Teignmouth Hospital closure plans to be reviewed

Devon has lost 493 community hospital beds since 2010, two-thirds of the total, and more than one in 10 of all hospital beds. In the same period, the population of Devon has risen and the number of elderly is up by almost a quarter.

Edward Oldfield www.devonlive.com 

The Health Secretary has asked a team of independent experts to review plans to close Teignmouth Hospital, the first built for the NHS after it was founded 73 years ago.

The move was welcomed by Teignmouth‘s MP Anne-Marie Morris, who has been arguing to keep the hospital open since doubts were first raised about its future in 2014.

She described the new review ordered by Secretary of State for Health Sajid Javid as “a fantastic step in the right direction” for local healthcare.

It is unlikely that the study will see the closure plans scrapped, but it could force Devon NHS to re-run consultation over its plans for a shake-up of services in south Devon.

That will give opponents another chance to argue the case to keep rehabilitation beds in the town.

Campaigners have been fighting the changes, which would see beds closed and services moved from the ageing buildings in Mill Lane to Dawlish Hospital, and a new £8million health centre in the town centre.

Campaigners say planners for the clinical commissioning group, which runs the NHS in Devon, have failed to prove the benefits of the move to rely on home care in the community.

They have called for a fundamental review of the policy shift across the NHS to move services out of community hospitals.

They say Devon has lost 493 community hospital beds since 2010, two-thirds of the total, and more than one in 10 of all hospital beds. In the same period, the population of Devon has risen and the number of elderly is up by almost a quarter.

Conservative MP Ms Morris – whose Newton Abbot constituency covers Teignmouth – said the review was a “vindication for those who have quite rightly raised concerns about the way in which the decision to close Teignmouth Hospital was reached”.

She said that if the review finds the changes are not in the best interests of the population, the panel is likely to ask for the consultation to be re-run, rather than halt the whole process.

The MP added: “However, this would therefore be an opportunity to reaffirm strongly the case for both keeping Teignmouth Hospital open and holding the CCG to account, ensuring they actually take into account and reassess the full health needs of the local community, especially post-Covid.”

She said if the consultation is re-run, the CCG should take into account the impact of Covid, review plans for home-based care, and run a separate consultation on the hospital closure.

Ms Morris said: “The reality is that whilst home-based care can often be most beneficial, it can also be unachievable due to both the healthcare needs of an individual and a limit on resources. Having rehabilitation beds at Teignmouth made sense for the community.”

The Devon group Save Our Hospital Services said in December, when the issue was first discussed at the county council’s health scrutiny committee: “County-wide as well as local campaigners are appalled by the way the public’s voice and all the evidence contrary to the CCG’s assertions has been completely ignored. Even worse, all this is planned to happen in the middle of the worst health crisis in the world for 100 years, when hospital beds for recuperation are desperately needed.”

A petition set up a year ago on Change.org under the title ‘Hands Off Teignmouth Hospital’, has been supported by more than 1,000 people.

It says: “The Hospital has been under threat of closure for three years. Local people have fought desperately to keep it. We need the in-patient beds, the health care services in the heart of town, and the facilities we have paid for through our fund-raising.

“During the pandemic, community hospitals have been used to help patients recover from the virus. But instead of bringing our hospital beds back into service, our local Clinical Commissioning Group is pushing ahead with its closure plans.

“The community deserves a new GP surgery. But we also need our hospital, owned and run by the NHS.”

The CCG has agreed proposals which would see community clinics moved to a new health and wellbeing centre, and specialist outpatient clinics and day case procedures move to Dawlish Hospital. It reversed a decision to establish 12 rehabilitation beds at the community hospital.

In March, the county council’s health committee reconsidered the plans and decided they were unhappy with the lack of consultation over the future of the site, which is controlled by the Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust.

The councillors asked the then Health Secretary Matt Hancock for a review.

Now, his successor Mr Javid has asked the Independent Reconfiguration Panel to assess the proposals.

Mr Javid told the county council he wants a report back by the middle of December.

Under the current plans, with no services left to be commissioned out of the existing hospital site, it would then be up to the Torbay and South Devon trust to determine its future.

