Thursday, 27 July 2017

The future of Devon's hospitals >>> a decision NOT to refer plans to close hospital beds across Devon to the Health Secretary

A month ago, a very fraught County meeting decided to delay whether or not to protest formally about planned cuts:
Futures Forum: The future of Devon's hospitals >>> delaying a decision to refer "Orwellian" plans to close hospital beds across Devon to the Health Secretary

At another very fraught meeting on Tuesday, the decision was made not to refer matters any further - despite huge protests:
Bid to refer hospital bed closures to Health Secretary defeated at angry meeting | Devon Live
East Devon hospital bed cuts - no plea to Minister - Honiton, Axminster and Seaton news - Midweek Herald

The claims have been very strong indeed:
Health campaigners: Hospital closures will lead to 'patient deaths' | West Country - ITV News
Seaton council warns hospital bed cuts could cost lives - Honiton, Axminster and Seaton news - Midweek Herald

Including that this is a very personal struggle going back some time - involving the former Leader of the District Council:
How Tory Sara Randall Johnson took down rival Claire Wright's health campaign COMMENT | Devon Live

And that this involves the current Leader of the District Council:
Who exactly does EDDC Leader Diviani represent? And who does he consult? | East Devon Watch

Meanwhile, the County Councillor for Seaton is not mincing his words either:
The ‘Health Scrutiny Committee’ which didn’t scrutinise « SEATON & COLYTON matters

How to deal with air pollution: ban all diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040 >>> but will it work?

Should it be central or local government which deals with air pollution?
Futures Forum: "Unfairly shifting the burden" of dealing with air pollution on to local authorities

And how in particular should we deal with diesel?
Futures Forum: How to deal with diesel: scrappage
Futures Forum: How to deal with diesel: increase fuel duty

The Environment Secretary has announced new measures:
Petrol and diesel ban: How will it work? - BBC News

The car industry is not impressed:
Clean air surprise fuels growing row between car industry and government - Telegraph
Clean Air Act industry reaction: tone of anxiety - Transport Engineer

Others say it is too little too late:
Diesel and petrol car ban: Clean air strategy 'not enough' - BBC News

Including David Powel from the New Economics Foundation:



Action on air pollution should come today, not tomorrow | New Economics Foundation

Today's letters pages in the Guardian ask how it will all work:

