EDA DCC Councillor Martin Shaw asks council to scrutinise ownership and governance of community hospitals

PRESS RELEASE from DCC Councillor Martin Shaw (Seaton and Colyton):

Tomorrow I am asking the committee to consider a proposal on ‘Ownership, Community Stakeholding and the Governance of Community Hospitals’, the briefing note for which is copied below and is self-explanatory:

Ownership, Community Stakeholding and the Governance of Community Hospitals

Community hospitals in Devon have always been built and maintained with a high degree of community involvement and support. In many cases, local communities took the initiative to build the hospitals and raised a substantial part of the original funding, or even the entire funding of additional wings and facilities, as well as contributing to staff and other running costs, the introduction of new specialist services, etc.

Unlike Private Finance Initiatives undertaken in partnership with private companies, these ‘community finance initiatives’ – which sought no profit from their investments other than the improvement of the facilities and services they enabled – appear not to have secured their interests in the hospitals they helped to build. The Leagues of Friends and others who raised funds for hospitals trusted that their investments would continue to be used for the benefit of place-based health services in their local area.

Since the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, however, the organisation of the NHS has changed and the ownership of NHS buildings is in the process of being transferred to a new company, NHS Property Services, wholly owned by the Secretary of State and charged with managing the NHS estate in line with national priorities. NHS Property Services is enabled to sell off parts of the estate and to charge NHS organisations market rents for their use of NHS buildings.

This change creates dilemmas for local communities which have invested in Devon community hospitals. Clearly Leagues of Friends and other local bodies, including town and parish councils as representatives of communities which have raised large amounts of funding, can be considered ‘stakeholders’ in community hospitals. However these community stakeholders appear not to possess formal rights in the ownership and governance of the hospitals.

The proposal is that the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny undertake an investigation into

1. The changing ownership and governance of community hospitals in Devon and its implications.
2. The historic and ongoing contributions of local communities and Leagues of Friends to funding the hospitals.
The purpose of this investigation would be to address the question of
3. How community stakeholders’ interests should be secured in the future governance of community hospitals.

It is envisaged that in the course of this investigation, the Committee would both collect evidence and invite expressions of views from all stakeholders, including both local community organisations and NHS bodies, including NHS Property Services.

Martin Shaw
Independent East Devon Alliance County Councillor for Seaton & Colyton”

Council’s £1 million overspend investigated; our council’s multimillion overspend on new HQ not investigated!

OUR council has already spent nearly that much on its satellite HQ in Exmouth. The Honiton HQ was supposed to be cost neutral with the proceeds of the £7 Knowle sale to PegasusLife but latest estimates (some while ago and not adjusted for post-Brexit soaring costs) was around £10 million.

How come SWAP could do this in Herefordshire but not in East Devon. Or why KPMG – its new auditors – are not doing it now?

A special investigation into how the costs of establishing a joint customer services hub in a refurbished building soared from £950,000 to more than £1.9m has found evidence that officers “knowingly disregarded council process and procedures”.

The investigation into the Blueschool House refurbishment was carried out by the South West Audit Partnership for Herefordshire Council. The local authority has been working with the Department of Work and Pensions on the project. Have we ever seen the (updated) business case for the new HQ?

The business case for the hub was approved by the council’s Director of Resources on 13 May 2016 and the key decision taken on 2 June 2016 was approved by the Cabinet Member Contracts and Assets.

The SWAP report said: “Overall the council’s normal governance processes have not been followed by key officers involved in the Blueschool House refurbishment.

The key decision did follow the correct governance process however the business case to support the key decision lacked clarity over what works would be included in the £950K agreed financial envelope.

“It would appear that key staff including senior officers at Director level were aware of the council processes and procedures but these have not been applied during this project and there is evidence that officers have knowingly disregarded council process and procedure.”

The investigation found that although there were early indications from the framework provider that the project could not be delivered within the financial envelope even with value engineering, key officers failed to report this to Cabinet.

The report also said:

The rationale for the selection of the contractor could not be demonstrated as there were no records to support this. The property services team had responded to client requests without providing robust challenge, and had not followed the council procedure rules in relation to procurement.

The relationship between the property services team and contractors appeared to be informal for a capital project of this value and throughout the project there was little evidence that value for money could be demonstrated.

