Sunday, 28 December 2014

Council Tax ‘Scrooge’ Letters

I strongly suggest residents receiving one of these ‘Scrooge’ letters contact Teignbridge and request a copy of the credit reference agency data that leads them to suppose you may no longer be entitled to the discount, because it could be someone is using your address for nefarious purposes. I think in the circumstances it would not be unreasonable to request a reply within 14 days.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Is the Council using Big Brother Tactics?

The Council is sending out a very curt letter to people who receive the 25% Single Person Discount on their council tax, to say that checks suggested other adults were living with them. The letter says: "We are working with an external agency to carry out a residency check on all properties receiving a single person discount and results indicate that you may no longer be the only adult at your address". Recipients are given 14 days to declare whether they are the sole adult in the house to avoid automatically losing their council tax discount, backdated to 1st April. The letter is ominously signed by the council Fraud Manager This letter was sent out in December, some people are away for Christmas, other will mistake the letter as junk mail. I know many people who live on their own received the letter and were upset by its tone. One resident told me "The Council is basically accusing people of lying without being able to explain what evidence they have". I'm concerned A lot of people living on their own will be confused and frightened by this letter. What is the Council doing running checks on its own residents via credit reference agencies, the tone and timing of this letter raise serious questions. I could see many people loosing a discount they are fully entitled to. I will be asking for an apology.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Save Teignmouth Minor Injuries Unit

You can sign the petition here: http://signme.org.uk/1034 Did The Teignbridge Conservative leader know in September of the proposal to close Teignmouth MIU and say nothing.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Teignmouth Hospital Minor Injuries Unit

Proposed closure of Teignmouth Hospital's Minor Injuries Unit, to be discussed at town council meeting on Tuesday (6.30pm Bitton House). Public may attend. "Agenda item 7. Teignmouth and Dawlish Health Services – To inform members of the proposals for how the community health services should be delivered in the future. Jenny Turner and Dr Matthew Fox will be speaking" Teignmouth is a wholly NHS owned hospital; however Dawlish is a PFI hospital.I can't help but wonder if the decision to centre MIU at Dawlish could be financially based, for instance, the NHS is paying for the hospital and the MIU at Dawlish presumably it 'pays for the space' even if the MIU is shut - on the other hand, if you mothball Teignmouth MIU you save money.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Injustice

Richard Weeks is a small farmer, whose family has owned and farmed land near Dawlish for over half a centaury. Richard does not want housing development on his land, he just wants to continue farming; he has rejected the large amount of money be could make by selling up. Unfortunately Teignbridge Council want to force him to give up a third of his land for a 'coastal park'. The council is required to offset the loss of land for the very building on the countryside Richard opposes and provide alternative green space. Richard argues that taking a third of his land would put him out of business. Richard is fac
ing at a compulsory purchase order (CPO) for his land at agricultural price. This is Conservative run Teignbridge District Council.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Solar Energy takes a step closer to replacing Gas and Coal

Australian company CSIRO has used solar energy to generate hot and pressurised ‘supercritical’ steam. Supercritical steam is a breakthrough for solar energy and means that the sun could be used to drive power stations, currently only driven by coal or gas.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Conservatives Lose Majority

It's official two Teignbridge councillors have left the Conservative group, Kingsteignton councillor Joan Lambert and Chudleigh councillor Lorraine Evans. The Conservatives are now a minority administration with 22 and Lib Dems, Independents and one UKIP with 24.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Garden Tax

Teignbridge Conservatives are introducing a new “tax” next year for the collection of garden waste. We are now organising a petition to try and get this decision reversed. This new charge is due to start this time next year, but if like us you think it is wrong to charge for the service the Lib Dems provided free when we ran the council, please log on to SignMe.org.uk/963 where you can get a petition form and either sign on line or print off and send to us by snail mail (free of charge) This new charge is not compulsory, but if you don’t pay it you simply won’t get your green bin emptied, and will therefore have to make other arrangements…..either compost at home (which is fine if you have the room) or take to the recycling centres or some may be tempted to fly tip or put in the “wrong” bin,none of which will help. signMe.org.uk/963

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Twenty is Plenty

I've been supporting residents,to get a 20 limit on Kingsway and Mill Lane for a number of years. http://www.devon.gov.uk/index/councildemocracy/decision_making/cma/cma_document.htm?cmadoc=minutes_tbh_20120705.html Sadly my efforts haven't been helped by the Highways committee. I've been asked to try again; there are many benefits to a 20 limit. Professor Danny Dorling (Halford Mackinder Professor of the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford), is something of an expert. Prof Dorling has produced a report on the benefits of a 20 limit. Dorling’s report highlights that, for 5 – 25 year olds, road casualty is the most likely cause of death, injuries are more likely to affect poorer people and there are enormous benefits from 20mph limits in promoting active lifestyles. He says: "I was asked to provide the evidence base for a single workable policy to reduce inequalities in health and improve public health in general. There is now a mountain of evidence to show that reducing car speeds with 20mph limits does this in a way that is far more directly obvious than any other single health policy. The health effects range from reduction in fatalities and serious casualties of road traffic crashes at speed, right through to the encouragement of more healthy walking and cycling when people are less afraid of fast cars driving through their neighbourhoods. The cost is minimal and the benefits are enormous."

