Month: October 2019

As we move towards Dec. 18th decision on our fire stations’ future, tough criticism of London fire brigade by Grenfell inquiry raises questions about quality of fire service leadership

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The report on the appalling Grenfell fire, while praising many firefighters and criticising the use of cladding which caused the fire to be so devastating, has included trenchant criticism of London’s fire chiefs, especially the Commissioner, Dany Cotton, who many survivors think should resign.

This report is a cruel reminder that fire service policies and leadership are of critical importance to public safety. As we await the publication of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service’s response to the recent consultation and the delayed meeting of the Fire and Rescue Authority on December 18th which will make the crucial decisions, Authority members should reflect on the danger that in the pursuit of financial savings by selling off fire stations, chief officers (who have repeatedly avoided public scrutiny by councillors) are unacceptably increasing the risk of serious fires and other incidents affecting many parts of Devon and Somerset – particularly around Colyton and Topsham in East Devon.

Tactical voting site says vote Lib Dem in Tiverton & Honiton constituency and Claire Wright, Independent, in East Devon

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The pro-EU tactical voting site says that voting Liberal Democrat in the Tiverton and Honiton constituency (which includes Seaton and Colyton) is the most likely way to get a pro-European MP and stop Brexit. In the 2017 election, Labour were second and the Lib Dems third, so the site’s recommendation may reflect the fact that Labour did worse than the Lib Dems in the 2019 local elections and the Lib Dems have general momentum in the polls. (Also Labour have not announced their candidate so we don’t know their stance on Brexit.)

The site recommends supporting Claire Wright is the tactical pro-EU vote in the East Devon constituency, where she was a close second in 2017 and where Independents easily outpolled the Lib Dems and Labour in the local elections.

No one who cares can vote for Boris Johnson – vote for change

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Claire Wright

When you make up your mind how to vote in this election, remember what Johnson’s own chief adviser Dominic Cummings famously said  “People think, and by the way I think most people are right: ‘The Tory party is run by people who basically don’t care about people like me.’” 

Johnson doesn’t believe in Brexit – he believes in himself.  He doesn’t care enough about his withdrawal bill to even bother to get it through parliament, even after parliament had indicated it would support it. He didn’t care about wasting £8 billion, yes £8 billion, on an irresponsible threat to carry out ‘no deal’. He’s been caught lying so many times, people have stopped counting.

Johnson certainly doesn’t care about the NHS. He’s pretending to spend on hospitals – but it’s not 40 new hospitals, it’s 6 refurbished hospitals, and it will do nothing at all for the RD&E, where people are waiting a year for operations, or our community hospitals, still half empty after being stripped of the beds – while the RD&E has a ‘severe beds shortage’, I was told this month.

Johnson doesn’t care about schools, the police, or the environment, either. He doesn’t care about any of the things which matter to us. So we shouldn’t give him or his party the time of day. After 9 years the Tories have made a truly awful mess of this country.

Vote for change. Vote tactically for whichever candidate is likely to defeat the Johnson candidate. In Totnes, that is Sarah Wollaston, the Lib Dem. In Exeter, it’s Labour’s Ben Bradshaw. And in East Devon, it’s my Independent colleague Claire Wright (pictured) who is poised to take the seat after Hugo Swire’s welcome departure.

WHO TO VOTE FOR IN OUR CONSTITUENCY (Tiverton and Honiton)? Neil Parish, who will again be the Conservative candidate, has slavishly followed each new Tory leader’s twists and turns, including now Johnson’s. But there isn’t a clear tactical choice to beat him. Labour and the Greens haven’t even chosen candidates, so far as I can tell. The Lib Dems have, and he sounds good, but I haven’t yet met him. I’m waiting to know more, before deciding who to vote for.

