EDDC: “Relocation cost, No Deal Brexit, electric charging points and climate change motions rejected from being discussed”

Owl says: remember, the Chief executive, Mark Williams, is supposed to be a NEUTRAL civil servant and yet ALL of the refused motions are from ALL the minority groups ONLY……!

“Motions to support recycling, to call for a new property ombudsman to streamline complaints against shoddy builders, and for East Devon to get its fair share of the police precept rise will be discussed at next Wednesday’s full council meeting.

But motions over the full relocation costs of the move from Sidmouth to Honiton, to put electric charging points in all car parks, what to prioritise in a ‘No Deal’ Brexit and on climate change will not be discussed.

Various motions that councillors had put forward for debate at East Devon District Council’s full council meeting on Wednesday, February, were rejected by the council’s chief executive, as either the agenda already provides the opportunity for debate or the wording of the motions were inaccurate.

RELOCATION

Cllr Cathy Gardner had proposed a motion calling for the council to commit to publish an annual ‘summary of accounts’ for the relocation project until break-even is reached as relocation from Sidmouth to Honiton was proposed and predicated on the basis that the project would breakeven within 20 years and deliver cost-savings to the council tax payers of East Devon.

Cllr Gardner said: “Whilst some of this information is already available we feel it is vital for the ongoing costs to be published to show confidence that this project will breakeven. A majority of Councillors voted for relocation on the basis that money would be saved on energy bills. We are left unsure of whether breakeven will ever be proven.”

But an EDDC spokesman said: “The rejected motion contained inaccuracies and omissions that had the potential to mislead councillors and it was also premature. It is however proposed to bring a report to the next meeting of the Cabinet that will summarise the position reached with regard to the sale of the Knowle and the relocation. Cllr Gardner can raise the matters she is concerned about as part of the debate into that report.”

The motion would have called for the accounts to include

energy costs for the Knowle for the past 20 years (for comparison);

energy costs for both Blackdown House and Exmouth Town Hall per year;
the capital receipt for the sale of the Knowle;

a Red Book valuation of Blackdown House as of 1 March 2019;

the full costs for the relocation project since its inception, including: project management; removal, furnishing and equipment;

staff retraining and travel expenses;

new-build costs for Blackdown House; refurbishment costs for Exmouth Town Hall; and any other associated costs.”

CLIMATE CHANGE

Cllr Matthew Booth’s motion had called for the council to recognise that Climate Change and Global Warming are the key issues of our time, to acknowledge the strong concerns of young people in particular the recent walk out of school children and for the council to commit to introducing a policy of carbon measurement and reduction within all aspects of its own activity.

He said: “I personally do not care how we begin to do this, or who does it, but that we act now not wait for some planned strategy in the future.”

An EDDC spokesman said that the issue of climate change emergency is acknowledged to be of critical importance but that it would be appropriate to wait to see what Devon County Council decides. They added: “Currently, however, the County Council is considering its position and will shortly debate the matter. As we are in a two tier area it is appropriate for the District Council to assess the position taken by the upper tier authority and then respond accordingly. The public would expect us to work in partnership with the County Council rather than unilaterally.”

ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING

Cllr Eleanor Rylance had submitted a motion calling for the council to plan for and implement over the next five years a full rolling renovation programme of its car parks estates to fit and bring into operation electrical charging points at every space for domestic cars, and cycle parks with charging points for all types of cycle and that there should be mandatory EV charging points for the parking spaces of every new-built house in East Devon.

She added: “This council should approach the future of electrically-powered domestic vehicles with enthusiasm and proactivity, play a positive role in helping develop the use of electrical and should make this infrastructure, that will be a necessity within the next ten years, available in advance of full electrification of domestic vehicles in 2042.

But an EDDC spokesman said: ““The agenda already provides an opportunity for this issue to be raised so this motion was inappropriate.”

BREXIT

Cllr Rylance had also submitted a motion that said in the event of a No Deal Brexit or a version of Brexit that causes significant disruption, the council should approach this event as a situation of emergency in respect of its most vulnerable residents, dedicating any available human, material and financial resources required to palliate any negative outcomes for these groups, but the motion was rejected.

