£18m Levelling Up funding for Dinan Way?

Dinan Way link plans could be set for £18m Levelling Up boost.

How many times have we been here before?

How much effort is expended on making these “bids”? – Owl

Dan Wilkins www.exmouthjournal.co.uk

Plans to extend a major Exmouth link road to connect with the A376 could be set for an £18million ‘levelling up’ boost. 

Devon County Council and East Devon District Council could bid for nearly £75million of government funding, among which is £18million earmarked to be spent on the completion of the Dinan Way link extension. 

Currently traffic from Dinan Way has to use unsuitable residential roads to access the A376. The bid includes improved pedestrian and cycle connections to the Exe Estuary multi-use trail and has the potential to improve bus journey times to Exeter. The wider bid includes other walking and cycling improvements focusing on the regeneration of the town centre. 

The county council’s cabinet is being recommended to approve a package of five schemes to be put forward for cash from the government’s Levelling-Up Fund and to make a contribution of more than £6 million towards the work. 

If successful, £20million would be invested in the completion of Dinan Way, with both Devon County Council and East Devon District Council committing to provide £1million each. 

Also benefitting from the £75million would be plans for a second railway at Okehampton, a new slip road at Lee Mill and an enhanced cycle route between Newton Abbot and Torbay. 

Devon’s Cabinet Member for climate change, environment and transport, Andrea Davis, said: “Throughout the pandemic, the county council has been working in close partnership with the district councils to support the most vulnerable people in our community. 

“This new bid demonstrates the Team Devon partnership now working to support economic recovery and growth in close collaboration with our MPs. These schemes will also reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality, cut congestion and improve the safety, security and overall experience of transport users. 

“This is the second round of bidding for Levelling-Up cash. We didn’t do as well as we wanted in the first round and I hope the Government will look more favourably on these ambitious proposals. 

“Just last month the University of Exeter published a report calling for the Government to prioritise the South West in its levelling-up efforts.  

“Devon is a beautiful place but it’s not just seaside holidays and cream teas. Four of our eight districts are among the UK’s worst 25 low wage ‘hotspots’ and too many of our youngsters don’t go on to university or vocational training which will enable them to get the better-paid jobs. 

“We’ve got an ambitious Team Devon proposal for devolution which would enable us to tackle some of these structural problems in the longer term but these five bids would be a real start in helping us to boost our economic growth and fight climate change by providing real alternatives to our reliance on our cars.” 

The cabinet meeting will take place at County Hall, Exeter, on Wednesday, May 11, at 10.30am

Queen’s Speech: Boris Johnson accused of abandoning families to poverty

Boris Johnson has been accused of abandoning British families to a life of poverty, after his legislative programme for the coming year contained no new measures to deal with the cost of living crisis.

Andrew Woodcock www.independent.co.uk

One think tank described the package set out in the Queen’s Speech as “cosmetic surgery for an economy facing a heart attack”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also denounced it as “a thin address, bereft of ideas or purpose” delivered by a government “whose time has passed”.

Mr Johnson told MPs that measures including a Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to enable councils to boost renewal of run-down towns and a Brexit Freedoms Bill empowering ministers to scrap remaining EU rules would help get Britain “back on track” after the Covid pandemic.

But he continued to reject demands for an emergency budget to help households who are being forced to choose between heating and eating.

He also gave a strong signal that he has lined up with chancellor Rishi Sunak in resisting further financial support before the autumn budget, telling MPs: “However great our compassion and ingenuity, we cannot simply spend our way out of this problem.”

Any help for households beyond the £22bn already announced would have to be balanced against the need to keep public finances “on a sustainable footing”, he warned.

Meanwhile, the Treasury was quick to scotch any suggestion of an imminent extension of support, saying that further fiscal measures would have to wait until after the next review of the energy price cap in September.

Senior ministers, including the PM and Mr Sunak, were on Tuesday evening assessing proposals from cabinet colleagues for money-saving measures that can be achieved without cost to the government, such as doubling the gap between MOT tests or increasing the ratio of children to carers in pre-school nurseries. Mr Johnson said the outcome would be announced in the coming days.

But the Child Poverty Action Group said government support was “a far cry” from the help needed by families facing inflation forecast to top 10 per cent this year and energy bills expected to leap by a further £1,000 in the autumn.

CPAG chief executive Alison Garnham said Mr Johnson’s package of 38 bills offered “no short-term comfort for parents struggling to feed their kids in the face of rocketing prices, and no long-term vision for ending child poverty”.

