Clinton Devon Estates accused of “criminal negligence” over death of farm worker at Newton Poppleford

“… Exeter Crown Court was told that the brakes on the John Western Suffolk trailer which he was towing failed completely, leading to him losing control of both vehicles, leaving them to career 16 feet down into a sunken lane.

The trailer, which contained grass cuttings and weighed a total of ten tons, landed on top of the cab of the tractor. Mr Dorman died of head injuries at the scene.

Clinton Devon Farms Partnership, (CDFP) of Hawkerland Road, Colaton Raleigh, and George Perrott, aged 51, of Colebrook, Crediton, are both accused of manslaughter and failing to ensure the safety of an employee.

Mr Simon Laws, QC, prosecuting, said Mr Dorman’s death was ‘completely unnecessary’ and was caused by the poor maintenance of the trailer and its brakes.

He added: “The prosecution case is Perrott was the man responsible for the maintenance of the brakes. He performed that task in a way that can only be described as criminally negligent.

“He was allowed to do his job in that grossly negligent way because his employers at CDFP had no proper system in place to monitor or supervise his work to ensure the trailer brakes were properly maintained.

“As a result, a man died a death that was completely unnecessary. Trailers pose a very well-known risk to farm workers and the maintenance task was a simple one.

“Perrott failed to carry it out properly and senior management at CDFP appeared to have no proper grip at all on what was happening on their farm with regard to their trailers. …”

https://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/kevin-dorman-tractor-crash-trial-1-5852076

“Spending watchdog urges ministry to address weaknesses in local authority governance”

“The National Audit Office has sounded the alarm about local authority governance and audit for the second time in a week.

In its latest report, Local Authority Governance, the spending watchdog said the government should improve its oversight of the local governance system in the face of increasing financial pressures on councils.

It said councils’ responses to these pressures had “tested local governance arrangements”, as some had pursued large-scale transformations or potentially risky commercial investments that added complexity to governance arrangements.

But spending to support governance fell by 34% in real terms between 2010-11 and 2017-18.

The NAO said external auditors issued qualified conclusions for around 20% of unitary and county councils, and “several authorities did not take appropriate steps to address these issues”.

A NAO survey of auditors found 27% did not agree that their authority’s audit committees provided sufficient assurance about governance arrangements.

Some councils had questioned the contribution of external audit to providing assurance on their governance arrangements, with 51% of chief finance officers wanting to see changes, including a greater focus on the value for money element of the audit.

The NAO said the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) did not systematically collect data on governance, and so it could not assess whether issues that arose were isolated incidents or symptomatic of failings in aspects of the system.

Ministry intervention at councils was not always made public “meaning its scale and effectiveness is not open to scrutiny or challenge”, the watchdog said.

The report’s recommendations include that the MHCLG should work with local authorities and stakeholders to assess the implications of, and possible responses to, the various governance issues it had Identified.

This would include examining the status of section 151 officers and the efficacy of their statutory reporting arrangements, the effectiveness of audit committees, the effectiveness of overview and scrutiny functions, and the sustainability and future role of internal audit. …”

http://www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php

“Persimmon expects higher profits as help-to-buy props up prices”

“… Persimmon is one of the main beneficiaries of the taxpayer-funded help-to-buy scheme, first launched by George Osborne in 2013. When the scheme was extended in 2017, a report by Morgan Stanley found that the £10bn of taxpayers’ cash had mainly benefited housebuilders, rather than buyers, by pushing up prices.

Persimmon said it was in an “excellent market position” ahead of the key spring selling season, despite “increased levels of uncertainty” due to Brexit. It had £1.39bn of forward sales reserved at the end of last year, up 3%. Rival Taylor Wimpey was also upbeat about its outlook last week.

Both housebuilders are more cautious when it comes to buying land. Persimmon said it was taking a “selective approach” and Taylor Wimpey revealed that it had walked away from or was trying to renegotiate 2,000 plot purchases – amounting to about 11% of the total land it bought last year. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/15/persimmon-profits-help-to-buy-prices

“Surge in outsourcing after Carillion collapse ‘staggering’, unions say”

“Trade unions have accused the government of failing to learn lessons from the collapse of Carillion, instead pumping even more money into outsourcing companies, a year on from the firm’s high-profile demise.

The lifetime value of outsourcing contracts awarded in 2017-18 “rocketed” by 53% from £62bn to £95bn in the past year, according to the GMB union, which pointed to nearly £2bn in contracts awarded to Capita and Interserve despite both issuing profit warnings.

The GMB said this showed a government “hell-bent” on privatisation, despite the warning signs given by the collapse of Carillion, which managed public sector contracts to provide services such as prison maintenance and school dinners.

The GMB national secretary, Rehana Azam, said: “What other explanation can there be for this huge increase on outsourced contracts in the year Carillion went bust and when other outsourcing giants look like they’re on life support?”

The GMB’s criticism comes on the first anniversary of Carillion’s failure, which has cost the taxpayer an estimated £150m and has caused major delays to two multi-million pound hospital construction projects in Liverpool and Birmingham.

Unite, Britain’s largest trade union, bemoaned a lack of action taken against former Carillion directors, who were accused by a committee of MPs of “recklessness, hubris and greed”, reiterating calls for a criminal investigation. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/15/surge-in-outsourcing-after-carillion-collapse-staggering-unions-say