“Alienated voters ‘don’t feel Brexit will help them retake control’ over decision making”

“The vast majority of British people feel they have little if any control over decisions that affect their lives and the future of the country, a new study has found.

Voters increasingly feel decision making has been taken out of their hands and is being wielded by a remote clique of politicians at national level, it found.

The report, by one of the country’s most senior civil servants, found growing anger over the fact that people do not feel they are being listened to and that their views are frequently ignored.

Lord Kerslake cited the Grenfell fire tragedy as a damning example of what can happen when politicians ignore the demands of people on the ground.

Lord Kerslake told The Telegraph: “We are one of the most over centralised countries in Europe and there is a growing gap between those who are governed and those who govern.

“The terrible tragedy of Grenfell Tower might possibly have been avoided if one of the richest boroughs in the country had listened more to its poorest residents.

“Power can no longer be viewed as belonging to decision-makers a the centre to be ‘given away’. We must find a radical new way to involve people from every community, every street and every home across the country in the decisions that affect them.”


“Crown representatives” are directors of other companies and Tory donors

“Labour has warned that the crown representatives who are supposed to police public sector suppliers such as the failed construction company Carillion face potential conflicts of interest, as its own research showed that several hold external directorships and one was a Tory donor.

A dossier produced by the party showed that the former admiral Sir Robert Walmsley, who is responsible to the taxpayer for monitoring the outsourcing multinational Serco, also sits on the board as senior independent director of two defence contractors, Ultra Electronics and Cohort plc.

Daniel Green, the crown representative for the energy sector, is a Conservative donor who has given £330,000 to the party and £15,000 to Theresa May’s successful leadership campaign in 2016. His profile on the LinkedIn network says he is the chief executive of a private equity firm, Liquid Business.

Jon Trickett, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said such relationships amounted to “an astonishing conflict of interest and yet other example of the chumocracy”. Some of the crown representatives, he added “turn out to be people who actually work for companies that have contracts with the government”.

The crown representative system was introduced under the coalition in 2011. They are supposed to work across government on a part-time basis to act as a focal point for key companies or groups of companies who supply the public sector. When a company is in trouble, or deemed high risk, a crown representative is supposed to work with that company to develop an improvement plan.

The system has come into acute focus after Carillion’s liquidation. Julie Scattergood, the crown representative responsible for Carillion, retired last summer and was not replaced until autumn – by then the company had delivered profit warnings in July and September.

Sean Collins, the crown representative for Vodafone and the telecoms infrastructure provider Arqiva, is a non-executive director at JT Group, providing telecoms expertise in the Channel Islands. William Priest, the representative for technology services companies IBM and DXC, is a non-executive director at Connexin, a wireless broadband company.

Carillion collapsed a week ago leaving 28,000 staff facing uncertain futures as the government and private sector companies scrambled to take on its contracts. It had a £900m deficit in its pension fund at the time of collapse and it is unclear if employee pensions can be paid out in full.

The chief secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss, said on Sunday that the government did not know how much the closure would cost the taxpayer. When Truss was asked on ITV’s Peston on Sunday if it would cost “hundreds of millions”, she said: “Well, it will be a significant amount of money, it’s been a serious issue.”

A government white paper designed to give regulators greater powers to block or place conditions on takeovers that are deemed to put pension schemes at risk is also being drawn up for publication in March.

The Cabinet Office did not respond to a request for comment.”


Next meeting of DCC Health Scrutiny meeting: SOHS suggests action

SOHS suggests the following action following receipt of a letter from Martin Shaw Independent East Devon Alliance Cllr for Seaton and Colyton.


Please email the councillors on the Devon Adult Care Scrutiny Committee insisting that they discuss this and vote to stop implementation due on 1 April.


“Devon’s two Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are pushing ahead with far-reaching, highly controversial changes to the NHS in the County from 1st April – without alerting the public or even the public watchdog, the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee at Devon County Council.

“The changes will turn the Sustainability and Transformation Plan – which itself grew out of the misnamed ‘Success Regime’ which closed our community hospital beds – into a more permanent Devon Accountable Care System. The first phase, in the first part of the financial year 2017-18, will develop integrated delivery systems, with a single ‘strategic commissioner’ for the whole county.