A sale to reinvest finance in local NHS services is expected to be the most likely outcome.

A spokesperson for NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We’re aware of the referral to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP). We look forward to working with the IRP as they gather the information they need to make their recommendation to the Secretary of State.”

Boris Johnson had to be told three times to put mask on during hospital visit

Rules are only for the “little” people – Owl

www.dailyrecord.co.uk

Boris Johnson had to be told three times before he finally followed rules and kept his face mask on for a hospital visit.

He was accused of “callous disregard” for the NHS after wandering around without one.

Susie Flintham of Covid-19 Families for Justice said: “ The PM was putting lives at risk completely unnecessarily by visiting a hospital and refusing to put his mask on, despite being repeatedly asked to.

“For him to make a point of posing for a photo without a mask is a slap in the face to bereaved families.”

Sources confirmed Hexham General Hospital chiefs emailed Johnson’s team before his visit to tell him masks must be worn in all areas.

They reminded him when he arrived, but he later took his off as he strolled along a corridor, sparking fury.

He was asked to put it back on again and complied. No10 had claimed he followed rules on face coverings.

But the hospital trust’s website says: “You must ensure that you wear your covering or mask throughout your visit.”

It added that the rules apply to everyone and all parts of the premises.

Ian Lavery, MP for the Wansbeck constituency in Northumberland, said: “People were astonished that the Prime Minister was bowling up the corridor of a hospital without a mask.

“This shows a callous disregard for patients, visitors and the fantastic workforce, who have been at the frontline throughout the pandemic.”

Hospital insiders had also claimed No10 had asked them not to comment to the press after the photograph of the Prime Minister not wearing a covering emerged.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said it “apologised for any upset” after complaints from members of the public about the picture of maskless Johnson.

It added: “After the Prime Minister left a welcome meeting, he walked along a mezzanine corridor, for a very short period of time, without a mask.

“This brief moment was captured on camera. As soon as this was identified he was given a mask and he put it on. The Prime Minister did wear a mask for the majority of the visit.”

17 MPs claim £1.3m in rent from taxpayer – while letting their own homes

“Tory grandee Malcolm Rifkind issued a warning to the prime minister that he is in danger of becoming “a liability” to his party…

Five ministers in Boris Johnson’s government are among a group of MPs who have claimed more than £1m from the taxpayer to cover their rent payments, while letting properties that they own in London.

www.independent.co.uk

Some 17 landlord MPs – 15 Conservatives and two Labour – have put their housing costs on expenses while earning more than £10,000 a year each renting out their own properties in recent years.

Former attorney general Sir Geoffrey Cox sparked outrage after it emerged that he was claiming £1,900 a month for his taxpayer-funded flat while claiming a rental income from a home elsewhere in London.

An investigation by The Independent shows five current ministers have also claimed for rent while letting out homes in the capital, including international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, defence secretary Ben Wallace, Foreign Office minister James Cleverly, prisons minister Victoria Atkins and junior Treasury minister John Glen.

It comes as Mr Johnson’s government faces growing pressure over a deluge of “sleaze” claims after last week’s botched attempt to rip up the disciplinary process and save ex-Tory MP Owen Paterson from suspension.

Tory grandee Malcolm Rifkind issued a warning to the prime minister that he is in danger of becoming “a liability” to his party and of being toppled by his own MPs if he fails to act on growing concerns about conduct rules and second jobs.

Sir Alistair Graham, the former chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said the latest findings on second homes by The Independent were “shocking”. He called for an end to the “loophole” which allowed property-owning MPs to put their own rent on expenses and stay within the rules.

The standards veteran said: “It may be within the rules, but it’s quite wrong for MPs to use the public purse in this way. MPs have a duty to claim only public funds that are necessary.”

Sir Alistair added: “If there’s an opportunity to end the loophole allowing them to do this, then we must take it. There is growing feeling that the rules must change.”

Over the past five years, 17 MPs have claimed over £1.3m in taxpayer-funded rent while collecting thousands rent letting out properties in the capital, according to submissions published by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).

