Torbay GPs may hace scuppered merger of Devon Clinical Commissioning Groups

“The Breeze can reveal GPs in South Devon have voted against plans to merge the area’s CCG with the rest of Devon.

Bosses from the clinical commissioning group made the revelation at a Torbay Council meeting last night.

Apparently, unless a majority of GPs back the idea they can’t do it.

GPs in the area are now being asked to explain their reasons as bosses look to save the merger plans.

To date the two CCGs have saved £4 million by working closely together. [Owl: yeah, right – pinch of salt or whole salt cellar needed here …!]

Torquay councillor Swithin Long, who asked questions at the meeting, said: “At the Overview and Scrutiny Board last night the CCG advised that they were proceeding with the merger – however there is a fly in the ointment.

“In September a poll of GPs was done across the whole of Devon.

“In the rest of Devon (excluding South Devon and Torbay) 59 voted for the merger, 13 against and 3 abstentions.

“In South Devon and Torbay 12 GP practices voted in favour, 14 against and 2 abstentions (so 50% not in favour).

“The meeting was advised that the merger cannot go ahead without the majority of GPs in Torbay and South Devon voting in favour.

“Discussions will be proceeding with the GPs in Torbay and South Devon to see what their concerns are and the CCG will be coming back to Overview and Scrutiny at a date to be confirmed.”

A spokesperson for Devon’s clinical commissioning groups said: “Over the next two months we’re taking the time to meet up with local GP practices in South Devon and Torbay to listen to their views.

“The feedback we receive will help us shape what is the right thing to do next.

“In parallel we’re simply keeping the door open to the possibility of merger by working with NHS England on the next steps.”

For more about the meeting click here:

Yet another “free school” scandal

“University technical colleges – part of the free schools changes pushed through by Michael Gove – have been described as ineffective and unpopular by a report that found more than half their students dropped out.

Of those who remained at UTCs, many made poor progress, with even previously high-achieving students performing less well in their exams, according to the Education Policy Institute.

About 60 UTCs have opened since 2011, after being championed by the Conservative Lord Baker and the then prime minister, David Cameron, enrolling students aged 14 to 18 and designed to encourage the study of science, technology and engineering.

But despite official encouragement and lavish funding, they have failed to generate enthusiasm among parents, and 10 have subsequently closed or converted into conventional schools.

David Laws, the EPI’s executive chairman, said after spending “hundreds of millions of pounds” on UTCs, the Department for Education (DfE) should halt any further expansion until their effectiveness has been reviewed.

Baker, a former education secretary who chairs the Baker Dearing Trust, which promotes UTCs, accused EPI researchers of ignoring evidence.

“EPI start with their conclusion that a 14-18 institution cannot fit into an 11-18 system and then use statistics to support that,” he said.

“It is a pity that they did not take up Baker Dearing’s offer to visit several of our 50 UTCs and speak to teachers, students and parents.”

The EPI found many UTCs struggled to recruit students, and failed to retain the majority of those who did enrol. More than half of all UTC students left between the ages of 16 and 17 after taking GCSEs, while more continued to quit before finishing key stage five at the age of 18.

One in five UTCs were rated as inadequate by Ofsted inspectors, the EPI found, while a further 40% were rated as requiring improvement – well above the national average for mainstream schools in England.

Julian Gravatt, the deputy chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said the report showed UTCs “are an experiment that hasn’t worked”.

“Given the high level of support given to them by the DfE and the capital funding allocated by the Treasury, this is obviously depressing,” he said.

The analysis also found UTC students’ GCSE results were almost a grade lower than their peers at secondary schools. “Significantly, this poor progress is particularly acute for high attainers, who make over a grade’s less progress than high attainers in all state-funded schools,” the EPI noted.

The National Education Union said the report backed up its research, which found Black Country university technical college in Walsall cost more than £11m between its opening in 2011 and closure in 2015, with 158 students enrolled out of a planned 480.

Another UTC in Burnley cost £10m but closed three years after opening in 2013, with 113 students enrolled despite plans for 800.

The EPI did note several benefits from UTCs, including that they offer a wider range of technical subjects such as computer science than other schools.

The report concluded that existing UTCs should be repurposed as 16-18 colleges offering post-GCSE technical qualifications, such as the government’s promised T-levels.

But Gravatt said such a change needed careful consideration. “The 16-to-18 sector of education is already a chaotic and underfunded market,” he said.

A DfE spokesperson said UTCs were an important part of England’s diverse education system.

“Our most recent data shows that when young people leave a UTC, they are headed in the right direction – with twice as many key stage four students beginning an apprenticeship compared to the national average,” they said.”