However the real concern is the next phase, which will lead to the establishment of Accountable Care Organisations. These will lead to services being permanently financially constrained, limiting NHS patients’ options for non-acute conditions, and pushing better-off patients even more towards private practice.

“Large chunks of our NHS will be contracted out for long periods, probably to private providers. The ‘toolkit’ for this fundamental change talks about ensuring ‘that there are alternative providers available in the event of provider failure’. In the aftermath of Carillion, do we really want most of our NHS contracted out to private firms?

“Devon’s public are not being consulted about this change – unlike in Cornwall where the Council has launched a public consultation – and there is no reason to believe that they want a privatised, two-tier health system.
“Devon’s CCGs have pushed the change through without publicity, and it is only because I have put it on the agenda that Health Scrutiny will have a chance to discuss in advance of April 1st. I have written a 7-page paper for the Committee outlining what we know about the ACS and posing eight questions which they should ask about it.”

Remember “the mixed economy”? Is “the left” the new centre?

A comment on an Observer article:

“When I was a lad we had a thing called the “mixed economy”. Remember that, the “mixed economy”? It was a litmus test of political reasonableness – if you didn’t believe in the mixed economy you were a Communist, if you did you were a socialist (or else you might just be a Tory).

Even Hugh Gaitskell and Harold Wilson and Anthony Crosland and Denis Healey believed in the mixed economy.

The mixed economy was a safety net. If there was important stuff that the market economy couldn’t deliver, the public sector would do it. If some things seemed too important to be exposed to the risk of market failure, there could be public provision. If neither of those things applied the market could have it.

The Labour Party’s new slogan “No-one left behind” sums it up beautifully for me. We can’t control what the global economy may throw at us, but we can at least agree to stick together and pool our resources.

What we urgently need to face up to is that there IS no mixed economy any more, it is all market-driven. The idea that the government somehow controls it all is fraudulent.

WE don’t build houses, the private sector does, occasionally. Local councils used to have Direct Labour Organisations that actually built houses, but not any more. WE don’t generate electricity any more – we have a system for bribing the private sector to do it. Our water supplies are all controlled from abroad. Our schools system is being franchised out. We taught the world how to build railways, but now we don’t own ours. Accidentally we had to take part of the railway network back into public control, and the results were embarrassingly good.

Of course there are still islands of “backwardness” – the National Health Service, especially the NHS in Wales and Scotland. The BBC, bits of the Post Office. But they are being “modernised” and “streamlined” and “reformed”, don’t you worry. What the Tories can’t loot directly, they disrupt and undermine and demoralise.

So much has been taken away from us. Or … we have GIVEN so much away. Which way you choose to see that is really important – are we powerless or not?

So we cannot afford to let the party and the country move any further to the right, because they already moved too far to the right. If we move to the left we will still probably be to the right of where we used to be. Many people still remember what things used to be like in this country and are receptive to that type of argument.

If we have to be called revolutionaries just because we want a mixed economy, then so be it.”


Top construction companies not accepting fixed-price PFI deals

The new NHS Accountable Care Organisations are relying on fixed-price PFI contracts for their savings.

“Bosses of top construction and outsourcing companies have warned ministers they will no longer accept fixed-price PFI deals after the collapse of Carillion.

The threat is a blow to the government’s £600bn infrastructure programme, which is already struggling to attract bidders. Last week the National Audit Office said there was little evidence that private finance initiative deals offered value for money for taxpayers.

Carillion plunged into insolvency last week with just £29m cash in the bank. Its threadbare finances were undone by failings on a string of PFI contracts, which left it unable to access hundreds of millions of pounds.

Balfour Beatty, Britain’s biggest construction company, has been moving away from fixed-price PFI contracts, which leave the winning bidders vulnerable to big losses if the projects encounter unexpected problems. The £2bn company is emerging from a disastrous spell of contract problems, which led to seven profit warnings.

Galliford Try — Carillion and Balfour Beatty’s partner on the Aberdeen bypass PFI contract — is also refusing to consider new fixed-price deals.

Rupert Soames, chief executive of the outsourcing giant Serco, said contractors would refuse to bid if too much risk were piled on them.

“Government would say, ‘You signed the bloody contract.’ But it’s not in anyone’s interest if you consistently get suppliers making huge losses. That’s no way to encourage a vibrant market. Both sides need to learn lessons from this,” said Soames, whose company’s government contracts include running prisons.

