• I made the proposal at today’s joint budget scrutiny meeting, which saw all four scrutiny committees come together to scrutinise the budget, which is set to have £28m shaved off it by central government. I said (among other things) that if enough MPs actually voted against the settlement central government might think twice about imposing such draconian cuts, which affect the most vulnerable in society. It comes on top of £174m of funding cuts since 2010. This year’s cuts will mean the removal of funding for the arts, school crossing patrols and many many other cuts within [...]

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    When the first news of cuts to the Ottery Town bus came last year, I joined passengers for a lap of the town to find out how often they used it and what the impact on their lives would be it the schedule was cut. Understandably, people were very upset and many told me that they relied on the bus as a lifeline, particularly as almost all are elderly and find it difficult to carry heavy shopping and manage Ottery’s hills. When the Sainsbury’s section 106 funding ran out, which happened last year – just before Devon County Council’s cuts were implemented, the bus days were cut from six to[...]

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    Also a landowner who controls the access is opposed to any quarrying at Straitgate Farm. The minerals plan states that 1.2m tonnes is proposed to be quarried at Straitgate Farm. This is a figure supplied by the proposed quarry operator, Aggregate Industries.  However, this amount has recently been found to include off limits aggregate that if quarried could compromise the aquifer. This was uncovered thanks to work by Straitgate Action Group, which brought the issue to the attention of the Environment Agency and Devon County Council. Aggregate Industries has now admitted that they intend [...]

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    The changes proposed for Devon County Council must now be implemented by order subject to Parliamentary scrutiny. A draft Order – the legal document which brings into force the recommendations – will be laid in Parliament. For more information see this link, where you can also pick up a link which shows a map of the existing and new arrangements, as well as a list of the new parishes. http://www.lgbce.org.uk/current-reviews/south-west/devon/devon-county-council

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    Members of the public are welcome to attend the meeting (however, they are not permitted to speak unfortunately) which will be held at County Hall. I will be speaking against the recommendation.  As a reminder - here’s my original objection. Although Devon County Council is recommending Straitgate Farm for quarrying, there is no site proposed in the minerals plan for processing the sand and gravel. And here’s much more information - including how one of the landowners necessary for access is not supporting the plans - from the Straitgate Action Group - [...]

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    Here’s a map - http://sidmouthconservativeclub.co.uk/map.htm It is REALLY important that there is a big turnout to give a clear message that we think it is unacceptable that our council services are being cut so severely, while the government does little or nothing to address the persistent loopholes in the tax system. The House of Commons vote on the massive funding cuts to councils will probably take place on Wednesday 3 February. Here’s more information - http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/devon_portion_of_avoided_corporation_tax_could_total_380m

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    The survey of 300 Devon patients carried out by Healthwatch Devon took place in 2014, and was discussed at Devon County Council’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee today. The questionnaire asked: - How happy were people with the way that their discharge was arranged, and with any follow on support - What did or did not work for them at the time that they were being discharged and after they had left hospital - What improvements they thought could be made to the discharge process The findings were alarming:  It found: - One third of people were “not very happy” or [...]

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    Last March Cllrs Stuart Hughes and Graham Troman won a controversial vote to delete the allocation from the draft local plan.  But the planning inspector has included it once again. This news makes me remember what feels like endless campaigning and years of work that I put in, with others, such as Roger Giles, to try and improve the policies and reduce the amount of development. The first demonstration I led on this was in November 2010. I then sat on the reconfigured local plan panel after I was elected to EDDC in 2011. We certainly managed to improve some of the really awful policies,[...]

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    It is not yet clear which services will be scrapped by Devon County Council this year, but what we do know is that despite Leader, Cllr John Hart’s efforts, the most vulnerable people in society will be hit the hardest. This is because the most vulnerable people depend on council services more than any others.  The government is committed to a programme of austerity and we are informed that the only answer to the problem of the deficit and national debt, is to shrink the state.  As a result, the state is being shrunk to its lowest level ever – 36 per cent of GDP. Under [...]

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    Opposition councillors, including me, angrily railed against central government for the massive budget cuts and how the increase in council tax would hit those hardest, who could afford it the least. Cllr Richard Westlake said that he was pleased that local MPs were not very happy about the cuts. I said I was encouraged to hear this and asked Cllr Hart whether they had indicated in that case, whether they would vote against the settlement bill, which is thought will come to the House of Commons on Wednesday 3 February. Cllr Hart replied that he didn’t know but that all the shire county [...]

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    Dear Mr Swire I was very pleased to hear from your BBC Radio Devon interview last week that you will invite the chief executive of the Environment Agency to visit Tipton St John’s primary school to see for himself the risk of flooding – as well as how staff must keep a never-ending watch on the weather forecast and repeatedly prepare for the possibility of heavy rain. As you will be aware, the floods have so far only taken place outside of school hours.  Evacuating children from a flood would be a very different matter – and very frightening for them. A site on the edge of the[...]

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    Dear Devon County Council I am responding to your consultation on School Crossing Patrols, which propose to transfer the responsibility of the school crossing patrol service to local schools. The key problem is that local schools have significant budgetary pressures. With the cumulative effects of under-funding and the added extra pressures of changes to national insurance and pensions, and an increase in on-costs and inflation, the current situation is in effect a 12-15 per cent cut in income.  This is likely to cost Ottery Primary School alone, £12,000 this year. Local schools are not [...]

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    Before the debate started Cllr Christopher Hall asked that no vote be taken as he was concerned that there would be a “them and us” situation and “acrimonious exchanges.”  But the Mayor (Glyn Dobson) overruled this, stating that there had to be a decision. Much of the comments centred around finance and how Ottery Town Council would manage a significant loss to its precept, and that residents in the parish would have to pay more council tax to fund a council for West Hill, although councillors appeared to be divided on how much more residents would have to pay. [...]

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    The meeting starts at 7pm and will be held at Ottery St Mary Town Council offices, Broad Street. From what I have observed at meetings so far, councillors appear to be divided on the issue. Members of the public will be able to give their view for three minutes each. The final decision will be made by East Devon District Council.

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    Around 50 residents and children arrived at the school with spades and brooms, along with a engine full of firefighters who mucked in with their own brooms and then hosed down the grounds and also the pavement! I emailed Devon and Somerset chief fire officer, Lee Howell, last week to see if his team could help with the clear up and he agreed immediately and also came along himself, to help out. Also covering the event were all the local newspapers, as well as three radio stations and local ITV and BBC news. There was a lovely energy about the event and everyone was jolly. That said, parents [...]

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    As the article points out, politicians are so fast to jump on anyone for sexist remarks, even jokey ones, but when it comes to defending really terrible oppression of women by one country, everyone is apparently happy to stay silent and allow the one brave woman who speaks out, to be bullied into silence herself. It makes me ashamed to be British. Here’s the article - http://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/03/swedens-feminist-foreign-minister-has-dared-to-tell-the-truth-about-saudi-arabia-what-happens-now-concerns-us-all/

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