Sustainability and Transformation Plans have no legal basis – so why are hospitals closing?

May backed down from a fight with MPs likely to involve hospital closures, Labour has alleged.

Legislation to allow local health chiefs to transform the delivery of care – and, crucially, save many billions of pounds – has been shelved after the Conservatives lost their Commons majority.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has admitted the legal shake-up cannot go ahead without a “consensus” and that it will not happen while the Government is fixated on Brexit.

Two thirds of the 44 Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) propose closing a hospital, or moving treatment to a different site.

The STPs have not been stopped in their tracks. Local health bodies will continue to create them, but without any legal underpinning.

Now it is feared that, without that legal footing, it will be significantly harder to compel the many different parts of the NHS to force through unpopular changes.

There have already been protests that the blueprints lack the “democratic legitimacy” they require to win public support, partly because they do not fully involve local authorities.

The Nuffield Trust health charity warned the much-needed transformation of the NHS – shifting treatments to more modern, community facilities – would now be “harder, slower and messier”.

Its chief executive, Nigel Edwards, said: “This will disturb the timetable of what’s being proposed and whether they can produce the savings wanted in the time available. There will be legal knots to work through.”

The NHS Confederation, which brings together hundreds of health bodies, said an extra £2bn a year was needed to make a success of STPs, with the NHS “struggling to cope with demand”.

And Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow Health Secretary, said: “The Government’s transformation plans for the NHS are in total chaos.

“The whole process has been shrouded in secrecy and has clearly lost the trust of the public. Now we’re told the necessary legislation to help local health providers work closer together won’t be ready until after Brexit.”

Without them, it will be far harder to avoid cuts to services – or to lift the cap on NHS pay, which many Tory MPs are urging the Prime Minister to do urgently.

The STP blueprints have already been unveiled, involving the closure of expensive, outdated buildings in order to join up care better and bring delivery closer to patients.

The shelving of the necessary legislation was revealed when the Queen’s Speech – for the next two years, through to 2019 – was published with no bills for front-line health or education services.

Mr Hunt himself told the NHS Confederation: “We said [in our manifesto] that we would legislate to give STPs a statutory underpinning if that was felt to be necessary.

“But obviously, the legislative landscape has changed, and that means that legislation of this nature is only going to be possible if there is a consensus across all political parties that it’s necessary.

“I don’t think that is in any way impossible, but it’s realistically not something we would do while the Brexit process was carrying on.”

At the election, Labour was criticised in some quarters for demanding a moratorium on changes planned in the STPs – even when there was a consensus they were badly needed.

Mr Ashworth added: “Jeremy Hunt has been totally unclear about which local plans are going ahead and which will be redrawn. Patients and the public deserve better. The Government should review their plans for the NHS.”

But a Whitehall source said: “Unlike Labour, we are supporting the NHS and social care services to join together and improve patient care through STPs.

“Respected independent figures like the King’s Fund have endorsed these plans – and we’ll shortly be outlining the details of millions of pounds of additional funding for them.”

Not all Archant newspapers avoid politics – and the group has an Investigation Unit!

“The £5,000 first prize in this year’s Paul Foot Award for investigative and campaigning journalism has been won by Emma Youle of the Archant Investigation Unit, for her work in the Hackney Gazette on the borough’s enormous but hidden, homeless problem. …”


Ah, but hold on, Hackney is a Labour borough! Would they, could they, do it in a Tory district?

Oh well, it’s good to dream for a while!

Source: Private Eye, 30 June, page 10

A northern Tory councillor and his view on devolved power

Tomorrow I’ll be toddling across to Leeds where, among other momentous matters, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority with consider whether to change its name to Leeds City Region Combined Authority. This has caused a ripple of disgruntlement in my city as people ask quite why this decision is being taken now and whether it marks the end of Bradford’s separate and individual identity.

I don’t like the proposal. Mostly this is because it is totally unnecessary. We’re told by officers that the current brand (essentially ‘West Yorkshire’) is confusing because there’s another brand – ‘Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership’ – within the purview of the combined authority and having two brands might be confusing for high-powered, multi-million pound wielding international business folk wanting to invest. That and all the others are named after cities (well Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool at least but not Birmingham and Bristol).