Switching to electric vehicles may not be so simple

Readers respond to Britain’s latest clean air plan and the ban on all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040
Business secretary Greg Clark in a self-driving pod
 Business secretary Greg Clark in a self-driving pod. But Rod Logan isn’t as optimistic as Clark about BMW’s decision to assemble an electric version of the Mini at Cowley: ‘The only “go to” aspect of the arrangement seems to be that the key element will be made in Germany and “go to” Cowley.’ he says. Photograph: Anthony Upton/PA
So, the government is committed to banning all diesel and petrol cars by 2040 (Report, 26 July). Has it considered the wider impacts?
Power stations will face huge peak-time demand when drivers charge vehicles overnight. Can they cope? Will we face increased electricity charges?
The rare metals in lithium batteries are produced only in inconvenient places. More than 85% of the world’s supply comes from China. How dependent will that make us upon them?
Mining these materials is far from environmentally friendly. Each tonne processed produces 2,000 tonnes of toxic waste, laced with ammonia and hydrochloric acid. Much is dumped into landfill, decimating agriculture and poisoning drinking water. The very manufacture of an electric vehicle can create a large carbon footprint, offsetting global warming benefits. Then there is the issue of safe disposal of obsolete batteries.
We could create more problems than we solve.
William Harry Plant
Crook, County Durham
 The ban on petrol and diesel vehicles will have no immediate impact. The reality is that the decarbonisation of transport will require a combination of solutions. The government should start with the roll-out of E10, a readily available greener fuel containing 10% bioethanol. This would offer an immediate solution to improving air quality, equivalent to taking 700,000 cars off the road. It requires no new infrastructure, is compatible with almost all petrol cars today and provides a practical, simple, low-cost solution to addressing worsening air quality. E10 also provides a greener option for the petrol needed for hybrid vehicles that a growing number of consumers are opting for today, as consumer confidence in pure electric vehicles remains low.
Bioethanol is a non-fossil renewable fuel which, when blended with petrol, has lower NOx and particulates than diesel, and is non-carcinogenic. Our industry has already invested over £1bn in the UK to produce it.
Yet again, we are missing a golden opportunity to take action today to deliver on our climate and air quality goals, and of course to support farming and those jobs in the UK already employed in this industry.
Mark Chesworth
Managing director, Vivergo Fuels
 If petrol and diesel cars are replaced by electric cars then this will reduce tailpipe emissions, but not non-tailpipe emissions, which can still contribute significantly to air pollution, particularly for particulate matter. It will also reduce noise from engines, but not from tyres. Car infrastructure (roads and parking) takes up space that can be used in much better ways that are healthier for the population, for example by making it car-free public space or green space. This will also reduce heat-island effects.
Finally, many people do not get enough physical activity, partly due to the use of cars, which cause disease and premature mortality. A shift away from the car to public and active transport (walking and cycling) can facilitate an increase in physical activity and save thousands of lives. We urgently need a rethink of what we want our cities to be: detrimental to health or promoting health. A shift away from car-centric cities to more active and green cities is urgently needed to achieve the latter, and a ban on diesel and patrol cars is only a small step.
Mark J Nieuwenhuijsen
Research professor in environmental epidemiology, Barcelona Institute for Global Health
 The traffic jam on the M25 shown in your picture (Carmakers fear ban on petrol and diesel cars may lead to bumpy road, 27 July) would still be undesirable even if they were all non-polluting vehicles. Commuting on today’s scale is largely unproductive, whatever the transport mode, in both economic and personal terms. The first postwar new towns, such as Harlow, were designed to be “self-contained and balanced communities for living and working”. For the first few years that was largely achieved, until it was destroyed by globalisation. Today thousands commute out and a similar number commute in. In planning the new developments needed to solve the housing crisis, a return to that principle as far as possible would be highly desirable.
Frank Jackson
Harlow, Essex
 City councils are rightly concerned that ministers’ pollution plans don’t stack up (Clean air plan condemned as weak and inadequate, 27 July). The government’s own evidence shows that charging for urban driving is the quickest way to meet legally binding pollution thresholds. Yet ministers would rather councils removed speed humps instead. Far from cutting the 40,000 deaths annually due to pollution, this would merely increase the numbers killed by speeding.
Meanwhile the vast sums being spent on England’s motorways and trunk roads mean yet more traffic on our city streets. And now councils are being deprived of the means either to restrain urban traffic or to invest in healthy alternatives such as cycling and walking.
If funded adequately, the government’s cycling and walking investment strategy could be a fantastic way to reduce not only pollution but also congestion, road danger and ill-health due to physical inactivity. These four urban transport problems impose similar annual costs on society: about £10bn each, according to government estimates. Electric cars can address only the first of them, whereas cycling and walking could tackle all four.
Will it take another court case before Mr Gove heeds the evidence?
Roger Geffen 
Policy director, Cycling UK
 The latest clean air plan looks likely to put Sheffield back in the fog again. Not only are we choked by “Chelsea tractors” doing the school run and idling queues of traffic, but the decision not to electrify our main railway line to London means that diesel locomotives will continue to add to our respiratory misery.
Mike Peart
 The business secretary, Greg Clark, says that the decision by BMW to assemble an electric version of the Mini at Cowley is a vote of confidence in the UK industrial strategy to be the “go to” place for next-generation vehicles (Report, 26 July). The facts suggest otherwise. The key component for the electric version (the electric drivetrain) will come ready-made from Germany to be integrated into a variant of a car already in production at Cowley.
The only “go to” aspect of the arrangement seems to be that the key technology element will be made in Germany and “go to” Cowley. Good for jobs at Cowley maybe, but rather lame as an industrial strategy. Other countries, including Germany, Japan, China, France and the US, are investing significantly in technology for electric vehicles. If we really expect to be a major player in this new area we will have to invest on a similar scale, and there is little sign of that.
Rod Logan
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey

Switch to electric vehicles will not be enough to give us clean air | Letters | Technology | The Guardian

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Returning the Large Blue butterfly to Cornwall and Devon

Butterfly Conservation have some exciting projects going on:

We've mapped some of our conservation projects to show you where our butterflies and moths need the most help.