She warned: “Promises on levelling up and education will go unmet while families don’t have enough money to live on – and abandoning 4 million children to a life in poverty won’t be much of a legacy either.”

Responding to a Queen’s Speech, delivered for the first time by the Prince of Wales, Sir Keir said that the contents of the government’s agenda failed to respond to the pressing challenges of the current moment.

With the economy stalling and prices soaring upwards, the Labour leader said the UK was “staring down the barrel of something we haven’t seen in decades – a stagflation crisis”.

And he denounced ministers’ “inertia” in the face of Labour demands for an emergency budget and a windfall tax on the excess profits of energy companies.

“We need a government of the moment with ideas that meet the aspirations of the British public,” Mr Starmer told MPs. But he said that the Johnson administration was “too out of touch to meet the challenges of the moment, too tired to grasp the opportunities of the future … Their time has passed.”

The Queen’s Speech package included controversial plans to scrap the Human Rights Act, to ban gay conversion therapy while allowing the practice to continue for transgender people and to allow the use of gene-editing to “precision breed” animals and plants.

It set out measures to protect army veterans from prosecution for alleged crimes committed during the Northern Irish Troubles.

But there was no place for the Employment Bill to enhance rights at work, which was promised as long ago as the Queen’s Speech of 2019, or for promised animal welfare legislation to ban the import of fur and foie gras.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that mooted protections from pregnancy discrimination and rights to flexible working and fair tipping risked being “ditched for good”.

“Bad bosses up and down the country will be celebrating,” she said.

Anti-poverty charity Oxfam branded the failure to prioritise the rights of workers in precarious and low-paid jobs “a dereliction of duty”.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said that the absence of an Employment Bill meant that family carers would once again miss out on the week’s unpaid leave first promised to them in 2019.

Mr Johnson’s repeated failure to deliver on the pledge was “insulting and woefully shortsighted”, said Sir Ed.

Care England chief executive Martin Green said that the failure to set out plans for much-needed reform of adult social care left a “bitter taste” for the sector.

Dr George Dibb, head of the IPPR think tank’s Centre for Economic Justice, said it “beggared belief” that the government’s programme contained such limited action in response to Bank of England warnings of a shrinking economy over the coming 18 months.

Describing the package as “cosmetic surgery for an economy facing a heart attack”, he said: “This crisis calls for a major restructuring of the UK economy to drive higher wages, productivity, innovation, investment, and faster decarbonisation.

“But the main brake on the economy in the short-term is shrinking household budgets as a consequence of the failure to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. Today’s Queen’s Speech contains almost nothing for families who are struggling to make ends meet.”

Levelling up, hospital delays: Calls for inquiry in the south west

There are calls for an inquiry into why problems with the hospital system in the south west are “so much worse” than the rest of the country.

BBC News www.bbc.co.uk

Last week a Gloucestershire NHS Trust chief executive revealed she was driven to hospital by her husband, fearing an ambulance would take too long.

Patients in ambulances are waiting up to 14 hours to be handed over to hospital staff.

Local agencies say they are determined to overcome the challenges together.

Many put the delays down to hospitals being unable to discharge patients quickly enough.

South Western Ambulance Service currently has the longest wait times in England, with category-two calls, which include strokes and chest pains, taking nearly two hours on average to reach patients last month.

The target is 18 minutes.

And last week there was an average of 20 ambulances waiting outside the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital at any one time.

Carole Jarman said her friend was on the floor for 15 hours and waited a total of 27 hours before an ambulance arrived

Carole Jarman, 61, from Stroud, told BBC Radio Gloucestershire that her 89-year-old friend waited 27 hours for an ambulance last month after she had a fall.

Ms Jarman said it was “an awful experience”.

Cathie Cooper said she waited 10 minutes to even get through to a call handler when requesting an ambulance while she was having an asthma attack.

Unison’s South Western Ambulance lead for Gloucestershire, Shane Clark, said he now wants a central government inquiry.

“It would be really interesting to have a public inquiry to understand why the south west seems to be worse, why are we having this grassroots social care issue that doesn’t seem to be happening elsewhere,” he said.

Unison’s Shane Clark said while ambulances still queue in other areas of the country, the wait times are not as long as in the south west

Mr Clark, who is from Gloucester, has worked for the ambulance service for more than 15 years.

He said while crews are providing the best standard of care they can for their patients, beds need to be available when they arrive at hospital.