The report tells us that the basis for the change results from ‘comprehensive research’:

“…benchmarking the WYCA against other combined authorities nationally or internationally, an audit of existing communications activity by the organisation, and substantial engagement with audiences including elected members, local authority chief executives, private sector business leaders, central government officials, partner organisations and WYCA employees.”

Sounds good – just the sort of paragraph I’d have put into a client presentation about research when I didn’t have any budget. What we have here is a series of chats with existing connections such as members of the LEP, political leaders (but not opposition leaders) in the West Yorkshire councils and senior officials who we work with. There’s no script, no presentation of findings, no suggestion that we’ve done anything other than ask the opinion of a few people who we already know.

In the grand scale of things all this probably doesn’t matter much. Except that, for us in Bradford at least, we’ll begin to recognise that plenty of decisions previously made by councillors here in Bradford are now made somewhere else (Leeds) by a different organisation. This – as councillors on Bradford’s area committees have discovered – includes mundane and very local stuff like whether or not to put speed bumps on a street in Cullingworth.

What annoys me most about this stuff is that we are gradually replacing accountable political decision-making with technocratic, officer-led decisions. So us councillors, for example, get pressure to put in speed cameras but have precisely zero say in whether and where such cameras are actually installed. Somewhere in the documentation of the soon-to-be Leeds City Region Combined Authority there’ll be a line of budget referring to the West Yorkshire Casulaty Reduction Partnership. That is what ‘member decision-making’ means most of the time these days.

So to return to the name change. I’ll be opposed because it’s unnecessary nd divisive. But when it goes through (I love that they’re planning an extensive ‘member engagement’ after they’ve made the decision) it will at least be a reminder that most of the big investment decisions out there are being made on the basis of Heseltine’s ‘functional economic geography’ rather than using the democratically-elected local councils we all know and love. OK, not love- that’s going too far – but you know what I mean.”

Swire blocks Twitter followers he doesn’t like

Owl is proud to confirm that it has never, ever followed Swire on Twitter – for the simple reason it wouldn’t follow Mr Swire anywhere. Nor has Owl ever used Twitter to comment on Swire – finding East Devon Watch a more congenial platform from which to observe and comment on this rather tiresome person.

An MP has been accused of disregarding his constituents after blocking online followers.

Sir Hugo Swire has apparently begun a purge of Twitter followers following a threat to “drain the swamp” of “vile” opposition after a bitter election battle.

Marketing and business student Sam Gosling, from Sidbury, tweeted the MP earlier this month to complain that wages were not keeping pace with inflation.

His post came in response to figures showing the South West has the highest employment rate of all the UK regions, which had been posted by Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish.

He said the statistics could hardly be good news for workers when “everyone’s getting poorer”.

Swire, who held onto his East Devon seat at the General Election with a reduced majority, responded by blocking the account, preventing him from following, viewing or commenting on posts.

The crackdown follows the Conservative’s angry claim in the aftermath of his victory that he and his family had received “vile” abuse on social media during the campaign.

Echoing Donald Trump, he said he was “taking time out to drain the swamp” of the “vile comments” of independent opponent Claire Wright and “her not so charming followers”.

Mr Gosling said he was “frankly appalled” at having been blocked by his own MP. “I’ve never tweeted or messaged him in any other way that could be deemed offensive,” he told Devon Live. “My last tweet to him was about understanding that unemployment has fallen but wages are going down.

“My mum, a midwife, has been losing wages in real terms for several years. I once asked him as well how he has represented East Devon whilst always voting along party lines.”

Swire, whose Twitter feed states that he does not reply to tweets, was criticised during the election campaign for not attending hustings events.

After his victory he said he was a “straight” fighter but now it was “time to call out” the people who had abused and in some cases libelled him.

Mr Gosling says blocking people it is just an easy way to “ignore and disregard the constituents you supposedly represent”.

“In terms of democracy this is shocking,” he added. “Hugo Swire is supposedly my MP and believes it is okay to totally disregard me as one of his constituents.

