Category Archives: Working For You

Government Changes to EDDC Rents

Brandon Lewis 2015Jill Elson as Cabinet Member for Sustainable Homes and Communities had a meeting with Brandon Lewis the Housing Minister. Present were Hugo Swire, Neil Parish and my opposite number at Mid Devon District Council and both Councils’ senior officers.

The Summer Budget proposed a 1% reduction in the Council rents which would probably be welcomed by our tenants but on average it is 82p per week. More seriously it means that in our 30 yr Business Plan on the Housing Revenue Account (ring fenced for housing) – we had to borrow £84.5 million to have more freedoms – we will lose over £7m.

Exmouth Hospital

 

Exmouth Hospital

Exmouth Hospital

 

It is with dismay I read that the New Devon Clinical Commissioning Board is proposing to reduce Exmouth Hospital to 16 beds. I was part of the Stakeholder Group as a Councillor and Cabinet Member as part of the many consultations.  We were told that in WEB Consortium area that Exmouth  would have 24 beds + extra for winter pressures and Budleigh Salterton Hospital would become a Health and Well Being Hub. This was supported by residents.

I do not understand how Exmouth as the largest Town in Devon, as part of the WEB Consortium area is reduced to 16 when the population of WEB is estimated at over 48,000 with development increasing under the emerging East Devon Local Plan in both Towns and rural villages by 2000 without ‘windfalls’. The Health Profiles of these Towns according to 2013/14 evidence by DCC is Exmouth area 48,323 and Tiverton area 38,539. Therefore the question is  ‘ how does Tiverton justify 32 beds in its Community Hospital and Exmouth 16 beds ?’

Many of us involved in the voluntary sector who transport patients to the RDE and with other conversations are aware that there seems to be a need for patients, if it is safe to do so, to move out of the RDE to vacate beds for new patients. They cannot move out, either because there are insufficient beds in the community either nursing homes or homes for patients suffering from dementia, their homes need adaptations or are unsafe and of course the lack of community carers.

I have for many years been in support of having a new Exmouth Community Hospital to meet the needs of the future with a new GP medical centre. I am aware that our GP’s have worked very hard to have more medical consultations in our Community Hospital instead of travelling to RDE, ‘safe’ transfusions are taking place, minor operations etc. Our residents like this arrangement but we will never understand why the NDCCG Board has reduced Exmouth Hospital to 16 beds.

 

Jill Elson

Councillor Halsdon Ward.

EDDC Housing Press Release 30 July 2015

1% cut in rents means a £7 million cut in income for EDDC over next four years

Council calling on MPs to help

Government proposals for a 1% reduction in council house rents each year for the next four years means East Devon District Council faces a £7 million cut in its income by 2019/20.

The council is now asking to meet with its MPs Hugo Swire and Neil Parish to discuss the compulsory 1% rent cut which was announced in the Budget in June.

East Devon is landlord of 4,245 council homes, and its social rents, at less than £82 a week, are already well below equivalent affordable rents charged by most Registered Housing Providers.

Cllr Jill Elson, East Devon District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Sustainable Homes and Communities, said that the £7 million cut in income over the next four years would hit the council’s plans to invest in maintaining its current properties and affect any plans to buy or build new council homes.

She said: “While a 1% reduction may seem good news for existing tenants, we may not be able to carry out the kind of maintenance on properties as we do now. We have invested £9 million each year on the repair and improvement of tenant’s homes over the last three years. It would also affect our future tenants too, as the £7 million rent income we are at risk of losing, equates to being able to provide 66 new affordable homes assuming £120,000 per home.”

The council, along with other local authorities who have housing stock, has a thirty year business plan to ensure that it is able to maintain its properties. The 1% rent cut could mean East Devon’s ring-fenced Housing Revenue Account would reduce by £77.2 million over the next three decades. This loss of income makes the business plan unviable.

The proposal is particularly unwelcome as the government required East Devon District Council to take on £84.5 million of debt in 2012 in return for freedoms and flexibilities to run its council housing free from government interference. The debt was based on the government’s assessment of income and expenditure over thirty years, and three years into that arrangement, the government is proposing to “move the goalposts”.

