Oh dear! Diviani is described as “strong and stable”!

“Councillor Mark Williamson proposed Councillor Paul Diviani as Leader of the Council for the ensuing year. This proposal was seconded by Councillor Brian Bailey.

In proposing, Councillor Mark Williamson spoke highly of Councillor Diviani’s leadership during the many challenges which had faced the Council over the years he had been Leader and of his faith in Councillor Diviani’s ability to lead though future challenges. He undertook the role calmly, purposefully and with intelligence and was a strong and stable leader.”

Click to access 260717-council-agenda-with-minute-book.pdf


page 37

Government tries to bury bad news on “take out the trash day”

“Theresa May has been accused of an “absolute affront” to democracy after dumping dozens of official documents online on parliament’s last day of term, showing the police force numbers have dropped to a 30-year low and the number of soldiers has fallen by 7,000.

The government has published very little for weeks after the election but about 22 written statements and dozens of Whitehall reports were released on Thursday, just as MPs embark on their long summer break.

The tactic – known as “take out the trash day” – means MPs will not be able to scrutinise the information properly while parliament is away for the next seven weeks. The statements included a damning human rights assessment of the UK’s ally Saudi Arabia, the cancellation of the electrification of a key railway and a decision to opt into some new EU regulations on crime-fighting, even though the UK is heading for Brexit.

Toby Perkins, a Labour MP, said the rush of documents released on the last day before recess was an “absolute affront to parliament”.

Revelations in the set of documents included:

• A drop of 0.7% to 123,142 police officers across all ranks in England and Wales at the end of March this year. This is the lowest number at the end of a financial year since comparable records began in 1996.

• Warnings in a separate Foreign Office report that there are grave concerns about the human rights situations in countries such as Saudi Arabia, China and Bahrain though many of the countries listed bought billions of pounds of arms from the UK.

Britain has sold £3.3bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in the past two years alone, including licences for aircraft, drones, grenades, and missiles. The Foreign Office report said the UK is “deeply concerned about the application of the death penalty” in Saudi Arabia and restrictions on freedom of expression, as well as women’s rights. [Our MP Swire is a very frequent visitor to Saudi Arabia, sometimes when British arms dealers are also there]

Bahrain, one of the first countries visited by May when she became prime minister, is criticised for locking up pro-democracy activists, such as the writer Nabeel Rajab. Other countries of concern listed included Afghanistan, Burundi, China, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, Russia, Syria and Yemen.

• The decision to scrap the electrification of train lines, which had been heralded as a way of making the rail network faster, greener and cleaner, after massive budget overruns of billions of pounds.

• A statement showing that the UK plans to opt into new Brussels regulations allowing for more cross-border police cooperation in cases where children are at risk of parental abduction – news that pro-EU campaigners said demonstrates the risks of a hard Brexit, which might force the UK to abandon the deal.

• A report showing that schools and colleges do not currently have the capacity to teach all pupils maths until they are 18, with about a decade needed to expand capacity.

Sir Adrian Smith’s review said England “remains unusual” in not requiring study of maths beyond 16, compared with most advanced nations. Schools will get new funding to improve the quality of teaching for maths A-level, the schools minister, Nick Gibb, said.”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/20/tories-use-take-out-the-trash-day-to-dump-controversial-reports

Ministers and revolving doors

“The number of former ministers taking up jobs outside parliament has risen by nearly 60% in a year, official figures disclose.

The increase, from 33 former ministers to 52, coincides with complaints that lawmakers are routinely making use of a “revolving door” to pursue lucrative contracts in the private sector.

Francis Maude, the former Cabinet Office minister and industry minister, appears to have taken up the highest number of external roles over the past year, with nine posts.

Ed Davey, the former energy secretary, declares eight different commissions from his independent consultancy, which specialises in energy and climate change.

The data has been disclosed in the annual report of the ministerial jobs watchdog, the advisory committee on business appointments (Acoba).

Former ministers are required to seek and abide by the committee’s advice before taking up appointments in the two-year period after they leave office.

The report found that the committee advised 52 former ministers in relation to 104 appointments in the year to March 2017. During the previous year, 33 former ministers took up 123 jobs.

Maude’s jobs include being an adviser on Brexit to the international law firm Covington and Burling, an adviser to OakNorth Bank, the chair of an advertising agency, and adviser to the business intelligence firm GPW. He has also set up his own consultancy.

Davey, who lost his seat in May 2015 but returned to parliament at this year’s general election, established an independent consultancy, which has taken on work from companies including Engie UK, SIT Group, and NextEnergy Capital.

