• I ENDORSE JESS BAILEY AS I STAND DOWN IN COUNTY COUNCIL ELECTIONS

    The press release below has just been issued ...  Jess Bailey, Independent EDDC councillor for West Hill and Aylesbeare, has been endorsed by Claire Wright for the Otter Valley Ward in the forthcoming Devon County Council elections. Claire has decided not seek re-election to the Otter Valley Ward, to pursue new career opportunities. Claire said: “My decision to stand aside may come as a surprise to people.  However, I have quietly been considering my position for some time and although it has been an honour and privilege to serve my community in this way, it is now time to [...]

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    A glimmer of hope for Tipton St John Primary School funding?

    I received the email below from a representative of Education minister, Baroness Berridge. I have emboldened the last paragraph which contains a glimmer of hope for future funding. It's the first time since 2015 that there is a possibility that Tipton St John School may receive government funding.  Now is the time to increase our campaigning and I am talking to Tipton St John parents on how we might take forward a more high profile publicity push ... more soon on this. We have just reached over 500 signatures on our petition, which is great news, but there is a long way to go!  [...]

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    Education Secretary stonewalls Devon County Council on anti-racist motion

    The Education Secretary has stonewalled Devon County Council for four months, following my anti-racist motion and Diversity in Devon campaign with four King's School Students, last year. Following the full council meeting on 1 October, when there was agreement to lobby the Secretary of State for Education urging him to address diversity issues more fully in the national curriculum, Education Portfolioholder, Cllr James McInnes wrote to Mr Williamson. In his letter, Cllr McInnes urged the government to look again at the national curriculum and do more to address anti-racist sentiment.[...]

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    Motion: Lobbying the government on bee killing pesticide u-turn

    I was appalled to see that the government has u-turned on the use of the notorious bee killing pestcides, neonicitonoids. My motion before full council today is as follows: This council regrets the government's u-turn on using neonicitinoids banned under EU law, and which have proved to be damaging to our vital bee population, other insects and birds and water courses. This council calls on the government to urgently reverse its decision. Before being debated at the April full council, my motion will be referred to the March cabinet meeting.

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    It's budget day at Devon County Council... Here's my speech...

    This is the eleventh year of austerity. And the second year of no government funding cuts. That’s not because austerity is over it’s because there is nothing left to cut. Because central government ministers have now removed the revenue support grant in its entirety. Total reductions to budgets since 2010, is over £280million. Core funding to DCC has reduced by 72% in real terms. So services are STILL having to be slashed. This council is now reliant only on business rates, council tax revenue and any ad hoc funding that ministers casually toss in our direction, meaning we must now[...]

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    Ministers ignore Tipton School's plight and announce funding for 50 school rebuilds

    I have just issued this update on my petition for the government to fund the relocation of Tipton St John Primary School, within the village.......................... Dear all, thank you so much for taking the time to sign and share this petition. The government has unexpectedly announced the 50 schools that will be funded for a rebuild. We weren't expecting this news for a few weeks yet. Unfortunately, Tipton St John Primary School is not among them. The list of schools appear to be mainly in Conservative marginal constituencies, which is surely unacceptable. Baroness Berridge did not [...]

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    How Independents are being disadvantaged by the local election leafleting ban

    Here's a piece I wrote for Westcountry Bylines earlier this month on how Independent candidates are being significantly disadvantaged in the forthcoming elections, which will take place on 6 May. https://westcountrybylines.co.uk/may-local-elections-level-playing-field-doesnt-look-that-way/

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    How the pandemic is causing a Devon explosion in unpaid carers and distress

    I have always taken an interest in difficulties facing unpaid carers. Having heard from many unpaid carers during my role as a councillor, my heart goes out to them in what is often a hard and lonely job, often fraught with struggles to access the financial help they are entitled to. I proposed a Health Scrutiny review into this issue several times during 2018/19 before it was eventually agreed in 2019, when I chaired a six month spotlight review. The review was published last January. Our recommendations, partly locally focused with some nationally focused, were fully endorsed by Devon [...]