In line with the capital guidance, major projects should be overseen by a project board. The Accommodation Programme Board had oversight of the overall accommodation strategy until November 2016 however, there was no project board for the Blueschool House refurbishment project.

The timescale of the project was identified as a major risk in the business case as the project was subject to a time constraint pressure due to the DWP serving notice on their current property. This was a key factor in ensuring the project was progressed and had contributed to the overall poor governance.

The SWAP report said it was “for management to consider and determine whether any further action such as disciplinary action, should be taken against individual officers as it is clear there has been disregard for processes and procedures which has resulted in a significant overspend on the project”.

The report was due to be considered by the council’s audit and governance committee at a meeting this week (20 September).”


“Ministers to tighten disqualification criteria for councillors and mayors”

“Individuals who are given an anti-social behaviour injunction or a criminal behaviour order or who are added to the sex offenders’ register will no longer be able to be a councillor or elected mayor, under reforms put out to consultation this week.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said the planned changes to the disqualification criteria for councillors and mayors “would ensure those who represent their communities are held to the highest possible standards”.

Under the current rules anyone convicted of an offence carrying a prison sentence of more than three months is banned from serving as a local councillor.

Local Government Minister Marcus Jones said that while this might have prevented criminals from becoming councillors, it did not reflect modern sentencing practices.

He added: “Councillors hold an important position of trust and authority in communities across England. We need to hold them to the highest possible standards.

“The current rules are letting residents and councils down by not preventing people who should never be considered for such roles from standing for election.

“The changes the government is proposing would help make sure anyone convicted of a serious crime, regardless of whether it comes with a custodial sentence, will not be able to serve as a councillor.”

The DCLG said the proposed measures would “bring rules much more into the present day” by including the alternatives to a prison sentence also becoming a barrier to being a councillor.

The changes, if implemented, will apply to councillors and mayors in parish, town, local, county and unitary councils, combined authorities and the Greater London Authority.

The ban would prevent an individual standing in an election or if they are already a councillor or mayor, require them to stand down.

The consultation, which can be viewed here, runs until

5 pm on 8 December 2017

It proposes updating the disqualification criteria in section 80 of the Local Government Act 1972, paragraph 9 of schedule 5B to the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, and section 21 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 to prohibit those subject to the notification requirements (commonly referred to as ‘being on the sex offenders register’) and those subject to certain anti-social behaviour sanctions from being local authority members, London Assembly members or directly-elected mayors.

The consultation does not propose changing the disqualification criteria for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs).

The proposals do not extend to the Council of the Isles of Scilly or the Common Council of the City of London.”


UK “best place in the world” to flog nuclear projects thanks to “supportive government”

“Under pressure from Brexit and the declining costs of renewable energy, Britain‘s nuclear industry is increasingly relying on supportive government policy to plough on with high-profile — and controversial — projects.

With four big projects due for completion by 2025, the country is at the forefront of a global industry left shaken by the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima nuclear site in Japan.

“The UK is the best place in the world to build nuclear” as the sector does not face the political opposition found elsewhere, David Powell, Hitachi’s Europe vice-president for nuclear power plant sales, told AFP on the sidelines of a conference in London this month.

Britain’s Conservative government has made the decommissioning of the country’s coal-fired power stations and ageing nuclear reactors — many of which were built in the 1950s — a pillar of its energy security policy and low-carbon commitments.

Only one of Britain’s 15 existing reactors is expected to be in use by 2030.

But British anti-nuclear campaigners have denounced the government’s steadfast commitment to nuclear power, urging it to focus instead on renewable sources like wind and solar.

“The contrast between the nuclear industry and the renewables industry could not be starker,” said Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace UK.

“Offshore wind, in particular, is dramatically falling in cost and rapidly improving in technology,” he said.

“It is clear that new nuclear will only be built with substantial government support not required by renewable energy technologies like wind and solar.”

Two new windpower projects announced last week appeared to confirm that it has become cheaper to harness energy from wind than nuclear.

But Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, says he is not convinced, and that harnessing atomic energy still has its advantages.

“For nuclear energy, as with offshore wind, the more you build the more the price falls,” he told AFP at the conference, which was also attended by senior delegates from the French giant Areva, China’s CGN and the US group Westinghouse.