George Osborne, the former chancellor who stood down as an MP in July, was severely criticised in May for taking up a job as editor of the Evening Standard without waiting for advice from Acoba.

Since leaving office, Osborne has also worked in a £650,000-a-year advisory post at the investment bank BlackRock, got a professorship at the University of Manchester, become a fellow at the McCain Institute in Arizona, and been paid £75,000 to attend speaking engagements.

Since leaving Downing Street last year, David Cameron has taken up four roles. He is on the books of Washington Speakers Bureau, is president of the Alzheimer’s Society, and has taken up an unpaid appointment as chairman of the LSE-Oxford Commission on Growth in Fragile States.

Acoba was branded a “toothless regulator” in April by the public administration and constitutional affairs committee, amid calls for a much tougher system of independent checks.

A National Audit Office report issued this week found that rules that are meant to stop civil servants abusing their contacts and knowledge in the private sector are not being consistently applied or monitored.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/20/more-ex-ministers-take-private-sector-jobs-amid-revolving-door-claims

Honiton and Seaton hospitals – crunch meeting on Tuesday

Owl says: it remains to be seen whether Tory members of the scrutiny committee will be dragooned and manipulated as they were at the last meeting – when chair Sarah Randall-Johnson bent over backwards to ensure that no vote was taken on whether to refer the CCG’s decisions to the Secretary of State. The CCG had not fulfilled the criteria previously set by the committee to avoid the decision, but she insisted they should be given even more time to defend themselves

“Council [DCC] to make crucial decision on proposal to axe hospital beds
“Hospital campaigners in the Seaton and Honiton areas are preparing for a crucial meeting of Devon County Council’s health scrutiny committee next week.

Next Tuesday, Devon County Council’s scrutiny committee will decide whether to use its power to refer the decision of the NEW Devon Clinical Commission Group (CCG) to close all in-patient beds in Seaton, Honiton and Okehampton hospitals to the Secretary of State for Health.

The meeting is a defining moment in the saga surrounding the CCG’s proposals to axe all of Honiton and Seaton’s inpatient beds.

Under the initial proposals, Seaton was earmarked to retain its 18 beds – but those in Honiton and Okehampton did not appear in any of the shortlisted options following the scoring process.

A large group of protesters have now planned to congregate outside County Hall in Exeter in a last-ditch effort to reverse the proposals, before they attend the meeting at 2.15pm.

Among those who will be speaking against the plans are Seaton and Colyton county councillor Martin Shaw, Seaton mayor Jack Rowland, and the chairman of East Devon District Council’s scrutiny committee, Cllr Roger Giles. Other residents of Axminster and Honiton will also speak at the meeting.

Cllr Shaw said: “This is a crucial decision not only for the beds but also for the future of the hospitals.

“The CCG’s next step is its local estate strategy, which is likely to involve partial or even complete closures of hospitals.

“Seaton is more remote from acute hospitals than any other East Devon town and it is vital that we retain our hospital, which was built by the local community.”

Devon County Council’s scrutiny committee reviewed the proposals last month but opted to defer referring them to the Secretary of State while it investigates the health authority’s evidence for saying its ‘care at home’ policy will be better for residents.

Speaking at the meeting, Dr Sonja Manton, director of strategy at the CCG, assured the committee that they will not introduce the bed cuts until they are sure the new model of care works and she invited members to sit in on their planning for it.

If it was shown it could not be implemented, the decision to close the beds could be reversed.”

http://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/council-to-make-crucial-decision-on-proposal-to-axe-hospital-beds-1-5113882

EDDC is checking data from the Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme

Local authorities are allowed access to data on the Tenancy Deposit Protection schemes – the DCLG may disclose details of Deposit Protection Service activities to regulators, industry bodies and other organisations for the purposes of fraud prevention, money laundering prevention and where there are concerns over activities.

These other organisations are required to protect personal information on behalf of DCLG and cannot use personal information for purposes unconnected with The Deposit Protection Service.

The information is usually used to check that landlords and agents have protected deposits properly and that they also appear on the respective Landlord Registers.

“Measures within the Housing and Planning Act 2016 allow local housing authorities in England to access information held by the Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) schemes. Local Housing Authorities must only use the data:

1. For a purpose connected with the exercise of their functions under Parts 1-4 of the Housing Act 2004 in relation to any premises (in general improving housing conditions, licencing of Houses in Multiple Occupation, selective licencing of other accommodation and management orders); and

2. For the purpose of investigating whether an offence has been committed under any of those Parts in relation to any premises.

