Swire’s trips to Maldives fail to pay off

Hugo Swire was particularly fond of the Maldives during his time as Foreign Officer minister and made many tweets about its political situation and hope for future relations:

“The Maldives has withdrawn from the Commonwealth, accusing it of interfering in domestic affairs and “unfair and unjust” treatment.

The Commonwealth had warned the Maldives of possible suspension if it failed to show progress on democracy.
It has faced questions over freedom of speech, the detention of opponents and the independence of the judiciary.
The Indian Ocean nation became a multiparty democracy in 2008 after decades of autocratic rule.

The Maldives foreign ministry said in a statement: “The decision to leave the Commonwealth was difficult, but inevitable.

“Regrettably, the Commonwealth has not recognised progress and achievements that the Maldives accomplished in cultivating a culture of democracy in the country and in building and strengthening democratic institutions.”
It said that President Abdulla Yameen’s government had introduced a raft of measures promoting human rights and strengthening the rule of law.” …


Swire challenges “opposition”

…””My local political opposition [is] going to find it rather difficult to criticise me now… I’m afraid I’m going to slightly shoot their fox,” he says.

“Because all the things they say I don’t comment on, I now can and am… I no longer have to support the government.”

Topping the agenda in his newly assumed role as a backbencher is the region’s ailing infrastructure.

He shares the view that for too long the Westcountry has “suffered unfairly” from underinvestment.

“Just imagine if HS2 wasn’t going to go ahead – how much money that would release for the kind of infrastructure development we need in the South West,” he states.

“We had a good meeting with Network Rail and GWR this week, looking at their new rolling stock and the challenges to upgrade the line. [But] that’s something we’re going to have to really watch and make sure the funding is in place.”

He is also following developments with Devon Success Regime, including the campaign to keep beds in the local community hospital.

And he wants to make sure the region catches up with the roll-out of superfast broadband services.

“Every single Conservative candidate in the South West was elected on a Conservative manifesto, and it is up to every single member of Parliament to ensure their delivery is as good as their pledge,” he says.

Going from being one of he most well-travelled ministers in Government to a member of the “rank and file” has taken some getting used to.

The responsibilities associated with Mr Swire’s previous role made him heavily reliant on staff to manage his diary and provide briefings. Now, he admits he often struggles to make it to meetings on time.

However, he is staying involved with international affairs as deputy chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council and head of the Conservative Middle East Council.

He says he hopes to see the UK taking more of a lead on Syria – pointing out that it would be a “wonderful opportunity” for Boris Johnson “to show what hes made of”.

“You’ve got Putin.. responsible for some biblical atrocities [and] I weep for the people of Syria,” he says. “This is a good opportunity for Britain to show some leadership.”


Er, not quite true Hugo – your work with the Conservative Middle East Council seems to be taking up an awful lot of your time – breakfast meeting the Egyptian Ambassador (London), talking at a Conservative fundraising dinner in Kensington and Chelsea (London), meeting about Christians in Syria (London), chatting to the Saudi Foreign Minister … still busy on non- constituency matters in London.

And heaven only knows how busy you will be as deputy chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council!

Oh, and as for getting to meetings on time – don’t forget to add in the time it takes to get from your mid-Devon second home to your constituency.

“Greater Exeter” – the fun starts here

Other Chief Executives and Senior Officers of “Greater Exeter” will no doubt demand parity – or better …

“Councillors ‘unaware’ of Teignbridge chief’s 12% pay rise”

The ruling Conservative group said Nicola Bulbeck’s rise reflected her additional responsibilities.

Councillors said they were unaware of a proposal to increase a chief executive’s pay by 12% – taking it to £141,000 – before it was passed.
Nicola Bulbeck’s £15,000 pay rise has been called “excessive” by opposition Liberal Democrat politicians on Teignbridge District Council.

But the ruling Conservative group said information about the rise was given to all councillors in June.

Lib Dems said they had not “knowingly” approved the rise last month.

More on the council row, plus more Devon and Cornwall news
The Conservatives said the rise reflected additional responsibilities for Ms Bulbeck.

It followed a cut to the number of posts in the council’s senior management team from 18 to six.

Liberal Democrat leader Gordon Hook said: “A meeting a couple of weeks ago had a report to members and there was a web link to the statement of accounts.

“On page 84 there is one line about the chief executive’s salary increase.

“There was no indication it was in the booklet or that the information was going to be brought as an item to members, which it should be.