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    Report on dentistry services across Devon to be scrutinised at March meeting

    Given the grim news below I have asked officers for a full report on dentistry in Devon at the next Health and Adult Care Scrutiny meeting in March. I am told that representatives from NHS England and NHS Improvement have been invited. I asked for a report last year following local complaints about long waiting times and concerns from dentists themselves on similar issues. The report we received in my view was a bit of a whitewash and did not answer my questions. I asked for more detail but this was not provided. I am pleased that we now have an item on the agenda of the next [...]

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    Education minister urged to include Tipton St John School for rebuild in latest programme

    I sent the letter below to Education minister, Baroness Berridge, this afternoon...   Dear Baroness Berridge   I am writing to you asking that you consider the above much loved school, for your current rebuilding programme.   I would have written to you earlier but was advised against it because a planning application for a new school build was in progress (along with 150 houses to plug a £5m funding shortfall) in the neighbouring town of Ottery St Mary.   This very unpopular application, that drew significant opposition, was decisively rejected by East Devon District [...]

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    Who is (still) trying to hack into my website?

    While I was experiencing email problems yesterday morning he had a call from the data centre who look after his server. They informed him that one website (mine) was being "bombarded" and that they would have to suspend it or it would bring down all 733 websites. Apparently the attacker was simulating thousands of hits to my website in order to take it offline. It worked. For a while. My email and website were down until yesterday evening when both were restored. The hacker used what is called a 'virtual private network' which means that the IP address is untraceable. I never [...]

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    Is this the worst week ever of the Conservative government's rule? Our MP should explain himself

    In the blizzard of appalling decisions voted through this week by Conservative MPs, it's hard to know which was worse. The Tories' approach appears to be parcel it up for one or two days, presumably in order to bamboozle the media and make the rest of us feel as though it is hopeless to oppose, keep up to date with, or get chance to ask our Conservative MPs to oppose the next atrocity they're about to commit. Our MPs are there to act on our behalf and represent our views. I cannot imagine for a second that the residents of East Devon would support these decisions/actions. I have written[...]

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    Devon County Council agreed to talks with local MPs amid £2m projected overspend

    Devon County Council’s cabinet has agreed to initiate talks with local MPs, following my recommendation agreed at the November Adult Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee. Adult social care has been in a hugely precarious financial position, following what is now a decade of government funding cuts. As a result far fewer people are in receipt of personal care and unpaid carers are more stretched than ever before. The pandemic of course, has made a very hard situation even tougher. The papers at the November scrutiny meeting quoted from a national survey of councils. The key messages [...]

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    People power saves Redbridge at Harpford!

    Huge thanks to over 2,000 local people who signed a petition myself and Newton Poppleford EDDC councillor, Val Ranger organised for Redbridge, at Harpford. The bridge, an important part of the East Devon Way was set to be permanently closed on safety grounds last autumn. Thanks to the strong support from local people, Devon County Council has funded rock armouring which has protected the bridge's foundations and it is now expected to last for years to come, although a long-term solution will still need to be found, as the River Otter continues to erode the banks. Thank you to [...]

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    Pro Trump violent mob actions are supported by almost half of Republican voters

    If you think that last night's violent storming of The Capitol Building by a lawless delusional mob were the actions of a crazy fringe group, you couldn't be more wrong. The YouGov Poll below appears to indicate that almost half of Republican voters ACTUALLY support the attempted coup, by thugs waving the Confederate flag, long used by the Ku Klux Klan as a symbol of white supremacy. Four people died as a result of the violence, orchestrated by Mr Trump. I was glued to events last night via Twitter hardly believing what I was seeing. Not only was it incredible that Trump had [...]

