Government cannot account for charity promises totalling nearly £1 billion

“The Conservative government “cannot yet confirm” whether nearly £1bn of money it was supposed to have given to charities has been “spent as intended”. And even worse, £200m of funding, which former prime minister David Cameron promised would go to young people, has seemingly been lost altogether.

Promises, promises

In the wake of the Libor rate rigging scandal, then chancellor George Osborne promised in 2012 that the £973m the banks were fined would “go to the benefit of the public”. And Cameron went further in 2015, saying the money from a specific £227m fine on Deutsche Bank would be used to create 50,000 apprenticeships. He said at the time:

“We’re going to take the fines from the banks who tried to rig markets – and we’re going to use it to train young people and get them off the dole and into work.”

But now, the National Audit Office (NAO), which is responsible for checking how the government spends public money, has investigated the £973m fund. And it found a catalogue of errors, mismanagement and lax behaviour by the Tories.

Dodgy dealings

The NAO found that:

The government is “is unable to demonstrate” if it actually spent £200m on 50,000 apprenticeships.
It gave £196m to groups, without any “terms and conditions” on how they should spend it.
The government “cannot yet confirm that charities spent all grants as intended”.
It has not evaluated whether the money actually benefitted the public, or not.
Some of the money went directly into an internal Ministry of Defence project.

Missing millions

The office said, specifically in relation to the apprenticeships, that:

although the money was used to fund apprenticeships in general, the government did not report any increase in its already announced 3 million target. The Department for Education, now responsible for apprenticeships, was not directed to use the £200 million to pursue a specific policy to deliver apprenticeships for unemployed 22-24 year olds and cannot demonstrate whether 50,000 new apprenticeships for this group have been provided.

But what is most revealing is just which charities the government gave £973m to.

The NAO said that:

The majority of this money has gone towards Armed Forces and Emergency Services charities. The Treasury and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have distributed £592 million of the fund to a range of different causes.

Tories: cutting to the bone

Meanwhile, since 2010, the Tories have:

Cut defence spending to 5% of all public spending.
Left around 7,000 ex-military personnel homeless in the UK.
Presided over more service personnel taking their own lives than actually dying in battle.
And, also since 2010:
The NHS has seen a real terms cut in the amount of money given to it per patient.
The government has cut the number of people getting social care by 26%. And it has cut the equivalent of almost £50m from children’s mental health services.
20,000 police officers have lost their jobs and £2.3bn has been cut from police budgets.
10,000 firefighters have lost their jobs and budgets have been cut by a third.

As sneaky as sneaky can be

So, essentially, the government has used the £973m from the bank’s fines to paper over the cracks created by their austerity, via charities. And as The Canary reported only this week, the blowback from austerity is beginning to severely show, with the police dealing with more cases of mental health issues than ever before. We knew that Cameron couldn’t be trusted with the public purse. And now we know that the Tories will use it to try and cover their disastrous tracks, too.”

DCC transport supremo Stuart Hughes on the spot next week

“On Monday Devon Live launches a series of special reports into the county’s congestion problems and the impact that pollution is having on people’s lives.

Gridlocked Devon will look at some of the major challenges caused by congestion across the county and find out what is being done to encourage people to use other modes of transport. …

Investigations throughout the week will reveal the attitude of local authorities to sustainable travel and highlight some of Devon’s pollution hotspots.

Gridlocked Devon will culminate on Friday with a Facebook Live debate tackling some of the major travel problems facing the county.

To submit a question email

What Swire’s mate Heffer thinks of local authorities

Just before the last general election, Swire made one of his very rare appearances at what he called a “hustings” in Exmouth. Except no other parties were invited to participate and his one guest was Telegraph journalist Simon Heffer.

In today’s Sunday Telegraph Heffer calls for privatisation of everything that currently makes any semblance of profit, or which might make profits in future, and hiving off the loss-making tasks to unitary authorities or, in our case, the unelected, unaccountable and opaque business-run Local Enterprise Partnership.

Oh to be a fly on the wall when Swire and Heffer have their fireside chats …

He says:

“… There is too much local government. Pointy-headed theorists have banged on about localism, but all that is missing is evidence that “local” people are either capable or motivated enough to deliver “local” services. The best way to deliver “localism” is to take councils out of the equation altogether, as has been done in many cases by removing schools from their control. …

But local government will not work well until it is stripped of duties that individuals or the private sector can provide for themselves: which brings us back to social care … the government must … develop an insurance scheme that will encourage private providers to take over what threatens to become a crippling state responsibility …”

Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Comment, page 16

Unfortunately Mr Heffer neglects to explain how private providers, with shareholders mouths to feed, will be able to do it more cheaply.

BBC national news takes up story of tourist bus pulling out of Seaton and Colyton due to elderly residents objecting to it

Since when was an EDDC coach park, where EDDC receives the revenue and the land is owned by EDDC, a town council problem?

“An open-top bus service has been axed because of “hostility and tirades” from residents, its operator says.

Drivers of the Jurassic Mule service, on the Devon and Dorset coast, have been verbally abused and a bus depot entrance was “deliberately blocked”.
The Mendip Mule Motorbus service runs through Beer, Colyton and Seaton in Devon, and on to Lyme Regis and Charmouth in Dorset.

Issues over parking had arisen in Seaton and cars had been badly parked, intentionally, across Colyton bus depot’s entrance, owner Derek Gawn said.

