Amsterdam bans new tourist shops to “prevent Disneyfication”

“Amsterdam has announced a ban on any new shops aimed at tourists – effectively limiting the abundance of places hiring bikes and selling souvenirs, tour tickets and ubiquitous waffles.

After mounting rage from locals – who wrote collectively to the mayor to protest against the “Disneyfication” of the city centre a year ago – the Dutch capital has decided that no more tourist shops will get licences in the central area.

“Nowhere else in the world has such a decision been made,” said Kajsa Ollongren, deputy mayor. “The balance is missing. We are only getting more of the same, and that is not good for our quality of life.”

It is estimated that there are 280 such shops in the centre, while tourist numbers have increased to 17 million visitors a year in the latest estimates – a tenth of them hosted by Airbnb, according to research by Colliers International.

But while some are making money, not everyone is happy. In May, chief executive of Amsterdam Marketing Frans van der Avert told a tourism conference that the city was aiming to ‘increase the quality of visitors’, rather than hosting tourists ‘with no respect for [its] character.

Amsterdam has put up tourist taxes, and on October 1, a new licencing system was imposed for anyone wanting to rent out their house short term – with fines of at least €6,000 for failure to comply, and a limit of 60 days annually.

The latest ban will apply immediately in the city centre and 40 shopping streets, meaning no new licences will be granted for things like ticket shops, bike rental companies, cheese, doughnut and ice-cream sellers.

“By not allowing new tourist shops to open we make sure our city centre remains attractive and liveable for Amsterdammers and our visitors,” said Ollongren, who heads economic affairs.

“Tourists are very welcome, but we want to avoid mass tourism taking over entire streets and neighbourhoods.”

How much do PFI contracts cost DCC?

“A Labour pledge to bring “wasteful” PFI contracts back in the public sector would cost a massive £671m in Devon, it has been revealed.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the annual party conference last month the contracts were set to cost the taxpayer £200bn over coming decades and private companies were making “huge profits”.

The cost to the county for all the buildings, such as schools, hospitals armed forces’ accommodation, funded by private finance initiatives was estimated to be around £2.4bn just four years ago.

Newly released figures by the county council show that Exeter Schools would cost £210m to buy out with £322m for an energy for waste (EFW) plant and £139m for a Devonport EFW scheme. …

… Private companies carry out the construction work and maintenance, in exchange for regular payments from the taxpayer.

It has proved controversial with criticisms that it is overly generous to the private contractors.

Some schools, including in Exeter, have said the quality of parts of their new buildings have been poor.

Other public bodies, such as hospitals, have complained that large debt repayments, over long periods of time, make it difficult for them to balance their books.

However, defenders of PFI said it provided new infrastructure which would otherwise be unaffordable.

The biggest margin on a project in Devon came with a deal for new accommodation for services’ personnel at Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth.

Its estimated cost of £554m, which will also include service and maintenance charges, is more than 12 times the initial building price. …

… Devon County Council said it could not “accurately” estimate the cost of terminating contracts without going into negotiations.

Cabinet member for finance John Clatworthy said the schools PFI contract in 2005/6 was £348m.

He wrote: “Set against this was a grant of £248m that would be received from central government – of the balance, £75m would be met from the delegated schools budget and the remainder (£75m) would be met by the council.”

DCC Tories fail, yet again, to do the right thing on our NHS

“Martin Shaw and Claire Wright were voted down… [at today’s health scrutiny committee, see below] shame on Devon County Council! Every single Tory Councillor with the exception of one voted against Martin’s motion – they put party politics above their communities interests once again.
People need to know what they did.”

Patients discharged in dressing gowns and with no home care plans

Patients are being discharged from hospitals in dressing gowns to empty homes and without medication or support, according to a new report.

Healthwatch England also expressed concerns over the level of bed-blocking in the NHS, with patients fit to go home but staying in hospital.

The watchdog talked to more than 2,000 people about their experiences in the past two years. In a report in 2015 it had criticised “shocking” cases and “common basic failings” leading to emergency readmissions and deaths.

While hospitals are doing better overall, Healthwatch said that people “still don’t feel involved in decisions or that they have been given the information they need” and that they continue to experience delays and a lack of co-ordination between services.

In July an average of 5,861 beds a day were occupied by patients fit to go home, up 23.4 per cent on the same month in 2015, although down slightly year on year. The majority of delays were caused by the NHS, but the number attributed to social care services rose to 37 per cent from 30 per cent two years ago. The watchdog said that patients sometimes had to stay in hospital because non-emergency transport was not available to take them home.