Friday, 1 August 2014

Council want to Ban the Banners

I'm totally opposed to Teignbridge Council's plan to ban the banners. After a plethora of complaints about the proliferation of unauthorised commercial banners being displayed in Teignmouth by the Shaldon Bridge, the bottom of Exeter Road and near the Teign Heritage Centre, Teignbridge Council chiefs are planning to ‘ban the banners’. I believe banning is an overreaction and unfair; why should community groups and charities suffer because of the inconsiderate actions of a selfish minority. We pride ourselves in Teignmouth on having many healthy and vibrant community groups. Lots of great events put on by volunteers, who rely on being able to publicise the event at these locations. I'm suggesting the town council take responsibility for approving banners, and notifying Teignbridge as the local planning authority. The town council could check the sites, making sure they do not become untidy or a hazard for motorists and removing unauthorised commercial banners. A notice could be put at these sites requiring people to get permission from the town council. If the town council acted as agent for the Highway Authority, it would have the common law right, as well as the power under Section 132 of the Highways Act 1980, to remove any unauthorised signs from the public highway if they are considered to be a potential hazard.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Permisson given for 255 Houses at land between Coombe Valley and Higher Exeter Road

We lost the vote 5 to 15, on the Coombe Valley/Higher Exeter Road application 14/00447/MAJ. I'm very concerned about a whole series of inconsistencies, 25% of the development site is outside area approved in Plan Teignbridge(TE3). Quite surprised to see June Green (chairman of TRACE*) come to the planning meeting to support the developer wanting to build 255 houses on countryside between Higher Exeter Road and Coombe Valley Nature Reserve. Especially as TRACE's arguments against the Shepherds Lane planning application (13/02612/MAJ) were precisely the same as the arguments against this application. Many of the objectors today will have been in sympathy with the words on TRACE’s website: “If you share our views that our environment, trees and protected wildlife species need to be protected; if you don't want more cars on our already overloaded roads; if you believe that our green fields must be saved for future generations; if you don't want to add to the poor air quality that blights certain roads in Teignmouth then please make sure that you let Teignbridge District Council know how you feel.” The Shepherds Lane planning application (13/02612/MAJ) is still pending. Whilst very unlikely to get approval; it's nevertheless not particularly wise for TRACE’s chairman June Green to support a similar development, it completely undermines some important arguments against Shepherds Lane. *Teignmouth Residents Action Committee for the Environment - www.traceteignmouth.org.uk

Thursday, 24 July 2014

No Room for more Building

This is a map of the civil parishes/towns of Teignbridge. It shows the urban areas of each parish/town. Teignmouth's urban area almost fills the whole area. At the edges Teignmouth's urban area spills over the boundaries into Bishopsteignton and Dawlish. Compare the tiny area of countryside Teignmouth has with the undeveloped areas Dawlish and Newton Abbot enjoys.

Waste of Space

The Campaign to Protect Rural England has launched an initiative to identify thousands of derelict sites suitable for new homes in a bid to help solve Britain’s housing crisis without building on the countryside. The campaign, called Waste of Space, is hoping to tap the local knowledge of people across the country about disused buildings and former industrial sites. The CPRE is asking people to nominate sites by tweeting or emailing photographs, which it will compile and publish in a national database. The information will be used to put pressure on the government to increase the incentives for developers to target brownfield sites instead of the countryside. http://www.cpre.org.uk/how-you-can-help/take-action/waste-of-space

Your Right to Know

Your rights to know, what your council, councillors and council officers are doing. Parliament has now approved the draft Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014. The Regulations come into force on 6 August, giving the public new rights to film and report council meetings. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/335930/140630_Draft_Openness_Guide_-F.pdf

Friday, 11 July 2014

Why did Tony Hogg pay £165,000 to get rid of his chief executive?

