“Councils STILL unable to access billions of pounds for new houses”

“A £2bn fund to build a new generation of council homes is yet to be released despite the UK’s shortage of social housing.

Theresa May promised five months ago that the state would address the crisis.

But Paul Dennett, elected Labour mayor of Salford, said councils still cannot apply for the money.

In a letter to Sajid Javid, secretary of state for housing, he wrote: “We are concerned and frustrated that… 

“We are still being advised by Homes England and partner registered providers [housing associations] that the guidelines for the allocation of grants to build homes for social rent have not been published, and that no date has been set for when this funding will be made available.” …

Councils are currently prevented from using the proceeds of social housing sales to build replacement homes.

Instead regulations have required private developers to build or fund so-called affordable housing with rents at 20 per cent below the market average. …

Mr Javid has yet to reply to Mr Dennett’s letter asking for details about the £2bn fund.

The Ministry of Housing said: “We are delivering the homes our country needs and since 2010 we have built over 357,000 new affordable properties.

“But we are determined to do more and we are investing a further £9bn, including £2bn to help councils and housing associations build homes for social rent.” …


“Eight out of 10 academies in deficit, say accountants”

Academy budgets are in an even worse state than those of council-run schools with eight out of 10 in deficit, suggest figures from their accountants.

Two more years like this and the entire sector could face insolvency, says a report from the Kreston UK accountancy network which looked at 450 schools.
It follows data published on Friday which showed over a quarter of council-run secondary schools were in deficit.

The government disputes the findings of both reports.

The 450 schools analysed in the Kreston UK report are all audited by accountancy firms in the network and are a representative sample of academies in England, say the authors.

The figures, for the year ending 31 August 2017, show that of these academies:

55% were in deficit before the effect of depreciation of assets like buildings, equipment and furniture was taken into account

this rose to 80% when the accounts were adjusted to include depreciation.
The report, co-authored by accountants Duncan & Toplis, calls for more money to be put into schools to avoid staff cuts.

Staff make up 72% of costs in these academies, say the authors.

“This means that schools will have little choice other than to cut teacher numbers to reduce financial losses in future.”

The report warns that cutting staff numbers and finding enough money for redundancy payments could accelerate some schools towards insolvency.
Nick Cudmore, report author and director at Duncan & Toplis, said school senior management teams already faced tough decisions.

“Schools are doing everything they can to save as much money as possible; cutting back on staff, replacing experienced teachers with less qualified people and going cap-in-hand to parents, but it still isn’t enough to avoid overspending.”

He said the academies in the report were also delaying repairs and putting off replacing obsolete technology, which he warned could be more expensive in the long run.

“The whole sector will be on the verge of insolvency if they have just two more years like this one.

“Accountants can work with governors to help them save every last penny possibly, but without significant increases in public funding, this could become a full-blown crisis,” he said.

On Friday, research by independent think tank the Educational Policy Institute found the number of council-run secondary schools falling into deficit had trebled to 26.1% in the four years to 2017.”


Devon County Council: the place democracy goes to die

Facebook post by DCC Lib Dem Councillor Brian Greenslade

Late last year we started to learn about plans by the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and NHS England to introduce by the 1st April Accountable Care Organisations to replace CCG’s in the Health Service. These organisations would provide health and social care services. Bringing these services together makes sense but democratic oversight appeared to be an after thought. ACO’s seemed to be based on similar type Organisations in the US.

What was clear was that little or no public scrutiny of these proposals had happened. Congratulations to Sarah Wollaston MP Chairman of the Health Select Committee who then intervened to stall this initiative to allow the Parliamentary Health Select Committee chance to scrutinise the proposals. The same was true at Devon County Hall where nothing about this was brought to the attention of members of the Health Scrutiny Committee.

Opposition to ACO’s started to brew up so then suddenly the Government and NHS England started to talk about integrated care systems instead which apparently are different. How different is not clear and I am concerned that this could be a back door attempt to introduce ACO’s.

Yesterday at the DCC Cabinet a report by the Chief Executive about Integrated Care Systems was considered. It failed to answer key questions but it was clear that changes from April were on the way.

My Lib Dem colleagues and I hotly contested the recommendations and called for time to have this report sent to Scrutiny first. This was voted down by the Tory majority.

We reacted to this by calling in the Executive decision for scrutiny. This as the effect of delaying any decision on this being made until 11th April at the earliest to consider representations by Scrutiny.

Amazingly the Tories are rushing scrutiny through by making it an urgent item for the Health Scrutiny meeting on the 22nd of March giving little time for consideration of this critical issue for the health of the people of Devon.

Democratic standards that the Lib Dem’s stand for mean little to Devon’s ruling Tories!”