G7 cops in covid isolation

A dozen Devon and Cornwall police officers are isolating after a coronavirus test taken by one of them proved positive.

Radio Exe News www.radioexe.co.uk

They’ve been in accommodation on a ship off the Cornwall coast whilst policing the G7 summit of world leaders at St Ives.

In a statement the force says: “As part of our testing regime, during the early hours of 11 June we have identified one officer who is currently supporting G7 policing and accommodated on the ferry has given a positive lateral flow test for covid.

“The officer, plus those who have come into close contact, are currently self-isolating at another designated location.

All who have come into close contact or are in the bubble of those who tested positive are also currently self-isolating which equates to 12 officers in total. The next stage is for those who have tested positive to undertake a PCR test.”

The force hasn’t said whether the officer who tested positive has been in contact with any of the delegates at the G7. Members of the royal family, including the queen, have also been in Cornwall on Friday to welcome the international leaders.

Devon objects to plans for moors

Begs the question as to whether the local management of designated landscapes is “safe in our hands”. Think Old Guard EDDC and the East Devon AONB, and how you manage consistent standards, expertise and funding.

Remember also who actually owns Dartmoor? – Owl

Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

Any proposals to remove local responsibility for Dartmoor and Exmoor will be strongly opposed in Devon, the leader of the county council has declared.

There has been considerable speculation that the government is planning to centralise the management of Britain’s national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty in a new National Landscape Service.

But Cllr John Hart, Devon County Council’s leader, has written to the secretary of state for environment, food and rural Affairs, George Eustace, and Devon’s MPs urging them to keep the management local.

Cllr Hart sent the letter on behalf of Team Devon, the organisation representing the county council as well as district, town and parish councils, saying he was alarmed and had grave concerns about the potential impact that this might have.

However, Devon County Council’s cabinet meeting has recommended to full council that while any merger of the functions of our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty would be strongly opposed, there remains a case for a National Landscape service bringing together and strengthening existing national support and protection.

Cllr Alan Connett, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, who had put forward his motion on saving the National Parks, said that doing so would be seen as a coded signal that Devon does support this and the admissions would undermine the efforts being made.

In the letter, Cllr Hart said: “All Devon’s local authorities were alarmed to read media reports referring to the consideration being given to the possible role and structure of a new National Landscape Service.

“We share grave concerns about the potential impact that this might have on the management of Devon’s unique series of nationally protected landscapes.

“The Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park Authorities, together with our five areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) are instrumental in conserving, enhancing and promoting Devon’s natural environment and the social and economic benefits that they provide.

“The localised management of each of those areas is critical to their success and we would strongly oppose any centralised merger of their functions.

“When the Government responds to the 2019 Landscapes Review, I hope that you can urge it to make a positive contribution to the ability of National Parks and AONBs to continue their important work and retain their autonomy.”

But he said that a National Landscape Service which brings together and strengthens existing national support for landscape conservation and the protection of the natural environment could be of great benefit and that it could also provide a strong national voice for all protected landscapes.

“Such increased national support, coupled with local autonomy in governance and operation, provides the most effective model to improve upon the fantastic work which is already led and managed in Devon,” Cllr Hart added.

Cllr Connett’s initial motion had called for Devon County Council to urge Government not to proceed with a National Landscape Service or to take any step which will remove local engagement and involvement in our precious national parks and Council instructs the Chief Executive to write urgently to the Prime Minister and local Members of Parliament serving Devon and Somerset setting out our support for our local National Parks.

But Cllr Hart’s recommendation from the cabinet was for the Council to note that they had already indicated to Government and local MPs that any merger of the functions of our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty would be strongly opposed, but there remains a case for a National Landscape service bringing together and strengthening existing national support and protection of our natural environment and providing a strong national voice for all protected landscapes.

Cllr James McInnes, deputy leader of the council and also a member of the Dartmoor National Park Authority, added: “We accept some form of National Landscape Service. There needs to be cohesion between national parks and how they speak to the government, and that’s why we have written the response we have, as we do think there is some way to make national parks cohesive on the national stage which at the moment they are not.”