“I don’t understand if he thinks that blocking me will mean I won’t voice my opinion in some attempt to silence the people that disagree with him.

“I have felt left behind and excluded by my MP being a student from a working class family but this is a whole new level.

“I want to know why he didn’t turn up to the hustings. I want to know how he represents East Devon? I want to know why he feels it is okay to fail to engage in debate. I want answers but I’m worried that I’ll never get them from my MP as he fails to recognise democracy.”

Devon Live contacted Sir Hugo’s office for comment but the MP refuses to respond to enquiries from Devon Live or the Express and Echo.

His wife and personal assistant, Sasha, suggested that the former Foreign Office minister’s contribution to the Queen’s speech may of more interest than “the blocking of a few abusive tweets”.

Swire, who, before the opening of Parliamented attend two Vin D’Honneur receptions for new ambassador of Paraguay and new High Commissioner of Kingdom of Lesotho, called on the Government to use Budleigh Salterton and its high propertion of elderly people as a model for how Britain’s population will look in 2050.

He said it was now “incumbent on the Government to have a frank and honest consultation on how we fund and provide social care for the most vulnerable in our society” and made two offers.

Firstly, he said East Devon would act as a “the guinea pig for getting social care right in this country”.

Secondly, he called on the Government to build on the Dilnot report, which called for a £35,000 cap on care costs in 2011.

“We should leave nothing off the table, but a cross-party group should steer the Government forwards on this matter,” he added.

“Those are my two offers. As a humble Back Bencher, I will work with other Back Benchers to get social care right in this country, and I offer up Devon, particularly East Devon, as the guinea pig or template for trying to get a social care system that is properly integrated with the rest of the NHS.

“If we get it right there, we will get it right across the nation, and everyone, including our electorates, will be enormously grateful to us.”

People banned from attending Grenfell Tower meeting were just ‘ people who like doing that sort of thing’ says councillor

A Tory Kensington and Chelsea councillor has claimed protesters who stormed Kensington Town Hall days after the Grenfell Tower fire ‘weren’t the local community’ but ‘people who like doing that sort of thing’.

Catherine Faulks was defending the council’s attempts to hold a cabinet meeting on the disaster on Thursday in private, initially citing public order concerns, and described press attempts to report on it by obtaining a High Court order as ‘a very clever stunt’.

The council cancelled the meeting after journalists were allowed to attend, claiming it would ‘prejudice’ the forthcoming public inquiry.

Ms Faulks told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The reason we had given primarily to have the meeting in private was that we were worried there was a public order issue which had been already demonstrated by the invasion that happened at the council – which, by the way, when you say we weren’t affected, the whole council chamber had to be evacuated for the whole afternoon on the Friday after the tragedy.’ “

Question: What is the average price a first-time buyer pays for a property?


The average price first-time buyers are paying to get on to the property ladder has hit a record high of £207,693, according to the latest Halifax First Time Buyer Review.”

Source: Moneywise:

Question: What is an average wage in Devon?

Families in Devon need to earn almost £60,000 a year now to afford the average mortgage which represents a 156% pay rise for average earners.

With average Devon salaries now of £23,197, a worker would need a staggering £36,279 pay rise (156%) to £59,476 to get a mortgage for an average home in the county.

A couple each earning a combined average wage totalling £46,394 would still need a 28% pay increase to get a standard 80% mortgage.

With average private monthly rents in Devon of £687 this accounts for 43% of average monthly net pay. Average property prices are £260,209 which is more than 11 times the average salary.”

Smart meters – free market and privatisation gone bonkers

” … In my column last week I asked why Britain’s smart meter rollout was costing £11bn and France’s just £4bn. One industry insider contacted me to say that it was partly because France’s “Linky” programme is for electricity meters only, whereas the UK’s is both electricity and gas. But it’s also because France does not have competition among utility providers, and we do.

Here, each supplier has to install smart meters only for their own customers, which means they can’t just go “street to street” – they have to contact individual customers wherever they live, agree for them to allow access and organise engineers around that.

The result is that we will be wasting billions in duplicated activity, with the bill passed on to consumers to satisfy the rules on “competition” – and also ensuring shareholders continue to receive those dividends.”