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    EDDC planning committee refuses 150 houses and relocation of Tipton school

    East Devon District Council's planning committee has just refused a "tough" application for a relocation of Tipton St John Primary School, accompanied by 150 houses, on the edge of Ottery St Mary. The application was refused by 11 votes, with two votes in favour and two abstentions. The application, submitted by Devon County Council, was triggered to try and protect school places in the Ottery area, as Tipton St John Primary School has been deemed a 'risk to life' by the Environment Agency for flooding reasons. There were 132 objections, including from Ottery St Mary Town Council and[...]

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    A shambolic response to the pandemic... plus a link to help from Devon County Council

    Well here we are again in a national lockdown. In some ways worse than last March and in other ways better! First I must get some stuff off my chest! I am totally speechless over the shambolic planning by the government, or perhaps lack of it during this pandemic... and the impact that this has had on our health and care staff, teachers, parents, business owners, children and students, as well as everyone else... The PM waited until the number of Covid patients in hospital in England were 40 per cent higher than they were at the height of the first wave, before he chose to lock the [...]

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    Quarry company submits planning application for livestock crossing over B3174 Exeter Road

    Aggregate Industries has submitted a cynical planning application for a livestock crossing over the B3174 (the road from Ottery St Mary to the Daisymout roundabout). The application, which is for land next to and opposite Straitgate Farm, claims to be improving an existing situation where a few times a year local farmers must cross cattle and sheep. However, the real reason behind the application is the overall planning application for a 100 acre quarry, which proposes to remove almost 90 per cent of grazing pasture for the tenant farmer's cattle. As a result, if the application was [...]

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    Long-awaited safety works to Four Elms Hill to take place in the new year...!

    Long-campaigned for safety works to Four Elms Hill are now diaried for the new year, Devon County Council has confirmed. A reduction to the national speed limit to 4omph and a doubling of the central white lines has been deemed necessary by local people for many years to reduce the number of accidents, including at least one fatality. I have supported campaigners from Newton Poppleford Parish Council and EDDC councillor Val Ranger, on reducing the speed on the hill and doubling the white lines to deter people from overtaking for many years. The hill has been the focus of frequent accidents [...]

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    DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL TO WRITE TO SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EDUCATION ON DIVERSITY

    So today was Anti-racism motion D Day at the County Council! It was slightly complicated by a last minute amendment by the Leader, one aspect improved it and another aspect slightly watered it down... BUT.. A group of King's School Sixth form politics students have actually influenced Devon County Council's ruling Conservative group to write to the Secretary of State for Education promoting a better diversity agenda for schools! So although it didn't go quite as far as we would have liked, I think we can be proud of Sandra (who started this whole campaign off!), Anoo, Flo, [...]

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    Devon County Council's Cabinet has mostly backed the anti-racism motion I have prepared with a group of students from Ottery's The King's School this morning. Many thanks to group leaders - Rob Hannaford (Labour), Frank Biederman (Ind) and Alistair Dewhirst (LibDem), who all spoke in support of the motion. (The LibDems have their own similar (albeit less controversial!) motion also coming before full council on 1 October). The original text as outlined in the Cabinet papers for today, has been strengthened to:    That Council be recommended to:  Support Members to [...]

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    If you're interested in how Devon's NHS is faring, both relating to handling Covid19 and its precarious finances, you need to read this report... Huge thanks to Save Our Hospital Services for taking the time and trouble to put together such an excellent report. We must continue our scrutiny of Devon's NHS, especially in the coming months, as many service cuts will be happening ... Here's the link http://www.sohs.org.uk/documents/SOHS%20report%20COVID19%20in%20Devon.pdf

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    Four A Level politics King’s School students are today officially launching a six-week campaign, with the aim of debating the benefits of diversity in Devon and a greater understanding of what constitutes racist behaviour or prejudice. Diversity in Devon (see Youtube links below) is being launched today at 9am and 10am through the voices of 17 year old Sandra Sanena and Anoo Kakarlamudi (also 17) who have recorded their personal experiences of growing up in Devon. Sandra’s family moved to Ottery St Mary from Zimbabwe when she was eight and Anoo’s parents brought her to the UK [...]

