Lancashire County Councillors want to save money by combining CEO and Finance jobs – CEO doesn’t want them to

A county council cabinet that is prepared to force its CEO to take on two jobs which would “significantly reduce checks and balances” and cause her an enormous conflict of interest.

“Lancashire County Council has voted to merge its chief executive and section 151 officer roles, sparking a row about accountability.

At a meeting on Monday, the authority’s Conservative cabinet voted in favour of the unusual move in the teeth of vocal criticism from opposition Labour councillors.

The vote came at the end of a meeting at which current chief executive Jo Turton made a plea to keep both roles separate.

She told the cabinet: “Now plainly I do have a personal interest in this matter, but the report is not about me but about the future shape of the county council.

“I would simply emphasise there are reasons why there are three statutory officer roles and that combining them significantly reduces the checks and balances within the governance structure of this council.”

She added that a survey had confirmed that no other county or similar-sized metropolitan authority has such a combined role.

Turton also said she objected to part of the proposal which would separate children and adult services. Overall, the cabinet argued that the overall restructuring proposals would save £244,000 a year.”

During the meeting, a number of opposition councillors lined up to speak against the proposal. Councillor David Whipp said: “It is quite clear that there is a huge risk of consolidating executive power in the hands of a single person.

“There is a reason why there are checks and balances, why there is a division of responsibility, and that is to ensure that proper consideration is given to initiatives that come forward.

“A chief executive may wish to be very bold and that has to be tempered by a small ‘c’ Conservative officer exercising that section 151 responsibility.”

In tense exchanges with council leader Geoff Driver, Labour group leader Azhar Ali said:

“The question needs to be asked why Kent, Gloucestershire, Surrey, Buckinghamshire, North Yorkshire, Leicestershire – all these big counties which are all conservative controlled – have decided not to undertake that role.

“The answer simply is because it is not viable, not good governance.”

Worries over interim costs

Ali also said that the cost of employing an interim to perform the role of chief executive and section 151 officer – which he said could reach up to £2,000 a day – would wipe out any savings in the first year.

He also questioned whether the council would be able to find anyone capable of taking on the new role.

He said: “There is a small pool of people qualified at this level to undertake this work and that small pool of people is already in employment.

“There is a danger that the way this is being done – and the damage to this authority’s reputation that has already been done by this cabinet and leader – that the number of applicants might be very small.

“Therefore, there’s a risk of no appointments and again you’ll have to resort in part to either asking officers of this council to step up out of those roles which they might not want or resorting to interims. Again there is a cost.”

Responding to the criticism, Driver said: “We are in serious financial difficulties and we need somebody at the top with financial expertise who can advise the county council on both policy and financial matters at the same time.

“If it was felt inappropriate to combine the two roles the law would stop it happening and it doesn’t.”

Practice ‘died out’ in noughties

Speaking to Room151, Rob Whiteman, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, confirmed there is nothing in the rules that prevents the move.

He said: “If what members want from their chief executive is an organisational head of an organisation with strong management and planning and a focus on making the organisation more efficient it can make sense for the roles to be combined.

“If, on the other hand, they are looking for the chief executive to have a focus on regeneration deals and putting together development partnerships, then you are at risk of creating a conflict of interest.”

Whiteman served at London Borough of Barking and Dagenham in a dual chief executive and section 151 role in the early noughties.

At that time, it was not unusual for chief executives to also hold section 151 responsibilities, with Bob Coomber at Southwark, Tony Redmond at Harrow and Richard Harbord at Richmond all performing both roles.

However, the practice has virtually died out since the introduction of the cabinet system into local government in 2000. Last year, Lancashire warned that it faced the prospect of being unable to carry out its statutory duties due to a major structural deficit.

A report commissioned by the council from accountancy firm PwC found that even if the council is successful in meeting all of its cost reduction targets, it will have a cumulative deficit of £398m by 2021.”

A new business rates sting for small and medium businesses

“A Plymouth businessman has spoken out against the new “staircase tax” which has cost him thousands of pounds.

Peter Cuddehay, who owns a printing business and art gallery on Plymouth’s waterfront, said new tax rules, which treat different floors in the same building as separate premises, are unfair.

The changes, which affect up to 30,000 small firms, have hit him in the pocket and sabotaged his investment plans.

“It’s an iniquitous tax,” the 67-year-old business owner said. “Where is the fairness? I think it’s wrong.”

Mr Cuddehay has been stung by a Supreme Court ruling which allows the Valuation Office Agency, which recalculated business rates in 2017, to levy rates individually on offices on separate floors or corridors.

Previously they were treated as a single premises.

Some firms face rate hikes of up to £15,000 as a result of the new rules – which are backdated to 2015.

Mr Cuddehay said he has been forced to rip up his accounts for the past two years and start again.

His business operates over three floors, the top one only being a store, which has now been defined by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) as “two premises”.