Healthwatch warned that people felt they did not have access to the services and support they needed after being discharged. A patient who spoke to a Healthwatch branch in Berkshire said: “Discharged without support, with low blood pressure, very weak and unsteady on my feet, and diarrhoea.”

A patient in Richmond upon Thames, southwest London, said: “I was discharged in a dressing gown and had to get my own taxi home as transport was not available.”

Imelda Redmond, national director of Healthwatch England, said: “Getting people out of hospital and safely home is . . . an ongoing process that requires thought, planning and support before, during and after the moment someone is actually discharged. Things work best when all services work together.”

NHS England said: “This report provides further support for the intensive focus the NHS is giving to safe and speedy hospital discharge, and the related importance of local councils’ actions to ensure proper home care and care home places for frail older people.”

Source: Times, pay wall

Ind. East Devon Alliance Councillor Martin Shaw’s speech to DCC committee today

“Speech by County Councillor Martin Shaw (Independent East Devon Alliance, Seaton and Colyton), moving to send the issue back to Health Scrutiny, at Devon County Council, 5 October 2017:

“I represent a large division in East Devon. 2 years ago Seaton, Axminster and Honiton hospitals had in-patient beds, universally appreciated by patients & doctors, and supported by local communities. Today large parts of each hospital lie empty – nurses and other staff are dispersed – volunteers have been told they are no longer needed. We don’t even know whether the buildings will survive as centres of health services or be sold off.

This is the biggest crisis East Devon & Okehampton have faced in many years. Local communities have been united in their opposition; councillors of all parties have opposed the decisions.

After a biased consultation and flawed, unjust decisions, we looked to the Health Scrutiny Committee to hold NEW Devon CCG to account, and they have failed us. My proposal today is not a motion of NO confidence in any councillor or party. It is a motion to RESTORE confidence in this Council’s ability to represent Devon communities and stand up for their interests.

The tragedy is that Health Scrutiny started sensibly by asking the CCG 14 questions, in order to decide whether it should use its legal power to refer their decision. This proposal had cross-party backing, with the support of more Conservatives than members of any other party. A minority of the committee were, however, determined from the beginning to disregard public concern and voted not even to ask the questions.

The CCG replied to the questions but the Committee found their answers inadequate and wrote back detailing areas of concern. So far so good – a model of scrutiny. But things started to go wrong when the issue came to the new Health & Adult Care committee in June. The new Chair argued that members were insufficiently experienced to decide the issue and recommended delaying a decision until September 21st. It escaped no one’s notice that this was after the date given for permanent closure of the beds. It was seen as an attempt to prevent effective scrutiny.

Fortunately, the Committee agreed instead to a special meeting in July. For this meeting, the County Solicitor prepared a guidance paper outlining 6 issues outstanding with the CCG. Councillor Ian Hall, Councillor Mike Allen who is a Conservative District councillor, and others joined me in pressed the local communities’ case.

However the CCG gave a long powerpoint presentation which simply did not address most of the 6 issues, and before any debate could take place, Councillor Gilbert proposed there be no referral. In case anyone believed that he still wanted to scrutinise the issues, he made a point of emphasising that not referring would ‘save the committee a huge amount of work ’.

Councillor Diviani then told the committee that referral would be a waste of time, because ‘attempting to browbeat the Secretary of State to overturn his own policies is counter-intuitive’.

The Committee never discussed most of the remaining issues that the guidance paper had identified. By my reckoning, only 1 out of 6 was more or less satisfactorily addressed. Let me mention just one that wasn’t, the surprise decision to close Seaton’s beds, removing all provision from the Axe Valley. Neither the CCG nor any member gave any reason for believing this decision was justified – yet the committee voted for it anyway and the empty wards of Seaton hospital are the consequence.

There was no broad support for the anti-scrutiny motion: it was supported only by 7-6 ; 4 members abstained or were absent. The meeting was widely seen as an abdication of scrutiny. The Standards Committee says it ‘may not reflect well on the Council as a whole’. I would go further: it did not reflect well on this Council.

Since then, new evidence has shown that cutting beds to the bone brings great risks. The Head of the NHS, Simon Stevens, has called for more beds to be urgently made available this winter in face of a possible flu epidemic. Expert bodies like the Kings Fund, the College of Emergency Medicine and NHS Providers have backed the judgement that the NHS is cutting too far, too fast. These are new reasons to question the CCG’s plans.

