News and views from Paul Bull, the Labour and Co-operative Councillor for the St THOMAS Ward of Exeter City Council. Promoted by Dom Collins on behalf of Paul Bull, both of 26b, Clifton Hill, Exeter, EX1 2DJ.
I refer to Alan Jones recent letters on students and purpose-built student accommodation.
In his most recent letter, he comments on full-time students having exemption from council tax, implying that this is granted by Exeter City Council.
Since he is a declared candidate for the ward of Pennsylvania in the forthcoming elections, I hope he knows that this exemption is granted by central government rather than an individual local authority.
It used to be the case that Revenue Support Grant from central Government more than compensated Exeter City Council for the cost of student exemption, but as this central funding is being cut year on year by the Chancellor this is no longer the case.
So it is not the City Council that is short-changing the residents of Exeter, but Mr Jones own Tory Government.
Mr Jones suggests a 5 year moratorium on purpose-built student accommodation. Once again, this seems to go against his party’s own policies.
When they came to power, the Conservative-led Coalition introduced the National Planning Policy Framework which has at its heart the “presumption in favour of sustainable development”.
The result of this policy is that developers appear to have the upperhand in planning decisions as planning committees can only refuse applications on purely planning grounds…and any local refusal is often overturned by the Planning Inspectorate, with the possibilty of costs awarded against the City Council.
That said, in recent months, we’ve seen the ECC Planning Committee refuse new student accommodation attached to Renslade House, and a reduced scheme come forward on the site of Radmore & Tucker after an initial refusal.
To me , it seems that Mr Jones sees the University only in terms of students – I know from my time on campus that the University of Exeter is a major employer for the city, and that’s a benefit for us all.
E&E Community News | St Thomas – Spring [Deep] Clean
A part of St Thomas is due to have an early spring clean.
In response to local concerns from residents, local councillors have been able to confirm areas that are to get a deep by the City Council this year.
The areas currently on the list are Old Vicarage Road, Tin Lane , Powderham Road, Shaftesbury Road , Duckworth Road , Barton Road through to the Cowick Street entrance, Church Path Road, Holland Road, Parkhouse Road, Coleridge Road, Churchill Road , and the rear of Cowick Lane that backs on to the terraced areas.
The clean up time will run from Monday the14th March to Thursday 24th March 2016 and focus primarily on those roads that have been so far identified.
Local councillor Paul Bull said: “This was one of the main issues that we picked up locally after listening to local people in this part of St Thomas, so we wanted to get these areas on the list for action , especially as many of the back alleys are getting very grubby , weeds need pulling , and there is some general dumping and litter, and we are regularly getting complaints.
“We will look to putting out a local street letter to the effected properties ahead of the allotted time to help raise awareness.”
Cllr Hannaford added: “it will be really good to get some spring cleaning done at these locations.
“It’s been a rough old wet winter and the mild weather has meant that many of the weeds have not died back as usual so, with all the high winds and storms, they will have been a magnet for litter blowing around.
“Also many people in these terraced areas actually use their back alleys a lot for access, for example taking the dogs for a walk, so it’s really important they are kept clear nd clean”
During the current financial year , St Thomas Cllrs Hannah Packham and Rob Hannaford have agreed the following community grants for local groups and residents.
St Thomas Methodist Church: £300 for raised beds.
St Thomas Bowling Club: £200 for a new hot water urn .
Pinces Garden: £300 for a Garden Party this coming May.
Pinces Gardens Bowling Club: £300 for new crockery and folding tables.
Age UK: £225 towards a Dementia allotment project.
The Bloom’In St Thomas Group: £300 for new wildflower plantings.
St Thomas Allotment Association: £100 towards new notice boards
Cllr Packham said: “ It’s been great to use these local grants in St Thomas for a range of very worthwhile projects.
“It often means that when an issue arises , or a piece of equipment goes wrong , we can be proactive straight away.
“For many small organisations relying on volunteers, grants up to three hundred pounds can make a big difference.
“Where some local projects serve more than one ward , we can on occasions agree cluster funding from several ward budgets. Please keep coming forward to us with your ideas , projects and suggestions”
Fellow St Thomas Cllr Rob Hannaford , who originally set up these grants when he was the Portfolio Holder for Housing and Communities, added: “These delegated ward grants that all City Councillors have each year do a huge amount of good positive work across the whole city , that often add value to the grass roots fund raising efforts by volunteers.
“Over many years we have always made full use of them in and around St Thomas.
“This includes supporting all sorts of charities , church groups , community organisations , and sports clubs.”
Cllr Hannaford added: “Another important element to the grants is providing local ward members with an important tool in fulfilling their leadership role of local community champions.
“This work is very important at the moment , with public sector cuts and reducing central government funding , in that we work with local people to achieve sustainable projects and generally promote resilience.“
The recent budget setting meeting at the City Council confirmed that each of the new three member wards will have £3,000 each.
If people would like information , guidance , or to make an application. they are encouraged to make contact with their local councillors , or Dawn Rivers, the Community Involvement and Inclusion Officer at the City Council, who can be emailed at email@example.com .
I notice that the local Tory election literature promises to introduce at the earliest opportunity kernside glass recycling.
Has this been costed?
Exeter City Council’s present system of recycling involves a forthnightly collection of a range of materials (such as paper, card, aluminium and steel cans, aerosols and all types of plastic household packaging). This is delivered to the Council’s Material Reclamation Facility [MRF] at Exton Road where it is sorted and resold to help cover the costs.
