Boris Johnson: almost a billion pounds wasted on vanity projects!

Public money wasted:

Garden Bridge £52 m
New Routemaster £321.6 m
Emirates cable car £21 m
Water cannon £323,000
Hire bikes £225 m
(hire bikes was supposed to be “cost neutral” – where have we hear THAT before!)
Estuary airport £5.2 m
Olympic stadium conversion £305.5 m
(original cost estimate with large part from football club which did not materialise)
Statue at Olympic Stadium (Orbit) £6.1 m

The article:

“The scrapping of Boris Johnson’s Garden Bridge project has exposed a £940m bill for his “vanity projects” as London mayor and prompted a senior Labour figure to say her party was partly to blame.

The figure is the total spent on eight projects closely associated with the former mayor, including the pedestrian bridge for the Thames that was abandoned this week, which either failed or whose value for money has been questioned.

His office insisted that the schemes represented important investments and that to describe them as vanity projects was “ignorant and wrong”.

Three Johnson projects ended in failure at a cost of more than £57.5m: the Garden Bridge; the purchase of water cannon; and the Thames estuary airport. ..”

Five others: the new Routemaster bus; hire bikes; the Emirates Air Line cable car; the conversion of the Olympic stadium and the ArcelorMittal Orbit helter-skelter, all did go ahead at a combined cost of more than £900m. They have run into problems after turning out to be far more expensive than promised.

The former Labour minister Margaret Hodge, whose review of the Garden Bridge project led to its abandonment, said she was shocked at how “irresponsible” Johnson was with public money. But during her review she was also struck by the lack of scrutiny of his profligate spending decisions when mayor.

“I kept thinking how the hell was he allowed to get away with this,” Hodge told the Guardian. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/aug/18/bridge-940m-bill-boris-johnsons-mayora-vanity-projects-garden-bridge-routemaster-bus

(Some) council leaders brand single-option consultation a sham

“The leaders of Adur and Worthing councils have called for a ‘sham’ A27 improvements consultation to be halted and re-run with further options.

Highways England has put forward just one £69million proposal to tweak six key junctions between Worthing and Lancing. But councillor Neil Parkin and councillor Dan Humphreys have joined forces to campaign for a rethink. Mr Parkin, Adur District Council leader, said: “Highways England say they want to consult with us but we say this is a sham.”

“By not allowing the public to weigh up options and see full costings how are we to make any kind of decision? “All I do know is the current scheme on the table is barely worth the disruption and certainly not worth spending £69million on.” Modest improvements to six junctions between Durrington Hill and the Lancing Manor roundabout are proposed which would cut three minutes from journey times but, according to Highways England’s own scoring system, would deliver no ‘significant benefits’.

In its consultation document the agency alludes to more expensive and radical solutions, such as underpasses and flyovers but dismisses them as too expensive without further explanation.

Mr Humphreys, Worthing Borough Council leader, said: “The more I listened to officials explaining the scheme at the launch of the consultation the more angry I became. “Highways England do not seem to be taking us seriously. Our questions were met with an ‘experts know best’ response while there was no explanation about why other options hadn’t been explored,” said.

“The current consultation should be halted and a proper one, involving other options and explanations started afresh. The agency must have those plans and calculations so let’s seem them.” The leaders insisted it is not for the councils to submit plans but for Highways England to give local residents, businesses and politicians real choice and real consultation.

Consultation ends on September 12 with two years of construction expected to start in 2020 if the scheme is approved.

Article originally appeared on Worthing Herald”

https://www.consultationinstitute.org/consultation-news/council-leaders-brand-single-option-consultation-a-sham/

“Ombudsman criticises city council for inappropriate use of confidentiality notices”

“The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) has criticised City of York Council for excessive secrecy in dealing with complaints.

In his annual performance letter to the council Michael King, the LGO for England, said York had been criticised last year about “inappropriate use of section 32(3) confidentiality notices” and this shortcoming had been repeated.

The notices are used where a council provides information on cases but says this should be confidential to the ombudsman.

“Last year we stressed that serving such notices should only be done exceptionally to avoid giving the appearance of a lack of transparency by the council,” King wrote.

“It is, therefore, very disappointing to see this practice has continued this year. Your council has issued two section 32(3) confidentiality notices that we considered were not appropriate but the council, when asked, did not comment on why they had done so.”

He said York should “address this issue as a matter of urgency as it affects our ability to properly investigate complaints against it.”.

York’s chief executive Mary Weastell said: “We are committed to being an open, honest and transparent council and would never attempt to address complaints in any other way.

“I was very disappointed to receive this letter without any prior contact from the ombudsman or an explanation as to what the complaints related to.
“Despite asking, we still haven’t been given any further information.”
A meeting is due between the council and Mr King.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php

Honiton fighting back on bed cuts

Since this article was written, it has been announced that all Honiton Hospital’s community beds will close on 28 Augusy 2017:

“A BAND of angry residents calling itself Honiton Patients Action Group says it plans to keep hospital beds in Honiton by taking direct action to stop the removal of ward beds and equipment.