Mr Cuddehay, who employs five people, previously qualified for business rates relief because the rental value of his property was less than £12,000.

But he now has to pay a back-dated bill of more than £5,000 – and will face tax bills in future when before he didn’t have to pay anything for being below the limit.

He faces prosecution if he doesn’t pay up, so he’s handed over the cash, but appealed and is awaiting a date for his hearing.

“It’s a joke. We must have been one of the first companies to have been hit by this,” he said. “A retrospective action is outrageous, I can’t believe they can get away with it.”

And it’s a double charge for Mr Cuddehay, a member of the Federation of Small Businesses as he now expects his Waterfront Business Improvement District levy charge, calculated on rateable value, to rise too.

“All our plans for investment have gone out of the window,” he said. “We’ll also have to go back to out landlord and maybe say we don’t need the top floor storage.”

Mr Cuddehay has now written to Sutton and Devonport MP Luke Pollard about his predicament.

Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is now under pressure from backbench MPs to address the changes and perhaps overrule them when he announces his Budget in autumn 2017.”

Environmental Health Officers – the Guardian needs your views on pollution

“We want to hear from current staff and former council staff about the challenges of monitoring air quality at a local level. How hard it is to do? How does it impact on local planning decisions? Could it be done in a better way? What more council councils do to protect environments at a local level? Share your stories.”

Diviani and Randall-Johnson are satisfied these questions have been answered on bed closures – do you agree?

30 [plus] questions” that must be asked BEFORE care at home can be implemented:


The model of care:

• Does the new model of care align with our overriding ambition to promote independence?
• Is there clinical and operational consensus by place on the functions of the model and configuration of community health and care teams incorporating primary care, personal care providers and the voluntary care sector?
• Is there a short term offer that promotes independence and community resilience?
• Is there a method for identifying people at highest risk based on risk stratification tool?
• Are the needs of people requiring palliative and terminal care identified and planned for?
• Are the needs of people with dementia identified and planned for?
• Is support to care homes and personal care providers, built into the community services specification?
• Is support for carers enhanced through community sector development support in each community?
• Has the health and care role of each part of the system been described?
• Have key performance indicators been identified, and is performance being tracked now to support post implementation evaluation, including impact on primary care and social care?

• Is there a clear understanding of the capacity and gaps in the locality and a baseline agreed for current levels and required levels to meet the expected outputs of the changed model of care?
• Is there a clear understanding of and plan for any changes required in ways of working:
o thinking
o behaviours
o risk tolerance
o promotion of independence, personal goal orientation

• Have the training needs of people undertaking new roles been identified, including ensuring they are able to meet the needs of patients with dementia?
• Do we have detailed knowledge with regards to investment, WTE and skill mix across the locality and a plan for achieving this?
• Are system-wide staff recruitment and retention issues adequately addressed with a comprehensive plan, and where there are known or expected difficulties have innovative staffing models been explored?

Governance, communications and engagement:
• Is there a robust operational managerial model and leadership to support the implementation?
• Has Council member engagement and appropriate scrutiny taken place?
• Is there an oversight and steering group in place and the process for readiness assessment agreed?
• Have providers, commissioners and service users and carers or their representative groups such as Healthwatch agreed a set of key outcome measures and described how these will be recorded and monitored?
• Is there a shared dashboard which describes outcomes, activity and productivity measures and provides evaluation measures?
• Is there an agreed roll out plan for implementation, which has due regard to the operational issues of managing change?
• Is there a comprehensive & joint communications and engagement plan agreed?
• Is there a need for a further Quality or Equality Impact Assessment?

• Is there a clinical and operational consensus on the roles of each sector during the implementation phase including acute care, community health and care teams, mental health, primary care, social care, the voluntary care sector and independent sector care providers?
• Is there an implementation plan at individual patient level describing their new pathway, mapping affected patients into new services?
• Are the operational conditions necessary for safe implementation met?
• Have the risks of not implementing the change at this point been described and balanced against any residual risk of doing so?

Post Implementation
• Is there a description of the outcomes for individuals, their carers and communities?
• Are the mechanisms for engagement with staff, users of services and carers in place and any findings being addressed appropriately?
• Is there a process in place for immediate post implementation tracking of service performance including financial impact to all organisations?
• Is longer term performance and impact being tracked for comparison against pre-implementation performance?
• Have we captured user experience as part of the process, and have findings been addressed and recorded to inform the planning of future changes?
• Are there unintended consequences or impacts (e.g. on primary care or social care) which need to be addressed before any further change occurs?
• Is there a clear communication plan for providers and the Public describing the new system and retaining their involvement in community development?”


Cash for votes – Conservatives win by millions

“British political parties received a record £40m of donations in the three months before the election, with the Conservatives bringing in more than twice as much cash as Labour.

More than half of the money was given to the Conservative party, which raised almost £25m between April and June compared with £9.5m for Labour.

The funding received beat the previous record high for a three-month period, which was set during the runup to the election in 2015, by more than £9m.