“Nuclear delivers what offshore wind can’t deliver, which is constant, always available power. It does not matter what the weather is like,” he said.

Nuclear ‘must have its place’

But the industry also faces an entirely different obstacle in the form of Brexit, with Britain having to decide on whether to remain in Euratom, the European nuclear regulator.

In recent written evidence submitted to the UK parliament, French energy group EDF warned continued access to skilled labour from the EU, and the development of an alternative regulatory framework for Britain, would both be necessary for major projects like Hinkley Point to go ahead.

Last March, the first pouring of concrete at the Hinkley Point C power plant in western England brought the vision of a nuclear future for Britain one step closer to reality.

The site’s two reactors, due to be built by 2025 in conjunction with EDF and China’s CGN, will be Britain’s first in more than two decades.

EDF is also considering building a reactor at Sizewell in eastern England as a counterpart to Hinkley, while CGN has its eyes on a similar project nearby.

Elsewhere, two reactors being built in Wales by the Japanese conglomerate Hitachi are expected to gain regulatory approval before the end of the year.

Increased demand for electric cars, trains and heating are contributing to the growing electricity demand, meaning a surge in new capacity is required, according to industry experts.

“No one says it should all be nuclear, but it must have its place,” Greatrex said.

But the competition from wind and solar power threatens to severely test the viability of British nuclear projects across the board in the coming years.

Official figures show nuclear energy represented 21.2 percent of Britain’s energy production last year, compared with 24.4 percent from renewable energy sources.”


LEPs need to be BIGGER say conference speakers!

“Brexit means a new model of devolution is needed because different areas of the UK have varying capacities to cope with leaving the EU, a CIPFA North East event has heard.

The regions’ capacity to deal with Brexit could be made more difficult as decision making is centered around Whitehall, Anna Round, senior research fellow on the North East from the IPPR think-tank, told the event in Newcastle yesterday.

“I think the capacity for regions to shape their future outside the EU is immensely important,” she said, at the event hosted by CIPFA and the Brexit Advisory Commission.

“There is a challenge there about how devolution will progress, how it is distributed meaningfully between Whitehall and regions.

“I think the current model of devolution is not going to do that, that needs to change.”

Round noted recent studies showed the “extraordinary” levels of economic disparity in the UK between London and the rest of the country. This was the most profound imbalance of this kind in the EU, she said.

She stated this was historically made worse by the “huge political imbalance in a hugely centralised country”.

The research fellow suggested looking again at the scale of the areas covered by devolution deals and moving to a more federalised system.

She suggested the devolution areas should be larger to give them more ‘clout’.

Round spoke on the day it was revealed two councils – Barnsley and Doncaster councils have pulled out of a South Yorkshire devolution deal because they said it was too small to be effective.

The leaders of the councils argued a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal would be better. A Communities and Local Government spokesperson said the department would not consider this.

David Bell, from the university of Stirling, speaking at the Newcastle event yesterday agreed with Round’s assessment of the regional disparity in the UK.

Although, he believed a federal structure was possible he said that the wider geographical areas in England did not currently have a common sense of identity, such as states in the US.

“It isn’t clear how to you from here [current system] to there [federal system],” he said.

Anthony Zito, professor of European policy for Newcastle University, also shared the view that the UK capacity of the regions to cope with Brexit needed to be each taken into account to make a success of leaving the EU.

Zito said he was not sure how the national and local governments in the UK would cope with the profound change that would result from Brexit.

This was because of the loss of benefits EU membership provided, he believed. “The UK’s ability to protect its environment, to enhance its trade, all those things which the European Union, I would argue, helped [provide].”

Zito asked how the UK will replace, for example, the skills and knowledge currently brought into the country through freedom of movement.

He also said “Brexit is taking knowledge and people with expertise away from other pressing problems” facing the wider public sector.

CIPFA and the Brexit Advisory Commission hosted the breakfast session to explore the risks and opportunities of Brexit for public services in the North East.”


How much bigger does the housing scandal need to get before SOMEONE does SOMETHING?

“Millennials are spending three times more of their income on housing than their grandparents yet are often living in worse accommodation, says a study launched by former Conservative minister David Willetts that warns of a “housing catastrophe”.

