£2 million unspent on broadband cannot be reallocated

“Councillors in Devon have been told that they cannot use £2m of unspent funds from a major broadband project.

External funding has been used to finish the first phase of the Connecting Devon and Somerset scheme, the largest government-funded superfast broadband programme in the UK.

However, councillors who wanted to use the extra £2m to accelerate the project have been told that it is not within the county council’s power to reallocate funds.

“Councillor Stuart Barker, Devon County Council cabinet member for economy and skills, said: “The money isn’t for us to redistribute.

“We are not the accountable authority or the contract holder, so it is not for us to redistribute that money.”

The first phase of the Connecting Devon and Somerset project has been used to install superfast broadband in homes on Exmoor and Dartmoor with other difficult areas due to be completed by next year.


“Thousands of miles of UK roads in poor condition”

“Some 10% of the road network maintained by local authorities in Great Britain is in poor condition, or has been flagged for further inspection.
About 37,000 kilometres (22,990 miles) across England, Wales and Scotland fell below top standard in surveys carried out on behalf of the Department for Transport.

The RAC said the road network had suffered from years of underinvestment
The government said it was investing £6bn in improving local roads.
The analysis by the BBC shared data unit comes as a separate investigation by the Asphalt Industry Alliance found more than 39,300 kilometres (24,400 miles) of road had been identified as needing essential maintenance in the next year.

Simon Williams, a spokesman for the RAC, said: “Before the cold snap the condition of many local roads was on a knife edge with many councils struggling to fix our roads properly.

“But now, as a result of the ‘Beast from the East’ some local roads will have deteriorated even further, possibly to the point that they represent a serious risk to the safety of users.” …


Taylor Wimpey bonus “slashed” from £1.08 million to £827,757 after leasehold scandal

“Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey has slashed 23pc from its directors’ bonuses in response to the scandal over punitive leasehold terms.

The company’s annual report shows that chief executive Pete Redfern received £827,757 through Taylor Wimpey’s executive incentive scheme (EIS), rather than almost £1.08m as originally planned.

Ryan Mangold, finance director, and James Jordan, legal director and company secretary, also received a 23pc cut in their bonuses for 2017.

Taylor Wimpey has come under fire for selling homes with leasehold terms which mean the ground rent payable by the homeowners doubles every 10 years. In some cases, this has made the houses unsellable.

The homebuilder said the scaling back of bonuses was a “meaningful and proportionate approach to take”, even though the leasehold issue had not directly inflated the bonuses last year.

Meanwhile, housebuilder Persimmon has confirmed that chief executive Jeff Fairburn will receive a total pay packet of £47m this year thanks to a generous long term incentive plan agreed in 2012 which came to maturity last year. His total bonus award was due to be around £100m over two years, although it was later reduced to £75m.

Mr Fairburn has said he will give some of the money to charity.”


How can you be trusted with the economy if you can’t get your election expenses right!

“Details of enforcement action relating to political parties

The Conservative Party, Green Party and the Labour Party are under investigation for submitting spending returns that were missing invoices and for submitting potentially inaccurate statements of payments made.

The Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats are under investigation for making multiple payments to suppliers where either the claim for payment was received past the 30 day deadline or it was paid after the 60 day deadline following the election. These deadlines are specified in law.

The Women’s Equality Party is under investigation for submitting a spending return that was inconsistent with its donation reports covering the same period.

Details of enforcement action relating to non-party campaigners:

Best for Britain is under investigation for submitting a spending return that was missing invoices. The campaigner is also under investigation for not returning a £25,000 donation from an impermissible donor within 30 days as required by PPERA.

The National Union for Teachers is under investigation for submitting a spending return that was missing an invoice.”



With Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) becoming the first local authority to see its finances effectively collapse, former council leader Heather Smith told the BBC:

“We have been warning government from about 2013-14 that, with our financial position, we couldn’t cope with the levels of cuts we were facing.”

But this isn’t merely a Conservative-run county council … every single MP in the East Midlands county just happens to be a Tory.

Unsurprisingly, all seven of them have been doing their utmost to distance themselves from the fiasco – releasing joint statements saying the government should take over NCC finances and later that the council should be abolished.

So it would be pretty embarrassing if it turned out that these MPs had – in fact – repeatedly trumpeted their support for the austerity policies that gave rise to this situation.

Errrr … here’s a taster.

Wellingborough MP Peter Bone in the Commons last February:

“Does the Secretary of State agree that our long-term economic plan has worked and that the Opposition Members who opposed it should now be contrite?”

Kettering’s Philip Hollobone to Andrew Lansley:

“will he arrange a full day’s debate … on Britain’s long-term economic plan, so that Members from across the House can describe how their constituencies are benefiting from Britain’s strengthening economic recovery?”

Corby MP Tom Pursglove said of a Northamptonshire retail development:

“This is local evidence that the Prime Minister’s Long Term Economic Plan is working.”