He added that he was concerned about the capacity of community hospitals in Gloucestershire.

Deborah Lee, chief executive of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust, has been praised by many on Twitter for her honesty

Posting on Twitter last week, Ms Lee said her husband had “bundled her into his car”, after she had showed the signs of a stroke because he had heard her “lamenting ambulance delays”.

She was clear to point out that the issues with ambulance waits were not at the “front door of hospitals” but at the back.

According to the NHS trust that runs them, Gloucestershire’s two main hospitals regularly have more than 200 patients medically fit to be discharged, but they are unable to move them out and hospital bosses have admitted they are struggling with the high numbers of patients.

Some of the issues contributing to the delay in discharging people include a reduction in the numbers of beds in community hospitals, difficulties in getting GP appointments, meaning more people are turning up at A&E, and how long it takes to organise adult social care in the community.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Adult social care is overseen by the county council so that people who are well enough can going back to their own homes, but with short-term support.

For those who need a longer term plan, the council works with other health partners, which might mean moving patients into care homes.

Executive director of Adult Social Care and Public Health at Gloucestershire County Council, Sarah Scott, said it is a “complex situation”.

“We are working really really hard on this [problem] and if it was simple, we would have solved it by now,” she said.

Executive director of Adult Social Care and Public Health at Gloucestershire County Council, Sarah Scott, said there are no easy answers to the problems faced

“It is easy to think well there are 200 people in the hospital, lets put them all in a care bed, but actually not all of them need a care bed.

“We know only half of them need some adult social care support, so an even smaller proportion of that 100 will actually need a care home bed.”

She added that one of the issues is a shortage of staff in the sector.

Charity Crossroads said hospitals have to be careful as they can be responsible for a “dereliction of duty” for discharging patients too early.

Jamie Webb, a registered manager at Crossroads Care – which helps people return home after being in hospital – said the sector is struggling.

“The community-based care is vastly under staffed, that’s having a knock-on effect for the hospitals in order for them to be able to discharge because there just isn’t the staffing levels to be able to increase those packages of care,” he said.

Local agencies say they are determined to overcome the challenges together with the aim of keeping communities safe

Mr Webb said that results in many people coming to him that have not fully recovered, with them ultimately ending up back into hospital.

The acting chief executive of Gloucestershire Hospitals, Professor Mark Pietroni, said: “We are committed to getting the safe discharge process right for everyone involved and work closely with health and social care colleagues, patients and their families to ensure that people can be discharged safely to the right environment for their onward care.”

Gloucestershire Health and Care Trust, for community hospitals, added in statement that it is “working tirelessly” with the NHS and local authority partners to improve flow between services in hospitals, community clinics and within people’s own homes.

Sir Keir Starmer has turned the tables on the PM with his promise to resign

Sir Keir Starmer doesn’t seem to be one of life’s gamblers, but he has now put his political career on the line. If Durham Police decide that he did break the rules sufficiently to warrant a fixed penalty notice, then he will quit as leader. He wants to prove, he says, that not all politicians are the same.

Editorial www.independent.co.uk 

While Boris Johnson refused to say if he would resign if issued with a fine for breaking Covid rules, because he could be fairly sure that he did attend social gatherings, Sir Keir is confident that he did not break the rules, and that he won’t have to stand down.

However, he knows that Durham Police are in a difficult position (one possibly made more invidious by Sir Keir’s move), and they still might quite conceivably issue him with an FPN. The new Starmer motto should be: who dares wins.

Then again, given the realities of this bizarre situation, it may not be such a wager as it seems. The Labour leader knows better than most that he would be quite unable to continue to do his job properly or command the respect of the public if he was found to have broken the law, and indeed to have committed the serious political crime of hypocrisy. On the other hand, if he is exonerated, his already strong reputation as a man of honour and integrity (in stark contrast to You Know Who) will be further gilded. Win-win, sort of.

Rather cleverly, then, Sir Keir has turned the tables on his tormentors, and converted a moment of jeopardy into one of opportunity. Even if it doesn’t pay off for him personally, it will redound to the credit of the Labour Party, and gift his successor with a party firmly in command of the moral high ground.

The press conference, albeit restricted to the broadcasters, also showed a willingness to face up to his problems. He did cancel a previously arranged speech, but he did not hide in a fridge, so to speak. It follows his increasingly powerful command of the Commons, and the encouraging gains Labour made in the council elections.

