Archive | December, 2013

“Growth” and “affordable housing”

31 Dec

As house prices go up and up in East Devon (11% according to our Beloved Leader’s New Year message (see below) the Express and Echo reports that wages in Devon are down 19.5%.

http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/Recession-hit-Devon-sees-19-5-drop-average/story-20380281-detail/story.html

If the definition of affordable housing (according to the government) is 80% of the market value of the new houses being built, who are the people who can afford these so-called affordable homes if wages are going down and house prices going up?

Though the question is academic in East Devon where just about every developer seems to plead poverty to EDDC and is believed, so affordables are not part of their developments.

The question then is – who benefits from this “growth”?  As always, the answer is: follow the money.

Our Leader speaks … sort of

31 Dec

Our leader has had his 2014 New Year greeting inserted into several local newspapers.  Below is a precis.  It seems to have been written by Conservative Central Office with [insert your council name here] and platitude after platitude.  Not something to treasure!

Diviani new year message (not yet on the EDDC website) precis:

… we have always been a cautious council … we have protected our front line services and trimmed our back office requirements …. Satisfaction ratings highest they have ever been WITH THE EXCEPTION OF PLANNING …  all coming to terms with the new planning guidelines and the need for growth.  Chancellor … tackling deficit … belt tightening.. future bright.

… Fortunate to live in a beautiful place which others want to share [does he mean the developers?] … need more housing … unmet demand … upward pressure on house prices … 11 times annual earnings distorts the supply of local houses for local people [those developers again?] … fighting hard for fairer funding … long way to go …  Councillors and officers … worked diligently … happy holiday …..

Not the most edifying of New Year messages, but, then again, not the most edifying of councils …..

Interesting New Years Honour

30 Dec
  • Damehood – Alison Carnwath, Chairman, Land Securities ( Sidmouth) for services to business.

Apparently the former head of the remuneration committee of Barclays Bank who resigned over the mega-bonus to Bob Diamond.

Land Securities Group plc is the largest commercial property company in the UK and the leading British property development and investment company headquartered in central London.

Contrast with

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2531404/The-cronies-honours-list-Controversy-knighthood-PR-man-holidayed-Cameron-awards-Tory-LibDem-donors.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

What it would take to reform Parliament – and the insidiousness of party Whips

30 Dec

Interesting article HERE.

Mendips solar farm turned down by planning inspector as it would “cause harm to the intrinsic character and beauty of quintessentially English landscape

30 Dec

So how come our Development Management Committee can be so lily-livered saying everything everywhere has to be allowed when our landscape is just as good and if not better than the Mendips?  Or is it just the Blackdown Hills that escapes?

A bid to create a huge solar farm in rolling countryside in the Mendips has been turned down by a planning inspector, because of the harm it would cause to the “intrinsic character and beauty” of “quintessentially English” landscape and to views from public footpaths. Doulting Parish Council, Ingsdons Hill Preservation Society and the Open Spaces Society were among those who objected to the proposal for a 22,000-panel farm and security fencing on the slopes of Ingsdons Hill. AEE Renewables appealed to the Planning Inspectorate.
Read more: http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Solar-farm-refused-planning-permission/story-20378856-detail/story.html#ixzz2ox8blEwZ

Some snippets to keep you going until the New Year

29 Dec

Today’s Sunday Times:  Headline:  The Environment Agency faces criticism for putting businesses before residents. 

The story goes on to say that the Environment Agency has been accused of issuing an order to protect industrial units and high street stores in Tonbridge that were relying on post-Christmas shoppers.  David Cameron has said that councils must have robust arrangements in place should there be further problems during the holidays.

Pickles and Transparency

Interesting article HERE on transparency and how little Eric Pickles understands the concept.

Pickles wants local people to push councils to become more responsive. Greater scrutiny of the grants given to voluntary and community groups will help new ones break into sometimes cosy relationships between officers and established organisations. …  What remains unsaid is the real threat to openness in local government – the pressure from Pickles’ cabinet colleagues to water down the Freedom of Information Act. The Local Government Association has been gently undermining faith in FoI for some time. A BBC Newsnight investigation found that ministers are actively considering charging for FoI requests. They no longer need to act on “vexatious” claims after an upper tribunal decision, but while this will put an end to some trivial requests it is most likely to be misused by councils to weed out claims from good-natured local civic activists.

There is also Pickles’ own behaviour. Many government ministers have treated the right to freedom of information shamefully. Pickles in his own words, is supposed to be a champion for open government. He has said before that knowing about how taxpaters’ money is spent will “push central and local government into rooting out waste and duplication”.  “That’s why we’re throwing open the shutters and bringing the full glare of the public’s eye on to spending. This new transparent era means a new way of thinking for councils but I’m showing them it’s possible by publishing more of my department’s spending online,” he said.

However, as Labour’s Hilary Benn MP has pointed out, he has time and again used his ministerial veto to refuse inconvenient FoI requests. Pickles has a chance to prove he really is a champion of open government – he should tell his colleagues at the Cabinet table that there should be no charging, ever, for FoI requests.  He should make the work of private contractors implementing the contracts of local councils subject to the Freedom of Information Act, so people can find out exactly how their money is being used by the private contractors who run their swimming pools or look after elderly people. He should also stop using his ministerial veto.

Clinton Devon Estates

Interesting letter on Clinton Devon Estates HERE.

Cornwall Council “economical with the truth”

Story HERE.

Cornwall Council has spent around £1.3 million on the Eden Project over three-and-a-half-years, but some of the payments have been left off the local authority’s “transparency report” which identifies public spending.

 

 

 

Finally, a message from Santa

23 Dec

.. for planners and businessmen. New Year’s Resolutions 2014?

Enjoy the festive holiday, folks…and this link:    http://www.carbonvisuals.com/blog/pioneer-zero-carbon-transport-un-burnable-carbon

A Christmas present from SIN – we will return on 2 January 2014 (or earlier if important news breaks)

23 Dec

In the meantime, as an antidote to all those councillors who think they are the greatest thing since sliced bread, here is a blog that punctures that idea:

http://glumcouncillors.tumblr.com/

The BBC can get answers from EDDC that residents can’t get even with Freedom of Information request

23 Dec

See post below.  A local resident is STILL waiting for an answer from EDDC about how much profit they made out of car parking charges.  Yet, today, this BBC website

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-25497675

tells us that they made £1,740,00 profit.

The BBC obviously ranks above residents.

Council profits from car parking charges

23 Dec

Councils in Devon and Cornwall generated a combined ‘profit’ of £24.4 million from their day-to-day, on and off-street parking operations in 2012-13, according to figures from the RAC Foundation. This was an increase on the £24.26 million collected in 2011-12 and follows on from above-£20 million hauls in the previous two financial years.  Full story HERE
Which makes it all the more interesting that the following Freedom of Information  request  about how much profit EDDC has made from parking charges so far remains unanswered:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/use_of_off_street_parking_revenu#outgoing-321646

Bear in mind that ALL profits from car parking charges are meant to be ploughed back into transport-related improvements in the district.