Chris Heaton-Harris, Daventry, reckons:

“This Budget is part of our long-term economic plan to give economic security to the families of Britain. The single biggest risk would be to abandon the plan and listen to Labour’s calls to borrow more, spend more and put up taxes.”

Michael Ellis, Northampton North, told PMQs:

“It is thanks to our long-term economic plan that £200 million has been allocated to fighting potholes, including £3.3 million for Northamptonshire”
And as economic secretary to the treasury under Cameron, South Northamptonshire MP Andrea Leadsom has her hands dipped dipped directly in austerity blood.

Soon-to-be-redundant council staff may take more convincing on this ‘long-term economic plan’ thing.


“Official figures mask A&E waiting times”

“Tens of thousands more patients spent more than 12 hours in A&E waiting for a bed last year than official figures suggest. Doctors and MPs called for a change to how “trolley waits” were reported in England after an investigation by The Times.

Official numbers show that 2,770 A&E patients had to wait more than 12 hours for a bed last year. These NHS statistics only capture the time between a doctor deciding a patient needs to be admitted and then being found a place on a ward. If the time is recorded between arriving at A&E and being found a bed, the number of patients who had to wait in emergency departments for more than 12 hours leaps to at least 67,406 patients, 24 times higher, according to data obtained under freedom of information laws.

The true figure is likely to be even higher, as only 73 hospitals out of 137 replied to the requests. The Times also asked hospitals for details of the longest wait they had recorded each week. Those revealed about 200 patients waiting more than a day for a bed last year. In December a 103-year-old woman spent 29 hours in A&E before she was admitted to the Great Western Hospital in Swindon, Wiltshire. The trust said that it had been one of the busiest months on record. The longest wait reported to The Times, of almost four days, was a 16-year-old boy at Barking Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust.

Sarah Wollaston, Conservative chairwoman of the health select committee, said that long waits in A&E raised patient safety concerns. “When departments are already at full stretch, having to care for individuals who may be very unwell and waiting for transfer to a more appropriate clinical setting reduces the time clinicians are free to assess and care for new arrivals and this can rapidly lead to spiralling delays,” Dr Wollaston said. “The total length of time that people are spending in emergency departments should be recorded alongside the current figures.”

Paul Williams, a Labour member of the committee, said: “If the clock doesn’t start ticking on ‘trolley waits’ until this decision has been made, then hospitals can legitimately have someone waiting for more than three hours to be seen and assessed, and then another 11 hours on a trolley without this leading to a breach of targets.” In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, 12-hour waits are recorded from when a patient arrives in the department.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “It’s clear from this data that many patients are enduring even longer waits with their safety, privacy and dignity compromised than the official statistics show.”

Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “I think all independent observers would agree that, at the moment, the way we are describing our 12-hour trolley waits is not accurately describing the numbers.”

An NHS England spokesman said: “In the last 12 months to February 2018 the number of 12-hour trolley waits has dropped by more than 20 per cent on the previous year, and this has been achieved while hospitals also successfully looked after 160,000 more A&E patients within the four-hour target this winter compared to last winter.” NHS Digital is set to publish separate monthly statistics on the total number of patients spending more than 12 hours in A&E, whether or not they eventually needed admission. They said there were more than 260,000 during the financial year 2016-17.

Behind the story

Hospitals are expected to treat, admit or discharge 95 per cent of patients within four hours of their arrival at A&E (Kat Lay writes).

However, they have not met that target since July 2015. In January, only 77.1 per cent of people going to larger A&Es were dealt with within four hours.

For patients who require admission — “the sickest group” attending A&E, says the Royal College of Emergency Medicine — it appears to be worse.

At hospitals that provided figures to The Times, on average only 53 per cent of patients requiring admission were found a bed within four hours in January this year.

A lack of social care means that many of the beds that such patients need to be moved on to are taken up by people who do not need to be in hospital any longer, doctors complain.

Source: The Times (pay wall)

Our NHS: Demo at DCC HQ Thursday 22 March from mid-day

Join SOHS demo from midday – County Hall, Exeter – This Thursday 22nd March.

Save Our Hospital Services (SOHS) Devon are lobbying against plans to introduce structural changes in NHS delivery of services from April 1st with the introduction of an Integrated Care System (formerly known as ‘Accountable Care System’). This is yet another reorganisation of Health & Social Care services, which hasn’t been consulted on and is part of the ‘Sustainability & Transformation Plan’ imposed by the government to cut another £550 million off Devon’s Health care and introduce more privatisation…


We will also address the DCC Health & Adult Care Scrutiny Committee at 2.00pm on Thursday with 12 key questions about Integrated Care Systems (ICS)
planned for introduction by NHS England from April 1st without consultation. SOHS have sent these 12 questions to Dr Tim Burke, Chair of the NEW CCG
which meet also at 1.00pm on Thursday at County Hall.