.”

The Hinkley Point project has been criticised for its huge cost. The French electricity company EDF is currently in the early stages of constructing the plant near Bridgwater, Somerset, in partnership with the China General Nuclear Power Group.

The government has agreed a minimum price of £92.50 per megawatt hour (MWh) for electricity produced by Hinkley Point, the first new-build nuclear power plant in the UK since 1995. Under this agreement, if the usual wholesale price is lower, the consumer pays the difference in price. The current wholesale electricity price is around £42 per MWh, so the electricity consumer would pay EDF an extra £50 per MWh.

Last month, the government agreed a “strike price” of £57.50 per MWh for offshore windfarms off Scotland and Yorkshire, far below the Hinkley guaranteed price.

This week, the Green MP Caroline Lucas asked the government about the Ministry of Defence and the business department discussing the “relevance of UK civil nuclear industry skills and supply chains to the maintaining of UK nuclear submarine and wider nuclear weapons capabilities”.

Harriett Baldwin, the defence procurement minister, answered that “it is fully understood that civil and defence sectors must work together to make sure resource is prioritised appropriately for the protection and prosperity of the United Kingdom”.

Johnstone said the decision-making process behind Hinkley raised questions about transparency and accountability, saying: “In this ever more networked world, both civil and military nuclear technologies are increasingly recognised as obsolete. Yet it seems UK policymaking is quietly trying to further entrench the two – in ways that have been escaping democratic accountability.”

At a hearing held by the PAC in parliament on Monday, senior civil servants defended the Hinkley deal after a National Audit Office report concluded that it was “risky and expensive”. …”


“Why won’t ministers acknowledge social care’s growing emergency?”

Another of those articles you cannot summarise – you need the whole dreadful story. 12 consultations in 20 years, no action!

“How close to the brink is the social care system? In the severest warning yet that it is fast becoming unsustainable, council leaders will on Wednesday warn that their ability to support older and disabled people is “veering steadily towards the impossible”.

The picture in children’s services is no better. The body representing directors of those services reports that their ability to make any impact at all on the lives of 4 million children living below the poverty line is increasingly constrained by relentless funding cuts.

As leaders of both children’s and adult services in England meet this week in Bournemouth for their annual joint conference, they will reflect ruefully on the deafening silence from last week’s Conservative party gathering in terms of any relevant policy or funding initiative.

Most alarming for the adult sector was the complete absence from the prime minister’s ill-fated conference address of any reference to the system reform that had been flagged in the party’s general election manifesto, promising “dignity and protection in old age”.

It was left to social care minister Jackie Doyle-Price to announce that the consultation trailed in the Queen’s speech in June would not begin until 2018.

Mark Lever, co-chair of the Care and Support Alliance, a grouping of more than 80 care charities, describes the news as incredibly disappointing: “This year marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the royal commission on care and there have been 12 separate consultations and reviews since then. Yet the big questions on funding have repeatedly been dodged and the system is on its knees.”

Twelve months ago, the adult sector was described by its regulator, the Care Quality Commission, as “approaching a tipping point”. In a report on Wednesday, the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils, will lament that “inertia remains the characteristic we typically associate with the prospects for future funding and reform”.

While welcoming the £2bn one-off emergency cash injection unveiled in the spring budget, the LGA says the sector still needs £1.3bn immediately to help stabilise the care provider market. It also projects a £1bn funding gap by 2020 – not accounting for further cost pressures, such as the question of who will pay for care workers to receive the full minimum wage when doing sleep-in shifts.

Izzi Seccombe, who chairs the LGA’s community wellbeing board and is Tory leader of Warwickshire county council, says: “Councils have a proud record of getting on with the job of delivering for their local residents, and doing so in partnership, but it is no exaggeration to say that the circumstances are now veering steadily towards the impossible.”

Seccombe’s reference to partnership is pointed. Relations between local government and the NHS have soured in recent weeks amid recriminations over responsibility for delayed hospital discharges of older patients and intense government pressure to clear beds in time for a feared winter flu crisis. The LGA is furious that some councils deemed to be not pulling their weight face penalties.

One example given in Wednesday’s report is Sheffield council. Despite being one of the 20 authorities with the highest rates of delayed discharge locally, it has nearly halved the daily number of hospital beds occupied by people medically fit to go home – but held up by issues such as arrangement of a social care package – from 171 in February to 90 in July.

A survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services of about 100 councils, also released on Wednesday, will reveal that some have already been fined – by up to £100,000 – since April for causing delayed discharges. More than half are expecting to be overspent on adult social care in 2017-18.