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    20/1504/MOUT - Outline planning application with all matters reserved except access for up to 150 new dwellings, a 210 Space primary school, construction of a new roundabout on Exeter Road, a new junction onto Cadhay Lane, and associated infrastructure | Land Opposite Barrack Farm Exeter Road Ottery St Mary   Tipton St John Primary School is in flood zone 3 and needs to be replaced, I am in no doubt of that.   I have seen the damage caused at clear up events that I helped with, alongside the community and fire and rescue service when the school grounds were filled [...]

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      Local Tories channel Trump in attempt to bamboozle over cuts to Devon's NHS A rather Trumpist email (sent to me by a concerned resident) appears to be a stock response being circulated to people contacting their conservative councillors about the service cuts being made to the NHS in Devon, as part of a government instruction to save over £400m by 2024. The annual budget is £2.6bn. It comes after a previous attempt to make significant savings to Devon’s NHS failed, partly because the government forced a £30bn ‘efficiency savings’ programme on the NHS nationally[...]

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    I have just submitted this motion to Devon County Council for the full council meeting on 23 July. It was an absolute pleasure to work with the thoughtful and considered sixth form students at The Kings School, especially young BAME people, to create this motion. The BLM movement appears to have triggered something very powerful and potentially very healing... and is in my view, an ideal time to address very many issues that will help resolve long-standing divisions. The Kings' School students plan to campaign on this and I am very much looking forward to working with them. It [...]

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      A plan to build thousands of new houses across East Devon was unveiled last week, with proposals for specific areas in the county. I have since spent time talking with strategic planning officers to try and understand the detail of the national policy driving this. Strategic planning is technical and complicated and takes some learning. I was heavily involved in strategic planning while a councillor on East Devon District Council between 2011 and 2015, so I felt compelled to examine this new plan and its proposals. I will endeavour to explain my findings below! [...]

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    I have just delivered this letter to around 25 of my neighbours... Dear Neighbour A few days after I discovered my garden had weedkiller sprayed on it last week I found a little hedgehog curled up in the full sun of my flowerbed. It was breathing rapidly and clearly unwell. I have seen hedgehogs in my tiny garden each summer but never before have I encountered an unwell one. I called a wildlife centre based in Woodbury and someone who was nearby kindly came and collected the poorly creature. I am delighted to learn that a week later she is doing well and that she is a feisty[...]

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    I have just delivered this letter to 25 of my neighbours...   12 June 2020 Dear Neighbour I have been incredibly upset that the vast majority of my valerian plants appear to have been sprayed with weedkiller, probably some time last week, and are in various stages of death. The wild sweet peas below the valerian are dying, and so are the branches of the bushes behind the flowering plants. I have consulted four plant specialists and all confirm that poisoning is the most likely outcome. This is criminal damage and I have reported the matter to the police. [...]

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    My annual report - A summary of some of my work between April 2019 and March 2020 East Devon care at home service is ‘fully recruited’ The East Devon Care at Home Service otherwise known as ‘rapid response’ was described as “fully recruited”, Devon County Council senior officers confirmed at the 21 March 2019 Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee meeting. Councillors at the meeting, heard from senior officers that their long-standing efforts to recruit to a team that was around 17 per cent under staffed (sorry I don’t have the numbers) had been successful with the [...]

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    Devon County Council's Cabinet last week endorsed the scrutiny task group recommendations to improve the lives of unpaid carers. I proposed and led the review between last summer and February this year. It was one of the most important pieces of work I have been involved in and I hope it will result in profound improvements to the lives of unpaid carers. Here's the report in this week's Express & Echo - https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/carers-isolated-exhausted-angry-system-4132421

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    Below is the latest (received today) briefing from Devon's NHS to Devon County Council's Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee. My fellow Independent colleague, Cllr Martin Shaw and I have been asking for an urgent online scrutiny meeting before the one on 16 June, to ask questions about these issues and many others. It has been agreed instead, to have a webinar, where councillors can ask questions in advance.  This is likely to take place during the final week of May. It is as yet unclear who will be involved in this. On the whole the briefing is very reassuring and shows that [...]