Butterfly Conservation - What Does the Future Hold For Wildlife Where You Live?

This is happening in the West Country:

Cornwall Large Blue

The globally endangered Large Blue is the UK’s rarest butterfly.  Declared extinct in the UK in 1979, it is only through careful research, targeted conservation work and a successful reintroduction programme, that we are able to enjoy this beautiful butterfly today.

The Large Blue has a fascinating life cycle with very specific habitat requirements. A  single species of red ant and the caterpillar’s foodplant, Wild Thyme, must both be present to make a site suitable. The red ants (Myrmica sabuleti) that the Large Blue rely upon have their own very specific habitat needs - protecting this beautiful butterfly proves a considerable challenge. 

Our work with partners has meant the Large Blue has been successfully reintroduced to Somerset and the Cotswolds, but is still missing from the Devon and Cornwall coastline, where it was once found.

The Large Blue was first encountered along the North Atlantic Coast of Devon and Cornwall in 1880. By this time the enigmatic butterfly was already nationally rare and its discovery in the area attracted a great deal of interest. Over the next 50 years some 25 colonies were detected but it wasn’t long before populations began to drastically decline. The Large Blue disappeared from the area in 1974.

In the 1990s work began to reintroduce the Large Blue to Cornwall and Devon and 300 caterpillars were brought back to the site in the year 2000. This colony persisted for seven generations. By working across several sites and drawing upon our specific experience in other locations we are confident that we can create a long-term sustainable Large Blue population. 

Without our help it is unlikely you will get the chance to see a Large Blue butterfly on the Devon and Cornwall coast. 

The Project

The key to returning the Large Blue to this beautiful region is the careful selection of the best sites. We have developed a project that will establish the most suitable sites in the region and transform these into a network of habitat that the butterfly can travel within. Allowing movement through the landscape is key to encourage breeding and the creation of new colonies.

Your donation will make it possible for us to:
  • visit and map possible sites, in order to select those with the most potential for Large Blue habitat
  • conduct detailed site analysis of the areas with the best potential habitat including ant surveys, caterpillar foodplant surveys and vegetation height
  • produce detailed recommendations for each site, along with a timescale for restoration to allow the most sustainable locations to be focused upon
  • work with landowners to develop habitat management planscreate the perfect habitat conditions on the best sites and link them together to form a network of suitable habitat


Please help the Large Blue return to the Devon and Cornwall coast.

This work is kindly supported by a major donor. The national Large Blue project is underpinned by science and carried out by a collaborative partnership between Butterfly Conservation, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, J&F Clark Trust, National Trust, Natural England, NetworkRail, Somerset Wildlife Trust, South Somerset District Council, Spalding Associates and the University of Oxford.

Butterfly Conservation - Cornwall Large Blue

Headteachers survey in East Devon: "budgets have already been ‘cut to the bone’, but their costs continue to rise"

During and since the election(s), there has been considerable debate over education budgets:
Futures Forum: The general election in the West Country: the issues >>> education
Futures Forum: Devon County Council elections: the issues > services
Futures Forum: Devon County Council elections: the issues > school funding

The pressure and politicking continues:
Schools given extra £1.3bn from existing education budget - Financial Times
Justine Greening raids free schools budget for £1.3bn education bailout | Politics | The Guardian
School funding in England will have fallen nearly 5% in real terms by 2019, says IFS | The Independent

There's a lot of pressure locally:
Futures Forum: School places contract in Sid Valley - just as housing numbers are set to rise
Futures Forum: 'New formula in funding will mean no school loses' > but: 'schools still face real terms, per pupil, reductions to their funding'