Amid mounting concern over the fragile state of the homecare market, 48% of the councils surveyed say that homecare providers have handed back contracts in the past five months because they cannot fulfil them or make them pay. That’s up on the 37% who said the same in a previous survey in the spring.

More than 45% of councils say they find it difficult to find homecare providers, while 20% report difficulty securing places in residential homes and 52% say spaces in nursing homes are hard to come by.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services will use the Bournemouth conference to set out an eight-point plan for government to tackle poverty, including making good what the LGA forecasts will be a £2bn shortfall in funding of the children’s sector by 2020.”


Does Jacob Rees-Mogg contribute to his local food bank? They need it

“After Jacob Rees-Mogg said he found the huge rise in food banks “uplifting” in a live interview on LBC, we went to find out how many people in his constituency use this service.

According to the manager of the Somer Valley Food bank Paul Woodward, over 1,500 people used the food bank last year. Since April, in just over six months, almost 700 people have come to collect food already. This is added to numbers from Bath, where local food banks can see over 20 people a day.

While Jacob Rees-Mogg said food banks are a good thing as they show what a “good compassionate country” the UK is, the numbers paint a different picture.

According to data by the Trussel Trust, which accounts for about half the food banks in the UK, the number of emergency food packs given out has risen from 61,468 in 2010/2011 to 1,182,954 last year.

The Somer Valley Food Bank stated they currently have more stock going out than going in. There are collection boxes at local churches and supermarkets. Mr Woodward said they need the usual long-life food such as tinned meat, fish and vegetables, but also UHT milk and sponge pudding.”


DCC Ind. East Devon Alliance Councillor Martin Shaw will try again to get DCC to see sense on bed closures

Tomorrow (Thursday) Devon County Council will discuss a new call to review the controversial closure of beds in community hospitals in Honiton, Okehampton, Seaton and Whipton.

I have been told my motion will be discussed, rather than referred to Cabinet as is normal with most motions.

The motion proposes to redress the widely perceived failure of the Health Scrutiny Committee to properly scrutinise NEW Devon CCG’s decisions, which has allowed the CCG to go ahead with the closures.

The motion asks Health Scrutiny, which alone has legal power to refer the decision, to look again the outstanding issues, while at the same time committing the Council to alerting the Secretary of State to the disquiet in the County over the issue.

The motion also highlights the urgent call by Simon Stevens, Head of the NHS in England, to free up more hospital beds in view of the danger of an extreme flu season this winter.

I will issue the text of my speech tomorrow morning.

Martin Shaw
Independent East Devon Alliance County Councillor for Seaton & Colyton”

The free market – where you are free to walk away from responsibility for your actions

“The boss of Monarch was setting-up his own firm as the stricken airline was going to the wall, it has emerged.

Andrew Swaffield insisted he was “heart broken” by the firm’s collapse, with the loss of more than 1,800 jobs. Yet as Monarch was for fighting for survival, polo playing Mr Swaffield found time to get a new firm for himself off the ground.

Records show electronic paperwork to establish Alcedo Consulting Services was received by Companies House last Friday. The two directors are Mr Swaffield and his partner William Low, 51. The company was formally incorporated on Monday – the same day Monarch plunged into administration.

Stefan Stern, director of the High Pay Centre, branded the timing “shocking”. He said: “He appears to have been planning his escape route before the passengers or crew. “It used to be women and children first, now it seems to be chief executive first. “It’s such bad taste and, frankly, stupid, to do this now.”

The firm is named after Mr Swaffield’s polo team, Alcedo, which recently won several trophies at the Cowdray Park Polo Club in West Sussex.

In a message seen by the Mirror, he insisted Monday’s collapse of Monarch was “the hardest day of my entire career. “Seeing the end of the company and 1,800 people losinzg their jobs has been heart breaking.’

Mr Swaffield previously ran a consultancy firm, CST Consulting, after losing his job at British Airways in 2005. He said: “I have done the same again today knowing that I am leaving, so that I can start the process of planning my future and if I manage to secure any work I will have a company through which to process it. “It can take up to a year to secure chief executive level roles and consulting is a good stop gap.”

Records show Mr Swaffield became chief executive of another company, Shelfco 2017, that was set-up on September 25. The other directors include Nils Christy, Monarch’s chief operating officer, and Christopher Bennett, its finance director. It is registered at Monarch’s Luton Airport headquarters.

It came as millions of holidaymakers and bank customers are set to pick-up the bill for Monarch’s rescue flights.”


“Boris Johnson ‘says Cabinet minister’s salary of £141,000 is not enough to live on’ “

“Boris Johnson has told friends his minister’s salary of £141,405 a year is not enough to live on, according to reports.