But Cllr Connett pleaded with them to remove the second part of their recommendation, saying: “I understand the first part but am hugely disappointed by the second part. The admission the county thinks that may undermine the efforts to protect Dartmoor and Exmoor and undermines the responses that have been sent

“You should remove the sentence about the National Landscape Service as this shoots us in the foot in the stance to defend Dartmoor National Park. It will be seen as a coded signal that Devon does support this which I don’t think Devon does and I don’t. It will draw support away from National Park authorities and will be the thin end of the wedge.

“I can live with the first part, but I cannot with the second, and so if you don’t withdraw it, I will move an amendment at full council.”

A final decision on the response to the motion will be taken when Devon County Council’s full council meets on 22 July.

Property developers gave Tories £891,000 in first quarter of 2021

(And they still keep arguing that they can’t afford to build all the “affordables” required in planning permissions. – Owl)

Don’t forget the small, regular, donations from developers to MPs such as the Carter donations linked to Simon Jupp.

Aubrey Allegretti www.theguardian.com

Labour has accused the Conservative party of “selling out communities to pay back developers” after figures revealed that 13% of the Tories’ recent donations came from property tycoons and companies.

Labour’s analysis of declarations released by the Electoral Commission show the firms gave £891,984 to Tory central office and eight local associations – a sizeable chunk of the £6,418,295 the party reported receiving in the first three months of 2021.

It comes as the government prepares to launch sweeping changes to the planning system that Labour says will remove communities’ right to object to inappropriate individual developments in their area.

Ministers are aiming to centralise and accelerate the housebuilding process in England to help boost homeownership in areas across the north and Midlands, which have seen increased levels of Conservative support.

But opposition among Tory MPs has been well aired in advance of the planning bill being introduced to parliament, with the former prime minister Theresa May among the potential rebels who told the government to “think again”. Another backbencher, Bob Seely, said last month that the plan “threatens to give our opponents throughout England a rallying cry of ‘save local democracy from the Tories’”.

It has now been revealed that 36 donations from developers were made to the Conservatives in the first three months of this year.

Most sums were paid to Conservative central office, with the largest single donation made by Bloor Holdings Ltd, which gave £150,000 and has reportedly had an application to build 1,000 new homes at Sandleford Park in Berkshire “recovered” by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, meaning it will be ruled on in Whitehall.

Local associations that received money directly include Witney – the constituency of the junior transport minister Robert Courts – as well as Tatton, Suffolk West and Enfield Southgate. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by the donors or the party.

Labour’s Steve Reed, the shadow communities and local government secretary, said the new figures were “yet more evidence of the cosy relationship between the Conservative party and property developers, who for their investment will be allowed to concrete over communities at will”.

He said the planning bill would “reward developers by gagging residents so they have no say over plans to bulldoze local neighbourhoods” and added: “The Conservatives are paying back developers by selling out communities. Labour will fight this developers’ charter so that communities have right to a fair hearing in planning decisions.”

The Lib Dems have also sought to use the controversial planning changes as fodder for attacking the Conservatives in the Chesham and Amersham byelection on 17 June. The frontbencher Layla Moran recently said the bill would “create a developer’s free-for-all across the Chilterns” and mean builders could soon be “riding roughshod over the views of local people”.

A Conservative party spokesperson said: “Government policy is in no way influenced by the donations the party receives – they are entirely separate.

“Donations to the Conservative party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with the law. Fundraising is a legitimate part of the democratic process. The alternative is more taxpayer funding of political campaigning, which would mean less money for frontline services like schools, police and hospitals.”

The spokesperson added that “working with the housing industry is an essential part of getting new homes built and regenerating brownfield land”.

Fixing NHS waiting times could cost £40bn, leaked No 10 estimates show

Boris Johnson may have to spend up to £40bn to try to repair NHS waiting times and end the long delays being faced by patients, according to unpublished Downing Street estimates.

Denis Campbell www.theguardian.com

Calculations for No 10 drawn up by the Cabinet Office make clear that the prime minister may have to commit anywhere between £2bn and £10bn a year for up to four years, on top of core NHS funding, to tackle what is fast becoming a major political headache for the government.

