Sadly Tier 2 reflects the reality that East Devon has more cases – we need a consistent effort to suppress Covid until vaccines are available

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Covid has been gradually working its way around East Devon in recent weeks, so it is not surprising that the Government’s scientific advice has put us into Tier 2. It is in everyone’s interests to keep this pandemic down. It’s not just reducing the pressure on our hospitals, important though that is – many more people are dying and suffering lasting complications from this disease and we need to protect everyone in our community.

The problem is that the Government hasn’t been consistent in its goals or its messaging, and there’s still some of that in the new rules – why allow 1000 people at an indoor sporting event when you’re closing pubs? – but we all just need to persevere in the hope that a vaccine will be widely available in the new year.

Tories overlooked Axminster, targeted marginal seats for Government funding/ advertising just before election – formal complaint made

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Axminster high street Photo: Midweek Herald

Remember when the old EDDC administration proposed Axminster for funding from the Towns Fund (Seaton was not nominated), but the Government overlooked it? And then it turned out that they had concentrated on marginal seats of interest to the Conservatives in the 2019 election? And then, even worse, that local government secretary Robert Jenrick and his junior minister Jake Berry had nominated each other’s seats (both marginals) to benefit for the funding?

Well in a further twist, it appears that Government had paid for Facebook advertising about the funding, targeted at the marginal seats, just before the General Election. And now the Labour Party has asked the Electoral Commission to investigate the possible misuse of public funds in this campaign.

It’s difficult to believe how blatant this all is. And another reason not to support the Tories in Seaton or Axminster. This area isn’t marginal enough – voting Conservative is a vote to be ignored.

Our local news media are reviving – I’m delighted to be playing my part

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While Facebook, Twitter and blogs like Seaton Matters are good ways of spreading local news, nothing can replace professional journalism. The Axe valley suffered badly when the View From papers stopped publishing, but there have been two positive developments in local media this year.

First, the online Seaton Nub News was set up, providing regular coverage of the local area. Second, the Midweek Herald and its sister-titles have been seriously revamped with new community editors, including opening up its pages to Independent councillors like Claire Wright and EDDC leader Paul Arnott, who represents Colyton.

I’ve been delighted to write a column for Seaton Nub News over recent months – here’s my last one – and I’m now also writing every month for the Midweek Herald. It’s seems that my column is only available in the print edition, but you can view this via their website by clicking on ‘E-Edition’ – my first piece was in the 11th November issue.

Seaton Nub News has now developed a partnership with the Co-op including a ‘Community Chat’ page where you can post local activities. All power to the elbows of both local titles!

Natural Worx launches crowdfunder for community space in the heart of Seaton

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Here’s the LINK, and here’s the plan:

For those that already know about Natural Worx and have supported us so far, we want to say a BIG thank-you. We have been amazed at the community support in Seaton, particularly your response and support at such a difficult time. We are where we are now because of your help, and we hope that you continue to support us.  For those of you who don’t know us read on.  

What is Natural Worx and Why Create Natural Worx CIC?  

Seven years ago, Vanessa Coxon opened a small shop which wanted to make a big impact on our shopping habits.  She provided Seaton with its first zero waste shopping experience, as well as a great selection of carefully sourced sustainable products. Vanessa championed local food providers like Elbow & Trill Farm, Hand to Mouth Bakery and In My Back Yard. Building on this, Natural Worx has now been set up as a CIC (Community Interest Company) which means that our surpluses will be reinvested into the Community of Seaton. 

Who are we? 

Four people who care passionately about Seaton, our planet, the food we eat and the products we use. 

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What’s our vision? 

We are passionate about creating a warm, welcoming, safe, calm space in the heart of Seaton that can be used to bring the community together as well as being a place that will help with loneliness and isolation in our community – which has been made worse by lockdown and the ongoing situation with Covid-19. 

How are we hoping to do that? 

We have so many initiatives but here are our main ones: 

  • Community Space: We are lucky enough to have a lovely space upstairs in our new building and we will be using this for workshops and community groups, as well as showcasing local sustainable products and art.
  • Food Donations and Collections: We have set up a new partnership with SAVE Food Hub enabling space for their collections in the evenings, as well as donating anything we have available to them. We will also be having a community fridge and freezer for the incredible amount of food that they ‘rescue’ each day. We have already started this partnership by offering food during October half term in Seaton.
  • A Community Kitchen with Donation Meals:  We will be setting up a community kitchen where we can enhance our partnership with SAVE Food Hub and create meals which can be offered on a donation basis every day.
  • Reducing Carbon Footprints: We will have a dedicated area, where more Zero Waste refills will be available, helping you to reduce your carbon footprint and reducing the need for single use plastics.
  • Supporting Local Food Producers: We will offer a dedicated space for local food producers working in close partnership with local company In My Back Yard.
  • Increased opening hours: To serve our community better, we plan be open from 8am until 8pm.
  • Supporting involvement from the local Community: We will offer volunteering opportunities for people who want to gain workplace skills and for those who want to be part of a community enterprise doing things differently. 

The next stage of funding for us  

These are challenging times, and ways of creating community are more important now than ever.  We have taken the lease on 1, Vintage Court, a beautiful old building in the heart of Seaton Town Centre and are refurbishing it with a lot of love, sustainable materials, volunteer help and very little money. This is where we need your help!  

We are asking for your help to make this building the best community space we can. We have set an ambitious target of raising £8,414 which we believe is achievable.  If we can raise £8,400 with your help, East Devon District Council & Devon County Council might match the funds raised with grants.  

As a Community Interest Company, we are passionate that Natural Worx will become part of the community, supporting our town with our surplus, and here for anyone who needs us.