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    Today is the 75th anniversary of VE Day. A very different kind of day is being celebrated from the one that was planned... This post may seem unconnected... but please be patient....! …. I discovered John Clare's poetry a few years ago at a music festival in Wales. Known in the 18th century rather dismissively as the 'peasant poet' it makes his achievement as a contemporary of Keats during the romantic era all the more remarkable. He had little schooling and his family were farm labourers.  He taught himself to write poetry, after being given a book of poems and being [...]

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    Devon County Council is reopening its recycling centres for essential use only from Monday 11 May. The government has defined ‘essential use’ as waste that ‘cannot be stored without causing a risk of injury, health or harm to the resident or other members of their household.’ Residents are urged to follow government guidance and only travel to recycling centres if the waste presents a hazard and ‘cannot be legally and responsibly disposed of in other ways.’ It is the first stage of what will be a phased reopening for Devon’s 19 Household Waste Recycling Centres, and is [...]

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    https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/UKDEVONCC/bulletins/286f842 You may be interested in the latest Devon Trading Standards briefing, which includes the latest scams to be aware of...

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    I received the briefing below today from the Devon County Council Health and Social Care Portfolioholder. Coronavirus is now sweeping through care homes which have become the new frontline in fighting the virus. The information below should be read against a backdrop of crippling government funding cuts to adult social care over the past decade, which has fuelled a growing crisis.  I very much hope that if there is one silver lining to this dark cloud, it will be that our public services, including the care sector (for both adults, people with learning disabilities and children) will[...]

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    I have been asking a number of questions of the NHS and Social Care for a few weeks, some of which have been answered and some haven't... I do appreciate officers are very busy right now. This briefing arrived yesterday evening.  I have a number of questions relating to issues including community hospitals,  finances, care homes and dentistry.  I know my colleague, Martin Shaw, also has many questions.  Devon residents are asking me questions, quite rightly about a range of issues. Devon County Council's Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee is the only legal check on local[...]

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      It has taken me a long time to write this post for two reasons. Firstly, it seemed too political in a health crisis. And also it was always going to be a dispiriting read for people who frankly don’t deserve to be further dispirited! So I procrastinated. However, I do firmly believe that scrutiny and challenge must still exist, despite the perilous position that the UK remains in over Covid-19. ......................................................... It appears that things may have moved on since the meeting as on Wednesday it was announced that NHS Trusts [...]

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    Many thanks to Cllr Martin Shaw for leading this call...   Statement by County Councillors Hilary Ackland (Exeter), Martin Shaw (Seaton and Colyton) and Claire Wright (Otter Valley):   The South West is experiencing the epidemic in a different way from other regions. We have the lowest levels of hospitalisation and death from Covid-19 in the country. South West councils, MPs and the police have had some success in preventing second-home owners and tourists further spreading the virus.   We therefore support the call by Dr Bharat Pankhania, Exeter [...]

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    It's been a super busy and quite remarkable three weeks for Ottery Community Volunteers! I've just issued this press release... I'm very proud of my town! OTTERY COMMUNITY VOLUNTEERS LAUNCHES COVID FUNDRAISING BID Ottery Community Volunteers has launched a bid to raise money to help fund its covid-19 epidemic relief effort. Since the group was formed just three weeks ago, it’s providing a range of support for people who are isolated in their homes, as well as helping to connect the town’s residents with the business community’s services, in particular the food suppliers, [...]

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    We haven't heard too much about dental issues during the pandemic, but for those of us with an urgent dental problem (I have been there!), the service is absolutely vital. I asked for an update via DCC's Health and Adult Care Scrutiny team so here's the latest information.... ....... All non-urgent dental activity has stopped in line with the changes to people’s everyday lives that the Prime Minister has signalled. In light of the public health control measures and in recognition of the difficulties that dental practices face, including continuing concerns about staff safety, NHS [...]

