A great success for Colyton and the other communities – the Fire Service backtracks on almost all the fire station closures

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The report for next Friday’s Fire Authority meeting is here (main recommendations on page 1). The paragraph referring to Colyton is as follows:

9.6.  Other Stations: Appledore, Ashburton, Colyton, Kingston, Porlock and Woolacombe would remain open under this proposal but will be subject to periodic review. The payment for availability for ‘On-call’ staff that has been agreed in principle with trade unions will improve availability of ‘On-call’ fire appliances. It is also agreed (with one trade union and discussions ongoing with another) that ‘aggregate crewing’, where firefighters can be sent to incidents with fewer than four firefighters, be adopted. The decision to defer the closures of these fire stations will be dependent on stations improving their availability, for example by adopting the aggregate crewing model.

The Opinion Research Services analysis of the consultation shows strong support for Colyton (and quotes my own submission at length). Its conclusions are here:

Way forward?

5.52  For the reasons explained, the consultation outcomes show a stark 95-to-5 ratio of opponents to supporters, not only in relation to the closure of eight fires stations but for all six options. While consultations are not referenda, these findings are very striking and unusually critical.

5.53  One difficulty is that there was little in the consultation to provide a more balanced picture of general public opinion: with the benefit of hindsight, deliberative consultation and scrutiny through representative forums or focus groups and/or a representative residents’ survey could have provided valuable information about public perceptions of the proposals when fully explained.

5.54  The Fire Authority and DSFRS are faced with difficult decisions following this consultation’s outcomes. There are reasons to implement the proposals; yet the Authority should assess its reputation risk and the of possibility of legal challenges, given the outcomes. Overall, the Fire Authority should consider how the methodological issues we have highlighted have magnified opposition to the proposals while also considering how its proposals could be amended to make them more acceptable.

5.55  There is no single ‘right’ approach, but on balance ORS recommends that it would be wise to prioritise the proposed changes and then to subject them to scrutiny in sequence through more local and focused deliberative and/or representative consultations in the affected areas.

Main recommendations

5.56  Therefore, for the reasons given above, we recommend that DSFRS and the Fire Authority should:

Consider the consultation outcomes in depth while noting how some features of the consultation exercise have magnified opposition;

Rethink, prioritise, and re-present its key proposals in a more graduated way;

For each proposal, target further consultation more locally in the affected areas using several shorter and more location-specific consultation documents;

Continue not to use public meetings as key parts of the consultation, but to be prepared to attend ones organised by other bodies, albeit only in a ‘listening mode’;

Continue to use an open questionnaire, but also seek ways of eliciting general public opinion – to compare one with the other;

Recognise the advantages of using representative and independently facilitated deliberative forums, workshops and focus groups as the best way of giving controversial proposals a ‘fair hearing’ and comparing people’s ‘before-and-after’ opinions; and

Consider whether it would be appropriate to conduct a representative survey based on proper sampling.


A success – Colyton Health Centre’s service charges reduced a sensible level

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imagesIt’s nice to be able to end the year by reporting a success. The Seaton and Colyton Medical Practice have informed me that their landlords, NHS Property Services, have reduced the service charges for Colyton Health Centre to a reasonable level and the dispute has been settled, thanks partly to the public pressure I put on at the Health Scrutiny Committee.

Colyton Primary School parents don’t share Ofsted’s view that it is ‘inadequate’ – and oppose forced academisation. I am supporting them and have written to the Regional Schools Commissioner

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Ofsted has published a report on Colyton Primary School and has graded it ‘inadequate’, ‘particularly for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND)’, although other significant failings were also identified.

I attended a meeting of 70 parents at the school last week, addressed by a representative of the County Council and the new Chair of Governors (the previous governors resigned). There was a general view that, while the support for some SEND children may have been inadequate, the school was generally doing much better than the Ofsted report suggested, and that specific managerial problems had led to the key problem which they identified.

In view of the ‘inadequate’ grading, the County will (following procedures) quickly bring in a Multi-Academy Trust to manage improvements in the school. I have asked to be kept informed on what is happening.

Parents were very concerned, however, that, legally an ‘inadequate’ grade means that the school should be permanently transferred to a Multi-Academy Trust. 

Parents have established a Facebook group to oppose academisation. I am supporting them and have written to the Regional Schools Commissioner, who will be responsible for overseeing the academisation process, to express my opposition.

Research by parents has shown that many academy orders have been revoked following parents’ opposition. I do not believe that specific managerial issues justify a wholesale privatisation of this community school. I am confident that the parents can prevent this happening and that the community will support them.

New online news site, Exeter Observer, offers free journalism training

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You can view the site here and the free journalism training is here.

Claire Wright achieved the best result for an Independent anywhere in the UK, far better than the former Conservative and Labour MPs who stood as Independents

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Candidate Constituency Original party Vote % % behind winner
Claire Wright East Devon n/a 40.4 10.4
Dominic Grieve Beaconsfield Conservative 29 27.1
Jason Zadrozny Ashfield n/a 27.6 11.7
David Gauke SW Herts Conservative 26 23.6
Frank Field Birkenhead Labour 17.2 41.8
Gavin Shuker Luton South Labour 9.2 42.6
Anna Soubry Broxtowe Conservative 8.4 39.7
Anne Milton Guildford Conservative 7.4 37.5
Mike Gapes Ilford North Labour 7.3 56.3
Chris Leslie Nottingham East Labour 3.6 60.7

Claire Wright achieved the best result for the opposition anywhere in Devon

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Constituency Main challenger Swing to challenger
East Devon Claire Wright, Independent 1.4
Newton Abbot Liberal Democrat 0.8
Devon West and Torridge Liberal Democrat -1.5
Central Devon Labour -1.7
Plymouth Sutton & Devonport Labour -2.2
Tiverton & Honiton Labour -3.2
South West Devon Labour -5.1
Exeter Labour -5.3
Plymouth Moor View Labour -9.1
North Devon Liberal Democrat -9.4


Devastating results, but not ‘irrefutable’ support for Johnson’s policies on Brexit or anything else: the majority voted against him

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The election results are devastating for hopes of change both nationally and in East Devon, where Claire Wright (above) was defeated despite gaining nearly 26,000 votes. Yet Johnson’s victory is not based on winning a majority of voters (the Tories won 43.6 per cent of the vote) nor is it ‘irrefutable evidence’ of the will of the British people for his Brexit. On the contrary, 16.7 million people (51.8 per cent) voted for parties which support a 2nd referendum, and only 14.7 million (46.4 per cent) for parties which support Johnson’s ‘deal’.

The explanations for these discrepancies are our disproportional electoral system and the uselessness of the leaders of the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties (and the ex-Tory Independents) who failed to unite sufficiently either in the last Parliament or for the election. I’m pleased that Swinson has gone and Corbyn is also on his way out.

We are now stuck with a Johnson ‘elective dictatorship’ for 5 years. If you have to wait too long for NHS treatment, if your fire station is closed or your children’s school academised against your wishes, you will know who to blame (and that will include yourself if you voted Tory). You are going to need opposition politicians, especially Independents, more than ever.