Talking about all the motions, a council spokesman said: “The council agenda for February contains the most important annual decision, namely the setting of the budget and the approval of the Council Tax for the forthcoming year. The process leading to this meeting has included several meetings where members were encouraged to raise all items of future relevance so these could be assessed as part of our service planning process and for assessment as part of the budget.

“It is unfortunate that some members did not take these opportunities and have chosen instead to submit their proposed motions.

“It is also noted that the wording of the motions was not checked in advance with relevant officers who would have been able to give timely advice as to their wording.”

But motions on the police precept, protection for new home owners and supporting recycling will be discussed.

POLICING

Cllr Tom Wright’s motion says: “In view of the £24 per band D property increase in policing precept, this council urges the Chief Constable to recognise the needs of East Devon when deciding how to allocate extra resources. East Devon residents are the biggest contributors to the police budget in Devon, other than Plymouth. It is only fair that we should get a fair share of the larger cake.”

NEW HOMES

Cllr Douglas Hull’s motion says: “The Government has stated that it would therefore be introducing as a priority a new property ombudsman to streamline complaints against shoddy builders. As a council that not only provides an excellent and highly regarded building control service but also has seen significant levels of new building in its district, we call on the government to fulfil its pledge to provide this much needed remedy for homeowners as a matter of the highest priority.”

RECYCLING

Cllr Peter Burrows’ motion says: “This Council continues to support the fine work done by the EDDC Recycling team in achieving the best results in Devon and to support and encourage local Organisations and voluntary groups who are involved in trying to reduce the amount of single use plastics used in their communities & beaches by making resources and expertise available, where appropriate. The order of priority should be – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. To actively help promote such activities through the Councils social media platforms.”

The full council meeting will be held at East Devon District Council’s new Honiton Heathpark HQ on February 27 at 6pm.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/relocation-cost-no-deal-brexit-2557565

Just about everyone puts the boot into the government on local authority funding

“The UK government is “in denial” over the sustainability of local government finances, a group of MPs has warned.

Councils are overspending on social care, reducing key services, relying on reserves and resorting to generating income from alternative sources, the Public Accounts Committee has claimed – adding that the government’s insistence that the sector is in fact sustainable is “extremely troubling”.

A PAC report, published today, noted that local authorities in England have seen their core funding from central government slashed by nearly 50% since 2010/11.

It added that such cuts have coincided with increasing demand for services such as housing – the number of homeless people in the UK has risen by one-third in the past eight years – adding that increased demand for social care means councils have had to cut spending in other areas. Spending on services outside of social care has fallen by 32.6% between 2010/11 and 2016/17, it stated.

The report added that, despite these figures, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government insists the sector remains sustainable.

“The government is in denial about the perilous state of local finances. It insists the sector is sustainable yet is unwilling or unable to back up this claim,” said Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC.

“Flimsy assertions have no place in financial planning. The fact that government has bailed out councils with short-term fixes should be evidence enough that all is far from well.

“Government needs to get real, listen fully to concerns of local government and take a hard look at the real impact funding reductions have on local services. And then it needs to plan properly for the long-term,” she added.

The cross-party group of MPs added that it was “deeply dismayed” that MHCLG views the financial sustainability of local authorities solely in terms of a “small set of statutory services”, such as social care, rather than the full range of services local people need.

“It is extremely troubling that the government views the financial sustainability of councils solely in terms of statutory services, rather than the full range of services local people need and can reasonably expect councils to provide,” Hillier said.

Overall local authority spending on services fell by 19.2% in real terms between 2010/11 and 2016/17, which the PAC says has pushed the MHCLG into using short-term cash injections, such as the £1.4bn allocated in the 2018 Budget.

Permanent secretary at MHCLG, Melanie Dawes, told the PAC in November: “We believe the sector as a whole is sustainable if the amount of resources available to it can deliver the statutory services that it is required to deliver.”

The report recommended that MHCLG should work with local authorities to collect evidence on the impact on service users of providing funding through one-off funding boosts as opposed to long-term funding arrangements.

In the 2019/20 local government finance settlement communities secretary James Brokenshire said that core spending power would increase from £45.1bn in 2018-19 to £46.4bn in 2019-20 – a cash increase of 2.8%.