The biggest donation to the Conservatives was £1.5m from Anthony Bamford, a Conservative peer and industrialist who also helped fund the Brexit campaign. Labour’s largest sum was from Unite, the trade union, which donated £1.3m.

Other wealthy businessmen who gave more than £1m each to the Tories including John Armitage, a hedge fund manager, John Gore, a musical theatre impresario, and John Griffin, the founder of the Addison Lee taxi firm.

The Liberal Democrats raised about £4.4m, while Ukip managed to get £150,000, the Greens around £175,000, the Women’s Equality party almost £300,000 and Plaid Cymru just £5,300.”

Journalism: too elitist, too removed from ordinary people – says journalist

“… Giving the MacTaggart lecture on Wednesday, the journalist [Jon Snow]said: “Amid the demonstrations around the tower after the fire there were cries of: ‘Where were you? Why didn’t you come here before?’

“Why didn’t any of us see the Grenfell action blog? Why didn’t we know? Why didn’t we have contact? Why didn’t we enable the residents of Grenfell Tower – and indeed the other hundreds of towers like it around Britain – to find pathways to talk to us and for us to expose their story?

“In that moment I felt both disconnected and frustrated. I felt on the wrong side of the terrible divide that exists in present-day society and in which we are all in this hall major players. We can accuse the political classes for their failures, and we do. But we are guilty of them ourselves.

“We are too far removed from those who lived their lives in Grenfell and who, across the country, now live on amid the combustible cladding, the lack of sprinklers, the absence of centralised fire alarms and more, revealed by the Grenfell Tower fire.” …”


… “The Grenfell residents’ story was out there, published online and shocking in its accuracy. It was hidden in plain sight, but we had stopped looking. The disconnect was complete. Our connectivity – life on Google, Facebook, Twitter and more – has so far failed to combat modern society’s widening disconnection. …”

Now Seaton and Honiton hospital beds are closed, here’s something to look forward to

Better keep fingers crossed that you or your loved ones are not in a similar position to some of the people mentioned here.

But if you are one of the unfortunate ones, remember Paul Diviani (EDDC), Sarah Randall Johnson (DCC), Neil Parish MP, Hugo Swire MP, Minister Jeremy Hunt and Prime Minister Theresa May all put you there. They all have one thing in common: they are Conservative politicians whose decisions led to this situation – and think carefully about whether you would vote for them now or in the future knowing what you know now.

People who receive care at home have told a health watchdog that a lacklustre service has meant they have had to go two weeks without a shower, eat their dinner at 3.30 in the afternoon and be cared for by workers who can’t make a bed.

The failings highlighted in a report by Healthwatch England drew on the experiences of more than 3,000 people who receive care at home. Other problems described in the document include care workers coming at different times to those scheduled, not having enough time to fulfil all their duties and some missing appointments altogether.

Across England there are more than 8,500 home care providers, collectively helping an estimated 673,000 people with tasks such as washing, cooking, dressing and taking medication. The report suggested that home care was “in a fragile state” and that care packages were being “designed to meet the needs of the service provider rather than the service user”.

One home care user in Redcar and Cleveland said: “Sometimes they give me a shower but they go over their time. Most of the time they haven’t got the time to give me one so I go a couple of weeks without one and that is not right. I feel dirty.”

A woman in her 80s told Healthwatch Bradford her care workers were unable to boil an egg or make the bed, while another said staff needed to be taught “home care common sense”.

A care user in Barnet, north London, said: “I am diabetic and sometimes carers are late or don’t show up and that really affects my medications and insulin administration.”

However, Healthwatch, the health and care consumer champion, stressed that most people had positive things to say about their domiciliary care – with many older people praising the service because it enables them to remain in their own home and to maintain as much independence as possible.

Neil Tester, the deputy director of Healthwatch England, said: “We heard examples of compassionate care from dedicated staff, but people also talked about care that doesn’t meet even basic standards. Given the challenges facing the social care sector, it is more important than ever that people’s voices are heard.”

Izzi Seccombe, the chairwoman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “This report shows that while most people report that their services are good there is a need to improve services.

“The financial pressure facing services is having an impact and even the very best efforts of councils are not enough to avert the real and growing crisis we are facing in ensuring older people receive the care they deserve.

“The continuing underfunding of adult social care, the significant pressures of an ageing population and the ‘national living wage’ are combining to heap pressure on the home care provider market.”

She added: “This study shows the strain providers are under, and emphasises the urgent need for a long-term, sustainable solution to the social care funding crisis.

“While the £2bn announced in the spring budget for social care was a step in the right direction, it is only one-off funding and social care services still face an annual £2.3bn funding gap by 2020.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Everyone deserves access to high-quality care, including those who receive it in their home. This is why we have introduced tougher inspections of care services to drive up standards, provided an additional £2bn for adult social care, and have committed to consult on the future of social care to ensure sustainability in the long term.”