Local Housing Authorities are not required to access the information provided by the TDP schemes. It is up to individual authorities to decide whether to access and use the information or not, depending on local circumstances and other data sources available to them.

A list of local Housing Authorities in England who are known to have applied to the schemes for access to the information in the first quarter of 2017 is shown below. …”

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2017-07-11.4183.h&s=%22east+devon%22#g4183.r0

[EDDC is named as one of the organisations which accesses this information.]

What do you do when your boss makes no sense?

Here is a useful touchstone: when things get this BAD, it’s time to call in the medics”

Donald Trump interview:

“Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president, so what about Napoleon? He said: “No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.” [garbled] The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather?

Same thing happened to Hitler. Not for that reason, though. Hitler wanted to consolidate. He was all set to walk in. But he wanted to consolidate, and it went and dropped to 35 degrees below zero, and that was the end of that army. But the Russians have great fighters in the cold. They use the cold to their advantage. I mean, they’ve won five wars where the armies that went against them froze to death. [crosstalk] It’s pretty amazing.”

Immediately after that, after having brought up Napoleon and Hitler and people freezing to death, Donald Trump declared – with an apparent lack of irony – “So, we’re having a good time.”

http://www.palmerreport.com/politics/trump-hitler-napoleon-having-good-time/3959/

Full disturbing interview link:

One in three earns less than two-thirds average wage in south-west

Affordable Housing (80% average price of houses being built at the time) – in your dreams. Inequality- the price paid for rampant “growth”.

“The wage gap is growing in the South West – with almost a third of people now earning less than two-thirds of the UK average.

New figures show 31.2% of full-time employees in our region earned less than two thirds of the national average during the last quarter of 2016.

That compares to just 29.3% as recently as the first quarter of 2015.

The increase is the fifth biggest for any region in the UK after the South East, the North East and Northern Ireland (with the same increase) and Wales. …”

http://www.devonlive.com/one-in-three-in-devon-earn-two-thirds-less-than-the-average-wage/story-30449598-detail/story.html

Council fraud: never get complacent or assume auditors know what they are doing

Here are three examples, accessed within 5 minutes on Google.

EX-PLYMOUTH:

“A former Plymouth council official has been arrested as part of a long-running fraud investigation.

Geoff Driver, treasurer and chamberlain at Plymouth City Council in the early 1990s and now Conservative leader of Lancashire County Council (LCC), was held as police probe financial irregularities at LCC. …”

http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/former-plymouth-council-official-arrested-in-fraud-probe/story-30449451-detail/story.html

CHESHIRE EAST:

A SECOND member of Cheshire East Council’s senior management has been suspended as a result of an internal disciplinary investigation.

Bill Norman, the council’s director of legal services and monitoring officer, has been absent from his post since April and has now been officially suspended.

The decision follows the suspension of council CEO Mike Suarez on April 27.

A CEC spokesman said: “The Investigation and Disciplinary Committee reconvened on Friday, July 14, 2017. The committee is considering allegations relating to the conduct of senior officers.”

http://www.knutsfordguardian.co.uk/news/15416114.Second_senior_management_suspension_as_Cheshire_East_Council_investigates_misconduct_allegations/

ABERDEEN:

A councillor has been suspended from certain duties for six months.
Sandy Duncan, who represents Turriff and District, contacted Aberdeenshire colleagues who were due to consider a planning application for a wind turbine from a firm he was partner in.

He was found to have breached the code of conduct for councillors.
The Standards Commission for Scotland found he had acted inappropriately by using council facilities having been expressly warned not to do so.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-40366506

Voting processes need tightening (and scrutiny) urgently

Why shouldn’t our council’s Scrutiny Committee check in its Electoral and Returning Officer’s procedures – even if the Monitoring Officer doesn’t like the idea because it MIGHT be considered political (by him)? A clean bill of health would reassure voters surely?

“The list of Brexit campaigners done for breaking the rules is getting lengthy.

Following the record £12,000 fine for breaches of spending rules, the pair of £1,000 fines for other offences, the company fined £50,000 for illegal text messages and the 11 anti-EU campaign groups struck off for breaking referendum rules, there’s now another £1,500 fine on a different Brexit campaigner:

The Electoral Commission has fined Mr Henry Meakin, a registered campaigner in the EU referendum, £1,500 for failing to submit his spending return on time. It is an offence not to deliver a spending return by the due date.

Though Mr Meakin reported spending of £37,000 in the campaign, the return was received more than 5 months late.”

https://www.markpack.org.uk/150816/henry-meakin-european-referendum-fine/