What’s happening with the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan?

“… It is now intended to consult on site options and policies in the summer with a consultation on a draft GESP towards the end of the year and a revised timescale has now been agreed with Strategic Planning Committee. “

https://democracy.eastdevon.gov.uk//documents/s6183/180719%20item%2010%20Appendix%20B%20Service%20Objectives%20Q4%2018-19.pdf

Make of that what you will!

Grant Thornton – EDDC’s auditors – get more flack

Owl says: Good job we have internal auditors and an Audit and Governance Committee and a Scrutiny Committee …

“What is most perturbing is that the auditor being relied upon by investors [in Sports Direct – whose shares have tumbled] to navigate their way through the accounting miasma is Grant Thornton. It is jolly good that Grant Thornton is a challenger to the big four, but investors might feel more comfortable if the track record were more stellar.

Among its stunning successes were the audit of Patisserie Valerie, where tens of millions of pounds vanished, and Neil Woodford’s gated Equity Income fund.

Small wonder Grant Thornton has been put under special measures to raise audit quality by the enforcer, the Financial Reporting Council. Given the known unknowns, the 9 per cent drop in Sports Direct looks too kind. …”

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/comment/article-7249985/ALEX-BRUMMER-Chaos-Mike-Ashleys-empire-transpires-no-master-plan-place.html

Extreme poverty becoming more common

Extreme poverty – where families are routinely unable to afford regular meals, wash clothes or provide their children with basic items such as beds and sheets – is becoming more common, according to frontline family support workers.

Three-quarters of support professionals such as health visitors and social workers said they had seen an increase in the numbers of families they regularly worked with who experienced destitution and were in need of basic financial support.

Despite more families facing greater difficulties, official support was harder to come by, the survey found. “The only substantive increase in support over the last year was the increase in the number of families support workers have seen using food banks,” it read.

The survey of 1,290 frontline family support workers from 616 organisations across the UK was published by the poverty grants charity Buttle UK. It said it was undertaken to provide a “thermometer reading” of the lives of some the UK’s most vulnerable families.

It comes amid rising concern that alongside headline increases in relative poverty in recent years – more than 4 million children in the UK live below the breadline – a cohort of the very poorest families is experiencing the extreme and intractable form of poverty known as destitution.

Destitution is defined as experience of at least two of six measures over the previous month, including eating fewer than two meals a day for two or more days; or as a weekly income after housing costs of £70 for a single adult or £140 for a couple with children – an amount below which people “cannot meet their core material needs for basic physiological functioning from their own resources”.

Last week, the MPs Frank Field and Heidi Allen warned that austerity cuts meant that the poorest communities were now “blighted by the constant spectre of destitution”. An estimated 1.5 million people in the UK, including 350,00 children, experienced destitution in 2017. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/15/destitution-on-the-rise-say-frontline-family-support-workers?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

“Head of Ofsted calls for greater scrutiny of multi-academy trusts”

Owl says: there are many multi-academy trusts in Devon – unaccountable and unscrutinised by both parents and local authority and nothing either can do about it. Scandalous.

“The chief inspector of schools has called for increased powers to scrutinise multi-academy trusts (Mats), warning that parents and policymakers currently have only a partial view of what is happening in England’s schools.

Amanda Spielman, the head of the schools regulator Ofsted, said trusts were not being held to account properly as her inspectors were not allowed to inspect them.

Ofsted’s inspections are limited to a “summary evaluation” based on a sample of schools belonging to a trust, rather than on the trust itself, resulting in a lack of accountability, according to Spielman.

A growing number of schools in England are being taken out of local authority control and turned into academies, which critics have long claimed lack transparency and local accountability.

About three-quarters of secondary schools and a third of primaries are now academies and three-quarters of those belong to a Mat, some of which control as many as 50 schools or more. “Given the power and influence of Mats, it’s important that they are properly accountable to parents,” said Spielman.

“The fact that Ofsted is unable to inspect trusts directly means parents and policymakers are only given a partial view of what is happening in our schools. This presents some very real risks, which we have seen highlighted by the recent failures of some academy trusts.”

The system of summary evaluations of Mats was introduced this year and allows Ofsted to carry out inspections of a number of schools and publish individual reports. Overall findings are discussed with trust leaders before a summary evaluation report on the work of the Mat is published, though an inspection grade, which would be normal with schools, is not given.

Six Mats have been the subject of summary evaluations, among them the Outwood Grange academies trust, which has in the past been criticised for its discipline policy and high levels of exclusions. Ofsted’s report was positive overall but recommended that the trust should reduce exclusions by continuing to improve pupil behaviour.

