Sidford Business Park – a grubby history

Tim Ford, once a much-respected plumbing and electrical contactor in Sidmouth, is renewing his controversial application to build a business park in the AONB at Sidford. (18/1094/MOUT)

Incredulous locals wonder how it was possible for a council to allocate an ‘employment site’ in its local development plan that is on a flood plain, is a rich wildlife habitat, and whose main access would be a narrow street where two lorries can’t pass without mounting the pavement!

For the dominant Tory group on East Devon District Council it was easy!

First, they let landowners and developers decide where to build. In 2007 they asked East Devon Business Forum how much employment land the district would need over the next 25 years. EDBF was a lobby group which included the Carters of Greendale, the Stuarts of Hill Barton and Tim Ford of Sidmouth. Their answer was predictable: lots and lots!

Second, they put Chair of EDBF, Cllr Graham (‘I ain’t doin’ it for peanuts!’) Brown:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/12/17/the-disgraced-ex-eddc-tory-councillor-graham-brown-if-i-cant-get-planning-nobody-will-scandal-refuses-to-die/

in charge of quietly asking landowners where they would like to build. Apparently, the proposal for a Sidford business park was first mooted at one of these confidential meetings in July 2010.

Third, in 2011 they elected Paul Diviani, founder member of EDBF, as leader. Under him the District Council became what many saw as a ‘Development Corporation’, the planning system became less about protecting the environment and more about encouraging building.

Fourth, they didn’t listen to the public or community groups whom they ignored or misrepresented. Sidmouth Chamber of commerce said the business park would be catastrophic for local businesses, Council minutes recorded the Chamber as supporting it!

Fifth, they whipped their large political majority to vote through the Sidford allocation. When hostile public reaction worried them just before the 2015 council elections they voted to ‘remove it’ from the Local Plan. Universal Rejoicing! But in 2016 the Inspector kept it in the Plan. Why? Because East Devon’s chief planning officer had not been instructed to give the Inspector reasons for the council’s change of mind!

Former EDDC Leader Diviani is now EDDC’s representative on the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan. In its confidential meetings he is helping to oversee a gigantic overspill project along the A3052 in the west end of the District where hundreds of acres of land are being earmarked for a massive expansion of business parks and thousands of new houses.

Indeed one such expansion was announced only this weekend near Cranbrook, where the developer is quoted as saying:

“The first, ‘Scenario 1’ is a response to existing market demand with the provision of a single large unit of around one million square feet (92,9000 sq.m.).

‘Scenario 2’ would see the site offer a multi-unit option, providing a range of sizes and configurations informed by ongoing market need.”

http://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/huge-distribution-centre-near-cranbrook-is-given-the-nod-by-planners-1-5564832

Which all makes the wretched Sidford application even less necessary!

Would you choose immediate A-road and motorway access to Exeter and the M5 or access down a country road where two medium-size vehicles cannot pass?

Ottery Health Matters! Meeting 29 June 2018, afternoon and evening

Ottery St Mary & District Health & Care Forum, in partnership with:
RD&E, Coleridge GP’s, NEWCCG, Devon County Council, East Devon District Council & Ottery St Mary Town Council

Ottery Health Matters!

Health and Wellbeing Community Information Event

Date: Friday 29th June 2018

Time: Two drop-in sessions
2pm – 5pm
6pm – 8pm

Venue: The Institute, Yonder Street, Ottery St Mary, EX11 1HD.

Come along to this informal drop-in event to find out about the care and support available in Ottery and the surrounding areas. It will be a great opportunity to talk to health and care experts plus volunteers about the local services and activities to help people live well.

We need to hear from you about what’s important to you, what you think the challenges and priorities are to improve health and care for people in our community now and in the future.

Refreshments will be provided. Transport to and from may also be available. For any queries or feedback please contact:

Elli Pang via e-mail: ellipang@btinternet.com or Tel: 01404 812268 or Leigh Edwards via e-mail: leighp3@sourcemode.com or Tel: 01404 814889

Teignbridge Council CEO given £264,000 to push off – now working for West Sussex on £138,000 plus perks

“A council chief executive was given a golden handshake of more than £250,000 in a deal that bosses tried to keep secret to avoid causing her “unnecessary or unjustified distress”.

Nicola Bulbeck, 60, left Teignbridge district council in Devon last summer after 11 years’ service. The council had repeatedly refused to reveal how much she received but its draft annual accounts disclosed yesterday that the former barrister left with a £264,000 “exit package”.

It was also revealed that she was allowed to stay on until the day after the general election last year so that she could earn a further £30,000 for being the returning officer.

