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Archives for April 2012

Not gone yet

Graham Smith | 14:06 UK time, Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency updates on Schmallenberg: since last month, two cattle farms in Devon and one in Cornwall have joined the list; the number of sheep farms affected is now seven in Devon (up one) and two in Cornwall (also up one.)
AHVLA says:

"The decline in the numbers of reporting farms is in line with all EU Member States, where the sheep reports have declined as lambing in 'at risk' sheep (those at a critical time of gestation when infection can impact on the foetus) draws to an end. This is also in line with Defra's own predictions considering UK farming practices and estimated time of infection occurring in the UK. We continue to expect to see cases in cattle into early summer."

Crime and punishment

Graham Smith | 15:05 UK time, Tuesday, 24 April 2012

I'm hoping to get a story on Good Morning Devon shortly about police collecting DNA samples from children. I think you'll be able to hear it if you listen to Matt Woodley on BBC Radio Devon from 6am on Thursday.

What I've found out so far is that in Devon and Cornwall, you're more likely to have your DNA sample taken by the police than you are to be a victim of crime (69/1,000 compared with 62/1,000) and that in a three year period, Devon and Cornwall police arrested more than 14,300 juveniles. More than 20 of those arrests involved children as young as 10.

Because the vast majority of those juveniles are never charged with an offence - but dealt with by way of caution or reprimand - they are, in the eyes of the law, innocent. Yet their DNA sample will stay on an Interpol database until those children have reached the age of 100.

I hadn't appreciated until now that local police forces are free to interpret their own policies on DNA. This could become even more interesting when we get to the Police Commissioner elections in November.

Starting to get bored now...

Graham Smith | 08:27 UK time, Monday, 23 April 2012

Last word (for now) on the pasty tax to Nick Clegg, who offered this view of his party's supporters in Cornwall while appearing on BBC TV this weekend.

Pasty munchers set to march

Graham Smith | 08:41 UK time, Friday, 20 April 2012

So who voted in favour of the pasty tax?

Graham Smith | 20:37 UK time, Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Looking forward to studying Hansard in the morning to find out which MPs voted for what in the great pasty tax debate this evening. I know that all six of Cornwall's MPs, and Torbay's Adrian Sanders, voted against the tax. I think one of Devon's Conservative MPs also voted against, as did Labour. The coalition government nevertheless pushed it through with a majority of 35. I'll report the official voting record when I have it.

UPDATE: Here it is: the overnight Hansard details, blow by blow, the battle to scrap the pasty tax. In addition to all six Cornish MPs, four Devon MPs - Gary Streeter (Cons), Adrian Sanders (Lib Dem), Alison Seabeck (Lab) and Ben Bradshaw (Lab) voted against the coalition government. Six of Devon's Tory MPs voted in favour of the pasty tax: Sarah Woolaston, Hugo Swire, Mel Stride, Neil Parish, Oliver Colville and Anne Marie Morris. I can find no record of Nick Harvey (Lib Dem) or Geoffrey Cox (Con) so assume they were absent.

Numbers that violate reason

Graham Smith | 18:28 UK time, Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Since 2005, according to Devon and Cornwall police:


  • There were a total of 3,237 crimes of rape recorded. Figure based on entered date.

  • There were a total of 2,273 arrests for offences of rape recorded. Figure based on arrest date.

  • There were a total of 309 arrests where a charge was recorded for offences of rape recorded. Figure based on arrest date.

Time on their hands

Graham Smith | 14:40 UK time, Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Someone at Torbay Council might know more about this, but thanks to a FoI answer we all now know that the number of calls made from inside the Town Hall to the speaking clock between October 2010 and March 2011 was 66, at a cost of £5.87. That's roughly one call every three days. Pip! Pip! Pip!

How to dodge the pasty tax

Graham Smith | 10:21 UK time, Thursday, 12 April 2012

Who needs expensive accountants to advise on all those useful tax avoidance schemes? Torbay MP Adrian Sanders thinks he has the answer.

Choppers for hire

Graham Smith | 16:10 UK time, Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Also on the Department for Transport website is the short list of bidders for search and rescue helicopter services, coming soon to helipads at Culdrose, Chivenor and Portland. Among the names I recognise are Bond (police, air ambulances), Babcock (Devonport dockyard) and British International Helicopters (Isles of Scilly.) Once upon a time I would have expected the Yeovil-based company Westlands to be keen on this; but there's no mention of AgustaWestland on the DfT list. Winners due to be announced early next year.