As he himself would be the first to remind anyone, there is much more to do before Labour can dream about a return to government, but the progress made by the Labour leader and his team speaks for itself – a nine percentage point swing compared to the December 2019 general election, a five percentage point lead on the Conservatives, the biggest gap for a decade, and significant gains in control of councils. Those are the measures of his achievements.

Still, he is mortal, and he may find it difficult to know which way to jump if the Durham Police come up with some criticism of a “minor breach” that is not serious enough to warrant a fine. The obvious precedent there is the famous case of Dominic Cummings (who later stated to a parliamentary committee that he had not given a full account of his actions in lockdown at the time).

Politics is very often the art of making the best of a bad job, and of persevering even under the most unrelenting, even unhinged, media campaign against you – one quality that the prime minister certainly possesses in abundance.

Sir Keir hasn’t buckled under the strain, even though he has looked uncomfortable in recent days. He has instead charted a route through the storm, and may well ride it out. He might even emerge from it stronger. If he does so, it will be because he hasn’t done anything wrong, rather than the case with his counterpart who clings to office even when the evidence of his wrongdoing is all around him and a fixed penalty notice has been issued. Not all politicians are the same.

Levelling up in the south-west – Dentist shortage leaves patients doing DIY treatments

Many patients in south-west England are being left in dental pain because they are unable to register for NHS care, with some so desperate that they are even resorting to DIY treatment, it has emerged.

Gove speaks on “Levelling up” today. Will he produce the “Magic Sauce” the “Catchup Ketchup”? – Owl

Steven Morris www.theguardian.com 

The charity Healthwatch in Somerset has reported that it is almost impossible for a new patient to register for an NHS dentist in the county, which is leading to adults and children living in agony, self-treating, or travelling out of the area for help.

Cases on its books include a woman who got her husband to pierce an abscess because she was in excruciating pain and could not find NHS treatment. “I was in tears with the pain and got my husband to burst the abscess with a needle and I then had a mouthwash with warm water and salt,” she said.

A man from Bridgwater, who asked not to be named, said he recently had a large filling fall out. He was not registered with an NHS dentist and could not find one. “I went to the chemist and they gave me a product called Dentemp. The clue’s in the name, but I’ve been using it for six weeks now and will keep going with it until the pain just gets too bad.”

Alan Hardcastle: ‘If I have to go private, it has a massive impact on our household income, but I may have to bite the bullet.’

Alan Hardcastle, 51, from Glastonbury, was upset when he was told he and his 11-year-old son had been removed from his NHS dentist’s register because they had not had an appointment since before the pandemic.

The college lecturer has toothache and is struggling to find another dentist. “I’ve rung round 14 so far in Glastonbury, Street and Bridgwater. One says they can take my son on, but none will take me. I can only eat on one side of my mouth. If I have to go private, it has a massive impact on our household income, but I may have to bite the bullet.”

One NHS worker has been suffering with toothache for three days. “I spent a whole day trying to find a dentist and am still in agony,” they said. “I can’t believe no dentist will see me. My NHS dentist took me off their register after 20 years of being a loyal patient. I was told there are not enough dentists in the practice now. I work for £10.18 an hour and I can’t afford private rates.”

A mature student said she was experiencing pain after root canal work. She tried to register with 10 NHS surgeries in and around Taunton and was told none were accepting patients. One practice told her to check in Devon.

One person who said their family had been removed from their dentist’s register during the Covid lockdown said they had rung “countless” surgeries because their daughter had an abscess. They were worried that their daughter could suffer sepsis and the blood tests she needed were being delayed.

Experts in dental care said they were not surprised by the situation in Somerset.

Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said the impact of factors such as Brexit and coronavirus on top of dentists’ dissatisfaction with NHS contracts and too few new dentists being trained had led to a shortage of places in NHS practices. “We’ve had a perfect storm,” he said.

He said he was aware of people carrying out their own dentistry, including using temporary fillings and even extracting wobbly teeth. “We need more dentists,” he said. Carter criticised NHS England for not accepting that there was a problem in Somerset. “They are burying their heads in the sand,” he said.

Eddie Crouch, the chair of the British Dental Association, said even before the pandemic people were doing round trips of 50 miles in Somerset to find an NHS dentist and more practitioners were leaving for private practice or only doing NHS work part time.

NHS England insisted there were dental appointments to be found in Somerset – but did not provide figures on how many surgeries were accepting new NHS patients, saying the decision was up to individual practices.