The group, consisting of several local patients and their families, say they have become increasingly frustrated at the ‘failure of NEW Devon CCG to listen to the voice of local people and their representatives’.

They claim some end of life patients have already been informed by local GPs that Honiton Hospital will not be available after September and, if they need a local hospital bed, they must be prepared for an out of area transfer to Tiverton, Exmouth or Sidmouth.

A spokesperson for the action group said: “It is quite clear that NEW Devon CCG have never been prepared to fully engage in a sincere dialogue.

“There has been a failure to listen to the voice of local people and our representatives. We believe they decided in advance they would close these beds despite the fullest and proper representations that have been made by locals and their representatives, including MPs, district and town councils. We have tried sitting down and discussing it with them. We have tried large public meetings, marches, deputations and lobbying including the county council. Now we intend to sit down to stop the closure.

“We feel we have been disgracefully let down by the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, by Devon County Council and their local representative Cllr Sarah Randall Johnson, and by Cllr Paul Diviani who seems to be representing no one except himself.

“While they prevaricate, the rundown of the wards has begun and it may well be more serious than they are letting on.

“With the closure of the maternity unit and privatisation of the site Honiton Hospital could be scrapped in the near future – this has happened at 45 other hospital sites.

“Meanwhile there is not a scrap of evidence the promised alternative care system is ready or will be effective.

“As patients we will not meekly accept this and at a time of our choosing we plan to take direct action to prevent the removal of beds and equipment and the stripping of wards.

“This will be a peaceful, non-violent, direct action to prevent contractors gaining access to remove the beds and equipment using whatever peaceful methods we can.

“We are also contacting health trade unions to set up a picket line. We shall invite nurses, doctors and local health groups to join in solidarity, along with Neil Parish MP who claimed he would ‘hold feet to the fire’ to stop the closure. Our MP has become very quiet but this is his last chance to show solidarity.

“When we have finalised our plans we hope that local people and families, all of whom could potentially require these beds in future, will join us to keep up the action as long as we can. We need help and support to organise and publicise this if we are to be effective.

“It is the last real chance for Honiton Hospital and our community and we appeal to everyone to search their conscience.

“While we have life and the will to fight ‘They Shall Not Pass’.”

https://www.viewnews.co.uk/honiton-patients-group-promises-direct-action/

Do we have ANY statistics on votes at elections? Seems unlikely

It would appear that someone or some agency appears to ask for this information regularly – wonder how many local authorities register the replies that EDDC registers?

“Verification statements for the 2017 general election count

Date submitted: 19 July 2017

Summary of request

1. For each of your constituencies, a copy of your full verification statements for the 2017 general election count, including

(i) for each polling district separately, (a) the number of electors; and (b) the verified number of ballots
(ii) for postal votes,
(a) total postal ballots issued; and
(b) total postal ballots received

2. The same information as in 1), but for the 2015 general election

3. The same information as in 1), but for the 2016 EU referendum
(Note: Some of you sent us this information for the 2016 referendum in response to our survey last year seeking other referendum voting details; if you are one of the authorities who already sent us this, there is no need to send it again, please simply confirm this has already been sent).

4. Please also let us know if the boundaries of any polling districts have changed between the 2015 general election and the 2017 general election. If so, please indicate which polling districts were affected and when the change took effect

Summary of response

1. For each of your constituencies, a copy of your full verification statements for the 2017 general election count, including

(i) for each polling district separately,
(a) the number of electors; and
(b) the verified number of ballots –
This information is not recorded

(ii) for postal votes,
(a) total postal ballots issued; and
(b) total postal ballots received –
This information is not recorded

2. The same information as in 1), but for the 2015 general election –
This information is not recorded

3. The same information as in 1), but for the 2016 EU referendum –
This information is not recorded

(Note: Some of you sent us this information for the 2016 referendum in response to our survey last year seeking other referendum voting details; if you are one of the authorities who already sent us this, there is no need to send it again, please simply confirm this has already been sent).

4. Please also let us know if the boundaries of any polling districts have changed between the 2015 general election and the 2017 general election. If so, please indicate which polling districts were affected and when the change took effect –
This information is not recorded.

Date responded: 27 July 2017″

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/access-to-information/freedom-of-information/freedom-of-information-published-requests/

Developer Bovis too poor to finish Axminster estate – and “steep slopes” came as a surprise (and Owl says ‘I told you’!)

Owl predicted problems with this development LONG ago:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/04/04/axminster-regeneration/

Recall the site was acquired below market value when Axminster Carpets got into difficulty.

