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Devon County Council’s proposed new budget is not a good deal for residents

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DCC’s leader John Hart and Chief Executive Phil Norrey are selling the budget which will be proposed on Thursday as a good deal, even the best in years. However essentially we have a standstill on services, more spending on administration and a big increase in council tax. What’s not to like?

  • There will be more spending on adult social care and children’s services – but only to keep pace with demand, not to improve services.
  • 70 per cent of the Council’s spending will go on 3 per cent of the population – less than 10,000 vulnerable old people and 5,000 vulnerable children.
  • Council tax will rise by 3.99 per cent, well ahead of wage inflation at 2.9 per cent, another above-inflation increase after many years of them. The Government says it’s not increasing taxes – but by underfunding councils, it’s forcing us to increase council tax,
  • On top of this, because the Government has prioritised Brexit and hasn’t announced its medium-term spending plans, DCC is keeping more in reserves than it really needs, rather than spending on services or keeping council tax down, in case the Government lets us down.
  • And of course, we’re putting up council tax this year because next year it will be election year, and the Tories won’t want to go into the County elections with another big rise.
  • Obviously it’s right that the Council should ensure that those with the greatest needs are properly looked after. But it’s not right that most residents should pay more and more every year in return for fewer services. The Council’s own community survey shows many people complaining about this – and they are right.
  • There will be a small above-inflation rise in Highways spending – this is welcome. But other services will see no real increase, while the Council’s corporate services will get a big rise. That’s not right.
  • I’m specially concerned about libraries. The Council is rightly proud of keeping all 50 libraries open. But we are expecting a further drastic fall in book issues, from 2.4 to 2.2 million, over 8 per cent, after years of similar falls. The Council seems to think books don’t matter so much, but if we keep on like this, the core function of our libraries will be dead within a decade.
  • It’s time to put some money back into services that can benefit everyone. That’s what I shall be looking for on Thursday.

Seaton Environmental Action (SEA): two big events this week and a new website

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SEA LOGOTREE PLANTING, Thursday February 20th, 11-4, Tracey’s Field, off Homer Lane, Seaton.
MASS UNWRAP for plastic reduction
Tesco
February
SATURDAY 22nd
10.00-12.30pm.
& SUNDAY 23rd
11.00 – 1pm.
Co-op  
February
FRIDAY 28th
3.30- 5.30pm
SATURDAY 29th
11.00 – 1pm.
All are encouraged to participate in this family fun event!  These events have been arranged with the cooperation of the stores. Please spread the word asking shoppers to bring their own bags and containers for transferring their own shopping into, once the outer plastic has been removed.
NEXT S.E.A. MEETING Tuesday 10th March, 7pm, Pebbles coffee shop, Seaton
WEBSITE:  seatonenvironmental.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK GROUP: SEA – Seaton Environmental Action group 

 

I’ve had further information about the changes to the governance of schools in Colyton, Seaton, Shute and Kilmington, and I’ve updated my original post.

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IMG_0387-1220x640After a phone call and correspondence with Babcocks, who work with DCC on schools, I’ve revised the information in my original post. I thought it better to reword that post, so that there is no misleading information in the public domain.

To summarise, I am partially reassured because Seaton, Shute and Kilmington will remain community maintained schools – only Colyton is proposed to transfer to a Multi-Academy Trust – and although the new federations with which all schools will be working are Church of England based, there does not appear to be a requirement that any of the schools (except Colyton?) adopt the religiously-based ethos of the federations.

However other concerns remain, and I still believe that wider discussion of these changes is needed.

Now Seaton, Shute and Kilmington primary schools, as well as Colyton, are proposed to have new governance arrangements: there is a need for full discussion among parents, residents and local councillors

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IMPORTANT NOTE: This post has been revised following a response from the Governance Consultancy at Babcock LDP who work in a joint venture arrangement with DCC to provide services for Devon Schools. (13.2.20, 6 pm)

The Ofsted grading of Colyton Primary School as ‘inadequate’ is having big knock-on effects for their partner schools in Seaton (sports day pictured above), Shute and Kilmington, which make up the Axe Beacon Federation of schools, currently maintained by Devon County Council. According to Babcocks, significant problems have also come to light in the other schools, and the changes are also designed to address these. These are the proposals now being pursued by the Federation Governors with support from Babcocks:

Colyton.  The law requires ‘inadequate’ schools to be transferred to a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT), so the Federation governors propose that Colyton be transferred either to First Federation MAT – based in Newton Abbot, but with an ‘East Hub’ which includes Sidmouth, Musbury and Exmouth Brixington primaries, and which is the MAT which has already been brought in to resolve the issues which Ofsted identified – or Acorn MAT, based in Axminster. While Colyton is a not a faith school, both these MATs are Church of England-based. (Incidentally, First has one school, Gatehouse Academy, which was also rated ‘Inadequate’ after First took it over in 2017, but I am told it has since been improved.)