“This year’s settlement paves the way for a fairer, more self-sufficient and resilient future for local government. That is why local authorities will have more control over the money they raise and a real terms increase in their core spending power,” he said.

The Local Government Association recently warned that discretionary services are under threat due to cuts to central government funding.

Further reaction to the report:

Rob Whiteman, CIPFA chief executvie, said: “It is widely accepted that the current funding model for local authorities is no longer viable, and without bold policy solutions vital public services will continue to be eroded in order to balance the budget.

“We should all share the concern that if current trends are allowed to continue, it will be some of the most vulnerable in society who will be missing out on services and experiencing worsening outcomes as a result.”

Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s resources board, said: “We agree with the Committee that the financial sustainability of local government cannot be defined by the ability of councils to just provide statutory duties.

“Pressures continue to grow in children’s services, adult social care, and efforts to tackle homelessness, and this is leaving increasingly less money for councils to fund other discretionary services, such as the maintenance of parks, certain bus services, cultural activities and council tax support for those in financial difficulty.”

Andrew Gwynne, shadow communities and local government secretary, said: “Nine of the ten most deprived councils in the country have seen cuts of almost three times the national average.

“And when you cut vital support services in such areas, social problems grow – and demand for those services only becomes greater.”

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2019/02/local-government-finances-unsustainable-mps-warn

Axminster Masterplan “consultation ” this Friday 8 February

The Crown Estate is holding a public consultation event from

2pm to 8pm

on

Friday (February 8)

at Millwey Community Centre,

to seek residents’ input on its proposals for land east of Axminster.

The Crown Estate’s site forms part of East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) Masterplan for the area, approved last week by councillors, for up to 850 homes, employment space and community uses as well as green space and a relief road.

The Crown Estate’s application would look to provide 441 homes – 25 per cent of which would be affordable – the central section of the proposed relief road, as well as space for new offices, shops and community facilities.

The event is an opportunity for local people to hear more about the plans and share their thoughts, ahead of a planning application being submitted to EDDC later this year.

Steve Melligan, strategic land portfolio manager for The Crown Estate, said: “Our proposals will help deliver a significant part of the new relief road for Axminster, as well as new homes and employment space for the area. We’re excited to present our plans to the community and look forward to hearing their views.”

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/plans-unveiled-at-millwey-community-centre-1-5879374

Strategic Planning pitfalls? Certainly for Axminster

A reporter … reports:

“At Tuesday’s Strategic Planning Meeting at Knowle (29 /01/2019), chaired by Paul Diviani, the masterplan for increasing Housing in Axminster by a whopping 30% , was voted through almost unanimously (there was one abstention), despite serious cross-Party criticism of the plan.

As the debate ended, the considerable number of Axminster residents in the public gallery were astonished to hear the Chair’s quip, to Cllr Jill Elson, “ I felt confident that you would come out with something that would stir things up”.

Cllr Elson (shown on right of the photo, beside Cllr Philip Skinner), had argued firmly that “the problem with plans is that they change” , citing her Ward as an example.

“Exmouth ended up with two huge estates with no play space or amenities whatsoever”, she said. Cllr Mike Howe (Con) shared her concerns, saying, (the masterplan) “doesn’t give us much credence or security that we will get the right houses”. But the Deputy Leader of the Council, Philip Skinner (Con ), expressed his view that “Give and take is needed in negotiations with a developer”.

Shortly afterwards, when Cllr Geoff Jung (East Devon Alliance, EDA) observed that the plan might not suit young families, it became apparent that Cllr Skinner was not aware that the proposal to include a primary school had been dropped.

Cllr Eleanor Rylance (Lib Dem) had noticed significant typing and other errors in the masterplan document. Cllr Rob Longhurst (Independent) observed there was no mention of the words ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ in the document.. although Cllr Moulding had told the meeting that he had designed one for Axminster… and suggested this Strategic Plan Committee would like to see “if the community wants and needs” the masterplan.

Cllr Susie Bond (Independent) asked for clarity about the legal implications for the Council if the costs for the relief road “went through the roof” (So far, EDDC has agreed to borrow £7m to ensure the road, estimated cost £16.7m, can be delivered.)