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    https://www.hsj.co.uk/finance-and-efficiency/hancock-announces-13bn-debt-write-off/7027305.article EMAIL TO EAST DEVON MP, SIMON JUPP, THIS MORNING... Dear Simon I am writing following the government’s announcement to write off £13bn of debt from NHS hospitals. This looks like excellent news and as you will be aware, Devon is regarded as one of the top two financially challenged health areas in the country, so I hoping that this will mean health trusts here will receive the welcome news that the cuts they are being forced to make by NHS England will now no longer be necessary.[...]

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    Email to Sara Randall Johnson, chair of Devon County Council's Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee, this morning... Hi Sara I hope you are keeping well in these difficult times. Like me and many other councillors, you are probably getting a lot of questions at the moment relating to how local hospitals are preparing for and managing coronavirus patients. I have received particular questions relating to critical care beds or ITU care bed availability at the RD&E and what contingency plans are being made on a wider need for beds. I see that there are plans for a temporary [...]

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    I sent this email to Simon Jupp, East Devon MP last week... He has since replied and is liaising with the individual concerned...   Dear Simon “The predicted surge in cases for Devon is around 10-14 days time. We will need to see patients with suspected and confirmed CV 19 in hot sites and I am worried that we will run out very quickly. There’s quite a lot of beg borrow and steal going on.” The above words are taken from an email I received from a desperate East Devon NHS worker this morning extremely anxious about facing the coming weeks without adequate personal [...]

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    A raft of recommendations aimed at helping unpaid carers manage on a day to day basis, were approved by Devon County Council’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee. The committee, which took place last Thursday (12 March), unanimously approved the measures, which were developed following work over a eight month period, from last summer. The review recommended 12 separate areas for action starting with central government, in a report that will now go before the Cabinet on Wednesday 8 April. I proposed the review almost two years ago when it became obvious from a carers survey[...]

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    The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is set to receive a letter from Devon County Council, requesting urgent resources for adult social care services, following my proposal last week. I made the proposal at the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee meeting, last Thursday (12 March) during an item on the council’s preparedness for Covid-19. Last week, the chancellor outlined £5bn extra funding for the NHS in the Budget, but Devon County Council’s Chief Executive, Phil Norrey, said he was not confident that adult social care would receive much, or any of that [...]

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    Today's news might be the most alarming of all and there will be many of you who are very worried about how you might cope in isolation for months. I know my parents are extremely anxious about this. I want to reassure people that in the Ottery area (and I know that other places are doing similar things) that I am involved in a town council linked group that has established a community network of support (still evolving) with volunteers providing shopping and telephone befriending services for people in isolation. I don't know what the next few months will bring and to be honest, I am [...]

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    Devon’s NHS continues to be in a financially precarious position and must make more significant cuts to operations, in order to break even by 2024. Over £400m must be slashed from Devon’s NHS by 2024, from an annual budget of £2.6bn. That’s the main message from a report that will be examined by members of Devon County Council’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee, next Thursday (12 March). Devon’s NHS has been in a financial hole for many years, described as being in the top three most financially challenged health areas in the country, for much of the last [...]

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    After two years work, today a piece of work that has been close to my heart has been published. Devon County Council's Health and Adult Care scrutiny review on unpaid carers, has recommended 12 separate areas for action, starting with central government, in a paper that will go before its committee on Thursday 12 March. I proposed the review almost two years ago when it became obvious from a carers survey I saw, that satisfaction rates are declining and unpaid carers were finding things increasingly tough. It took several committee meetings before I could get agreement for the [...]

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    This is my speech from Devon County Council's Budget full council meeting on Thursday. What started as a commentary on how austerity is STILL affecting councils and local people, also ended up as a rather scathing response to the general election... …………………………………………………………………………………………………………. This is the tenth year of austerity. But this year there were no government funding cuts. That’s NOT because austerity is over it’s because there is NOTHING left to cut. Because central government [...]

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