Cllr Elson is urging the Government to reconsider the policy. She said: “This is very short sighted and this policy has tough consequences on us as a council and on tenants too. We need to secure a more effective balance between the needs of present and future tenants in the longer term.”

The council is hoping to meet with MPs in the next few weeks.

EDDC Housing Rents

East Devon DC HousingStatement made to East Devon District Council Full Council meeting held on Wednesday 29 July 2015

STATEMENT FOR FULL COUNCIL 29TH JULY 2015

The July Budget Statement presented to the House of Commons contained rent reduction proposals that will affect the Housing Revenue Account 30 year Business Plan. I expect our tenants will welcome it. Housing Revenue Account finance was reformed in 2012 presenting a new financial deal for Council Housing. This scrapped the old subsidy system of us paying £6 million pounds per annum from tenants’ rents to be redistributed by the Treasury to other councils.[It must be noted that East Devon paid off its public works loan under John Major and did not transfer its housing into a housing association to pay off its debts. We then became debt free at that time. Since then the tenants had the opportunity to ask EDDC to transfer its housing stock into a Housing Association (Stock Options under Tony Blair). Tenants chose to stay with EDDC.]

This Council was not given a choice but to go forward on the scheme which meant we had to have a Public Works Loan for £84.5 million this was based on the asset value of the Housing Stock.   We were advised that the new system is based upon assumptions Government had made about rental income and expenditure required to maintain the stock over 30 years. Therefore, by Governments’ own calculations any changes in those assumptions will impact on the Council’s ability to maintain their housing stock.

Last year the Government adjusted the rental formula to use the Consumer Price Index rather than the higher Retail Price Index on which the self-financing was based. This was announced as a ten year rent setting policy. This damaged the business plan. The new formula was to have rent increases of CPI + 1% this was the previous RPI + ½% + £2 per week.

The Summer budget indicated that it would be compulsory to implement Government Rent policy of 1% rent reduction each year for 4 years – the intention being to reduce the Housing Benefit bill. This broke the CPI+1% formula that had just been introduced only 1 year ago.

The impact of this proposal of 1% reduction in rents for 4 years on our business plan is:

  • Housing Revenue Account Business Plan allowed for 2.5% increase so this effectively means a 3.5% reduction each year.
  • The cumulative effect by end of year 4 (2019/20) is a reduction in rent income of £7 million. (66 new affordable homes at £120,000 per home)
  • The estimated rent loss over the full 30 year business plan period is £77.2 million (equivalent to 643 New Homes at £120,000 per unit.
  • In 2025/26 our HRA Balance drops below the agreed minimum of £2 million
  • The balance does not reach an acceptable level until 2037/38 (when our debt is repaid) when it is projected to reach £5 million.
  • New build/acquisition will be curtailed – Right to Buy receipts may have to all returned to the Government.
  • Reductions may be required in maintenance programmes
  • Our average rent is £81.97 per week which is well below equivalent affordable rents charged by some Housing Associations.

I have requested an urgent meeting with our MP’s. Hugo Swire and Neil Parish. Hugo Swire has asked for a meeting with the Minister ASAP. We are meeting Neil Parish on Thursday 6th August 2015.

Ring and Ride services

WEB Bus Livery 2015

Exmouth and District Community Transport Group

Exmouth and District Community Transport Group has thoroughly reviewed all of its services to make them more flexible and relevant to our passengers. This is also to make our services more sustainable for the future.

Exmouth and District has a growing number of elderly and people with mobility difficulties living in their own homes. Many of these people are living alone or their partner is unable to take them out of their homes. This means many more people are at risk of becoming isolated whether in a town or rural village.

After many conversations with our regular passengers. We made the decision to return our Devon County Council leased vehicle and not to have a school contract which limited our flexibility. We have also had long discussions with our 2 Community Hospitals Leagues for Friends.

Our customers were saying that they like to socialise with others, they wish to visit local shopping centres as well as the supermarkets and Town Centres. Their personal carers are not always able to have them ready to travel by 10am and would like an opportunity to travel in the afternoon.