On the right track?

Graham Smith | 15:41 UK time, Tuesday, 10 April 2012

From the Department for Transport website:

The firms bidding to take over the franchises have been chosen following a pre-qualification process.

Bidders for Great Western franchise:
•First Great Western Trains Limited (FirstGroup plc)
•GW Trains Limited (Arriva UK Trains Limited - DB (UK) Investments Limited)
•NXGW Trains Limited (National Express Group PLC)
•Stagecoach Great Western Trains Limited (Stagecoach Group plc)
These potential providers will receive the Invitation to Tender which is anticipated will be issued in May 2012. It is anticipated that the successful bidder will be announced in December 2012, with the contract commencing in April 2013. The length of the franchise term will be 15 years.

It'll be fascinating to see what impact, if any, the lobbying of councils in Cornwall and Devon, the Members of Parliament and various business interests have on the final product.

You've got to be in it to win it

Graham Smith | 10:22 UK time, Monday, 9 April 2012

Congratulations to Cornwall and Plymouth councils for making it to the finals of this year's Municipal Journals Awards, one of the most glitzy of the local government love-ins, to be hosted at the Park Lane Hilton in June. It's the sort of event that has The Taxpayers' Alliance in a rage. The definition of some of the categories (Workforce Transformation, Redefining Quality etc) can be open to interpretation. And the political risks associated with spending too much on black ties, posh frocks and champagne are obvious. Perhaps instead of sending executive suits, the councils might elect to be represented this year by those who toil at the sharp end, in the less glamorous world of emptying bins and pest control?

UKIP candidates outnumber Lib Dems in Plymouth elections

Graham Smith | 12:55 UK time, Sunday, 8 April 2012

Candidates are one thing; elected councillors quite another. But it's interesting that the Statement of Persons Nominated for the Plymouth City Council elections, due to be published on Tuesday, shows the UK Independence Party fielding a full slate. Nine of the 19 contested Plymouth wards have no Lib Dem entry. The Conservative and Labour parties also have candidates in every ward, the Greens are represented in five, Trade Unionists & Socialists Against Cuts and Vivamus one each.

Who signed the anti-snoop letter?

Graham Smith | 11:13 UK time, Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Today's Independent newspaper has this letter from 17 Lib Dem MPs, expressing their concern about coalition plans to let the security services intercept the internet and phone data of private citizens. Of Devon and Cornwall's five Liberal Democrat MPs, three signed and two did not.

Lib Dems at war over Police Commissioner election

Graham Smith | 08:57 UK time, Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Just over a week ago Devon and Cornwall's Liberal Democrats set a date (12th May) and venue (Legacy Hotel, Plymouth) for a special conference to decide whether or not to field a candidate in November's Police Commisser election. Now party bigwigs in London are doing their best to make sure such a conference never happens, leaving some local activists complaining of a "stitch-up."

Kay Friend, the chairman of the Devon & Cornwall Lib Dems, has asked the regional conference arrangements committee to cancel the gig planned for 12th May, unless individual local parties wish to take over responsibility for it. She says the special conference, which would cost about £200, is neither appropriate nor necessary, quoting advice from David Allworthy, the Head of Compliance and Constitutional Support at Lib Dem HQ in London.

His advice says:

"Police Commissioner Elections are defined as Local Authority elections in law. Therefore a Local Party or combination of Local Parties as envisaged in clause 9.6 are responsible for approval, selection, campaigning and publicity. You cannot be responsible for selection campaigning and publicity without being responsible for the costs. Therefore any group of Local Parties responsible for fielding a candidate in the Police Commissioner Elections are also responsible through the joint arrangements for deciding how much each Local party should pay towards the costs which would include both hustings costs and the deposit."

I'm no lawyer, and even less of an expert on the Lib Dems' constitution, but I do wonder why this advice wasn't available before the regional executive meeting on 27th February decided not to field a candidate. If that meeting had never happened, it wouldn't have been necessary to call a special conference to reverse the decision. It now puts the regional conference arrangements committee in a very interesting position. I hope to speak to some of the local Lib Dem MPs about this later today.

Life imitates art

Graham Smith | 19:21 UK time, Tuesday, 3 April 2012

If you can't wait for the Olympic torch to race past your home next month, as it hurtles through Cornwall and Devon, do catch Twenty Twelve on BBC2 and iPlayer. Most Laughs Out Loud for a long time.

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