The Foreign Secretary told friends his annual earnings were insufficient because of his “extensive family responsibilities”, according to a report in The Sunday Times.

The Tory MP has four children with his second wife, Marina Wheeler. He also fathered a daughter during an affair with arts consultant Helen MacIntyre, failing to get an injunction to prevent the reporting of her existence. …”


MP getting £3,000 per month from a lobbying, that’s fine – isn’t it?

David Mitchell nails it in The Observer:

“The Tory politician James Duddridge pockets £3,300 a month from a lobbying company, but don’t worry. If it were a problem, it wouldn’t be legal.

What is the advantage of letting sitting MPs work for lobbying firms? What are the pluses of that, for the country? Because we do allow it, so I’m assuming there must be some upside.

After all, there are clear advantages to many things we don’t allow: smoking on petrol station forecourts, for example. Allowing that would mean, if you’re addicted to smoking, or enjoy smoking, or think smoking makes you look cool, you could do it while filling your car with petrol, polishing its bonnet, going to buy snacks, checking the tyres and so on. You wouldn’t be inconvenienced by either the discomfort of nicotine withdrawal or a hiatus in the image of nonchalant suavity that having a fag in your mouth invariably projects.

And the same goes for those essaying auras of Churchillian defiance and grit, or Hannibal from The A-Team-style twinkly maverick leadership, to which a lit cigar clamped between the teeth can be vital, particularly if you’ve got a weak chin.

Similarly, if you’re a pipe-smoking detective of the Sherlock Holmes mould and are, perhaps, investigating a crime on a petrol station forecourt, or merely passing across one while contemplating the intricacies of a non-forecourt-related mystery, you wouldn’t have to suffer a lapse in the heightened analytical brain function that you’ve found smoking a pipe crucial to attaining. Interrupting such processes to buy petrol may cause murderers to walk free.

And then there’s the possibility that allowing smoking at petrol stations will marginally increase overall consumption, and therefore sales, of tobacco products – all the Holmeses and Churchills and Bonds will be able to get a few more smokes in before they die of cancer – which would slightly improve trade and GDP, and so create jobs.

Maybe Duddridge just pops in once a month and is a master of clearing photocopier jams.

Nevertheless, I am not, on balance, in favour of allowing smoking on petrol station forecourts. The manifold advantages are, in my view, outweighed by the several disadvantages: passive smoking for non-smoking users of the forecourt, nicotine staining of the underside of the canopy, and various others I can’t currently bring to mind.

But you’d think, in a system that flattered itself as non-mad, as I believe the British one still does, practices that are legal would be bristling with more boons for the community than those that aren’t. That’s got to be the vague rule of thumb, right? So then, what are the good things about allowing sitting MPs to take paid work from lobbying firms? What are the upsides to that?

The downsides are as hard to miss as a few hundred thousand litres of subterranean petrol suddenly exploding. Let’s take an example from the news last week. It was reported that James Duddridge, a Tory MP who was minister for Africa from 2014 to 2016, is being paid £3,300 for eight hours work a month by a lobbying company called Brand Communications.

It’s one of the few lobbying companies not to have signed up to the industry’s code of conduct, which prohibits employing sitting MPs. You may say that makes it a nasty firm, but I don’t blame it. Why would it sign up to extra rules if it doesn’t have to? That’s like volunteering to observe a lower speed limit than the one prescribed by law.

The law is absolutely fine with Duddridge’s little earner. Former ministers’ jobs just have to be approved by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, itself described by the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee as a “toothless regulator” (these committees are so bitchy!), since it has no statutory powers of redress. Then again, as its rulings are almost invariably “That’s fine”, what powers does it really need?

Duddridge himself says it’s all legit because Brand Communications is “not a public affairs company”, but the company’s website says “James will bring his deep knowledge of Africa, experience of operating at the highest levels of government and extensive networks to Brand Communications”, which sounds a bit public affairsy to me.

But I don’t know: maybe it’s fine. We can’t know it’s definitely not fine. Admittedly, according to the Times, the head of one of Britain’s leading lobbying firms called it “an appalling example of bad practice”, and the chairman of the Association of Professional Political Consultants said, “MPs should not be lobbyists. It is wrong to be a lobbyist and make the law at the same time,” but maybe it’s still fine.

Maybe James just pops in once a month and is incredibly helpful in ways that don’t conflict with his public duties. Maybe he’s full of creative ideas, a huge boost to office morale and a master of clearing photocopier jams. And then he pops back to parliament and doesn’t think about Brand Communications until the next month, no matter what issues concerning their interests cross his desk as an MP and member of the Commons International Development Committee. Yes, maybe it’s fine.”