As highlighted over the last weeks by the Herald:
Sidmouth, education, funding, - Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald
Principal reassures parents following concerns of textbook shortages at Sidmouth College - Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth HeraldEast Devon headteacher survey - ‘Budgets cut to the bone’ - Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

These are the latest concerns:

In the County:
Council announces 'harmful' special needs funding cuts in Devon schools and colleges | Devon Live

And in the District:

East Devon headteacher survey - ‘Budgets cut to the bone’

PUBLISHED: 08:53 25 July 2017 | UPDATED: 15:26 25 July 2017

“Parents don’t really understand the severity of our situation – the education of their children is being detrimentally affected.”

Headteachers from across East Devon have responded to a survey by the Exmouth JournalSidmouth Herald and Midweek Herald to warn that their budgets have already been ‘cut to the bone’, but their costs continue to rise. With per-pupil funding in Devon £290 below the UK average, only one of the eight respondents believed a new national funding formula would help – and only if more money is injected into education as a whole.
Three-quarters of headteachers who responded said their budget for 2016/17 was in deficit. One school leader’s budget was £40,000 in the red, which had never happened before.
When asked if they would have to restructure or make staff redundant, half of teachers responded ‘not yet’, while 37.5 per cent have already done so.
Only two out of eight heads said they would not be forced to cut back on creative subjects, while one said the time allocation will be the same, but budgets to fund the materials have been cut.
One school leader said parents do not understand the problems, but the rest said they are aware, but do not understand the scale.
According to the survey results, the biggest pressures on budgets were the increase in employer contributions to pensions, higher National Insurance payments and changes to the Living Wage. The rise in special educational needs (SEN) support needed was also a major factor.
In the main, headteachers have coped by dipping into reserves and cutting the numbers of teaching assistants, or their hours.
Responding to the survey, they said:
• “Staff are being put under even more pressure to do more with less – fewer resources, less time but less support and capacity from other colleagues. That will have a direct negative impact on the children’s experience and education in our school.”
• “I believe that last year was the start of the budget in Devon being too low to maintain standards, schools having already cut back to the bone. The only cost-saving measures left are to reduce staffing, to the detriment of children’s education. This year the situation is even more dire, and unless things change next year we will see most schools in Devon in deficit having used up their reserves and/or making further redundancies.”
• “Another major issue is SEN funding, which is totally inadequate for the increasing numbers of children that are coming through schools with serious and challenging issues. More provision should be made for some of these children to be educated in special schools.
• “The simple fact is this is a political choice. These children represent the future. We should be investing in them, and in schools. I used to get 100 applicants for a job. I got six this year. Only two were good enough. I was lucky to get one that was appointable.”
To bring about change, all of the headteachers who responded to the survey said they would encourage parents to write to their MP - and one had many times already.
Sir Hugo Swire MP said he has campaigned for fairer funding since he was first elected to represent East Devon and he was pleased when the Government agreed to look again at ‘the whole funding issue’.
He added: “But I must also inject a few words of caution.
“The present government is under increasing pressure from all sides for spending increases for public sector pay, the NHS and social care, and housing and it will certainly have to prioritise in order to remain within its own fiscal targets.
“This, combined with the uncertainty over the unknown consequences of Brexit, means the Chancellor will not want to use up much of his headroom in the short-term.
“He might well agree to fund our schools better, but the consequences of that could easily involve higher taxes and more borrowing and the electorate need to be ready for that.
“At the end of the day, someone has to pay.”
Sir Hugo said the last Labour administration had ‘poured’ more cash into schools, but the outcomes were ‘not good’, adding: “As is so often the case, it is not just about more money.”
Education Education secretary Justine Greening this week announced another £1.3billion in funding for schools over the next two years.
Sir Hugo tweeted that it was a victory for Devon MPs that will see county schools receive £4,800 per pupil, up from the ‘present average’ of £4,340.

East Devon headteacher survey - ‘Budgets cut to the bone’ - Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald