LEP Growth Strategy branded “ludicrous” but still supported by (Tory) South Hams council!

Owl says: Owl has a strategy to catch twice as many mice as it catch now. The fact that there are far fewer mice, much less farmland, Owl is getting very much older and no owl has ever caught that many mice ever is immaterial – but it gives Owl “something to aim for”!

Councillors really do need to sit a test before they pretend to represent us!

“Plans to double SW productivity branded ‘ludicrous’

Plans to double the productivity of the South West by 2038 have been slammed as “ludicrous and a fairytale”.

The Heart of the South West Joint Committee has a vision for the whole of the region to become more prosperous, for people to have a better quality of life and to create a more vibrant economy where the benefits can be shared by everyone.

The productivity strategy says: “Our ambition is simple – to double the size of the economy over 20 years. We have ambitious local plans that outline needs and opportunities for housing and economic growth. To accelerate our progress towards our ambition and vision, improving productivity is our collective focus.”

South Hams District Council’s executive were noting the progress report they made since it was established in March.

Cllr Julian Brazil questioned how realistic and achievable the plans to double the economy in the next 20 years really were.

He said: “We haven’t seen that kind of growth in my lifetime. It is ludicrous and rubbish, and if they follow these fairytale and fictitious views about the economy, it doesn’t give it any credence. They should be much more realistic and things like this doesn’t give me any confidence they will come up with anything of any use.”

Cllr John Tucker leader of South Hams, said it was a stretch target but gave the LEP something to aim for.

And Cllr Trevor Pennington said the economy has grown over the years and there is more employment than there has ever been.

The executive unanimously noted the progress report, agreed to delegate development and endorsement of the HotSW Local Industrial Strategy (LIS) to the HotSW Joint Committee, and said it had made a £1,400 annual budgetary provision for it.”

Source: Western Morning News

CEO of Clinton Devon Estates shows how to be a gamekeeper and poacher at the same time!

It seems that, to CDE CEO Varley it’s a case of “Don’t do as we do, do as we say”:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/11/04/east-budleigh-rare-bats-or-bulldozers-special-council-meeting-7-november-2018/

and the fact that they are happy to cut down vegetation wilky-nilly at Blackhill Quarry to expand the engineering company!

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/09/06/gove-wasting-his-time-wild-woodbury-responds-to-blackhill-quarry-incursion-further-into-aonb/

When it comes to Network Rail it seems things are totally different!

“Twigged: rail chiefs behind the misery of leaves on the line”

Leaves on the line have been causing misery for rail commuters for decades. Far from Network Rail solving it, however, the problem has become worse under the public company that runs the tracks.

A government review that is published today has revealed that delays caused by falling branches and leaves on the line have increased by two thirds since the start of the decade.

Network Rail’s failure to manage vegetation by the side of the 20,000-mile network had the “potential to impact as much on safety and performance as on biodiversity”, the review concluded.

There are about six million trees on Network Rail land, typically a boundary of 10 metres either side of the line, but the review, commissioned by the Department for Transport, said they were often viewed as an “afterthought”.
In 2009-10, there were 11,500 incidents of trees and branches falling on to lines, rising to almost 19,000 in 2017-18. Last year more than 1,750 trains were cancelled by falling trees. Separate figures showed that leaves on the line, which can cause train wheels to slip, caused 3,261 hours of delays last year, a 70 per cent rise in a decade.

John Varley, the chief executive of Clinton Devon Estates who led the review, said that management of vegetation had been “under-resourced for decades”. His team found that “overstretched resource and no dedicated budget results in the maintenance of line-side vegetation being squeezed by other priorities”. Network Rail has spent £40 million a year over the past four years on vegetation management, up from £15 million, but the company still has a huge backlog.

The company’s bosses also face losing their bonuses for over-running engineering work under new plans. The Office of Rail and Road said that senior staff could be required to surrender a proportion of performance-related pay, which totalled more than £52 million last year, to fund improvements.

Network Rail said that it welcomed the review’s findings and that it would provide a plan to implement its recommendations in the next six months.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

Housing minister threatens councils on housing numbers – NOT developers!