The Axe Beacon Federation. The governors propose that the Federation be dissolved, but the three other schools will remain as maintained schools, albeit working with different partners from Colyton.

Seaton Primary School. I am told this will ‘enter into a partnership’ with FORT Federation, based at Awliscombe primary near Honiton, which also includes Payhembury. These are both C of E schools and the trust has a Christian ethos; Seaton, of course, is not a faith school. However but Babcocks claim that this is not a critical consideration, and that ‘Seaton will remain a community primary school’.

Shute and Kilmington primaries. It is proposed that these schools will become stand-alone primaries but will be overseen by the leadership of the Devon Moors Federation, which as the name suggests is based outside East Devon, including Chittlehampton C of E Primary School, Copplestone Primary School, Filleigh Primary School and Spreyton Primary School.

I am concerned about these proposals on several grounds:

  1. I am concerned that problems in one school, Colyton, which seem to be due partly to the long-term illness of the Federation’s Executive Headteacher, should be the trigger for a wholesale dissolution of the Federation rather than resolving the specific issues in Colyton and indeed in the other schools. However I am reassured that Seaton, Shute and Kilmington will stay as community maintained schools.
  2. I am concerned that the four schools, which are used to working together, will be working with three different trusts or federations, one of which is entirely outside East Devon.
  3. While fully respecting the work the Church of England does in its schools, the transfer of Colyton, a non-faith school, to a faith-based trust is a concern and should have the full-hearted consent of parents. As I understand it, the non-faith character of the other schools will not be changed, although they are working with faith-based federations.
  4. While some information has been provided to Colyton parents, and there is to be a meeting of them with the Governors on 4th March at 6pm, I have not been made aware of information provided to or consultation with parents at the other three schools. Babcocks state that the governors are not required to consult on the changes and that they are in the best interests of children in Seaton, Shute and Kilmington.

In my view, it is essential that these proposals should be the subject of the fullest consultation with parents and the local communities, including the town and parish councils. There have been cases where parents have not accepted the transfer of their school to a trust, and the Secretary of State has reversed that decision.

I will be meeting with Babcocks and the Chair of the Governors on 3rd March and I shall comment further after that. I am interested to hear the views of parents, teachers and other staff: please email me on cllrmartinshaw@gmail.com or phone 07972 760254.

I welcome the EDDC work to stabilise the cliffs at Beer, and have written to ask that similar work be considered at Seaton Hole

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EDDC are undertaking important work to stabilise cliffs at Beer (photo: EDDC), which is essential to protect users of the beach and to maintain the cliff path. I asked Geoff Pook, the ward councillor, and Geoff Jung, the cabinet member for environment, to consider similar work on the mudstone cliffs at Seaton Hole, since the Seaton Beach Management Plan has focused on beach-level upgrades to the revetment and excluded cliff work from its shortlisted projects.

The BMP consultants did, however, identify measures which could be undertaken to protect the mudstone cliffs and I am asking EDDC to consider taking these forward separately from the plan.

Devon for Europe’s defiant declaration

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‘Devon for Europe campaigned hard for a confirmatory vote to allow people to review the reality of Brexit against the promises made by the Leave campaign. It was clear from our interactions on the streets that there is a strong bond with Europe, its people and its values.

Today, many people in Devon will be feeling a huge sense of loss and dismay as we leave the European Union. They will not be celebrating the loss of rights and freedoms that have been the birthright of many or the impact of that loss on those who have chosen to make their lives here. Nor will they be seduced by the UK Government’s spinning of Brexit as a triumph no matter what actually happens to real people’s lives, jobs and opportunities.

Brexit is not ‘done’. The hard part has yet to begin as we negotiate our future relationship with the EU. Brexit’s intrinsic contradictions will have nowhere to hide. We believe that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is not in the interests of our country and is already damaging our international reputation and influence.

Devon for Europe will continue to hold this Government to account as it seeks to bypass parliamentary scrutiny; to call out and correct falsehoods; to uphold and defend our shared European values and to give a voice to the growing body of citizens unhappy with the direction this country is taking politically, economically and socially.’

The Devon for Europe Admin Team – 31 January 2020