Successful town meeting in Seaton brainstorms ideas for local climate action

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Around sixty people joined in a two-hour discussion last night about how the Seaton community could play its part in addressing the climate emergency. Breaking into roundtable groups, the meeting discussed issues around food and lifestyle; trees, gardens and biodiversity; housing; transport; and the commercial sector in the town. The points raised in discussion will go a further open meeting on Wednesday 6th November at 7 pm in Marshlands, Harbour Road, to develop a practical plan of action and set up a local climate forum (name to be decided!).

The meeting, in the Old Picture House on Harbour Rd, was organised by Seaton Town Council’s climate emergency working group with the help of Seaton Extinction Rebellion (XR). Introduced by Cllr Jack Rowland, deputy mayor, the discussions were led by working group members councillors Tony Antoniou, Dan Ledger, Martin Shaw and Amrik Singh and XR member Helena Whitten. If you’d like to be kept informed, email

Fire station closures are getting to be like hospital bed closures, a litmus test of politicians’ support for local communities – my post on the Tories blocking discussion was viewed 932 times on the day it was published.

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Information for Devon and Somerset Conservative councillors who may be thinking of voting through the fire station closures. I’ve just checked my site stats and this post on how the Tories blocked the County Council discussing the closures was the most viewed ever in a single day on this site – and it’s now been viewed nearly 1400 times. Vote for this at your peril!

Seaton Primary School lost out £500k, Colyton £250k, Beer over £100k over last 5 years. Axe Valley lost £1m and Colyton Grammar nearly £900k. ‘Fair funding’?

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A new interactive map from shows the following losses:

Seaton Primary lost £501k, or £267 per pupil per year, from 2015-16 to 2019-20. The site summarises: ‘Class sizes are above average and increasing. Cuts are above average. Cuts are equal to the salaries of 2 teachers. Funding is below average.’

Colyton Primary lost £246k or £343 per pupil.

Beer Primary lost £117k or £101 per pupil.

At secondary level, Axe Valley lost £1m or £394 per pupil. ‘Class sizes are above average. Class sizes rose from 20.4 pupils per class in 2015 to 23.0 in 2018. Cuts are above average. Cuts are equal to the salaries of 4 teachers.’

Colyton Grammar lost £883k or £239 per pupil, equivalent to 3 teachers.

Winter ‘chaos’ looming at Wonford as RD&E posts worst ever summer performance in A&E

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Devon Live reports that the RD&E has posted its worst-ever summer A&E figures, with only 72 per cent of patients seen within 4 hours compared to a 95 per cent target. There are fears of an even worse situation once winter sets in …

Until now, A&E performance (while failing to meet targets) was the one key NHS target on which the Devon NHS was actually better than the national average – cancer care and general waiting lists were already well below par.

Our local NHS is creaking at the seams – we need more doctors; more nurses; more beds (I was told this week that there is a ‘severe beds crisis’ across the hospital).

Despite Boris Johnson’s frequent hospital photo-opportunities, his proposals for the NHS amount to refurbishing a mere 6 hospitals across the country (none of them in Devon) and do nothing to address the real issues.

New Statesman analysis shows that Johnson’s Government sees Claire Wright as threat in East Devon constituency

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Claire Wright

East Devon is one of the seats the Tories are most concerned to defend from rivals. According to analyst Stephen Bush‘Noteworthy is that – as is echoed privately by many Conservatives from the area – the government regards Claire Wright, of the independent campaign in East Devon, as a serious challenger for the seat.’

No Deal Brexit ‘as bad as Foot and Mouth’ for South West, business and council leaders say

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So on Thursday DCC leaders refused to answer my questions about No Deal Brexit. Yet the previous day, it turns out, the Heart of the South West Joint Committee and Local Economic Partnership – both of which include DCC – issued the statement below. Either the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing … or the DCC leadership are so desperate to avoid public divisions in the Tory group that they won’t even claim credit  in the Council chamber for finally speaking out as I have been asking them to do!

This should also give Neil Parish MP food for thought after his inane comments the previous day.