After leaving the local authority she was appointed an executive director at West Sussex county council last January on an annual salary of £138,000.
There has been concern about a “revolving door” of senior local authority staff receiving significant payoffs before moving to similar jobs.
Several Teignbridge district councillors have alleged that Ms Bulbeck kept her company car as part of the leaving package. The council has declined to comment on the claim.

Phil Shears, who replaced Ms Bulbeck, had defended the decision not to release details of her payout when she departed. He claimed that the disclosure would “cause unnecessary or unjustified distress or damage” to his predecessor. Mr Shears was appointed the council’s managing director on a salary of £94,656, considerably less than Ms Bulbeck earned. Ms Bulbeck had been criticised for accepting a 12 per cent pay rise that took her annual pay packet from £126,000 to almost £142,000.

The district council and the Information Commissioner’s Office rejected several attempts by the Mid-Devon Advertiser to unearth Ms Bulbeck’s settlement. The accounts show that she received £173,091 “compensation for loss of employment” as part of her exit package”.

Jeremy Christophers, the council’s Conservative leader, said: “We have followed strict council policy and abided by the legal advice given.”

Gordon Hook, a Liberal Democrat councillor, said: “The leaving packages for some senior officers at local authorities are nothing short of obscene in the eyes of many. My view is that the general public have every right to know how their council tax is spent.”

Ms Bulbeck was not available for comment yesterday.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

“Downing Street Accused Of Burying Electoral Commission Investigation Into Theresa May’s Advisors”

“Downing Street has been accused of pushing through key Brexit votes before MPs know the result of an investigation into whether Theresa May’s advisors broke the law during the EU Referendum

Stephen Parkinson, the PM’s political secretary, and Cleo Watson – also a Downing Street staffer – are both being investigated by the Electoral Commission as part of an inquiry into whether the official Brexit campaign broke spending limits.

The investigation was launched in November, but the Electoral Commission has now presented its findings to those under investigation. They have 28 days to provide a response to the conclusion before the report is made public.

Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson is questioning if the votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill – planned for Tuesday and Wednesday – are being rushed through before MPs have the chance to consider the results of the investigation.

He said: “Each day the plot thickens about the murky dealings of the various Brexit campaigns.

“Now it seems senior figures at the heart of Number 10 who were involved in Vote Leave could have been informed about the contents of this important Electoral Commission investigation long before anyone else.

“If that’s true Number 10 would have had time to plan and even ensure key Brexit votes like the ones this week could happen before the investigation
should really still be shaping and taking decisions at the heart of Government.”

The investigation centres around payments made by Vote Leave to clear debts of £625,000 run up by university student Darren Grimes with the digital campaign company AggregateIQ Data.

Grimes – who ran the BeLeave group – was allowed by electoral law to spend £700,000 in the campaign.

As the official campaign group, Vote Leave could spend £7million, and if it had commissioned and spent that £625,000 itself it would have breached the spending limits.

The Electoral Commission initially accepted the Vote Leave argument that it had donated the money to Grimes, despite settling the bill with AggregateIQ directly.

A separate group, Veterans for Britain, also received £100,000 from Vote Leave.

But in November it reopened its investigation, claiming new information had come to light.

Downing Street is drawn into the investigation as Stephen Parkinson – the PM’s Political Secretary – was National Organiser for Vote Leave during the referendum campaign.

He is accused by former Vote Leave volunteer Shahmir Sanni of directing how BeLeave should spend money – something which would be a breach of electoral law.

In March, Parkinson revealed he and Sanni had been in a relationship as part of his denial, prompting Sanni to claim his family in Pakistan – who did not know he was gay – were forced to take “urgent protective measures” for their own safety.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/downing-street-brexit-electoral-commission_uk_5b1e58a0e4b0adfb826bbe6e?guccounter=1

Devon County Council Tories kill off community hospitals

From the blog of Claire Wright:

“Seven Conservative councillors today block voted down my proposal to “strongly support” retaining all Devon community hospital buildings and to “strongly oppose” any potential plans to declare them surplus to requirements.

And in what became a rather heated debate, one conservative, Cllr Richard Scott, disgracefully accused the assiduous and polite Independent Seaton councillor, Martin Shaw of abusing his right to address councillors.

I had requested an item on community hospital buildings at today’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee meeting, as there is a continual threat in the air of the possibility that the buildings may be declared surplus to requirements and be sold off. There remains anxiety and concern in local communities as a result.

Last month, NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group was forced to deny they had “any plans” to declare Honiton and Seaton Hospitals surplus to requirements, following comments made at a campaign meeting.

Dr Simon Kerr, the GP who was quoted in the notes published, later said his comments had been misinterpreted.

The Estates Strategy, which will set out what is proposed to be done with the buildings owned by the local NHS, is due out soon, possibly as early as next month.