Ian Hall (Con) admitted “this masterplan doesn’t sit easily with the residents of Axminster”, which Alistair Ferguson’s speech in Public Question Time, confirms. The text is reproduced below, with Mr Ferguson’s permission):

In support of the objections, other District Councillors, Cathy Gardner and Marianne Rixson (both EDA), also attended the meeting, though not on the Strategic Planning Committee themselves.

Cllr Gardner pointed out that agreeing to a massive increase in the town’s housing numbers “would not be for the right reasons”, if it was done primarily to fund a relief road. The masterplan “was being done to the people of Axminster, not for them”, she said.

And Cllr Marianne Rixson added that “delivery of affordables does not have a good record” in East Devon.

Having listened to the comments aired, Cllr Geoff Pook (Ind) cautioned the committee not to be “persuaded by the opposition”. “There are just as many people in favour”, he opined.

Finally, the fear that the time-limited government funding for the relief road would be missed, therefore putting in jeopardy the 650 homes allocated in the Local Plan, swayed the committee members to approve the masterplan, albeit with caveats based on their misgivings.

Is this how the wrong sort of housing so often gets built in the wrong place?

In Axminster’s case, how much will the masterplan impact on the historic former deer park? As Cllr Mike Howe, Chair of the Development Management Committee (DMC) told yesterday’s meeting, there’s an urgent need to know….’

Are the wheels falling off the East Devon growth wagon?

This is necessarily a somewhat technical summary of why Owl thinks EDDC has got its recent past and future jobs and housing numbers terribly wrong, and attempts to pinpoint why this is. If the assumptions below are correct East Devon cannot hope to match new jobs to housing number increases and hence to aspirational growth figures.

It has huge implications for the district – not least Cranbrook and Axminster, where huge housing growth does not appear to correlate with very modest job growth.

CURRENT STATISTICAL TREND 258 JOBS/YEAR
EDDC’s 2015 aspiration 950 jobs/year
EDDC’s “Jobs-led policy on scenario” 549 jobs/year
Ash Futures (Experian) “Upper end” 309 jobs/year
Ash Futures “more likely” scenario 200-234 jobs/year

Evidence from the first set of job growth statistics published by EDDC since the adoption of the local Plan are running at less than half the number used to justify the housing development target. This is only one quarter of EDDC’s aspiration to create one job per new household or 950/year.

A “Jobs-led Policy On” aggressive growth strategy lies at the heart of EDDC’s Local Plan for 2013 to 2031.

Consultants were employed to create a number of scenarios forecasting growth in jobs. They ranged from 162-191 jobs/year for forecasts based on past trends to a top estimate for above average “jobs led” growth of 309 jobs/year. This top estimate would justify a housing target of 13,050 for the period.

One of these consultants, Ash Futures, gave cogent arguments as to why this figure, in their opinion, lay at the upper end of likely growth and proposed a more modest, more realistic, set of growth assumptions generating 200-234 jobs/year. This more likely scenario was never converted from a jobs forecast to a housing assessment but it would have been just a bit higher than the 10,512 figure based on past trends. All these forecasts took account of demographic changes, migration into the region and economic growth.

Ignoring this, EDDC decided to add a further 240 jobs/year to the upper end 309 figure in a new “policy on” scenario to provide a total forecast of 549 jobs/year. (Something to do with Cranbrook but the details of this and whether there is any double counting remains a mystery). This 549 job/year figure was ultimately used to justify the final 17,100 minimum housing target for the 18 year period of the Plan adopted in 2016.

The plan requires a minimum average build of 950 houses/year. EDDC’s aspiration is to combine this with the creation of one job for every house built. But this demonstrates a complete failure to understand demographics and household formation. The need for houses and the need for jobs is not a simple equation of one with the other.

Papers attached to EDDC’s Strategic Planning Committee for 29 January 2019 (see footnote) contain data for East Devon employment covering 2009 to 2016. The explanatory text says: “It is recognised that it is an aspiration of Members [surely not every Councillor?] to deliver one job for each new home across the district but since the adopted Local Plan does not set out to deliver this it is not considered appropriate to formally monitor the relationship between the delivery of homes and the delivery of jobs.”