The publication of the accounts for the office of Devon and Cornwall's Police and Crime Commissioner, earlier this month reveal that Tory Commissioner Tony Hogg paid £165,000 to get rid of his chief executive - Sue Howl. The former chief executive was in the post from the time of Mr Hogg's election until November last year. At the time she left in circumstances that have yet to be fully explained. According to a press release issued at the time of her departure, it was the ubiquitous "to seek new challenges" reason. When Liberal Democrat Councillor Alex Folkes asked, Mr Hogg and his office refused to give any more information. The accounts show that the former chief executive - who was paid a basic salary of around £98,000 per year - received a pay off of about £142,000 and further pension contributions of about £23,000. Mr Hogg is insistent that Ms Howl left of her own accord. So why did she get a pay off worth about a year and a half's salary? That money would have employed around five uniformed police constables to make our streets safer. Mr Hogg is also having to explain why his total office costs came in at more than £1.95 million, well over budget. That's about £350,000 more than the police authority he replaced despite a promise by the Home Secretary that costs would fall. Among the additional costs were tens of thousands of pounds on consultants and money spent on accommodation for Mr Hogg because he refused to take up the free accommodation made available for him.

Strange Priorities of Conservative Police Commissioner

The spending priorities of Conservative Police Commissioner Tony Hogg continue to puzzle people in Devon and Cornwall. It has emerged that he spent more than £7,600 in his first 16 months in office on promotional items such as post-it notes, lip balm and mints. Mr Hogg claims that such items help him and his office to engage with the public. Surely more officers on the beat would be a better way of engaging with the public and doing the job he is paid for? During the same period, commissioner Sue Mountstevens in neighbouring Avon and Somerset spent only £2,626 on promotional materials for bigger force.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Councillors to be Gagged

Can't say I always agree with Eric Pickles, but on the Garden Tax, the Tip Tax and this he's dead right. Barmy new guidance from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) that tries to ban parish councillors from speaking to journalists without prior permission from officials has been castigated by Eric. NALC has written to 9,000 parish and town councils urging them to adopt the guidelines into their constitutions, meaning councillors who refuse to comply could be disciplined. The guidance states: •All journalists must contact the council clerk and may not contact councillors directly. •Any contact by councillors with journalists requires the council’s prior written consent. •Councillors cannot provide verbal or written statements to the media as a councillor without the written consent. •Councillors are not permitted to use the title ‘councillor’ if giving comments in a private capacity. It does add, though, that council business may be reported by the press without prior warning to the authority. But it adds “it is sensible for a council to have a policy to regulate its proactive or reactive communications with the media”.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Why So Many Houses?

What lies behind Teignbridge Conservative’s enthusiasm for house building you may ask; it is all about money - in particular government money called the New Homes bonus – cash for every new house built. The conservatives are using this bonus towards day to day revenue costs. According to the government figures in 2014-2015 Teignbridge District Council will receive over £2 in New Homes Bonus.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Pay-Day Loans Impoverish Communities as well as Individuals

The damage by payday loan companies to individuals is well documented; however what is the effect the communities they live? David Boyle of the New Economics Foundation Has done some research. The profits of the top ten payday loan companies in the UK were about £194 million, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. It is not clear how much the profits of the other 230 or so payday loan companies are, but the same report suggests that the turnover of the top ten is about 55 per cent of the total. That suggests that we might extrapolate some guide figure. Perhaps about £400 million a year is being extracted from the some of the poorest areas of the nation. This will be an under-estimate because it excludes the money extracted to cover basic costs. It is also a suggestion of what the figure might be, which is a reason for more research to pinpoint the amount being extracted more precisely. If that is so, it is a serious problem, given that the way that money stays circulating in the most impoverished areas, from local business to local business, is a vital element in their economic resilience. If there is an economic vacuum cleaner on the high street, it means that what enterprises survive locally will be that much less viable, and the neighbourhood that much more dependent on benefits and grants. The loan companies point to the amount of money they are funnelling into the poorest economies. But more research is needed about the long-term impact on the poorest local economies when the borrowers are expected to pay back the loan, but find the equivalent of 5,000 per cent annual interest as well. At the heart of this idea is the theory that maximising the use of the money already flowing through the economy, so that it is passed from local business to local business before it flows away, can increase the economic impact without necessarily requiring new money. If the real difference between a wealthy place and an impoverished place is how much money stays circulating there, then the impact of the payday loan companies matters very much. In other words, the impact isn’t just felt by the person paying back the loan: it is felt by their neighbours as well.

Higher Exeter Road (14/00447/MAJ) Planning Application

Plans to build 255 homes at Higher Exeter Road (TE3 in the local plan) on the outskirts of Teignmouth have been deferred. I have to accept the site is in the recently adopted local plan for development, but this does not stop me insisting on a good % of affordable housing and infrastructure investment to mitigate the impact of this proposed development, especially highways improvements and school places. The council has received more than 60 objections to the application for 32 acres off Higher Exeter Road. The agenda papers can be found here: http://www.teignbridge.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=40745&p=0

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Goldman Sachs Declares Solar Energy Will Soon Be Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels.