In presenting my case I set out how the committee had been unable to secure assurances from health service managers for a long time that buildings were safe, that Dartmouth Hospital is being sold off and that the ownership of 12 community hospitals in Eastern Devon was in the hands of NHS Property Services which was charging over £3m rents for the upkeep of the buildings.

I believe these rents are still being met by NHS England, but this is only a temporary measure and soon the bill will fall on the doormat of the deeply in deficit NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group.

Cllr Brian Greenslade seconded my proposal.

Speaking in support were also Cllr Carol Whitton (Labour) and Cllr Nick Way (Libdem).

For some reason the conservative councillors were all opposed to my proposal. Several said there was no evidence, that it was just speculation that there was even a risk to the buildings.

Conservative councillor, Jeff Trail, didn’t appear to like my proposal but said he thoroughly supported Cllr Carol Whitton’s position, which was rather confusing as she had just said she backed me!

Cllr John Berry didn’t like my recommendation because the committee didn’t own the buildings. He wanted us to write to the CCG to ask what the status of the buildings was instead.

Cllr Sylvia Russell thought she had heard an NHS manager say at some point at today’s meeting that the buildings were safe so there was nothing to worry about. No one else seemed to recall this.

Cllr Richard Scott dismissed my proposal as “speculation” and claimed there was “no evidence” to back up my concerns.

Referring to Cllr Martin Shaw, who had just set out calmly and eloquently the concerns of his own community of Seaton, Cllr Scott added: “In some respects this is an abuse of a right to speak at this committee. There’s nothing here to consider.”

Chair, Sara Randall Johnson, wanted to take account of Paul Crabb’s view, which was that some hospitals might be old and in a poor state of repair, but I said we should have a simple and clear proposal or the CCG would drive a coach and horses through it.

I reminded the committee (yet again) that our committee was the only legally constituted check on health services in the county and it is our job to act on issues of public concern, which this very much was.

I added that it was important to take a position now and before the Estates Strategy was published so our views could inform the strategy.

My words fell on deaf ears. I had genuinely thought, that despite all the past political shenanigans on that committee – and there have been many – that the Conservatives might have backed this one, as not a single member of their own communities would have surely wanted them to vote a different way.

There was every reason for the entire committee to be unanimously in favour of my proposal.

What a huge shame.

Voting in favour: Me, Brian Greenslade (LibDem – Barnstaple North), Nick Way (LibDem – Crediton), Carol Whitton (Labour – St David’s and Haven Banks).

Voting against: (All Conservative): John Berry (Cullompton and Bradninch), John Peart (Kingsteignton and Teign Estuary) Sylvia Russell (Teignmouth) Richard Scott (Lympstone and Woodbury), Paul Crabb (Ilfracombe), Andrew Saywell (Torrington Rural), Jeff Trail (Lympstone and Woodbury)

The debate is available to view at item 10 from this link – https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/325480

http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/health_scrutiny_conservative_councillors_block_vote_down_proposal_to_protec

“Two Dorset councils take out [allegedly] ‘fraudulent’ high-risk loans worth over £120m”

“Campaign group Debt Resistance UK revealed that Dorset County Council and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council have taken out £123m of Lender Option Borrower Option loans (LOBOs) in an effort to reduce their debts.
Dorset County Council took out £95.9m, while Weymouth and Portland Borough Council took £27m at the end of the 2015-16 financial year.
The LOBOs, which were uncovered on Channel 4’s Dispatches documentary series, allow private banks to propose or impose a new fixed rate on a pre-determined future start date.

This means that the borrowing party can either accept the new interest rate or repay the entire loan, paying a ‘breakage penalty’—the fee a client must pay its lender to break from the contract— incurring further costs on the local authority.

Last month the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) urged local councils to review their LOBO loans after auditing firms expressed concern at their impact on local authorities’ accounts. Channel 4’s Dispatches found that over 200 authorities had used the loans, totalling up to £15bn.

Cllr John Whitworth, chair of the Newham Council Scrutiny Committee, labelled the LOBO loans a “fraud on the people,” arguing that many local authorities took out the loans when they were struggling financially during the economic downturn in 2008. He added that the loans became “a very serious handicap” on councils dealing with austerity in later years.

Debt Resistance UK campaigner Joel Benjamin noted: “it is always cheaper for government to borrow than banks, and that PFI and by extension LOBO loans are therefore a fraud.”

Last week a merger between all nine Dorset councils was approved, creating the formation of Christchurch and Poole Council and Dorset Council. The deal is expected to deliver £6m in savings.”

http://www.publicsectorexecutive.com/Public-Sector-News/two-dorset-councils-take-out-fraudulent-high-risk-loans-worth-over-120m