The Express headline is:

‘Make their EYES water!’ Housing minister WARNING to councils who FAIL to meet targets

and the article goes on to blame councils for low housing numbers rather than developers who are hoarding hundreds of thousands of planning permissions, trickling out completions to keep house prices artificially high.

Message to Minister: stop shooting own foot, stop shooting councils, start squeezing developers till THEIR pips squeak!

Oh, and that bit about “developers starting on site” within two years. Legally, all they have to do is put in minimal foundations then they can leave the site unbuilt for as long as they want.

“Kit Malthouse MP was speaking to Nick Ferrari on national radio this morning to explain how the Tories are intending to “up the ante” for both developers and council planning teams so as to roll out new housing.

Mr Malthouse cited the introduction of a new scheme, the ‘Housing Delivery Test’, as one way in which the government’s building objectives might be more effectively met.

He said councils “have to hit a certain percentage of the forecast housing in their plan, and if they don’t we essentially take it out of their hands.

“If they drop below 85 percent of delivery they have to use an action plan, but if they drop below 25 percent delivery the government takes it out of their hands and they lose the ability to control a certain amount of housing in their area.”

“We want them to issue two year planning permissions, not three or five years, and if the developer doesn’t start on site within the two years that they’re able to say ‘your site’s out now’.

“You only have to do it once or twice for the development community to realise that we’re serious about this.”

The Minister explained that the Tories would give developers “big tools” to compel them to develop.

He concluded: “We’re putting big pressure on local authorities, big pressure on developers to come together.

“I do feel sometimes a bit like a marriage guidance councillor between the two because they do all shout at each other and point across the table at events that I’m at.”

Ministers say they will build 300,000 new homes a year, considerably up on the current build rate and more than in any year since the 1960s.

But a survey for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) found that only 12 percent of members expressed any confidence in that number of new homes being delivered.”

“Tory MP Philip Davies lavishes praise on Esther McVey – but misses crucial detail” (they live together – mostly)

“Philip Davies lavished praise on the Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey for her work on Universal Credit. He told MPs: “I know better than most how hard the Secretary of State worked to get the support from the Chancellor in the Budget. “Can I commend her for doing that.”

But the Tory MP failed to mention that they are not just parliamentary colleagues. The pair have long been close, arriving at a Tory fundraiser in February arm-in-arm and leaving hand-in-hand.

In March Ms McVey was quoted in the Daily Mail saying: “We’re partners but we haven’t done any official commitment stuff… yet.” It’s understood that they have had an on-off relationship for around five years and live together in London. …”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/tory-mp-philip-davies-lavishes-13540557

Affordable housing: with this government there is ALWAYS a catch!

“Government’s new council house building drive will come at expense of housing associations”

The Government’s council house building drive will come at the expense of fewer new units constructed by housing associations, The Independent has learned.

The revelation that housing associations will be partially crowded out casts doubt on the Government’s claims to be fully committed to a surge of new housing for people on low incomes.

In her Conservative conference speech in October Theresa May announced the borrowing cap on local councils would be lifted in order to allow authorities to start building houses for low-income families again in serious volumes for the first time in thirty years.

It was a reform that housing campaigners and many council bosses had long pressed for as a vital element of solving the shortage of social housing.

In the Budget on Monday, Philip Hammond followed up on the pledge, with official Treasury estimates suggesting the removal of the cap would lead to extra borrowing to build by councils of £4.6bn over the next six years.

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility said it expected new council house construction of 20,000 units over the period as a result of the lifting of the cap.

However, the OBR, also added that it expected this to crowd out private house building, with every two new council houses resulting in roughly one less new private house, meaning the net impact on new housing supply as result of lifting the cap would be only 9,000.

And The Independent has learned that the basis for this assumption is that councils, as well as funding new council building from borrowing, will also partly fund the new supply by tapping funds from the Affordable Housing Programme (AHP).