Over a dozen regional markets around the globe have reached the point where PV solar panels can match or undercut local electricity prices without government subsidy. With big decreases in battery storage costs (mainly because of improved electric car technologies), home energy storage is now cheap enough to be a viable for households to traditional grids. Goldman Sachs said that the renewable energy sector is one of the most compelling and attractive markets. Now they’ve gone a step further. According to the firm’s recent report, not only is solar power a good investment, it’s also going to to make fossil fuels obsolete. This is just one more example of how the financial sector is fueling the renewable energy revolution. “…our Clean Energy team believes the number of households hitting grid parity will continue to grow as the cost of the systems comes down…SolarCity has seen a 40% decline in the per watt cost of PV panels since the second quarter of 2013 driven by improved scale which is expected to continue,” state clean tech analysts Brian Lee and Thomas Daniels. “This has been true for Tesla’s battery costs as well, which have declined from of $500/KWh in 2008 to $250/KWh for the Model S to potentially $125/KWh at the gigafactory. As a result we should note that the quantitative grid parity and return calculations we show above are arrived at without any Federal or state credits.” Having an electric car parked in the garage being powered-up by solar is already a reality in South Australia. Over 20% of all households in South Australia have solar PV on their roof with even a greater number having Solar hot water systems as well. The hostility to renewable energy of the newly elected state government has not stopped this trend as subsidies are no longer needed (as per Goldman Sachs).

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Teignbridge Budget

Teignbridge District Council voted on the budget on Friday. It includes some very unpopular money saving measures which we believe could be avoided. The Liberal Democrat group put forward an alternative budget with the support of all the Independent group. We proposed to use a £300,000 windfall (not in the budget) to funding public toilets so they could stay open, housing services, road sweeping and free holiday parking on Saturdays to help traders. Sadly our alternative budget was rejected 19 to 21, so the cuts will go ahead. A number of Conservative councillors were conspicuous by their absence.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Tories Silence Young Protesters

Dozens of teenagers from around the Devon, including a member of the youth parliament, attended County Hall this afternoon but were not allowed to speak by Conservatives councillors. Can you blame young people for being cynical about politics, when they get treated in this way. The council is currently consulting on plans to close 34 of its youth centre and this afternoon approved budgets reductions of almost £1m for youth services in the county. Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Alan Connett,said: “It is not a budget about Devon, it is a budget about being Conservative. Conservatives don’t like local government or public service and they are using the reduction in public expenditure as a ruse to do what they want to do.” He presented an alternative budget proposal and suggested that the county should investigate the possibility of selling County Hall in Exeter and sharing office facilities with Exeter City Council.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Community Clear-up Day

A great bunch of people gave up their Sunday to clear up the seafront at Teignmouth. On a sunny Sunday dozens of people volunteered to help with a community clear-up of Teignmouth promenade, after the recent storms were battered the town with heavy rain and gusts of up to 80mph. People of all ages brandished shovels and brooms to clear the seafront of debris and sand, with an estimated five tons of sand, shingle and stones cleared off the promenade and returned to the beach. Bricks and masonry from the damaged flowerbeds were piled up for removal by the council's contractors. Some people joined in spontaneously having not realised the event was happening. Local traders proved free refreshments to the volunteers, and promoted the event. Volunteers keen to clear the whole seafront kept going for five hours, three more than the planned two hours.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Storms BatterTeignmouth

Storms have battered Teignmouth, but the flood defences have held.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Credit Union Re-Launched

One million people will take out pay-day loans, with sky-high interest. There is an alternative - Credit Unions offer low cost affordable loans. Information about the Devon credit union - Plough and Share is available at the TAAG Centre until Friday 24th January. Plough and Share service points will be open on Saturdays at 10-12.30pm in Teignmouth Library and on Wednesdays from 5-7pm at the Meadow Centre from 29th January 2014. www.ploughandshare.co.uk

New Boiler

People with an income below £15,900, and receive certain benefits may qualify for a new boiler under the Energy Consumption Obligation (ECO) scheme. ECO is part of the Green Deal; the scheme places an obligation on all of the main energy providers in the UK to help reduce energy consumption and energy poverty in the United Kingdom. The scheme will close in March 2015. http://www.freeboilerdevon.co.uk/

Giving a Bit of Christmas Cheer

Homeless people in Bed and Breakfast accommodation, who faced a lonely bleak Christmas Day, instead got to tuck in to a delicious Christmas dinner instead; courtesy of Teignbridge District Council’s Housing Options team, HITS and other local charities and community groups. I drove the bus on Christmas Day picking up people for the dinner at the Alice Cross Centre, they had a great time.

Boxing Day Dip

Along with Councillor Terry Falcao and 300 other people, I went in the sea on Boxing Day to raise money for the RNLI.