Ofted published a report on Monday based on an investigation into Mats, which found that schools in larger trusts benefited from economies of scale, back-office support, training, career progression and recruitment. However, it said some Mats had taken on a large number of struggling schools too quickly, without always having the capacity or leadership necessary to improve them.

A Department for Education spokesperson said the academies programme and the freedom it gave school leaders has been at the heart of the government’s education reforms. “Ofsted have already published a number of summary evaluations reports, which are among a wide range of tools we use to hold academy trusts to account. This includes published information about trust performance, annual accounts and letters to trusts where there are issues of under-performance or weaknesses in governance or financial management.”

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/jul/15/head-of-ofsted-calls-for-greater-scrutiny-of-multi-academy-trusts?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

“New PM given stark warning over future of local councils”

“The next prime minister has just 100 days to “save” local government, a think-tank has warned.

In their first 100 days, the new leader must provide a one-year emergency settlement for local government, drop the council tax referendum requirement and come up with a strategy for health and social care funding.

These are the recommendations from the Local Government Information Unit think-tank, whose Local Finance Taskforce paper was published today. The report is based on evidence taken from 254 senior figures in local government.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of LGiU, said: “The next prime minister will have 100 days to save local government when he is elected on 23 July.

“At the moment, councils have no idea how they will be funded this time next year. They face a financial cliff edge on 31 March 2020 and currently have no ability to budget or plan their services for the year ahead.

“Some may soon be forced to take very difficult decisions, based on their worst-case scenario budget estimates – making redundancies, stripping down services, selling valued public assets – that may turn out to be completely unnecessary.”

LGiU noted, from its previous research, that one in 20 councils fear it will be unable to fulfil statutory duties this year, while one in 10 expects to face legal challenges due to service cuts.

The think-tank called on the next prime minister to set out a plan for local government finance that considers overall quantum, uncertainty and risk, adult social care, business rates, council tax and other sources of funding.

On business rates, LGiU noted that despite a commitment to moving to 75% business rates retention by 2020, there is still little detail on how this will be redistributed, and called for a strategy to published “as a matter of urgency”.

The council tax referendum threshold – whereby councils must hold a local referendum on decisions to increase council tax beyond 3% – is “outdated and ripe for removal” the report said.

“Local government deserves better and local government deserves more,” Carr-West concluded.”

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2019/07/new-pm-given-stark-warning-over-future-local-councils

Swire hobnobs with Cayman Islands Chief Investment Officer in Cayman Islands this week

“Albert Isola, the Government of Gibraltar’s Minister for Commerce, recently led the Gibraltar delegation to the United Kingdom and Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA) Summit in Grand Cayman. This provided Mr Isola an excellent opportunity to address leaders and senior representatives of the Overseas Territories.

During the visit Minister Isola fulfilled two public speaking engagements. On the opening day he was invited to contribute to a panel discussion moderated by Alan Gemmell and with panellists Rt. Hon. Sir Hugo Swire, MP, Cayman Island Chief Officer, Eric Bush, JP, and Premier, the Hon Sharlene Cartwright Robinson, JP. The session, entitled: “Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council” (CWEIC), discussed the commercial opportunities available within the Overseas Territories for growth and expansion in a Commonwealth context. …

Gibraltar’s Fintech credentials showcased at UKOTA Summit

Grant Thornton (EDDC’s auditors) delay Sports Direct results

Owl says: not the first of the big auditors to get caught up in new, tighter regulation and certainly not the last.

“Retail tycoon Mike Ashley spooked investors on Monday after bosses at his tracksuits and trainers empire Sports Direct were forced to delay publication of its full-year results.

The acquisitive group’s highly-anticipated results were due to be published on Thursday but now the City may need to wait until August 23rd to glimpse beneath the bonnet of the firm.

Fearing the worst, investors fled. Shares slid 15 per cent in early trading on Monday to £2.20 – near to a seven-year low and well below the firm’s 2007 flotation price of £3.00. …

It said that its auditors at Grant Thornton need more time to sign off the accounts due to increased regulation and also pointed to ‘uncertainty’ around the future trading performance of House of Fraser, which it bought in a pre-pack administration for £90million last summer.

‘The reasons for the delay are the complexities of the integration into the company of the House of Fraser business, and the current uncertainty as to the future trading performance of this business, together with the increased regulatory scrutiny of auditors and audits,’ the group said. …”

https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-7248053/Sports-Direct-shares-slump-billionaire-retail-tycoon-Mike-Ashley-delays-results.html