Ms Trevelyan, the trade secretary, has claimed £106,000 in expenses for her own rental payments since April 2016. She also claims a rental income on a London flat she registered after she entered parliament in 2015.

Mr Wallace, the defence secretary, claimed more than £110,000 in taxpayer-funded rent between April 2016 and July 2020 – a period in which he was also collecting rent on a property in London.

Mr Cleverly has claimed more than £71,000 in expenses for his own rental payments since April 2016. The former Tory party chair charges the taxpayer £1,200 a month for the flat he lives in, while also receiving an income from a jointly-owned residential property in London.

It is understood that junior Home Office minister Ms Atkins’ claim for more than £43,000 in rent since April 2018 relates to her constituency home in Lincolnshire. Since April 2018 she has also been collecting rent on a house in London.

Other Tory MPs to have claimed for rental costs while letting residential property in London include former trade minister Dr Liam Fox, former media minister John Whittingdale, Philip Davies, Robert Goodwill, Laurence Robertson, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Anne Marie Morris and Greg Knight.

Conservative backbencher Damian Collins has the single largest rent expenses submission, claiming just over £148,000 from the taxpayer over the past five years, all while taking in a rental income from property in London.

Labour MP Geraint Davies has claimed just over £67,000 in taxpayer funding to rent a home between November 2017 and April 2021 – a period during which he also collecting rent payments letting out residential a property he owns in the capital.

Clive Betts, a fellow Labour backbencher, claimed just over £44,000 for rent between April 2016 and June 2018, the same period he also claimed rental income on a London home.

MPs have not been eligible to claim expenses for mortgage payments on their second homes in London since 2010 under changes brought in following the previous year’s expenses scandal.

But claims for rent are permitted under Ipsa rules, which state that MPs can receive taxpayer funding for “rental payments and associated costs”. An Ipsa document in 2017 conceded that some arrangements could be controversial – but advised against any change to the rules.

“We recognise that there can be a perception of personal gain if an MP receives rental income from their own property while living in an Ipsa-funded flat,” it said. “However … We do not want to judge an MP’s private arrangements and whether or not they should live in a property they own.”

Sir Geoffrey has been under fire following the disclosure that he stands to make more than £1m from outside legal work, including representing the British Virgin Islands in a corruption inquiry.

He is currently claiming £22,000 a year in taxpayer funding to rent a London home while collecting rent on another property he co-owns in the capital. A spokeswoman for the MP said: “Sir Geoffrey has acted at all times within the rules set by the IPSA.”

The Independent has contacted all 17 MPs named in this article for comment.

Geoffrey Cox MP to do more paid work this month for British Virgin Islands

The Conservative MP Geoffrey Cox has agreed to an additional two weeks of work representing ministers from the British Virgin Islands this month while parliament is sitting, it has emerged.

Peter Walker www.theguardian.com 

The former attorney general has come under intense scrutiny in recent days over his second job as a barrister, which has earned him almost £6m on top of his MP’s salary.

With the Conservative party facing a slew of sleaze allegations, government ministers have pointedly refused to defend Cox against allegations that he put lucrative outside work before his constituents – something he has denied.

While Cox will not travel to the Caribbean, and will only have to appear once before the inquiry panel looking into the country’s governance standards, he is scheduled to work on the complex inquiry from 15 to 26 November, official records show.

The commitments prompted renewed criticism of Cox’s focus on his parliamentary duties.

He is representing a series of British Virgin Islands (BVI) government figures, including the prime minister, Andrew Fahie, during a formal commission of inquiry examining claims of misgovernance and abuse of office.

He travelled to the country at various points since April this year, and used procedures in place amid Covid restrictions to cast proxy votes in his absence. Cox has also appeared virtually from his parliamentary office, prompting Labour to seek an investigation into whether this broke Commons rules against using such facilities for private work.

In the most recent meeting of the inquiry commission, on 22 October, the inquiry head, Sir Gary Hickinbottom, a retired British judge, set out times for future hearings, including those sought by the BVI attorney general, Dawn Smith, among those represented by Cox.

Smith had notified the commission “of dates of availability for counsel of her choice – I think that is Sir Geoffrey – for the period the 15 to 26 November”, Hickinbottom said, according to an official transcript of the hearing.