Here’s why – the real evidence, from the data, is of jobs growing at an annual rate of only 258 jobs/year.

This figure confirms the more modest forecasts presented by Ash Futures and, inconveniently for EDDC, is less than half of that used to justify the “Jobs-led Policy On” housing targets. It is only a quarter of the one job per house aspiration of “Members”.

Where does the 258 job/year trend come from? It is the gradient of the best fit linear regression trend line to the data given the Strategic Planning Committee and shown in the graph below. The full data source is referenced in the footnote.

This is a relatively small sample; and the extent of the fluctuations in the recorded number of jobs from year to year can be seen in the graph. For the technically minded the correlation coefficient of the trend line is 0.6, which is quite a strong one.

All the job number quoted above are for “full time equivalent” jobs (FTE).

Owl has been fortunate to find from the same official source as used by EDDC a set of estimates of the total number of jobs in East Devon which extends the time series to 2017. The significance of this is that the total number of jobs in East Devon fell between 2016 and 2017 and so we can expect the same to happen with FTEs. As a result Owl feels even more confident that the trend line shown above, despite the sample size, reflects what is actually happening.

The Local Plan has been in preparation since 2002 and EDDC has been following a growth policy for many years. So, although 2013 marks the formal start of the Local Plan, there is no statistical evidence to consider 2013 a “turning point” for job growth, though it does look to be an outlier.

With EDDC’s plan to build houses running ahead of creating the jobs needed for a sustainable community, just who are we building all these houses for?

Isn’t it time to cool the building programme, not ramp it up as Owl fears is being planned in the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan?

One of the key architects to all this is Councillor Paul Diviani. When asked at a recent council meeting why East Devon is taking all this development replied: “Because we have got the land, and we are good at it”.

Footnote: The combined minutes, agenda and reports of the Strategic Planning Committee with the job data for 2009 to 2016 on page 116 can be found here:
http://eastdevon.gov.uk/media/2744658/290119strategicplanningcombinedagenda_opt.pdf

Workplace parking charges -will EDDC officers and councillors finally have to cave in

Just about every year, Ottery independent councillor Roger Giles – whose environmental credentials are strong – has petitioned for EDDC councillors and officers to introduce parking charges to encourage them to think more about the need to use their cars. Every year, the Conservative majority has voted him down.

Maybe this will change – though with rural public transport so poor, it seems likely that they may have to stump up the cost! Particularly when what is left of it often stops so early!

Buses from the new Honiton HQ to Sidmouth will end at 8 pm, to Axminster they will end at 6.10 pm and to Seaton at 3.40 pm (yes, that’s right 15.40!).

Owl’s guess – allowances and salaries will be raised to cover the extra cost.

“The AA says plans to charge drivers up to £1,000 a year to park at work could become a “poll tax on wheels”.

Under plans to cut congestion, reduce pollution and raise money for public transport, a workplace parking levy is being considered by at least 10 councils.

The charges would affect businesses with more than 10 parking spaces and the AA said the costs would be passed on to workers.

The levy has already been rolled out in Nottingham where four in 10 companies pass on the costs to staff.

Since it was introduced in 2012, the charge has raised £53.7m which has been used to improve Nottingham’s tram network.

Hounslow Council in west London is proposing to charge between £500 and £1,000 a year for every parking space and at least nine other councils are considering imposing the levy.

Other cash-strapped authorities are likely to consider the measure because of a shortage of funding for road improvements and public transport.”

https://news.sky.com/story/drivers-could-be-charged-up-to-1000-a-year-to-park-at-work-11611486

Chilling report on NHS sustainability – it isn’t sustainable

Owl says: anyone who cares about the NHS should read EVERY PAGE of this 58-page report, which is written in clear and accessible language.

Every page signals a death-knell for the NHS sooner rather than later.

It is hard to pick out anything – every page tells a story of (deliberate?) mismanagement, underfunding and chaotic accounting.