And it seems that Bovis has its own troubles:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/04/30/bovis-slow-down-will-hit-east-devon-hard/

Although again Owl drew attention to another problem affecting house sales on the site:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/12/23/axminster-and-cranbrook-slums-of-the-future-says-councillor-hull-whilst-councillor-moulding-says-nothing/

So, it’s hardly surprising we find that Bovis blames everyone but themselves for their so- called plight – though its directors are probably not too worried about their bonuses:
http://www.constructionenquirer.com/2017/06/21/new-bovis-homes-boss-buys-extra-2m-shares/

“HOUSE building on the Bovis Homes Cloakham Lawn estate could cease unless planning conditions are removed or eased.

Bovis Homes says the scheme is in the process of stalling and, unless it can be brought back into viability, the company will have “no option but to cease work and mothball the development”.

But Axminster Town Council feels it is an attempt by the developer “to wriggle out of its commitments”, with district councillor Ian Hall saying: “‘Trying it on’ comes to mind.”

Bovis Homes has submitted a planning application to East Devon District Council (EDDC) to vary the Section 106 agreement (a set level of affordable housing and contributions towards the local infrastructure and facilities).

The development includes permission for up to 400 dwellings, and the company celebrated the second anniversary of its on-site sales office in September last year.

But a summary of an independent viability assessment, produced by chartered surveyor Belvedere Vantage Ltd, says: “The local market in Axminster has proved very difficult, with interest in the first phase of the development having slowed significantly, resulting in a large number of completed unsold ‘standing units’.”

The summary also referred to a number of physical constraints at the site, and “potential abnormal costs” associated with the constraints, which started to become clear during detailed site investigations after outline planning permission had been given.

Constraints include areas with very steep slopes, a flood plain boundary, two distinct drainage catchments, a watercourse running through the site, the need to maintain access to existing leisure facilities.

The negative impacts, including an inability to plan the scheme effectively, of a tree preservation order are also mentioned.

Axminster Rural district councillor Ian Hall, having declared an interest as he is the chairman of Cloakham Lawn Sports Centre (a Bovis Homes tenant), said in a formal response: “I have absolutely no sympathy.

“This land was purchased by Bovis for £2.9m cheaper than the market price when the failing Axminster Carpets Ltd was winding up.

“Bovis representatives (who were the strong arm of Bovis during the purchase of the land) were very aware of the agreements and were more than happy to proceed with the bargain of the decade.

“I am not one to make unnecessary fuss, although, on this issue, I will not compromise.

“ ‘Trying it on’ comes to mind.”

The independent viability assessment is confidential because it contains commercially sensible information, which is not included in the publicly available summary.

Axminster Town Council has requested more detailed confidential information and, in its formal response to EDDC, said: “The town council objects to this application, which appears to be an attempt by the developer to wriggle out of its commitments.

“There is insufficient information on which to make a well-reasoned response.”

The town council requested a meeting with EDDC and the developer so that it would be able to “respond in the light of more detailed, commercially confidential information”.

The town council also requested a site meeting in the company of a planning officer.

Town clerk Hilary Kirkcaldie said EDDC replied it could not share confidential information, but had appointed an independent viability consultant.

EDDC also expressed a willingness to host a site visit, which is yet to be arranged.

In her formal response to the application, EDDC housing strategy officer Melissa Wall said: “We are disappointed that the applicants have not approached the council before submitting their application to vary the S106 contributions to discuss their viability concerns.

“We are open to suggestions regarding changing the tenure and numbers of affordable units in order to assist viability.

“We are hopeful that agreement can be reached between the council and the applicant to ensure that the development can support some form of affordable housing.”

Bovis Homes would not say how many houses have been built and how many are under construction – nor would the company comment on Councillor Hall’s claims.

A spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on live viability applications but we will continue to work closely with the local authorities to deliver the new development at Axm- inster, which is providing much-needed new homes as well as an economic boost and jobs for the area.”

https://www.viewnews.co.uk/housing-development-axminster-stop/

Perhaps Neil Parish should be spending less time on widening the A303 and more time on making the A35 safer

Many of us know the disaster that is the Hunter’s Lodge interchange near Axminster and its catalogue of accidents and deaths.

Now there have been three serious accidents on the same road, all near Kilmington.

http://www.devonlive.com/third-crash-in-three-days-on-a35-between-honiton-and-axminster-after-car-and-motorbike-collide/story-30480246-detail/story.html

Swire might also start thinking about his side of the A3052, which has seen two accidents (one fatal) at Four Elms in recent days:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/08/04/tory-councillor-agrees-with-comments-by-independent-councillor-a-first/

Of course, there is no money for road repairs or improvements in East Devon – all money in our area is being poured into roads to Hinkley C, widening the A303 and nationally into shaving off 20 minutes on journeys between London and Birmingham.

Priorities, dear boy, priorities.

Devon County Council councillor responsible for Highways – former Monster Raving Loony Party representative Stuart Hughes:

102 Temple Street
Sidmouth
Devon
EX10 9BJ
01395 578414
stuart.hughes@devon.gov.uk

The money is there – just not here!