After Hickinbottom had set out this and various other logistical matters, Cox, who was appearing remotely from an unknown location, with the background blurred, replied: “I think our initial reaction is that most of those directions seem perfectly achievable.”

A spokesperson for Cox said this schedule did not mean Cox would appear before the commission throughout this period, when the Commons will be sitting.

“Sir Geoffrey is assisted by a legal team who will carry out most of the work,” they said. “Therefore, he will only need to make himself available for a period of approximately two hours on one day, during that time. This will not conflict with his parliamentary responsibilities.”

But asked what other duties Cox would have over the fortnight connected to the BVI inquiry aside from appearing before the commission panel, the spokesperson did not respond.

Wendy Chamberlain, the Liberal Democrat chief whip, said: “Geoffrey Cox clearly sees being an MP as his second job. He absolutely no time or inclination to actually do the work his constituents sent him to Westminster to do.”

The Labour MP Andrew Gwynne said: “MPs should be in parliament representing their constituents. Boris Johnson’s refusal to act proves he’s lost control, doesn’t care, or both.”

Cox also makes money by renting out a three-bedroom flat overlooking Battersea Park in south London, one he and his wife bought in 2004 for £535,000. It is thought to be rented out for between £3,000 and £4,000 a month, a figure based on a comparison with similar rental properties in the area.

The tenants said they have had no direct contact with Cox, their landlord, and had simply rented the flat via an agency. Asking not to be named on Thursday, they said they had only moved in a few months earlier.

Despite owning a London property, which he has owned for more than a decade, records from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which pays MPs expenses, show that Cox had moved in November 2017, and started claiming £1,900 a month in rent for a separate residential property.

The purchase cost of the original flat was initially part-funded by taxpayer payments of £1,750 a month towards mortgage interest costs, after Cox was elected in 2005. This was under the old system of funding MPs although that was scrapped after the expenses scandal towards the end of the decade.

In August, Fahie refused to say how much his government was paying the law firm Withers for its overall legal representation, but said more than $3m (£2.25m) had been spent so far.

At one hearing, on 21 June, Cox stressed that the minister he was representing “accept entirely that it is central to the democratic idea that the purpose of elected office is to serve the public – it is not to enrich the office holder”.

Tears as councillor stumps up for waste collection

A councillor in the South Hams was reduced to tears as she agreed to foot a £3,500 bill for a private garden waste collection that she thought would be paid by the council. 

Philip Churm, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk 

After the district council suspended brown bin collections because of problems with waste management company FCC, Cllr Nicky Hopwood (Cons, Woolwell) arranged for another firm to collect garden waste. 

Cllr Hopwood told residents it would be paid for out of her “locality budget,” a fund that supports local projects which benefit the community. 

However, Cllr Hopwood said she misinterpreted the advice she had been given and contracted the alternative waste collection firm without authorisation from the council. 

The matter was brought to a, sometimes-heated, special executive committee meeting on Thursday (11 November). 

Committee members heard that following the misinterpretation of officer advice, the member for Woolwell commissioned a local private contractor to carry out a one-off collection of garden waste bins. 

But it was suggested that useful lessons had been learned from the incident.  Councillors were told that the exercise provided a valuable learning process and addressed the overview and scrutiny committee’s concern that the option of recruiting third-party companies had not been sufficiently considered.

On Saturday 16 October Cllr Hopwood posted on her local Facebook page, saying: “I have managed to find a waste management company that will collect the brown bins from Woolwell over a period of three days and this will be FREE OF CHARGE to residents.

“The company is called Clearance4less and I have seen their waste carrier licence.  It is vital to have site of this licence for any kind of waste collection service. 

“I will pay the company out of my locality budget for a one off collection on Wednesday 20, Thursday 21 and Friday 22 October.” 

Cllr Hopwood was later informed that her actions were not authorised and could not be paid for out of the locality budget.  

Cllr Hopwood apologised to the executive group and said: “Members and officers may be aware that I organised a collection of brown bins within the Woolwell ward, which I represent. 

“I sought officer advice about paying for this to be done out of my locality budget. After misunderstanding the advice given I went ahead with what I had organised in all good faith.  