This is a pot of government grant money currently mainly drawn on by housing associations (charities and third sector organisations that provide housing at below-market rates) to fund their own construction of social housing

The upshot is that the OBR thinks housing associations’ available government grants will effectively be squeezed to accommodate councils. …”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/council-house-building-social-housing-associations-theresa-may-a8614281.html

Statistics, damned statistics and Department of Education statistics …

“The education department’s three latest cases of statistics misuse

In his letter to Damian Hinds, the education secretary, Sir David Norgrove, the UK Statistics Authority chairman, cites three recent examples of the education department putting out false or misleading figures.

Here is the first.

Last week, the minister of state for school standards [Nick Gibb] wrote that, in an international survey of reading abilities of nine-year-olds, England “leapfrogged up the rankings last year, after decades of falling standards, going from 19th out of 50 countries to 8th.”This is not correct. Figures published last year show the increase was from 10th place in 2011 to 8th place in 2016.

Here is the second.

My attention has also been drawn to a recent tweet and blog issued by the department regarding education funding. As the authority’s director general for regulation has noted in a letter to the department today, figures were presented in such a way as to misrepresent changes in school funding. In the tweet, school spending figures were exaggerated by using a truncated axis, and by not adjusting for per pupil spend. In the blog about government funding of schools (which I note your department has now updated), an international comparison of spend which included a wide range of education expenditure unrelated to publicly funded schools was used, rather than a comparison of school spending alone. The result was to give a more favourable picture. Yet the context would clearly lead readers to expect that the figures referred to spending on schools.

And here is the third.

The shadow secretary of state for education [Angela Rayner] has written to express concerns about your use of a figure that appears to show a substantial increase in the number of children in high performing schools, as judged by OFSTED. While accurate as far as it goes, this figure does not give a full picture. It should be set in the context of increasing pupil numbers, changes to the inspection framework and some inspections that are now long in the past, as an earlier letter to the department from the Office of Statistics Regulation pointed out.

In his letter Norgrove says these cases follow four other instances in the last year when the authority wrote to the department with concerns about its presentation of data. “I regret that the department does not yet appear to have resolved issues with its use of statistics,” Norgrove says.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/live/2018/oct/08/labour-and-tory-mayors-unite-to-demand-they-take-back-control-of-regional-spending-after-brexit-politics-live

Report that Randall-Johnson was with Swire and Minister of Health at Ottery St Mary

“If you thought Health Secretary Matt Hancock was a safe pair of hands for the NHS after Jeremy Hunt think again. Comedy antics ensued when the Hancock turned up at Ottery hospital. First he hid, then he hurried.

Matt may well have been doing a favour for a rich mate, East Devon money-bags MP Hugo Swire, but at what price, making him appear a hapless lacky to East Devon’s Tory elite.

Hugo by-passed the Department of Health to take Matt hospital surfing. They went to Budleigh Salterton Hospital, before popping into in Ottery.

East Devon Councillor and Devon County Council Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee Councillor Claire Wright was on hand, along with some residents, to ask the Health Secretary some questions.

Unfortunately, he was holed up solely with a number of East Devon Tories, including Sara Randall Johnson, chair of the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee. East Devon MP, Mr Swire and his aides were also present.

Have a read of Claire’s account. It certainly seems weird, so does the behaviour of the communication people of the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group.

‘Why was he so frightened about talking to a dozen residents, and the local county councillor?’ asks Claire.

‘I had been quite encouraged that he was visiting the hospital and wanted to hear from him that he will protect Ottery’s and other hospitals. After all, Mr Hancock commands the NHS and also NHS Property Services, which now owns many hospital buildings in the area.

‘They are all at risk of possible closure and sell-off due to the lack of funding available to pay the enormous rents NHS Property Services demands.

‘But his cowardly escape bid simply gave the impression of a man who does not wish to be even remotely accountable.’

But that’s not all. Here’s the response of an East Devon constituent, as posted by Channel 5 News Health Correspondent Catherine Jones (check out the picture).

[There follow many hilarious comments on Swire’s justification for his actions and a You Tube video of Hancock doing a karaoke version of “Can’t Stop Me Now]

http://www.theprsd.co.uk/2018/09/27/first-he-hides-then-he-hurries-health-secretary-hancock-hot-foots-it-on-east-devon-hospital-visit/