Balfour Beatty said in a report: “We need to move away from the position where fixed-price contracts, risk transfer, lowest-cost tendering and adversarial relationships are the norm.”

Carillion’s crisis was exposed in July when it admitted that contracts to build the bypass, Birmingham’s Midland Metropolitan Hospital and the Royal Liverpool Hospital were to blame for a large chunk of an £845m writedown. All three deals were public-private contracts, which left Carillion to foot the bill for cost overruns. There were unexpected problems in Aberdeen and Liverpool.

Despite this, the government wants contractors to bear all the risk on two huge PFI projects: a £1.6bn tunnel to bypass Stonehenge in Wiltshire and the £1bn Silvertown tunnel in east London.

Stephen Rawlinson of the analyst Applied Value, said: “The government has become more and more of a bully and transferred risk that the private sector cannot cope with.”

● Richard Adam, Carillion’s former finance chief, has quit the board of the warship designer BMT. Adam, 60, oversaw a huge expansion in debt at Carillion before his departure at the end of 2016. He joined BMT only eight months ago. He has recently left the boards of the developer Countryside, estate agent Countrywide and transport company First Group.”

Source: Sunday Times (pay wall)

“Hobson’s choice cut or cut?” says East Devon Alliance councillor Cathy Gardner

“East Devon’s MP wrote a column for the Sidmouth Herald (“View from Westminster”, 12 Jan 2018) saying that that as a District Councillor I “will be tested” by “funding pressures”. I am indeed very unhappy about the cuts made to all public services due to the “choice” made by this government to pursue austerity. We should consider why our representative in Parliament has always made the “choice” to vote with the government on austerity cuts while publicly speaking out against bed cuts in London (Brompton Hospital), not East Devon.”

[see here:
and here

All Councils have had their government funding drastically reduced. There is no sign that this funding will ever return, leaving our infrastructure to deteriorate. EDDCs controlling party made a “choice” not to increase council tax for five years and proudly crowed about it, thus reducing the amount available in the coffers to help fund services now.

EDDC are looking at ways to cut even more and I will be asking for essential services like free and unrestricted access to public toilets to be protected over things like art galleries. Don’t get me wrong, I would prefer not to cut anything at all, but public toilets are a public health matter and must be defended. Youth services should also be prioritised as money spent there tends to be saved elsewhere in the system. These are the “choices” that the District Council faces. We will see what the controlling Conservative group chose to prioritise when the budget is approved at the end of February.
Cllr Cathy Gardner, East Devon Alliance and ward member for Sidmouth town

Source: East Devon Alliance Facebook page posted today

“NHS funding boost only propping up services”

A report from the NAO has found that Government funding designed to “transform” the NHS has only managed to prop up struggling services, and may have worsened health service finances in the long run.

The watchdog criticised the Government for relying on short-term cash injections, which have been immediately allocated to meet soaring demand and pre-existing deficits.

An extra £1.8bn in sustainability and transformation funding in 2016-17 was supposed to allow for reforms to be implemented across the health service.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said the findings shows why the NHS needs a longer-term funding plan.

The Independent

Cranbrook problems continue

According to this month’s Cranbrook Herald:

People are up in arms about the estate rent charges, already extensively reported by Owl.

Town councillors say young people are consuming too many energy drinks and, as a result, are “off the wall” on caffeine.  They are pressurising the Co-op to put a lower age limit on purchase of the drinks.

Cranbrook will have its own district councillors in elections in May 2019 – three of them – perhaps they will be able to plead their case to EDDC..

Residents worry about the visual impact of extending Cranbrook to the south as well as to the north.


Is it ok for ex-Ministers to work for Chinese? They think so

“The Mail on Sunday leads with what it calls the “political storm” caused by the secret filming of three ex-Tory ministers by Channel Four’s Dispatches programme.

An undercover reporter posed as a representative of Chinese millionaires, offering to pay for advice from Andrew Lansley, Andrew Mitchell, and Peter Lilley about how to make money from Brexit.

All three have denied any wrongdoing, with Mr Lilley calling it “a tawdry attempt at entrapment.”

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, ex-chief whip Andrew Mitchell has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, saying he was the victim of “attempted entrapment” and is “totally innocent”, and that it is not against parliamentary rules for an MP to have a second job.”