DCC | Refugees in Devon

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Refugees in Devon

Devon is playing its part in meeting the UK government’s pledge to bring 20,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees to the UK by 2020.

The government’s programme focusses on Syrian refugees who have fled to the countries around Syria and are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The UNHCR identifies individuals and families who are particularly vulnerable for medical or other reasons. The UK Government carries out security screening before deciding whether to accept a family.

If the UK Government agrees to resettle a Syrian family, it gives them a humanitarian visa for five years. This gives family members the right to work and to use public services.

What Devon is doing

Local councils working together across Devon have offered to house at least 74 Syrian families over that time. The UK Government provides funding for housing and other council costs under the resettlement programme. The first few families have arrived and are settling into homes in Devon.

The families will live in private rented properties that the landlord has offered or agreed to rent to refugee families. Syrian refugee families do not get any preferential treatment for housing.

Councils volunteer to participate in the programme and can control the rate at which families arrive. This depends on the supply of sustainable and affordable housing from private landlords.

Devon has formed a partnership to help families to settle in and lead independent, safe and productive lives. This includes professionals from the NHS, education and social care who make sure that local services will be able to meet refugees’ needs. Community and voluntary organisations are taking the lead in helping families get to know the local area and UK culture, make contact with faith and support groups, learn English and where possible get into work.

Refugee families have been through great hardship and settling in a new country is a huge challenge. Families are entitled to privacy, so councils will not make individual announcements about the timing and locations of resettlement.

How to help refugees

According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), over 4.8 million Syrians have now fled from their country as refugees. Most of them are in the countries around Syria. That is where the biggest need is.

Donate money

Making a donation to one of the international aid organisations will make a difference. All major aid organisations are accepting donations: British Red Cross, Oxfam, Save the Children, UNHCR, UNICEF and others. If you would like to donate, go online and search “donate for Syrian refugees”. The Charity Commission offers advice on giving safely to refugee appeals.

Volunteer

Refugee Support Devon are playing an important part in coordinating offers of support for refugees in Devon and always need volunteers to help. They are particularly interested to hear from Arabic speakers, but all help is welcome. If you can offer any of your time, please contact them by email atinfo@refugeesupportdevon.org.uk.

Pledge

The number of Syrian refugees in Devon will grow only gradually, so we do not need large amounts of clothes, toys, furniture or appliances. But there are particular household items that will be very helpful. Refugee Support Devon keeps an up-to-date list of the things we need. Please contact them by email at info@refugeesupportdevon.org.uk if you want to buy items or pledge money to help buy the most important things.

Rent a property

More than anything else, we need self-contained homes for refugee families. If you are a landlord – or you know someone who is – who would consider renting a property to accommodate a refugee family, please get in touch with your city/district council housing team:

We know that some people would like to offer spare rooms. We are grateful for these offers, but we need self-contained housing where families can lead independent lives.

Find out more

 

My response to Greenpeace UK’s Say No To Fracking letters

Many residents have been using this template letter from Greenpeace to contact me about their concerns about the serious issue of fracking

I’m very concerned about the prospect of fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – in our area.

Fracking has been practiced in the US for some time and has been linked to contamination of water supplies and
atmospheric pollution, as well as increased traffic to construction sites. The government has promised lower energy bills if gas and oil from fracking is produced, but even the fracking companies admit this is unlikely to happen. The government should, instead, be concentrating on sustainable energy sources rather than this appalling method of extracting short-term energy supplies.

I would like to know if any companies are planning to carry out fracking in Devon and whether any relevant licences havebeen sold. If so, I would be grateful if you could let me know your position on the matter and what steps I can take to register my objections.

If there are no current plans or licences, I would be grateful if you could keep me informed of any future developments.

Sincerely,

Here is my response to this e-mail:

Thank you for your email as part of Greenpeace’s campaign Say No To Fracking to defend neighbourhoods from fracking.

Like you I have serious concerns about the practice as it is linked to contaminations of water supplies, increased air pollution, and even small earthquakes. I think that hydraulic fracturing for shale gas is a retrograde step as it will boost carbon dioxide emissions and should not divert attention and funding from sustainable energy business growth.

recent report in New Scientist (7 August 2013) suggests that fracking for shale gas and oil, rather than stemming “global warming, could actually accelerate climate change by releasing methane – a more potent ‘greenhouse gas” than carbon dioxide – into the atmosphere

I am concerned about fracking and am aware of the key messages published by UK Extreme Energy in July 2013.

They also publish a very useful set of briefing notes which you might you might find useful.

I have been in contact with officers at Exeter City Council and they have confirmed that there have not been any applications for licences for any form of shale gas or oil exploration within the boundaries of Exeter.

Also, to the best of my knowledge there have not been any applications within the county. The geology of Devon makes it unlikely that there is any prospect of there being any oil or gas reserves.

I have asked the officers to keep me informed of any change to this situation, and you could join me in subscribing the to Frack Off
e-newsletter for updates.

Friends of the Earth are also running a campaign against fracking – more from their campaign hub.

Thank you for your interest in this subject and I will endeavour to keep you informed if the situation changes

Regards

Paul

UPDATE 20/08/13
The Guardian carries this his is a useful and fairly balanced summary of the issue:
Fracks and figures: the big questions about fracking

It does concern me that the Tories and their allies are so hellbent on introducing th at any cost…

WMN | £1.7m cost of technology to turn off street lights

11 April 2012

Technology costing £1.7 million would centralise Devon County Council’s controversial scheme [known as part night street lighting] to turn off street lights in the dead of night to save cash and energy.

Exeter has been earmarked for the first phase of the new system, which would eventually be rolled out across Devon.

The city is next in line to see many of its 12,000 street lights turned off or dimmed between 12.30am and 5.30am to save cash and reduce its carbon footprint.

But campaigners are warning that it could put public safety at risk.

The new technology, which will be considered by the council’s cabinet today, would mean that the system could be operated over a web-based interface, from a central point.

The cost of up to £1.7 million is expected to be paid back over about six years from savings generated by the scheme.

Devon’s 76,000 street lights account for almost a quarter of the authority’s carbon footprint, and the energy they use alone costs £3.4 million a year.

In January 2009, the council agreed a policy to switch off many street lights between 12.30am and 5.30am – though some lights stay on all night on busy routes or where a need has been demonstrated.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, cabinet member for highways and transportation, said: “The scheme was expected to save up to 4,000 tonnes of CO2 and approximately £450,000 on the council’s electricity bill over the entire programme.

“However, after just one year, figures show that there has already been a CO2 emission saving of nearly 2,900 tonnes and a cost saving of £484,000.”

He said the new system would allow the council more flexibility to manage, monitor or dim lights progressively, as traffic and pedestrian numbers dropped, and turn them on and off as needed.

He added: “We believe a combination of part-time night lighting and the new remote monitoring system means savings for taxpayers, savings in CO2 emissions and makes for a more efficient and cost-effective street lighting network.”

Mr Hughes said the council understood some people were worried about the possibility of more crime occurring during the hours of darkness.

“Crime levels have been monitored since the scheme was introduced and in some instances, this has shown a reduction in night-time crime since part-night lighting was installed,” he said.