The owl returns …..


Shining a light into the darkest corners of East Devon

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see Independent Councillor Claire Wright talking SENSE about OUR NHS!

NHS demo, London 3 February 2018

“Why I started a petition against NHS privatisation”

by Jamie Snape:

Today in Westminster MPs will debate a petition calling on the government to stop the privatisation of NHS services. Now, if I’m entirely honest, the date of a petition debate isn’t something that would normally appear in my calendar, however this particular debate I’m responsible for myself.

Until starting this petition I’d never campaigned on behalf the NHS, nor had I any connection to the plethora of local or national NHS campaign groups. So what drove me to begin the petition in the first place?

Well, it was after I’d encountered for myself the already privatised NHS services in my local area. Following this I was left with a clear understanding of what it means in reality, when our healthcare is provided by a profit-orientated business rather than an organisation focused on patient outcome like the NHS, and indeed what it is we are losing by privatising it.

As a parent, seeing my young children’s well-being affected directly and indirectly by NHS privatisation on more than one occasion, it motivated me to a degree that I might not otherwise have been.

So I began reading more about NHS privatisation, and why people like the late Stephen Hawking were so concerned. I concluded I could perhaps make a little difference myself by using a petition as a vehicle to help voice the concerns that many people have and that I share about creeping NHS privatisation.

This belief panned out, indeed a single post I wrote on Facebook about the petition was shared over 73,000 times, meaning it was very likely to have been read by more than a million people.

There are over 6,500 petitions on the parliament website right now, and it’s fair to say the UK public are petitioned out. Despite that, not too far short of a quarter of a million people took the time to sign this petition, which ultimately resulted in the scheduling of today’s debate in parliament.

NHS privatisation can mean so many things as there are so many aspects to it, so in terms of the debate itself, my hope is simply that I will observe a well-informed one. I hope that all the MPs involved demonstrate a real knowledge of the issues relating to it, such as the scale of current NHS privatisation.

What simply must be covered are the concerns surrounding the introduction of Accountable Care Organisations later this year, and their potential for leaving a back door wide open for a massive new wave of NHS privatisation.

If the debate centres around the small part of NHS privatisation, where a few people get bumped up the waiting list by having a routine operation performed by a private company, then I will of course be disappointed.

The concept of the NHS is erroneously referenced by many now in historic terms, especially when they are arguing in favour of NHS privatisation.

Personally, I see the NHS as something very much of the future, indeed I’m entirely certain that in years to come, a nation will only be considered civilised if it provides comprehensive free healthcare to all of its citizens.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

“Building free-for-all [in new planning regulations] puts rural West at risk”

Western Morning News article, Saturday 21 April:

“Pristine protected areas of the South West could be at risk from housing developments plans, a conservation charity has warned. Even officially designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty would face developments due to “vague” proposed new planning guidance for local authorities the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) says.

The Government argues that the new rules, part of a move to open up land to solve the housing shortage, would still protect the environment.
However Justin Hague of the South Hams CPRE, said “this would be game over” for conservationists.

Some of the south West’s pristine and most beautiful landscapes could have houses built on them under Government plans conservationists have warned.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England says even officially designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty would face major development due to the “vague” new planning guidance for local authorities.

The proposals- which are being consulted on until May 10 – would end the fight to preserve the precious areas, said the chairman of the group in one of the most under-pressure parts of the regain.

“Not to sound too dramatic, but for countryside campaigners it would be game over” said Justin Hague, chairman of the South Hams branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. (CPRE)

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) would be handed “on a plate to the developers”

He is urging people to write to their MPs to build opposition to the proposed changes.

The controversy is over sections of the National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) which sets out the Government`s Policies on proposed developments and how they are expected to be applied.

Changes are being but forward partly to help solve the housing crisis.
The aim is to “bring forward more land in the right places” for development, the Government says “Protecting and enhancing the natural environment “ is one of the three key objectives , the document states.

However conservationists are concerned by what they say is watering down of the NPPF policies protecting special areas of the countryside and coast which were put in place in 2012.

Their attention focuses on one section of the proposals, Conserving and Enhancing the Natural Environment.

In the existing document, reference is made to protected areas such as National Parks and AONBs as having the “highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty.

The wording disappears under the new proposals.

Mr Hague said absolute tests that helped reinforce protection of the special areas would also go if new guidelines were agreed.

“The proposals say major developments will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances. But what is “major”? Is that 100 homes? In the South Hams in the AONB 10homes could have a huge impact.

“It massively opens the door for development in AONBs” he said.

“My concern is these proposed changes are buried in a huge document that few people have the time or interest to read.

Mr Hague said he had an “unprecedented” response since he expressed his concerns in newsletter to fellow CPRE members in the South Hams.