Glass is not, and cannot, be included in the mix as the MRF is not designed to process it – the equipment would be damaged, the glass would contaminate other recyclates and , most importantly, some of the separation involves manual picking.
So the introduction of a kerbside glass collection from each household would mean the introduction of a completely separate collection service.
I can see the benefits of this plan – there is the possibility that more glass might be recycled but at what cost?
Back in 2011 the City Council looked at this when the price of glass was high.
They found to introduce a kerbside collection, they found that even the cheapest option of a monthly mixed glass collection would cost an additional £367,241 per year., In addition there would be capital costs of over £600,000 in the first year.
Can someone from the local Conservative team tell me how they could fund this grand plan, or is it a case of talk is cheap?
An 11th hour bid to save Devon’s school crossing patrollers has been launched.
Parents, grandparents and anyone who wants to see the continuation of what is regarded as a vital and life-saving service in Devon, is being asked to contact councillor John Hart, the leader of Devon County Council, by phone or email before it is too late.
The Heart to Hart campaign has been launched by school crossing patroller campaigners and is being backed by Cllr Alan Connett, Liberal Democrat group leader on Devon County Council.
He said: “My call would be for every parent, grandma and grandad in Devon to email Cllr Hart and say they want to keep our school crossing patrollers.
“They can also contact their local conservative councillors as they are the ones who voted to cut the service.
“This is our 11th hour chance to save school crossing patrollers. When they’re gone they’re gone.”
Cllr Connett said he was concerned not much money would be saved if the council has to spend out on traffic islands or alternative safety management outside schools. He added he was also worried parents would no longer feel it was safe for their older children to walk to school which would increase traffic on Devon’s roads and impact on children’s health by being driven to school instead of walking.
“The decision is a false economy,” he said. “Labour put forward a different proposal, as did the Independents and Liberal Democrats. We could have found the money for it.”
At last week’s meeting, the majority of councillors voted in favour of Cllr Hart’s recommendation to approve the budget for 2016/17, which excluded funding for school lollipop patrollers. A further debate of the service will take place at the council’s scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, 07 March.
Overwhelming opposition from schools, councillors and the public – along with three petitions with one signed by more than 1,000 people – failed to sway the mind of Devon County Council in its mission to save £250,000 a year from its budget.
Under the new proposals, school patrollers will be employed by a third party that would deliver the service on a full-cost recovery or commercial basis.
If schools decide not to fund the cost of their patrol, the alternatives are for it to be run by volunteers or to lose the service.
To make sure the service continues to be delivered safely, the council says it is prepared to continue a degree of support such as establishing and monitoring quality standards, providing training and doing risk assessments.
Save our school lollipop patrollers campaigner Marie Leverett, a mum from Stoke Hill, Exeter, said: “I sincerely hope the County Council will reconsider it’s position at the scrutiny committee on 07 March, and take some time to think through the ramifications of this ludicrous budget cut in the short, medium and long term.”
At last week’s full council meeting, Cllr Hart said: “It’s not an easy decision to make but I think it’s the right decision for us to take.”
To join the Heart to Hart campaign, send an email to Cllr Hart asking to save Devon’s school lollipop patrollers at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 01752 403554.
EXETER City Council has submitted planning applications for seven of their own Laings Easiform properties.
The seven homes, on what is known as the Buddle Lane estate, are empty and the proposal is to demolish and rebuild them.
Planning applications for a further 10 of these properties are expected by the end of the month.
Local councillor Paul Bull explained the background: “The Laing Easiform method of construction consists of cast-in-situ concrete cavity walls, most of which have failed over time because of the expansion of steel reinforcement or movement. That said, there has never been any risk to tenants.
“In the 1990s, Exeter City Council formed a partnership with Sovereign Housing and used a trickle transfer agreement whereby the housing association took the properties on a 125-year lease and refurbished them using government grants as and when they became available. “More than 100 homes were renovated in this way.
“In 2010 the grants dried up, and the city council looked to new ways to improve the remaining 21 properties. Three were refurbished by the city council when they became vacant.
“However, pressures on the Housing Revenue Account meant this wasn’t a cost effective way of proceeding with the remaining 20 – one having been sold off in December 2014.”
Cllr Bull added: “The aim of the proposals is to demolish the existing properties which have been structurally condemned and replace them with new properties which comply with modern day standards and are more thermally efficient.
“The front elevation will remain mostly unaffected in terms of appearance and the layout has been developed to provide each property with a ground floor WC, kitchen/diner, lounge, first-floor bathroom and three bedrooms.”
Fellow local councillor, Hannah PacKham added: “With tenders for the work coming soon, work is expected to start in early August.
“The plan is to have a staggered start – one property every three weeks, and it is expected that the total works will take 18 months.
“The whole project is based on the need to have 10 vacant properties at any one time and this is be achieved with a combination of permanent and temporary moves while the new homes are being built.
“It’s good to see progress being made at long last.
“There have been delays to the programme caused by the work needed to remedy the water ingress in some of the council’s properties due to the winter storms two years ago, and I was worried that the government’s planned changes to the housing revenue account might delay the works even more.”
Cllr Packham added: “When the city council has such a robust Empty Homes Strategy in the private sector, it is essential we set an example with our own social housing.”