For example:

“Key findings

The funding settlement for the NHS long-term plan

8 The long-term funding settlement does not cover key areas of health spending. The 3.4% average uplift in funding applies to the budget for NHS England and not to the Department’s entire budget. The Department’s budget covers other important areas of health spending such as most capital investment for buildings and equipment, prevention initiatives run by Public Health England and local authorities, and funding for doctors’ and nurses’ training. Spending in these areas could affect the NHS’s ability to deliver the priorities of the long-term plan, especially if funding for these areas reduces. The government will consider proposals in these areas as part of its 2019 Spending Review. In addition, without a long-term funding settlement for social care, local NHS bodies are concerned that it will be very difficult to make the NHS sustainable (paragraphs 2.27 and 2.28).

9 There is a risk that the NHS will be unable to use the extra funding optimally because of staff shortages. Difficulties in recruiting NHS staff presents a real risk that some of the extra £20.5 billion funding will either not be used optimally (more expensive agency staff will need to be used to deliver additional services) or will go unspent as even if commissioners have the resources to commission additional activity, health care providers may not have the staff to deliver it (paragraphs 1.19 and 2.29).

10 From what we have seen so far, the NHS long-term plan sets out a prudent approach to achieving the priorities and tests set by the government, but a number of risks remain. The long-term plan describes how the NHS aims to achieve the range of priorities and five financial tests, set by the government in return for the long-term funding settlement, which NHS England believes are stretching but feasible. As with all long-term plans, it provides a helpful indicator of the direction of travel, but significant internal and external risks remain to making the plan happen. These risks include: growing pressures on services; staffing shortages; funding for social care and public health; and the strength of the economy. Our reports have highlighted how previous funding boosts appear to have mostly been spent on dealing with current pressures rather than making the changes that are needed to put the NHS on a sustainable footing (paragraphs 2.24 to 2.26).

Financial and operational performance of NHS bodies

11 In 2017-18, NHS commissioners and trusts reported a combined deficit of £21 million. This was made up of:

The combined deficit of £21 million does not include adjustments needed to report against the Department’s budget for day-to-day resources and administration costs.

12 It is not clear that funding is reaching the right parts of the system.
The overspends by trusts and CCGs were broadly offset by the underspend by NHS England. In 2017-18, NHS England’s underspend included: £962 million from non-recurrent central programme costs, including efficiencies from vacancies;

a £280 million contribution to the risk reserve and £223 million from centrally commissioned services, mostly specialised services (paragraphs 1.4 and 1.8).

13 Most of the combined trust deficit is accounted for by a small number of trusts, while the number of CCGs in deficit increased in 2017-18. The net trust deficit hides wide variation in performance between trusts, with 100 out of 232 trusts in deficit. In 2017-18, 69% of the total trust deficit was accounted for by 10 trusts. NHS Improvement has committed to returning the trust sector to balance in 2020-21, but it is difficult to see how this will be achieved for the worst-performing trusts under current arrangements. Although support provided to trusts in NHS Improvement’s financial special measures programme has been successful in improving the position of some trusts (by £49 million in 2017-18), the financial performance of the 10 worst-performing trusts deteriorated significantly in 2017-18. Between 2016-17 and 2017-18, the number of CCGs reporting overspends against their planned position increased from 57 to 75. The NHS long-term plan sets out the national bodies’ aim that no NHS organisation is reporting a deficit by 2023-24 (paragraphs 1.6 and 1.11).

14 There are indications that the underlying financial health in some trusts
is getting worse. In 2017-18, trusts reported that their combined underlying deficit was £4.3 billion, or £1.85 billion if the Provider Sustainability Fund (which replaced the Sustainability and Transformation Fund in 2018-19) is allocated to trusts in future years. There is no historical data on the underlying deficit that takes account of one-off savings, emergency extra cash and other short-term fixes that boost the financial position of the NHS, so it is not clear whether this position is getting better or worse. However, indicators such as cash support and one-off efficiency savings suggest the position has not improved. For example, in 2017-18, the Department gave £3.2 billion in loans to support trusts in difficulty, up from £2.8 billion in 2016-17. In 2017-18, 26% of trusts’ savings were one-off. Trusts will need to make additional savings in 2018-19 to replace these one-off savings (paragraphs 1.13, 1.14, 2.13, 2.17 and 2.18).”

https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NHS-financial-sustainability_.pdf