“Usually I get three or four responses” he said “This time I had 70!”
Mr Hague said the South Hams faced particular pressure for development because of the desire for second homes.

Developers were struggling to sell homes in less-desirable areas, even with the assistance of the Governments Help to Buy Scheme “

They would be able to sell those houses like hot cakes to second home owners if they were able to build in beautiful areas and on the coast” he said.”

Would you take business advice for your small business from our Local Enterprise Council/Serco?

The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership is obsessed with growth, mostly because it has promised an over abundance of it.

So, it is interesting to receive an email from their “Growth Hub” to see what it promises:

Well that’s nice – they offer advice. Always helpful, though Owl guesses it depends where the advice comes from.

Is it from those “business leaders” on the Board of the LEP? Or one of the board member councillors (though many of those seem to have had either little business experience, none at all, or so long ago that computers hadn’t bedn invented).

No, scroll down to the bottom of the email and you get:

Our mailing address is:

Serco Employment, Skills and Enterprise
Envoy House
61 Longbridge Road
Plymouth, Devon PL6 8LU
United Kingdom

A company which offers outsourcing services all over the world, particularly in the UK.

So what does Wikipedia have to say about Serco?

“The 2017 Paradise Papers revealed that Appleby carried out a risk assessment of Serco and noted it had a “history of problems, failures, fatal errors and overcharging” and had faced allegations of fraud and cover-ups.”

and an article in The Guardian saying that, in Australia, outsourcing with Serco is “an accident waiting to happen”:

and a Telegraph Business article headed:

“Serco recovery still on ‘long and winding’ road, says boss Soames”

The boss of troubled outsourcer Serco has warned that its road to recovery will be “long and winding” as its strategy to concentrate on providing services to governments means it is exposed to political changes.

Rupert Soames said the business’s five-year plan remained on track, after its shares were hit when the company today announced that last year its revenues fell by 13pc to just over £3bn … .

“Number of zero hours contracts rises by 100,000 in 2017, says ONS”

“The number of zero hour contracts in the UK labour market rose by around 100,000 last year according to the Office for National Statistics.

The agency reported that in its latest survey of firms there were 1.8 million contracts that did not guarantee a minimum numbers of hours in the year to November 2017. The equivalent number in November 2016 was 1.7 million. …”

“Councils sit on £375m earmarked for affordable housing”

“Local councils in England are sitting on hundreds of millions of pounds of money designated for affordable housing.

A total of £375m is available, £100m of which has not even been earmarked for a specific project. This is despite a survey last year for the Town and Country Planning Association showing that 98% of councils described their need for affordable homes as either “severe” or “moderate”.

The cash has been accumulated under so-called section 106 agreements by which builders and developers give a council a ringfenced amount of money instead of building affordable homes within a development themselves.

James Prestwich, the head of policy at the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, said it confirmed the federation’s view that section 106 was flawed. “Affordable housing should be delivered within new developments, rather than developers simply funding its delivery elsewhere,” he said. “This would guarantee that affordable housing will be built alongside other homes.”

Some of the worst offenders shown up by research carried out by the Huffington Post are in London and the south-east. The housing minister Dominic Raab’s own local council, Elmbridge in Surrey, has £8m waiting to be invested.

Raab was criticised this month after he blamed high levels of immigration for increasing house prices. A review by the statistics watchdog found that his department had used an outdated statistical method to calculate the causes of housing pressure and their relationship with house prices.

The London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which has yet to find new homes for two-thirds of the Grenfell survivors and other families affected by the disaster, has £21m of dedicated reserves. It says £19m has been set aside for Grenfell families.

Two Labour-held councils also in London, Southwark and Camden, between them have more than £90m that could be spent on affordable homes. Altogether, just 14 councils account for two-thirds of the unspent cash.

Rough sleeping in London has risen by at least 18% over the past year; in England as a whole, it is up 15%. Although a shortage of affordable homes is only one of many causes that explains the continuous rise over the past seven years, its consequences have a series of knock-on effects.

A spokesman for Southwark said the money it had was already allocated and the projects for which it was intended would be completed within the next five years.

Camden has set up a new scheme for affordable home building, the community investment programme, which is intended to create 1,400 affordable homes over 15 years.

Tony Travers, a local government expert at the London School of Economics, said nearly a decade of cuts had left council capacity to manage big projects “hollowed out”.

“Average cuts of between 25% and 30% over eight years and the way they have protected children’s and adult social care services have led to bigger cuts in departments like housing and planning. There is no question that their capacity to handle major projects has been eroded.”

“Elderly and disabled at risk in inadequate housing, human rights watchdog finds”

Owl says: Not to worry – those at the luxurious PegasusLife development at Knowle will be just fine!

