Saturday, 1 August 2015

An independent South-West?

Several events have happened over the last year which might point to new directions.

In East Devon, we have seen quite a challenge to the status quo:
Futures Forum: "This column is not anti-Tory (I have some very good true-Blue friends). But it is anti-arrogance – and I believe that’s one of the major reasons why so many people are disillusioned with the current set-up."

In the South West, the two main parties received some criticism:
Conservative candidate says 'straw-sucking yokels' jibe was 'not my view' | Western Morning News
WMN OPINION: Labour's big challenge to win over rural voters | Western Morning News

And there was considerable discussion on the issues which matter in the South West:
Futures Forum: Rural issues: what the political parties have to say >>> regional hustings @ Westpoint >>> Thursday 23rd April

Then, when the Liberal Democrats lost so spectacularly in the South West 
Tory "bluewash" as Lib Dem vote collapses across Westcountry | Western Morning News

... there was anticipation that the area should do very nicely under a Conservative government:
WMN ELECTION OPINION: West helped Tories win the election. Now we want our reward | Western Morning News

However, there is still the spectre of local government reorganisation to reckon with:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils...... part six: "I think we will see economic groupings rather than political ones.”
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils... part 11: Greater Exeter, Greater Bristol and devolution for the South West

... especially with the SNP so dominant:

The East Devon Watch blog has produced an interesting piece which considers these points quite succinctly:


July 31 2015

Is the West Country being best served by either Conservative or Labour or Liberal Democrat national parties? Should we be following the SNP by attempting to look after ourselves after being overlooked and penalised in just about every major area of life?

A correspondent writes:


The decision was taken by the NHS CCG last Thursday to axe beds from both Ottery and Axminster hospitals, together with the minor injuries units at Seaton and Sidmouth.

An article in The Times in June 2015 [1] reports that ‘patients in the countryside are left at a “severe disadvantage” by an NHS funding system that is skewed towards cities.’ It further states, ‘There’s diminishing availability of district nurses not because there are fewer of them but because they can do less if they travel further.’

Perhaps a report [2] by The King’s Fund, April 2013, entitled “Improving the allocation of health resources in England” can throw some light on the matter.

1. Oxford and London are “relatively over-funded compared with the rest of England”.

2. ‘In the mid-1990s, a decision was taken not to apply an updated weighting for need across all services, in particular not applying it to community health services.’

3. ‘The materially more significant political motivation is that all political parties have abided by the unwritten rule that no area should receive a real-terms cut in NHS funding as a result of resource allocation decisions. The political fallout from this would be immense and no party has had the courage to take such decisions.’


Another important area where Devon receives insufficient funding relates to education. An article in the Western Morning News (WMN) of 13th March 2014, was headed ‘Westcountry schools get £23m extra next year to tackle under-funding.[3]

‘Education Minister and Somerset MP David Laws announces the money, available for 2015/16 was the “biggest step towards fairer schools funding in a decade”.’ The article later states, ‘The hand-out will act as a “bridge” until a new formula is developed to be introduced after the election in 2016, Mr Laws said.’

‘The South West in particular has been a long-standing loser. Devon sits sixth from bottom in a national league table of 150 education authorities in terms of funding.’

Rail Transport

This year, the WMN reported [4] (6th January 2015) ‘Trains serving the Westcountry are the oldest of any inter-city fleet in the country, figures have revealed against claims of massive under-investment in the region’s railways.’

‘Since the collapse of the rail line at Dawlish, critics have pointed to the chronic lack of rail investment in the South West. There has been growing criticism the response has been too feeble, with the promise of a review into an additional Dartmoor line the only clear pledge to date.’


Finally, an article this week in the WMN of 20th July 2015 [5] entitled ‘Scandalous divide between police funding’ states ‘Police in Devon and Cornwall receive less than half the funding per person enjoyed by forces in the capital, new figures reveal, as politicians continue their campaign for fair funding of rural services.’

‘Mr Hogg said these numbers revealed “the in-built metropolitan bias” of the current funding system.’

“The information that my office researchers have uncovered is scandalous. It is no wonder that policing is so stretched in Devon and Cornwall when Government funding is so unfair,” he said.’

Anyone else spot a trend here? The Westcountry and Devon in particular have been systematically denied adequate funding.

Now the government has announced a further round of swingeing cuts. How are they to be meted out? As our region has suffered historically from unfair funding formulas, just how does the government intend to implement these cuts in Devon?

The questions to ask are:

1) Why has our region been denied adequate funding in so many areas for so long?

2) When will Devon receive its fair share?

For example, if only the NHS in Devon had received proper funding, would the CCG have decided to axe beds or MIUs in local hospitals?

NHS funds unfair to rural areas and poor northern cities, say doctors | The Times
Improving the allocation of health resources in England | The King's Fund
Westcountry schools get £23m extra next year to tackle under-funding | Western Morning News
Inter-city trains to Devon and Cornwall are oldest in the country | Western Morning News
'Scandalous' divide between police funding | Western Morning News

Is it time the West Country had its own party! | East Devon Watch

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