The generation currently aged 18-36 are typically spending over a third of their post-tax income on rent or about 12% on mortgages, compared with 5%-10% of income spent by their grandparents in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite spending more, young people today are more likely to live in overcrowded and smaller spaces, and face longer journeys to work – commuting for the equivalent of three days a year more than their parents.” …


“Half of all secondary schools started the school year ‘over capacity or FULL’ “

Overall, one in four schools are over capacity in Year 7 – the first year of secondary school. A further 27 per cent of secondary schools are fully subscribed in Year 7 – meaning there isn’t enough teaching space available.

The figures – revealed in Freedom of Information responses from 100 English councils – show a 9 per cent increase in overstretched admissions.

By 2022/23 more than 125,000 children face missing out on a secondary school place altogether, according to warnings from the Local Government Association.

In Rutland 86 per cent of schools started the term over capacity.

In Slough and Solihull the figure was 80 per cent while Redcar, Bury, Redcar and Cleveland was 60 per cent over-subscribed.” …


“Do we need political parties?”

A view from a German writer:

“In many Western countries, party structures are dissolving. Traditional political organisations are disintegrating, being swept away by new movements, or infiltrated by fresh members. There is not much left of the once-defining role of classical parties. And the examples are abundant.

In France, the traditional party system has decayed. The Socialists, after being the governing party in Paris until spring, have practically ceased to exist. Other traditional parties have also been hit hard, replaced by movements such as Emmanuel Macron’s “En Marche!” and Jean-Luc Melenchon’s “La France insoumise”.

The US’ once-lofty Republicans – the self-proclaimed “Grand Old Party” – have now disintegrated into separate wings, whose positions differ to the extent that a common programme is hardly recognisable. And the party organisation is so weak that it could be captured by a non-politician like Donald Trump.

Until recently in the UK, the Labour Party, which had been positioned in the pragmatic centre, has moved vehemently to the left. It was infiltrated by an influx of often young new members, who celebrate the party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn – formerly a marginal figure in the political life of the island – as a pop star.

In Italy, the populist Five Star Movement of former comedian Beppe Grillo has been unsettling the political system for some years. On the right, the former regional party “Lega Nord” is expanding with new national-populist content.

There’s an evolving pattern. Traditional political structures are breaking up, liquefying political systems. People are becoming more important than parties, and posing seems more relevant than policies.

Politicians who have served their time and worked their way up through party ranks are ousted by outside figures with star attributes – cheered along by citizens, who suddenly behave like fans. [Watch out Hugo!]

Still, there’s a prominent exception: Germany.

Or so it would seem. Large parties and their established top figures still dominate the political scene. At the top are well-tempered characters like Angela Merkel, the chancellor, and Martin Schulz, the Social Democratic contender. And, above all, both of them promise that as little as possible is going change.

But this is just the visible surface. In Germany, like elsewhere in Europe, the political system is being transformed. Anger and frustration are on the rise – sentiments which parties like the far-right AfD are only able capture to a small extent.

The next federal government will likely be formed by a coalition that promises stability on the verge of boredom. However, this does not preclude the possibility of unexpected turns in regard to specific topics.”


The neglect of social housing – now words but little action

Owl says: lots of sweet words, no action, no more [better] social housing … a problem but no solution.

“The Grenfell Tower fire showed that those in power had dehumanised tenants as “problems that needed to be managed”, the communities secretary said today as he announced an extensive review of social housing.

Sajid Javid said the way in which council tenants are housed in Britain needed a “top-to-bottom” rethink in the wake of the tragedy. Mr Javid said the government would be publishing a green paper in the coming months.

He pledged to make the work the most substantial report of its kind for a generation, looking at the quality and safety of social housing but also at ways to reinvent the sector and make it once again the “gold standard for accommodation”.

Referring directly to Grenfell, Mr Javid said that he believed the fire was the consequence of longstanding neglect.

“It is clear that in the months and the years before the fire, the residents of Grenfell Tower were not listened to,” he said.

“That too many people in positions of power saw tenants less as people with families and more as problems that needed to be managed.

“In one of the richest, most privileged corners of the UK, the world, even, would a fire like this have happened in a privately owned block of luxury flats?

“If you believe that the answer is no, even if you think it was simply less likely, then it’s clear that we need a fundamental rethink of social housing in this country.” …

[followed by more weasel words and rhubarb in the same vein]

Source: Times, paywall