Starting in August we will be offering Ring & Ride to Town Centres morning and afternoon with the availability of visiting the seafront in an afternoon. Local lunches once per month. Excursions to Sidmouth, Newton Abbot and Exeter monthly. Other trips are organised to various destinations including a lunch. These are at the cost of the trip and passengers pay for their own lunches. This is with our Community Bus.

Budleigh Community Hospital is being redeveloped into a Health and Well Being HUB and Exmouth Hospital is being upgraded to provide the medical beds, x ray, minor operations with an Urgent Care Centre. Budleigh Salterton Town Council led a bid with other surrounding Villages and Exmouth Town Council to the ‘Parishes Together Fund’ and were successful in buying a small MPV with tail lift.  We are working in partnership with both Hospital Leagues of Friends to use this bus to provide transport to both destinations and they have agreed to pay a substantial sum to the running costs of the bus to ensure the fare will be ‘affordable’ to all their clients.

We do have another small MPV with Tail lift for individual appointments – health, visiting friends or relatives, attending weddings etc. This is becoming more popular with fares charged to cover the cost – not all return fares because on occasions their relatives or friends may take them or pick them but are unable to do both journeys.

We also have many bookings from residents from residential or nursing homes to give them a local trip or further away. Some people just wish to see the seafront and have an ice cream – which for many is a real treat.

Thanks to Wendy and Mel our co-ordinators for a great deal of work in talking to our customers and many other local organisations. Making a new timetable work was not easy and will be kept under review. We are very grateful to our voluntary drivers and are advertising for more. We still make many grant applications, seek sponsorship, and donations to guarantee we will be here into the future with a need to replace the buses when needed and to pay the upkeep of them.

Jill Elson Chairman of the Exmouth and District Community Transport Management Committee

Telephone 01395 26 66 62 between 10am and 12 noon or between 1pm and 3pm for information

Web: www.exmouthringandride.org.uk

Email: edctg@btconnect.com

Letter to Exmouth Journal 28 May 2015

Letter to Exmouth Journal May 2015

Sir

The East Devon Alliance Councillor for Exmouth (although says is Independent) had a manifesto to stop the relocation of the EDDC Offices from Sidmouth. East Devon Alliance has enacted an Extraordinary General Meeting of EDDC as their manifesto stated. This will be a cost to you as Council Taxpayers.

Since I was first elected, I, with other Conservative Councillors for Exmouth fought to have more services located in Exmouth. Exmouth is the largest Town in Devon and therefore the largest Town within East Devon DC area. If you add the surrounding Town and Villages it is a centre for over 50,000 residents. This is 37% of the total population of East Devon. Many developments have taken place in the west of the EDDC area including Cranbrook so therefore easily accessible to many more residents.

I achieved part of my goal as a Cabinet Member for Housing when EDDC created a LOCAL housing needs office in the Town Hall. This has helped many families in crisis and helped to reduce the number on the EDDC housing register from 4300 to less than 2900.

EDDC has consulted over the last 8 years on the need to move to more suitable offices to improve customer services to the residents of East Devon. Mobile working has increased, meaning that many more people are having services delivered to their door or local places around East Devon. When the detailed work required for the proposal was carried out, 98% of the enquiries in Exmouth Town Hall, at the Town Council reception desk were for EDDC services. This means that Exmouth Town Council reception is staffed to cope with many calls not related specifically to Exmouth Town Council services. East Devon does pay a contribution towards this.

Conservative East Devon DC has reduced its staffing and is working in partnership with others to cope with the reduction in Government Grant by over 40%. East Devon DC has kept its frontline services. The number of staff has reduced, so  the large offices at Sidmouth are NOT required and are also not suitable for disabled people. Moving the EDDC Offices will save £300,000 per annum from YOUR COUNCIL TAX. New build at Honiton and refurbishment of Exmouth Town Hall will be funded by capital receipts and prudential borrowing. Conservatives have done a proper analysis of costs that have been verified by independent accountants. Exmouth Town Hall will be upgraded to accommodate up to 70 staff (DCC employed this number before they left) and build a new modern office on land it owns in Honiton.

I believe Exmouth deserves a local accessible EDDC office in Exmouth. It is the largest Town, has the largest number of Council owned homes, the longest beach, a larger street cleaning team, the largest number of food businesses to be inspected and the list goes on. We are the centre for a large surrounding area.