This motion therefore proposes that

The Scrutiny Committee should look again at the issues which were not satisfactorily addressed.
The Council should tell the Secretary of State that the CCG’s decisions and the wider STP process have aroused great feeling in Devon, that people are not happy with either the decisions or the way they were made , and we are worried that we simply won’t have enough beds for the coming winter.
Finally, following a more constructive Health Scrutiny meeting on 21st September, this motion welcomes the Committee’s help in securing community hospital buildings.
Some of you may still wonder if Cllr Diviani was right, and all these proposals will be a waste of time. The answer to this is given in a recent letter from the Secretary’s own office: ‘As you may know,’ it says, ‘contested service changes can be referred to the Secretary of State, who then takes advice from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.’ So a referral is not something the minister deals with personally; it is a legally defined procedure.

The letter continues, ‘However, as you are aware, Devon’s Health Scrutiny Committee … passed a motion … in favour of not referring the CCG’s decision to the Secretary of State.’ Cllr Diviani suggested that referral was pointless because of the minister’s opinions: the minister’s office implies it WOULD be meaningful, if only Devon would take action.

I ask you to restore this Council’s reputation and take the action which it is within your power to take, even at this late date, to save our community hospital beds.”

May’s housing announcement “tinkering at the edges”

“Responding to the Prime Minister’s conference announcement on housing, Radical Housing Network said:

“May is pumping £10bn into a housing policy that worsens the housing crisis: Help to Buy has kept house prices high, provides subsidies to a small number of people, and does nothing to address the chronic shortage of low-cost housing.

“And her announcement of £2bn for affordable housing alongside permitting some councils to build more social rent homes is simply tinkering at the edges of a failed system. May’s announcement was proclaimed a ‘revolutionary’ shift in policy – but in fact would only provide homes for just 5% of the 1.2 million people who have languished on waiting lists for years.

“Over decades we have lost 1.5 million council homes while powerful property owners dominate the market. In London, millions of people are stuck in poor housing on extortionate rents while developers game the system, while only a fraction – 13% – of new houses announced last year met even the low standard for ‘affordability’ set by the Conservatives.”

“If May wants to prove she’s ‘listened and learned’ on housing, she needs to get serious about providing the safe, decent and affordable homes which we desperately need. It’s estimated that we need national public investment of £10bn to provide enough council homes to meet demand, and it’s essential that tenants and communities are involved in the planning of those homes.

“Corbyn’s commitment to put tenants back at the heart of housing policy could be the start of real change, yet change is yet to be seen from London’s Labour run councils – including Lewisham, Haringey and Holloway – who continue to sell off public land and housing for profit in flawed ‘regeneration’ schemes, despite community opposition.

“The tragedy at Grenfell starkly revealed what happens when residents’ concerns and voices are ignored. Grenfell should mark a turning point for all parties, who must commit to real action on our broken housing system.”

Radical Housing Network, Facebook page

Care Quality Commission considering transferring control of its Clinical Commissioning Group to Cornwall Council


“On the same day as the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust has been placed in special measures, the CQC has also highlighted problems with the wider health and social care system in Cornwall.

It said too many patients were stuck in hospital waiting for the support they needed to live at home, or be placed in residential care, and managers had lost sight of the needs of people using services.

Its review calls for “urgent and significant change to improve” to ensure people move through the system more effectively.

NHS England said it was considering transferring the management of the county’s Clinical Commissioning Group to the council. A director of adult social services and health integration could also be appointed.”

Another south-west hospital buckles under the strain

Which pushes the falling domino to Plymouth … which pushes it to Exeter … which pushes it to … us.

“The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust has been placed in special measures following a damning report from health watchdog the Care Quality Commission.

Inspectors visited the trust in July and raised concerns about patient safety in surgery, the maternity unit and the paediatric emergency department, as well as long delays in cardiology and ophthalmology.

Chief Inspector of Hospitals Professor Ted Baker said patients had been “let down” with some “placed at risk” and the people of Cornwall “deserved better”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Cornwall, the trust’s chief executive Kathy Byrne (pictured) apologised unreservedly for the trust’s failings.

She said patients should “not be worried” and the trust had taken action on all the areas of concerns raised by the CQC’s warning notice.”