“I have since been contacted by the monitoring officer (David Fairburn, head of legal services and monitoring officer) and subsequently met with him.  

“He advises that not only was the organising of waste collections within my ward against what the executive had agreed, which was to suspend the garden waste service, but I informed residents that this would be paid for out of my locality budget as I had genuinely misunderstood the advice given by officers. 

“I offer an unreserved apology to both officers and members and have assured the monitoring officer that this will not happen again.”

Councillors then heard a recommendation that the executive “Reviews the learning from Woolwell and authorises payment for the services of the private contractor.” 

But the suggestion that the cost of the error should be met by South Hams District Council was met with some angry responses. 

Jacqi Hodgson (Green, Dartington & Staverton) said: “It’s very wrong to cover this payment. 

“It means any of us could come back say, ‘Oh, I made a mistake, I didn’t understand what my locality budget was for.’ 

“I mean, that just doesn’t ring true. Not after a few years of being a councillor. 

“So I just don’t think this should be allowed at all. Otherwise this meeting is going to be seen as just a cover up. And I just don’t think it’s good for the council.”

Some councillors were more sympathetic.  Cllr Mark Long (Ind, Salcombe and Thurlestone) said: “Her intent that she felt there was a need for brown bins to be cleared in her ward is one that we all agree with. 

“She went about it wrongly and did it completely the wrong way. But I think the intention was there, and I think – the thing is – a lot of other residents are doing exactly the same.”

Cllr Hopwood remained out the committee room for much of the time the discussion took place.  After detailed debate, the recommendation that the council pay for the mistake was withdrawn.

Cllr Hopwood briefly returned to the committee room and was in tears as she addressed members of the executive again.

She said: “After listening to the debate and not wishing to bring this council into disrepute, which is why I made my apology in the beginning, I will pay the invoice for £3,500 for the collection of garden waste within the ward I proudly represent, Woolwell, out of my own pocket. 

“I hope this brings to an end to the matter.”   

Garden waste collections in the South Hams were suspended in August and residents were told, last month, that the service would not be restored until at least spring 2022.

Paul Dacre: a rigged appointment – Good Law Project

goodlawproject.org

When it comes to the Prime Minister’s allies, there’s a pattern emerging in Downing Street. When Boris Johnson doesn’t like the outcome of an official process, he tries to rip up the rules and start again. 

We saw it with the Owen Paterson scandal and we’re seeing it again now with the rigged appointment process for the new Chair of media regulator Ofcom. 

Paul Dacre is the former editor of the Daily Mail of 26 years, and Johnson’s preferred candidate for the top job at Ofcom. He’s in a bit of a pickle though, given that an interview panel deemed Mr Dacre “not appointable” just a few months ago. 

But that’s not stopping ministers, who are now shamelessly pushing to appoint Mr Dacre by adjusting the requirements of the role and re-running the recruitment process with a different interview panel. The ad for the role now includes an amended person specification, from which the requirement for the Chair to work “collegiately” has been removed.

Dacre is being allowed to reapply, even in the face of calls for him to be banned from doing so by a number of Conservative MPs. 

It all beggars belief. And unsurprisingly, we think this brazen string-pulling is unlawful. 

Lawyers acting for Good Law Project have today written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, stating that this “second competition raises very serious concerns, in particular as to whether it has been held, and designed, in order to favour Mr Dacre’s candidacy”.

Although the Secretary of State is responsible for the appointment of Ofcom’s Chair, Ofcom should be independent of both the Government and the services it regulates. The appointment process must follow the rules of the Governance Code for Public Appointments: whoever is hired should be selected on merit, through an open and fair process. 

The Governance Code for Public Appointments does allow for Ministers to appoint someone who is not deemed “appointable” by the Assessment Panel. But there are safeguards built into the Governance Code: they must first consult the Commissioner for Public Appointments, and they are required to explain their reasons and justify their decision publicly.

The reason why Ofcom must remain independent of Government is the same reason the media must remain independent of Government: neither can do their job if they are in the Government’s pocket.