“Britain’s planning rules are fueling a housing “crisis” for the elderly and disabled which is forcing the frail to live in dangerous conditions, a leaked report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission seen by the Telegraph has found.

The Commission’s report, due to be released next month, found a “severe shortage of accessible and adaptable housing” with only seven per cent of homes in England offering minimal accessibility features.

It warns that local councils are failing to build enough accessible homes to meet demand and were not taking action against developers who failed to comply with regulations.

The Commission, a human rights watchdog, said that at least ten per cent of all future housing should be built with a growing elderly and disabled population in mind and that local authorities must reduce the bureaucratic hurdles for adapting homes.

The report comes at a time of a growing social care crisis in Britain with many elderly and frail people stuck in hospitals, unable to be discharged due to inadequate housing.

At the same time, younger Britons are struggling to get on to the housing ladder with older people unable to downsize due to a lack of suitable properties.

Following an inquiry into the state of housing for disabled people in Britain, the Commission reported that the “acute housing crisis“ was leaving elderly and disabled people in unsafe homes and leading to accidents and hospital admissions.

The report’s executive summary, seen by the Telegraph, said that some people were forced into “eating, sleeping and bathing in one room” and to rely on family members to carry them between rooms and up stairs.

Local authorities told the Commission that developers are “reluctant to build accessible houses, as they see them as less profitable”, and often failed to comply with accessibility standards.

Disabled older people are being let down and this is a stark reminder that urgent action is needed, which is the least they deserve in a compassionate society.

Despite this, just three per cent of councils took enforcement action against developers who failed to meet these standards, the Commission found.

The report also said that people were forced to wait an average of 22 weeks between application and the installation of home adaptations necessary to live safely and independently, with some waiting for more than a year.

The Commission’s report said that better housing would help ease the health and social care crisis as it found that poor housing led to an “increased need for social care” and “avoidable hospital admissions”.

Responding to the report, charities warned that the lack of suitable housing was exacerbating the NHS crisis as elderly and disabled people were forced to stay in hospital for longer due to a lack of safe accommodation.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: “Providing accessible homes must be seen as core to reducing pressure on social care and the NHS.

“If these recommendations are implemented they will help many more older and disabled people to receive care and support at home.”

She added: “It’s vital that we build safe, accessible, high quality homes that work for all generations and that don’t undermine our ability to stay independent as we get older.”

George McNamara, director of policy and public affairs at Independent Age, the older people’s charity, said: “These are some of the most vulnerable people but they’re forgotten when it comes to housing policy. They are being discriminated against by a system that doesn’t work for them.

“This issue is only going to become more important as our population ages and people have a greater need for specialist housing that addresses all their health and care needs.

“Disabled older people are being let down and this is a stark reminder that urgent action is needed, which is the least they deserve in a compassionate society.”

Rob Wilson, former Government minister for civil society, said: “This isn’t a new problem, but this is a timely report and reminder that disabled people face enormous challenges with getting appropriate housing.

“Almost every local authority area faces the same difficulty in getting enough wheelchair accessible houses built.

“The Government’s drive to increase house building is very welcome, but clearly there is much more to do for those with these special requirements.”

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said councils needed “greater planning powers and resources to hold developers to account”.

“Housing is too often unavailable, unaffordable, and not appropriate for everyone that needs it. This includes the availability of homes suitable for older people and people in vulnerable circumstances,” she said.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Our new planning rules make clear that councils must take the needs of elderly and disabled people into account when planning new homes in their area.

“We’re also providing councils with almost £1 billion over the next two years to adapt properties for disabled and older people so they can live independently and safely.”

Who audits the internal auditor’s external auditor?

“The auditor of wine retailer and supplier Conviviality could face questions over its role in the company’s collapse.

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) confirmed to City A.M. that it was “looking closely at the reported accounting issues at Conviviality”.

“If the relevant threshold tests are met in relation to accountants at the company and/or its auditors a formal investigation may be opened,” a spokesperson said.

This follows two profit warnings from Conviviality last month which it said had stemmed from accounting errors.

The first was blamed on an arithmetical mistake, while the second related to an unpaid tax bill.

The company ceased trading on London’s junior market prior to the second announcement, and scrambled to form a rescue plan as its cashflow was hit.

After unsuccessful attempts to save the company with a fundraising backed by drinks giant AB InBev, the company appointed administrators early this month.

Its direct business Matthew Clark Bibendum was sold to Magners Cider owner C&C, while its retail arm which includes Bargain Booze and Wine Rack was sold to Bestway for £7.5m.

Chief executive Diana Hunter stepped down in the midst of the scandal, but she and other board members have faced criticism for a fast-paced acquisition-focused strategy.

The FRC has the power to fine auditors it finds to be substandard, though its powers are set to be reviewed by the government following concern that the bar for misconduct is set too high.”