He said the company used a bus park in Seaton, provided by East Devon District Council for use by buses and coaches on a pay-and-display basis.
“It isn’t for the bus drivers to be shouted at by residents who don’t welcome the facility,” Mr Gawn continued.

“[And it’s] not a particularly good welcome for the much-needed tourists bringing their spending to the town.”

East Devon District Council said it was a matter for Seaton Town Council, which has not responded to a BBC request for comment.

“We have also experienced people deliberately parking their cars badly on the approach to our depot at Colyton Station in an attempt to make access difficult,” Mr Gawn added.

Some people have taken to social media in support of the service.
On Facebook, Clare Dare said: “I think by moving next to a bus park there is a pretty good indication that there may possibly be a bus or 2 in there at some point!!!”

Becky Perry added: “Such a shame my little boys loved their adventure on the open top bus this summer!”

North Somerset grabs cash for care homes – London Borough of Westminster doesn’t

“F​amilies are facing a care funding lottery as new figures reveal wide variations in the lengths to which councils will go to stop people giving away assets in an attempt to make the state pay instead.

Local authorities means-test residents of care homes to check if they should pay towards their costs.

The cut off point is £23,250 – if you have assets above this figure you are expected to fund your own care. If your assets are worth less than £23,250 the council will help to meet the costs. Average nursing home costs reached £1,000 for “self-funders” earlier this year.

The spiralling cost of care has created an incentive for families to give away property, investments and savings to bring their assets below the £23,250 limit.

Councils have powers to claw back money from people it can prove to have “deliberately deprived” themselves of assets to claim state aid. Yet it has long been suspected that they find it nearly impossible to prove that someone has given assets away deliberately to dodge care costs.

Giving to children and grandchildren as a way to limit inheritance tax bills has become increasingly common. High house prices and buoyant stock markets have increased families’ wealth, while the headline amount you can pass on tax free has not been increased for nearly a decade.

A series of Freedom of Information requests submitted by Telegraph Money has uncovered how often councils use their powers and the amounts they have managed to claw back.

Of the eight local authorities approached, North Somerset council, whose jurisdiction includes Weston-super-Mare and the outskirts of Bristol, had used its powers the most. Since 2012 it recorded 64 “deprivation” cases in relation to care funding. The total value of assets involved in the cases was £1.3m.

By contrast, the London borough of Westminster had no recorded cases. This is despite the area having a similar population to North Somerset, at around 200,000, and a similar proportion of elderly residents.

Likewise Southwark, which covers a large part of south-east London, had not used its powers at all. The north London borough of Camden had the second-highest number of cases, at 14, with a total value of £158,000 over five years. Liverpool and Hertfordshire councils refused to provide figures on the grounds of cost, while Nottingham City Council said it did not keep relevant records.

Steven Cameron, a care expert at Aegon, the insurer, warned that greater scrutiny of the sector meant individuals who attempted to dodge care fees were increasingly likely to be caught by councils.

“A few years ago it was highly unlikely that a council would have paid much attention to people who gave away assets to avoid paying,” he said. “But with the care crisis getting worse daily and with more public interest in getting out of paying for care by giving away assets, the attention councils will pay is certain to increase considerably.”

Councils also take action that may not be reflected by official statistics, said Tracy Ashby a specialist legacy planner at Thursfields, the law firm.

She has seen cases in the West Midlands where instead of trying to claw back funds from families, councils simply cut off funding for care. Care homes are then left to pursue families themselves and in some cases have sought to evict patients, Ms Ashby said.

The “dementia tax” Telegraph Money has reported extensively on the anomalies of the care funding system.

Self-funding patients effectively subsidise those funded by councils, which set strict limits on the fees they are prepared to pay. This leaves homes in areas with few private customers battling to stay open.

The Conservatives’ radical plans for reforming the care system have been blamed for the party’s disastrous showing in the general election. Under the plan, councils would have started to pick up the tab for care costs once a person’s assets fell below £100,000, as opposed to the current level of £23,250 in England.

But, crucially, family homes would also have been included in the means-testing formula for “at home” care for the first time.

At the same time, the plan for a lifetime cap – which would have helped those who needed long periods of care – was dropped. The Tories quickly backtracked over the latter, which Labour called the “dementia tax”.

Doctors wake up to consequences of STP plans which have already closed most East Devon community hospitals


Almost two in three senior doctors fear a controversial NHS shake-up that will downgrade or close dozens of hospital units will damage the care patients receive. The hospital consultants fear the sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) will lead to staff losing their jobs, will exacerbate workforce shortages and will act as a cover for cuts to services.

Of 450 hospital clinicians surveyed by the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA), 42% believe that STPs will have a “negative impact” on patient care. Barely one in 10 consultants who belong to the union expect a “positive impact”.

Three in four (77%) fear STPs are a way of making cuts to the NHS, while just over half (56%) fear they will lead to job losses and worse understaffing. …

“Many hospital doctors see STPs as a managerially driven process with no real clinical basis, and fear that a mix of underfunding, under-resourcing and service rationalisation can only damage patient care,” said Eddie Saville, the HCSA’s chief executive.

“This is, in effect, yet again an NHS reorganisation, but region by region, with management trying to plug the financial gaps rather than putting high-quality care of patients at the forefront. The fact that STPs are being planned against a backdrop of underfunding and cuts has led many doctors to conclude that this transformation programme is purely an attempt to mask further cutbacks.”

The Local Government Association, which represents local councils, criticised STPs as “secretive, opaque and top-down” reforms that would fail patients. …”

DUH – where have some of these doctors been this last 2 years?