 

 

Regards

 

 

 

 

Jill Elson

Exmouth Halsdon Ward

23 Hazeldene Gardens

Exmouth EX8 3JA

New HUB Bus for clients within WEB GP Consortium area

WEB Bus Livery 2015As Chairman of the Exmouth and District Community Transport Group I welcome a new bus to our fleet. This bus was paid for by the ‘Parishes Together Fund’ and the running costs will be met by fares and the Exmouth League of Friends in partnership with Budleigh Salterton League of Friends. This is for taking people to hospital appointments, other health appointments, attending the proposed Budleigh Salterton HUB being created from the Budleigh Salterton Community Hospital now under development. A very exciting project that will benefit many people.

Proposed Well Being Centre – former Budleigh Salterton Hospital

WEb Bus Side with Ray B, Mel, Jill, SteveWe have had new bus added to our fleet. A grant was awarded by the ‘Parishes Together Fund’ – money from East Devon District Council and Devon County Council supported by all the Towns and Villages within our service area. A big thank you from us. This new bus is to provide transport for clients to attend the Well Being Centre, Exmouth Hospital and other medical appointments. It will have to be booked a day in advance, longer if possible, and a fare will be charged. We are very grateful to Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton Leagues of Friends to provide the monies required to meet the running costs after the fares have been collected so that it is ‘affordable’ to patients.

People in Genuine need

PeopleI am very concerned about people who are in a crisis situation not necessarily by their own actions.

I am working with many voluntary organisations throughout East Devon and Exmouth in particular.

When a person is made redundant and they visit the job centre the benefit calculations are quite complicated. All monies they receive on redundancy is taken into account. It seems that the DWP (Job Centres are now a ‘one stop shop for the majority of benefits) are taking approximately 12 weeks before any money is received by an applicant. It is very difficult to manage for 12 weeks or any weeks if they are living up to their income. Many people need help to fill in all the forms required.

The onset of Universal Credit is a logical direction for the Department of Work and Pensions to go as it will reduce the cost of administration. I am extremely concerned that it will also include housing benefit that is paid to a household to cover the costs or part costs of their rent in in the private sector or social housing sector. East Devon District Council has been calculating Housing Benefit and paying it according to the guidelines of the DWP and is able to do 97% of these with 6 days so that a client can come into the office on a Friday and the ensure their landlord has it by the following Friday. If DWP(Job Centre) continues to take up to 12 weeks, a tenant could lose their accommodation. Secondly EDDC is paying the Housing Benefit direct to the Landlord but under the new system it will be paid to the tenant unless they direct otherwise. There is considerable concern that a tenant may not realise this or not wish to have it paid direct. This could prove very difficult for those who do not manage their money very well because a person who receives the Housing Benefit but is in arrears with their rent could be evicted and become classified as intentionally homeless and the Local Council will not have a duty to house them.

There are many local voluntary organisations who can help these people. In Exmouth, but to name a few, Citizens Advice Bureau, Job Club at Glenorchy Church, Christians Against Poverty, Open Door Centre, The Community Larder, Credit Union. Many are working together for the benefit of clients.

Food Banks

Food BankEast Devon District Council has been working with all the food banks in its area. East Devon has been meeting them twice a year and has been pleased to use a portion of the Government’s Welfare Fund to give each of them a grant and to give grants to other East Devon charities to help with their work in helping those in genuine need. All people are referred to the food banks by agencies – for example, social services, health visitors, CAB etc. The Food Banks have expanded their services by helping with buying a precise amount of electricity/gas using the key meters, having financial advice available.

East Devon has employed a financial advisor to help those who need help with budgeting, applying for benefits they are entitled to, organising a payment plan for arrears.

I welcome the Inquiry led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the report entitled ‘Feeding Britain’. https://foodpovertyinquiry.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/food-poverty-feeding-britain-final.pdf East Devon has worked and is continuing to work with the many voluntary organisations and churches as recommended in the report. I believe we do need an emergency fund to help those people in genuine crisis. I am disappointed the Government is ending the scheme in April 2015. East Devon DC has welcomed the fact that the Local Government Association is lobbying government to continue this emergency fund.