The figures, disclosed by Whitehall sources, underline the huge scale of the challenge in getting NHS waiting times back to manageable levels before the next election.

The latest NHS England performance figures, out on Thursday, showed that the total number of people waiting for hospital treatment, especially surgery, had topped 5 million for the first time. It stood at 5,122,017 in April, the highest since records began in 2007.

However, despite negative publicity, Downing Street thinks it does not need to start throwing money at the problem soon because the public are not yet “distressed” about long delays, a source with knowledge of No 10’s thinking said.

The projections were put together by the Cabinet Office as part of its work looking at the scale of post-Covid support needed in health, education and justice. Some Tories are tipping Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, to succeed Matt Hancock as health and social care secretary.

The Treasury is reluctant to hand over large sums to tackle the deepening waiting list problem, sources say. NHS England plans to give Downing Street a detailed analysis soon of how long it will take to start providing care again within its existing set of targets, to help inform No 10’s thinking before the comprehensive spending review in the autumn.

The waiting list has soared by almost 425,000 people in just the past two months as people who either could not access non-Covid NHS care during the pandemic or were reluctant to do so belatedly saw their GP and were referred to hospital.

Hospitals in England managed to get back to providing 90% of pre-pandemic levels of non-urgent care in April. But they are hamstrung by personnel shortages, staff sickness linked to the strain of dealing with Covid and having fewer beds because of social distancing measures.

Of the 5.1 million, almost 400,000 people have had to wait more than a year for treatment for conditions including cancer and heart problems, hip and knee replacements and cataract removals. A small number – 2,722 – have already been waiting longer than two years. The NHS has not met its target of treating 92% of all patients on the waiting list within the supposed maximum 18 weeks since 2016.

Prof Anita Charlesworth, an NHS finances expert at the Health Foundation thinktank, said it had estimated that ministers would need to spend £6bn over three years to tackle the backlog. However, the sums needed will have gone up as a result of the second wave of Covid over the winter, which once again disrupted key services.

“The health service now has a mountain to climb. Reducing the backlog of long waits and getting the NHS into a position where waiting time standards are consistently met will need a major increase in funding,” Charlesworth said. But that would also need 5,000 extra beds, 4,100 more consultants and 17,100 additional nurses, she added, as the NHS was too under-resourced to ramp up the number of patients treated.

Richard Murray, the chief executive of the King’s Fund thinktank, said the NHS’s lack of scanners and operating theatres would severely limit its ability to increase activity.

Downing Street declined to comment on the leaked figures.

The Department of Health and Social Care said: “We’re backing the NHS with £1bn to tackle the waiting lists which have built up, providing up to 1m extra checks, scans and additional operations, and the NHS is providing £160m to trial innovative ways to accelerate elective recovery in key areas and enable more hospitals to go further, faster.

“That’s on top of an extra £7bn funding we’re giving health and care services this year.”

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of the hospitals group NHS Providers, said: “Trust leaders are deeply aware of how frustrating long waits for care are, and are doing all they can to prioritise those who need to be seen urgently.”

Ministers, NHS chiefs, medical groups and health charities are worried that lengthening waits for treatment could lead to patients’ health deteriorating and some even becoming untreatable.

The latest official figures show that there were a further 7,393 lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK by 9am on Thursday. Seven more people have died within 28 days of testing positive, bringing the UK total to 127,867.

Public Health England data shows that infections are now rising again in every area of England, especially in the north-west.

Danny Mortimer, the deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, warned that hospitals might once again have to shut down normal care if the rising number of Covid infections produced a third wave that put serious pressure on them. He urged Boris Johnson to be ready to delay the lifting of restrictions as planned on 21 June.

In one positive element in the latest figures, the number of people being forced to wait at least a year for planned, non-urgent treatment in hospital has fallen from 436,127 to 385,490.

“Despite the extensive disruption to care caused by the pandemic, it’s encouraging that today’s figures show routine operations, cancer and mental health care have now all rebounded sharply,” said Prof Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director.

“Average waits for non-urgent care have fallen to 11 weeks, and the number of people waiting over 52 weeks fell by more than 50,000 in April. Mental health services are back at pre-pandemic levels, and treatment rates for cancer are also now back to usual levels.”