Back to cost-cutting and hospital closures? Wrong, wrong, wrong. We need a billion for a Devon NHS post-pandemic new deal

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Today’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny meeting painted a grim picture of the situation in Devon, with leadership which is just not meeting the needs of the situation:

Shortages of hospital and ICU beds – the SW has the fewest in the country (and the UK almost the fewest in Europe) meaning that – despite our Covid level being the lowest – the two lockdowns have been necessary to save our hospital system.

‘Physical space constraints’ due to the pandemic are restricting the restoration of ‘elective’ surgery – after improving more slowly than planned, this is now going backwards because of more Covid cases. 4,500 people and rising have been waiting over a year!

There are bed shortages in mental health units, too – as well as staff shortages, which are also affecting 111 and after-hours call-outs, with weak governance in both services.

Yet in the midst of all this, Devon CCG are saying that they must go back to implementing £400m financial savings (planned before the pandemic) in 2021-22.

They also want to proceed with the planned closure of Teignmouth hospital, although we have insisted that Scrutiny will look at the consultation results (which were not ready today) and send our views to the CCG before it makes a decision.

WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! The pandemic will not end on 31st March, so EMERGENCY FUNDING MUST CONTINUE NEXT FINANCIAL YEAR. And we need to plan now for a post-pandemic new deal:

  • Centralise Covid services in the acute hospitals, disperse other services to more sites, restore proper intermediate (step-down) care outside the care home system.
  • Recognise that we have been badly caught out by Covid – we need to permanently maintain a larger hospital system, with more beds, so that we are ready for the next pandemic (which experts say could be worse).
  • Make full use of our community hospital system, so that people can be treated safely, closest to home wherever possible. Drop the Teignmouth closure programme.

Devon CCG and DCC must go and tell the Government, which is splashing out tens of billions on testing, that it must find a billion more for Devon’s NHS and adult care services. Cancel the cuts and invest in a viable future plan. WILL M.P.s AND COUNCILLORS OF ALL PARTIES JOIN ME IN PUSHING FOR THIS?

Devon NHS winter care plan: Brexit adds additional threat of disruption to social care, medicines and supplies

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From the newly published plan:

‘Leaving the European Union entails a number of changes to the eligibility of EU nationals to United Kingdom health and care services and of UK nationals to equivalent services in the EU. The adult social care workforce nationally and locally includes significant numbers of EU nationals. In Devon, residential and nursing care is more exposed than domiciliary care, especially the registered nurse role.

‘If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on the 1st January 2021 there are likely to be impediments to the free movement of goods and services including medicines and medical supplies. We are also mindful that leaving the EU without a deal may have impacts on provider costs in a period when the pandemic has put additional pressure on their financial sustainability.

‘We continue to make the Government aware of these risks, most of which would emerge over time rather than immediately, and work across the council with our partnersto do what we can to mitigate them.’

They’re turning England’s green and pleasant land into a parking lot: new aerial image of Brexit

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Who’d be a lorry driver? (Mind you, it’s our food and medicines which could be held up.)

Seaton community group Re:store Axe Valley launches scheme to provide school meals for children in holidays

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Since the Government and the County Council have refused to guarantee free school meals for Devon children who need them this half-term, Seaton community group Re:store Axe Valley has set up a scheme to provide them, with the aim of operating at Christmas too. A crowdfunding page has been set up, which is on course to raise £1,000 – PLEASE DONATE.

I have given the scheme £1,500 from my County Councillor’s Locality Budget, as I can think of few things more important than ensuring that all children are properly fed during the current crisis.

Minister claims councils given money to support families – but Devon says it can’t afford to provide school meals

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I’ve asked the Leader of Devon County Council, John Hart, to provide school meals for children in need of them during the half-term holiday.

Cabinet Minister Brandon Lewis said yesterday that the Government had given councils £63m to support families, but Cllr Hart tells me that Devon has been given the smallest amount of new Covid funding of any County Council and some Devon districts including East Devon have been given only the minimum amount. ‘We were expecting a lot more money’, he says. ‘Our finances are already under pressure for the rest of this year with even more pressure for next year. Therefore with demands on funds I do not think it would be right to consider funding this scheme.’

I’ve replied urging him to reconsider. The cost of providing this support at half term and Christmas would not be huge, in the big scheme of things, but there are children in every area of Devon who really need this support.

Exeter Labour Party are being very short-sighted over Proportional Representation

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The Progressive Group on Exeter City Council, made up of two Lib Dems, a Green and an Independent, asked it to support moving to a system of proportional representation (PR) for electing councillors in future, but the Labour majority as well as the Tories rejected this.

While it may be understandable for Labour not to want to abandon a system which gives them sole control of Exeter, from a broader point of view this is a big mistake. Nationally, Johnson is running his cruel and incompetent ‘elective dictatorship’ because 43 per cent of the vote gave him a thumping majority of 80 seats. On the County Council, which makes major decisions for Exeter, the Tories have 70 per cent of the seats but won with only 45 per cent of the votes in 2017.

As Keir Starmer has said, ‘We’ve got to address the fact that millions of votes don’t count.’ In most general and local elections, that includes the majority of people in Devon! Voters in Seaton and Colyton have NEVER been represented by a non-Conservative MP. During the general election, I met a 90-year-old woman who was supporting Claire Wright whose vote had never once counted!

PR changes this, making all votes count, either by electing members in multi-member constituencies – like they do in Ireland and in Scottish local elections – or by continuing with single-member constituencies but adding additional members to represent parties which are under-represented in constituency results – like they do in New Zealand.

If Exeter Labour want to run the city alone – get a majority of votes! Otherwise, work with other progressives in a coalition, like Independents, EDA, Lib Dems and Greens do in East Devon. But don’t block national reform to cling on to an ill-gotten advantage in one city!