“We accepted the report, but we were given no lead that that was part of the package.”

Councillor Jeremy Christophers, leader of Teignbridge District Council, said that the rise, which includes pension contributions of £22,000, had “always been available and updated on the website”.

“Figures have been publicly available in the annual accounts since June and were presented at audit scrutiny committee on 21 July and 14 September and full council on 26 September.
“Teignbridge proactively and routinely publishes all possible data to enhance our transparency and accountability and help residents understand how we work and the services we provide,” he said.”


Neil Parish MP erratum

Owl called Parish Chair of the Commins Transport Committee – blinded by the light of his campaign to dual the A303 perhaps – and was quickly rapped on the talons by an eagle-eyed commentator!

He is actually Chair of the EFRA Committee – Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (Owl wasn’t blinded by him being a dairy farmer, obviously).

Wonder what he makes of his new Environment boss – Angela Leadstrom – who he supported in the leadership campaign AFTER saying he was a Remainer.

Whatever happened to … Skypark?

Readers will recall when EDDC got so panicky about vast swathes of undeveloped land at Skypark, on the edge of Cranbrook, that it created the seemingly batty idea to relocate its headquarters ther – 10-25 miles away from its voters and practically in the lap of Exeter City Council.

That was fairly quickly knocked on the head (but not without tens of thousands of our pounds being wasted – Owl wonders how much the mostly- vacant site is still costing us).

So far, there seem to be only two businesses at EDDC’s flagship Skypark – DHL couriers and an ambulance call centre.

In July of this year, St Modwyn put in a planning application for reserved matters on the site, including construction of an office block.

The planning application is:

The erection of an office block, landscaping, car parking and associated access and infrastructure (Reserved Matters application in pursuance of outline planning permission ref: 06/3300/MOUT)

Skypark Clyst Honiton Exeter EX5 2D

Planning application describes:

… creche, 150 bed hotel, cafes, leisure and conference facilities, relocated football ground, clubhouse and facilities, strategic open space (including flood attenuation) …

It was originally submitted in July 2016, and further information was submitted 21 September 2016.

Does anyone recall a hotel, conference centre and football pitch in the original plans? Whose pitch is being relocated?

Here is a paper trail:

Surely such a big change, especially after ten years (2006 – 06/3300/MOUT) should merit a new planning application?

Care at home cannot take up the slack from hospitals

A&E units are struggling to cope because social care services that help elderly people have been cut so much that they are reaching a “tipping point”, England’s care regulator is to warn.

English care home closures are leaving vulnerable people at risk, says watchdog

Hospitals are ending up dangerously full and have seen “bedblocking” hit record levels because of a widespread failure to give elderly people enough support to keep them healthy at home, says the Care Quality Commission.

A worsening lack of at-home care services and beds in care homes are forcing hospitals to admit more patients as emergencies, which deepens their already serious financial problems. “What’s happening, we think, is that where people aren’t getting access to [social] care, and we are not preventing people’s needs developing through adult social care, is that they are presenting at A&E,” said David Behan, the CQC’s chief executive.

Figures contained in the commission’s annual report show that the number of hospital bed days lost through patients being unable to leave because social care was not available to allow them to be discharged safely soared from 108,482 in April 2012 to 184,199 in July this year – a 70% rise.

The fact that growing numbers of mainly frail, elderly people are being left without the help they need with basic chores such as washing, dressing and cooking “creates problems in other parts of the health and care system, such as overstretched A&E departments or delays in people leaving hospital,” he added. GP surgeries are also having to treat patients who became unwell or suffered an injury because they did not receive help they needed.

Behan urged ministers to give social care a higher priority and urgently find extra money for it to prevent its ongoing deterioration causing even worse problems. “We are becoming concerned about the fragility of the adult social care market, with evidence suggesting that it might be approaching a tipping point,” he said.

The CQC’s assessment of health and social care, called State of Care, adds that: “The difficulties in adult social care are already affecting hospitals. Bed occupancy rates exceeded 91% in January to March 2016, the highest quarterly rate for at least six years, and in 2015-16 we saw an increase in the number of people having to wait to be discharged from hospital, in part due to a lack of suitable care options,” the CQC’s annual report says.

The number of people in England receiving local council-funded social care services fell by 26% from 1.1m in 2009 to about 850,000 in 2013-14, at a time of Whitehall-driven cuts to town hall budgets. The number of people with unmet needs has risen from 800,000 in 2010 to more than 1 million last year, according to Age UK.