“Judge who jailed fracking protesters with ‘excessive’ sentence has family links to oil and gas firm”

“A judge criticised for handing prison sentences to three fracking protesters has family links to the oil and gas industry.

Judge Robert Altham jailed Simon Blevins, 26, Richard Roberts, 36, and Richard Loizou, 31, over their demonstration at a Cuadrilla site.

The trio, known as the “Fracking Three”, are believed to be the first environmental activists to be imprisoned for public nuisance since 1932.

Critics have claimed the punishment was “manifestly excessive”. Now the Daily Mirror can reveal the Altham family business supplies the Irish Sea oil and gas industry.

J.C. Altham and Sons is believed to be part of the supply chain for energy giant Centrica, which has invested tens of millions of pounds in fracking.

Judge Altham’s sister, Jane Watson, put her name to an open letter in favour of fracking, which said, “It’s time to give shale a chance” and claimed it would create jobs.

The judicial code of conduct states a judge’s impartiality may be questioned if family members are “politically active” or have “financial interest” in the outcome of a case.

Lawyers for the protesters are trying to overturn their sentences. Loizou’s mum Sharron, 62, told the Mirror: “I was completely shocked when he was jailed, the sentence is incredibly harsh. We were expecting community service or a suspended sentence.

“It’s quite scary that in this country you can be jailed for a peaceful protest.” …

Soil scientist Blevins and piano restorer Roberts were given 16-month jail terms while teacher Loizou got 15 months last month.

Sentencing at Preston crown court, Judge Altham said: “Only immediate custody can achieve sufficient punishment.”

The judge’s parents John and Linda, 86 and 84, are ­directors of J.C. Altham & Sons.

His sister Jane, 54, is managing director of the firm, which supplies ships’ stores, including food, tools, rigging equipment and clothes. The firm’s website says it is a “specialist supplier to offshore gas and oil platforms”.

Three oil rigs in the East Irish Sea – near Altham’s base at Heysham, Lancs – belong to British Gas owner Centrica, which has ploughed tens of millions of pounds into fracking firm Cuadrilla.

In 2015 Jane’s name and that of her firm appeared on an open letter backed by 119 businesses.

It urged Lancashire County Council to permit fracking and create a “£33billion supply chain”.

The campaign was led by North West Energy Task Force, which allegedly received financial support from Cuadrilla and Centrica. The NWETF was later rebranded as lobbying group ­Lancashire For Shale.

LFS has praised Judge Altham’s decision saying: “Justice was served effectively.”

But more than 200 academics signed an open letter calling for a judicial review of the “absurdly harsh” sentence. About 200 supporters of the trio marched outside HMP Preston, where they are being held, at the weekend. The trio’s lawyers have approached the Court of Appeal and asked for an expedited hearing.

It means they could be freed within weeks if Judge Altham’s sentencing decision is ruled unsafe. Kirsty Brimelow QC, of Doughty Street Chambers, has taken their cases pro-bono. She said: “These men should not be in prison at all, the sentence is manifestly excessive.”

Judges are expected to tell defence and ­prosecution lawyers if they feel their impartiality in a case may be called into question.

A spokesman for the Judges’ Council said: “There are longstanding principles, set out in case law, which guide how judges approach possible conflicts of interest. They ensure that when hearing a case, a judge will be mindful of possible conflicts of interest and can draw relevant matters to the attention of parties in the case.”

Judge Altham did not wish to add anything to the Judges’ Council’s statement.

Sister Jane, a former police officer whose husband Stephen is the Chief Constable of South ­Yorkshire Police, declined to comment today. …”

“Universal Credit: 580,000 People Risk Losing Benefit Payments In Next Roll Out Of Reforms”

Many of these people are working and it includes children. At its current pace, around 1% of the population will be classed as destitute.

And we are told austerity is over. For whom?

“As many as 580,000 people could lose out on benefits payments in the changeover to Universal Credit, leaving vulnerable and hard-up families in crisis.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is currently rolling out the government’s flagship benefits reform programme and is due to move 2 million more claimants onto Universal Credit next year.

But the latest data shows that a “worryingly high” rate of claims are not being successfully processed onto the new system, HuffPost UK can reveal, with 29% closed or not paid.

If the current claim failure rates were replicated in the next stage of Universal Credit roll-out then 580,000 people who are currently receiving benefits, including many low income families who are in work and receiving income support, would lose out on payments.

The figures have led to urgent demands for the government to halt Universal Credit, which has been besieged by criticism from both the Labour Party and disability and welfare charities. …”