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Flybe crisis and Plymouth factory closure show the harm that Brexit is causing to Devon’s economy – I will be asking the County Council to support a People’s Vote to choose between Theresa May’s miserable deal and remaining in the EU

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skynews-flybe-plane-aircraft_4480710Just in the last week, Brexit has brought two big threats to Devon’s economy and jobs: Flybe faces insolvency and has had to put itself up for sale, and the German company Schaeffler, which makes parts for the car industry, has announced the closure of its Plymouth factory which employs 350 people.

It’s time to call a halt to this accelerating self-harm, which also threatens our farming, health, university and small business sectors – and has already seen living standards decline. I shall be asking the County Council on 6th December to support a new referendum in which voters can choose between accepting the miserable deal the Government has negotiated or remaining in the European Union.

@neil_parish completes his transformation from Remainer to Brexiteer, attacking the Northern Ireland backstop and calling for UK to default on its legal obligations

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Yesterday in Parliament, Neil Parish photoNeil Parish MP said: There is much in the withdrawal agreement that I agree with, especially on food and farming, but it is not good enough as it stands. The Northern Ireland backstop threatens the integrity of the United Kingdom and weakens our negotiating position, and my farming instincts tell me that we should not hand over £39 billion before we get the deal. Please will the Prime Minister listen to these concerns and renegotiate the deal before we put it before the House?

On 23 June 2016 Neil voted Remain. Two days later he backed Boris Johnson for PM, then Andrea Leadsom. Yesterday’s comments complete his transformation to a Gove-style Brexiteer, demanding a renegotiation which will make things even worse than May’s extremely poor deal.

His statement that the ‘Northern Ireland backstop threatens the integrity of the UK’ is totally misleading. The ‘hard border’, which would come into existence without the backstop, would risk the return of violence to Ireland, and the threat of a hard border has increased support in Northern Ireland for unity with the Irish republic – this is what threatens the unity of the United Kingdom. But who in the so-called Conservative and Unionist Party really cares about Ireland, North or South?

His remarks on the £39 billion payment are just plain stupid – as Theresa May replied, ‘this is about the United Kingdom’s legal obligations. I hope that every Member of this House will recognise that the United Kingdom is a country that meets its legal obligations.’

These elements of the Withdrawal Agreement are necessary if Brexit is to happen, unless Neil wants a car-crash, chaotic Brexit. But they remind us of the huge problems which even an agreed Brexit will bring. Neil was right first time – the UK should stop the gigantic self-harm of Brexit, and give the voters a chance to decide to stay in the EU.

Let Communities Decide: along with over 850 other councillors, I have signed an open letter opposing government proposals to fast-track fracking

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Our letter (with the full list of signatories) can be found hereClaire Wright has also signed, along with Jacqi Hodgson, our Green colleague in the Non-Aligned Group on Devon County Council (that’s 3 of the 4 members of our group), and also several Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative members (but apart from Claire and me, no one else from East Devon).

Hollowing out the local police service – new plans mean that East Devon will go from 9 to just 5 PCSOs in 2020.

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See this story in the Midweek Herald. Currently just one officer and one PCSO make up the entire police force between Branscombe and the Dorset border. We can’t afford to lose our PCSO!

CCG proposals for Teignmouth, including a new health/wellbeing centre, relocating services to Dawlish and selling the hospital site, go to Health Scrutiny at County Hall on Thursday (2.15)

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The proposal to be presented will include ‘a commitment to support the vision of integrated services in Teignmouth and the further development of health and wellbeing services in a new centre on Brunswick Street involving the co-location of the three GP practice sites, the health and wellbeing team and the voluntary sector.’

In order to deliver this vision South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group (now merging with NEW Devon CCG) says it would need to:

  • Relocate community clinics from Teignmouth Community Hospital into the health and wellbeing centre
  • Relocate specialist outpatient provision from Teignmouth Community Hospital into Dawlish Community Hospital
  • Relocate theatre services from Teignmouth Community Hospital into Dawlish Community Hospital
  • Reverse the decision following the consultation to establish 12 rehabilitation beds in Teignmouth Community Hospital
  • Close Teignmouth Hospital and sell the site for reinvestment in the local NHS.

The health centre will be built by private firm Health Innovation Partners and local people have been opposing the closure of the hospital (I was at their demonstration in June).

An inauspicious start for new Scrutiny Committee for the Heart of the South West Local Economic Partnership

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Who would have known? The previously unaccountable quango, the Heart of the South West Local Economic Partnership, which dispenses public money but whose board is made up mainly of businessmen, now has a scrutiny committee all of its own, recently established in some haste to meet newly imposed legal requirements. The first meeting took place five days ago, but little seems to have happened, judging from the minutes. There is currently no opportunity for public participation and no webcast.

The committee will have 17 members, with 13 Tories (11 confirmed – two representatives of Conservative-controlled district councils to be named), 3 Labour members (2 from Plymouth and 1 from Devon) and 1 Lib Dem from Somerset. Thus Independent and Green members have been entirely excluded, while there is only minimal opposition representation. The ruling Tories on the two county councils have used their majorities – obtained with less than 50 per cent of the votes in the 2017 election – to collar three quarters of the county seats, in addition to all those from the districts they control.

It’s worth mentioning that the Heart of the South West (geographic Devon and Somerset – but few local residents will recognise it under its marketing name) also has a Joint Committee of the Councils, with 19 members even more unevenly distributed by party (16 Tories, 2 Labour, 1 Lib Dem, no Independents or Greens).

Will all this bureaucracy give a new steer to the LEP, notorious so far for its bias towards the Hinckley new power station (it is even funding a hotel for officials of the foreign companies behind the project to stay in), its neglect of coastal and rural areas, and its fantastical plans for the South West to overtake London in productivity?

Devon swings to Remain, says Channel 4 mega-poll – time for local politicians to catch up

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The biggest poll ever undertaken of attitudes to Brexit estimates that, whereas the majority of voters in 6 out of 8 Devon districts backed Leave in 2016, now the situation is reversed – only 2 out of 8 still have majorities for Brexit.

East Devon still shows a narrow Leave majority, but 4 districts have seen Leave majorities overturned.

LEAVE % 2016 LEAVE % 2018 CHANGE 
East Devon Leave 54.11% 52.24% -1.87%
Exeter REMAIN 44.72% 37.49% -7.23%
Mid Devon Switched to REMAIN 53.34% 47.44% -5.90%
North Devon Switched to REMAIN 57.04% 49.04% -8.00%
South Hams REMAIN 47.15% 43.49% -3.66%
Teignbridge Switched to REMAIN 53.90% 48.61% -5.29%
Torridge Leave 60.83% 53.99% -6.84%
West Devon Switched to REMAIN 53.20% 48.52% -4.68%