Growing unavailability of social care was a key driver of the 3% rise in emergency admissions to hospital last year and 11% rise in bed days lost to bedblocking. That was mainly due to patients having to wait for a package of care to be put in place to let them return home or for a place in a nursing home to become available. “The effect of these delays on the NHS is significant, costing hospitals £820m a year,” the National Audit Office says.

NHS bodies, health thinktanks and charities urged government to use next month’s autumn statement to inject extra funding into social care.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, has already called for any extra funding for the health service to instead be used to prop up social care. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, is understood to privately agree. On Monday Stephen Dorrell, the ex-Conservative health secretary, said that the government’s policy of giving social care less and less money was “insane economics and bad social policy” and undermined its claim to be backing the NHS.

Cuts to social care and also mental health and public health mean “the NHS is being stretched to the limit,” said Stephen Dalton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals. “Relying on political rhetoric that promises to protect the NHS but fails to acknowledge that a cut in social care results in a cost to the NHS, is an economic deception.”

The CQC also disclosed that about 800,000 patients are registered with a GP practice that its inspectors have judged to be inadequate on safety grounds. It is concerned that some surgeries deliver “unacceptable standards of care”. Safety failings include poor management of medicines, inappropriately trained staff and premises that are unsuitable.

The Department of Health welcomed the CQC’s findings that “the majority of the NHS, 72% of adult social care services and 87% of GP practices inspected are good or better – and that improvement is taking place all over the country”.

A spokeswoman said: “The NHS is performing well at a time of increasing demand. The government is investing £10bn to fund its own plan for the future, and crucially is ensuring that the amount of money available to local authorities for social care is rising in future years of the parliament, reaching up to £3.5bn extra by 2020.”


Parliamentary paper on integrating health and social care

(5 pages)


Integration aims to put the needs of people at the centre of how services are organised and delivered. Models of integration vary.

Co-ordinating resources or pooling budgets between health and social care services can enable joint working. The four nations of the UK have introduced different financial arrangements to support integration.

Data sharing, as well as different incentives and employment terms between sectors, pose challenges for integration.

Assessing the effectiveness of integration schemes is difficult. Evaluation tends to focus on whether integration has relieved pressure on services, such as reducing emergency hospital admissions, which data suggest is not routinely achieved. However, integration may improve user outcomes and experiences, but data to assess these are not consistently collected.”


Health and social care relationship – too broken to fix?

“CIPFA has called for the creation of independent commission on health and social care to devise how to fund provision in the future after experts raised concerns about how the system would cope with rising demand.

Experts brought together by PF and CIPFA as part of the Public Finance Perspectives series concluded that urgent and radical reforms would be needed. Contributors included The King’s Fund’s senior fellow social care Richard Humphries, The Health Foundation’s director of research and economics Anita Charlesworth and CIPFA’s head of health and integration faculty Jane Payling.

In Funding a Healthy Future, they highlighted the sector is facing increasing uncertainty due to Brexit and its implication for the health and social care budget, research capacity and employment prospects.

Social care was identified as among the most pressing concerns among many contributions as it must function well for the NHS to remain sustainable. However, severe funding pressure could lead to it reducing the services provided, which the experts said would have a knock-on effect on the health service.

An independent commission should be formed to consider what options are available to balance demand and supply. Also, CIPFA called for the introduction of a so-called ‘golden ratio’ of 10%, which is the proportion of national gross domestic product that is ring-fenced for health and social care spending. This would reduce the unpredictability of politically-driven decisions on funding, and provide a logical benchmark for what the nation can afford to spend on the area.

The alternative is that the public would see an increase in the rationing of services, significant tax rises or charges for using the NHS and social care.

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman stated that without radical transformation, the government would struggle to ensure the NHS and social care system will be sustainable for future generations.

“Indeed, the concerns of leading experts that CIPFA has gathered clearly demonstrate that the sector is already creaking under the strain,” he stated. “To protect services, the severe financial stress the sector is under must be confronted with great urgency.”

This meant tough and politically unpopular choices would have to be made in order to ensure the quality of health and social care services, he added.

“CIPFA believes that a commission must be set up to explore these difficult decisions. It should also introduce a golden ratio of GDP spend on healthcare to protect funding from the unpredictability of short-sighted political decisions.”


Landowners know best what’s good for the community

Sidford Fields: landowner says is should be built in the AONB because it will be good for the community.

Sidford cycle route by the river or inland in the AONB: landowner seems reluctant to engage with the community in talks.