We’re asking the Secretary of State to explain why the competition for Chair is being rerun and why Mr Dacre is being allowed to reapply. 

We want proper answers from the Government. If we don’t get them, we expect to take legal action.


Good Law Project only exists thanks to donations from ordinary people across the UK. If you’re in a position to support our work, you can do so here.

M5 Motorway ‘should be extended to Plymouth’

Latest in a long line of calls see:

2017 M5 will be extended to Plymouth if these business leaders get their wish

Further calls to upgrade the main road between Devon and Cornwall to a modern standard motorway have been made.

Daniel Clark www.cornwalllive.com 

Plymouth City Council have long been calling for the modernisation of the A38 to ensure the route reflects its status as a major trunk road.

The upgrade of the road could cost around a £1billion scheme, but could lead to some of the tiny communities between Plymouth and Exeter being ‘cut-off’ because ‘farm-track’ style roads connecting them to the dual carriageway would never comply with motorway regulations.

The A38 is an important lifeline for Plymouth, but in its current state, it just cannot cope with forecast demand, councillors this week heard.

One of the commitments that the new Conservative administration Plymouth City Council put in their manifesto ahead of the May Local Elections was to lobby for the M5 motorway to be extended past Exeter to Plymouth. The commitment had previously been a pledge under the previous Labour administration.

And at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Cllr Jonathan Drean, cabinet member of transport, announced that he had written to the city’s MPs asking them to lobby for the A38 between Bodmin and Exeter to be included as a priority for investment.

Cllr Drean said: “I am asking them for support for Plymouth’s goal to bring about the modernisation of the A38 to reflect its status as a major trunk road, and this is consistent with the significant growth ambitions that everyone is aware of.”

Improving and modernising the A38 would put safety first by reducing the frequency and severity of accidents, providing better journeys through reduced journey times, increasing reliability; strengthening resilience, and moving towards motorway standard would support economic growth with improvements, generating £885 million of productivity growth and inward investment.

Beyond Plymouth’s boundary, the A38 from Saltash to Bodmin and Deep Lane to Exeter suffers from inconsistent road and junction standards, low quality maintenance and in places there is a poor safety record that needs to be addressed, previous calls for upgrades had said.

Business leaders had previously added that while the A38 will not be transformed overnight, decades of under-investment must begin to be addressed.

“The modernisation of the A38 forms a part of the long term ambitions for the City as set out in the Plymouth Plan. To deliver this plan and support regional growth, the city and the South West region needs a modern A38, built to a motorway standard, accommodating planned growth and supporting the South West region’s economy in the years to come,” a Plymouth City Council statement had previously added.

The meeting also heard that the commitment to continue to raise the city’s profile with Government to level up the investment within the city to provide a resilient and reliable road and rail network to serve Plymouth had also been met, following the recent announcement that Devon County Council had secured more funding to enable exploration work to continue into reopening the Tavistock to Plymouth line.

The former Tavistock North station opened in June 1890, but closed on May 6, 1968, as part of the Beeching Axe.

There has been a long-held ambition for the re-opening the link between Tavistock and Plymouth is to encourage people to use rail services, and the reinstatement of the rail line to Tavistock is identified in the 20-year plan of the Peninsula Rail Task Force.

And now plans have moved a step closer after the project was awarded funding as part of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget last week, getting £50,000 towards the next stage of works for the business case towards the rebuilding the line between Tavistock and Bere Alston in Devon, connecting Tavistock and Plymouth by rail.

Cllr Drean had previously added: “We’re really pleased to have supported and advised our colleagues at Devon County Council on this really exciting scheme.

“Should this project ultimately become successful then it would complement the improvements we are making at St Budeaux Square by increasing the opportunities to transfer between bus and train to access more parts of the city by public transport, while also easing pressure of traffic on the A386 corridor.”

Devon County Council will now produce a Strategic Outline Business Case and update extensive survey work already undertaken on the route.

The hope is to reinstate the disused rail line between Tavistock and Bere Alston, providing hourly rail services through to Plymouth, as well as opening a new single platform railway station at Tavistock next to the 750 dwelling development under construction.

Two-hourly services between Plymouth and Gunnislake would be maintained