A spokesperson for NHS England and NHS Improvement South West said: “More than 550 additional urgent care appointments are available every month across Somerset to ensure those with urgent clinical need can access treatment, and community and special care services continue to treat patients. We are in the process of securing extra high street dental services across the south-west.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We’ve given the NHS £50m to fund up to 350,000 extra dental appointments and we are growing the workforce so people can get the oral care they need.”

Struggling parents skip meals to feed their kids

6.8 million Brits skip meals or eat less as they can’t afford or access food, see www.mirror.co.uk.

Here is a local example.

Where is the plan to deal with the cost of living crisis? – Owl

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com

Despite working as many hours as they can and only spending money on essentials, a Bideford family-of-five has revealed the extreme lengths they have to go to so that they can financially survive. It includes skipping meals so that their children can eat, only heating the rooms where their children sleep and having to walk around the supermarket with a calculator to stick to their tight budget.

Kate Worby, 29, has three jobs as a children’s entertainer for her own business Magical Guests. She also works as a carer and a cleaner. Her partner, Charles Skudder, 29, is a full-time university student who also runs a valet business and has worked nights as a carer at a local care home until it recently shut down.

He also helps out with Kate’s children’s entertainer business which covers Devon and Cornwall and mostly has bookings at weekends. Together they help look after their three children aged eight, four and almost one.

Kate told DevonLive: “We are always on the go and hardly ever at home. On the rare days we do find ourselves both at home together we are busy getting on with things that need to be done.

“We are forever trying to keep our heads above water like I’m sure it is for a lot of families. Everything is going up but wages are not matching it so we are having to make our money stretch even further. Physically we can’t do any more hours than we are already working. We have not had a day off in goodness knows how long.

“It’s a constant battle in your head as you think, can I justify not taking an extra shift? Often we just do it because we have to. We are both just so stressed.” One of the biggest battles the couple face is the rising cost of food. Often it means she and Charles don’t eat.

Kate said: “The children will always come first. They get free school dinners but if they come home from school really hungry I will cook them a meal, even if it was for me and Charles, or I try to make the food stretch by bulking it out such as with frozen vegetables.

“When Charles and I are not eating enough it takes its toll. I am so tired as I have not eaten really in three days. We either don’t eat or between us have one meal a day, even if it’s just cheese on toast. It’s not enough, but it’s at least something. It’s a very real thing for a lot of families.

“I’m quite a savvy spender anyway so I will save where I can. I’m always looking for the best bargain for everything but it does mean we can’t do things like buying biscuits, for example, for the children to have as a snack.

“That’s not within the budget. Literally, we buy the basic everything such as potatoes and pasta. I have learnt to make my own things like sauces.

“It just means when you are going out shopping you can’t think that looks nice and just pick it up. I go with a list and get what’s on it. I walk around with a calculator on my phone so I know when we have reached our maximum budget. If it means I haven’t got a meal for say two nights I have to reevaluate what I have actually got and how you can stretch what you have in the basket.”

Kate admits it can be embarrassing when her calculations aren’t quite right and she has to leave some food behind at the checkout. She said: “Supermarkets are really good about that kind of thing. Having to put things back is always embarrassing but they are generally very compassionate.

“I have heard the phrase heat or eat said a lot but for us it’s not actually the case. It’s heat less, eat less. We can’t make a choice between the two because we have a young baby so we have to heat his bedroom and the other children’s bedrooms but not anywhere else.

“We limit it to heating just the rooms that are essential to be heated. Luckily we are coming into summer again but in the winter it will be a massive problem. There will be extra coats and jumpers being put on.” the couple rent a three-bedroom house after having to use the deposit they had saved to buy a house on other things.

Kate said: “We have never been overly flush with money and have always lived within our means. Our rent has gone up which has impacted us a lot. At the same time, everything else has gone up like council tax and energy bills. All the rises build up so we have to watch every single penny we spend.

“We don’t drink or smoke or go out, and we have no hobbies. All we literally do is go to work and look after the kids. I don’t know what we are doing wrong in the grand scheme of things to be working so, so hard and being stuck in this loop.

“We just have to keep going and hope that one day things will get better. Once Charles finishes university he will hopefully start bringing in a good wage, but until then we just have to take it week by week.

“I also hope that by talking about how we are struggling it can raise awareness and the big wigs might think, ‘hang oo, this is not fair’. We work, we are on Universal Credit and we are still struggling. Something has gone wrong somewhere for that to happen.”