Labour Wirral council latest to admit to problems

THE state of Wirral Council’s finances has been revealed after staff were asked for expressions of interest to leave their jobs in a desperate bid to save cash. …

… It is a period of transition for Wirral Council at the moment, with leader Cllr Phil Davies having this week announced his intention to step down in May, environment cabinet member Cllr Matthew Patrick having left his role and politics with immediate effect, and Cllr Mike Sullivan having quit the Labour party to become an independent.

https://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/16995490.wirral-council-chief-considers-job-cuts-in-bid-to-save-cash/

West Country Tory MP feels completely out of place in his party

“A Tory backbencher has criticised the government and said he would not have stood as an MP “if the situation was like it is now”.

Johnny Mercer told The House magazine he was no longer sure that his “set of values and ethos” were still “aligned with the Conservative Party”.

The party had “lost focus” on fighting for what it believed in and instead was focused on “technocrats and managers”.

Mr Mercer, an ex-Army officer, has said he never voted until he became an MP
The MP for Plymouth Moor View has been critical of the party before, telling the Telegraph in 2017 it was “in danger of losing credibility”.

In his interview with The House, Mr Mercer – who was first elected in 2015 – was critical of Prime Minister Theresa May’s response to a questions about investigations into Northern Ireland veterans, saying “she did not answer in a way that made me proud to be a member of the governing party”.

And, of her Chequers blueprint for post-Brexit relations with the EU, he said: “That is your classic professional politicians’ answer because it’s right down the middle. It doesn’t make anybody happy. It’s the ultimate in not making a decision.”

He said, “under this chief whip, under this prime minister, there is no role for people like me” but added: “That’s fine because nothing lasts forever.” He admitted he would like to be defence secretary – Mr Mercer has campaigned for veterans, including those with mental health problems.

Mr Mercer said that while his “set of values and ethos” had been aligned with the Conservative Party, “I’m not as comfortable that that’s the case anymore.”

And he added: “If the situation was like it is now, I can safely say there would be absolutely no chance that I would try and be a member of Parliament.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-45905581

“CIPFA warns councils over serious commercial activity concerns”

“CIPFA is to work on fresh guidance over concerns councils in England are putting public funds at “unnecessary or unquantified risk” when borrowing to invest in commercial property.

In a statement released today, the insitute suggested local authorities were investing in commercial properties disproportionately to their resources.

This would be against the requirements of the CIPFA’s Prudential Code and Treasury Management code, the joint statement from CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman and chair of CIPFA’s treasury and capital management panel Richard Paver, said.

Whiteman and Paver said that “in some cases these investments have been financed by borrowing” and CIPFA shared concerns there had been an “acceleration of the practice of borrowing to invest in commercial property”.

They warned councils the “prime policy objective of a local authority’s treasury management investment activities is the security of funds, and that a local authority should avoid exposing public funds to unnecessary or unquantified risks”.

CIPFA’s code and the government’s Statutory Guidance on Local Government Investments were “very clear that local authorities must not borrow more than or in advance of their needs purely in order to profit from the investment of the extra sums borrowed”.

The institute will “issue more guidance and will make it clear that these investment approaches are not consistent with the requirements of fiscal sustainability, prudence and affordability,” the statement said.

Government figures released last week showed an increase in local authorities’ commercial activities.

English councils’ acquisition of land and buildings rose by £1.2bn (43.1%) to £4bn in 2017-18 from £2.8bn in 2016-17, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data revealed.

Total borrowing by councils in England had risen from £4.4bn in 2013-14 to £10bn in 2017-18.

The guidance is expected to be published before the end of the year.

Until it is released, CIPFA advised local authorities to refer to the government guidance, which cautions local authorities against:

– Becoming dependent on commercial income;

– Taking out too much debt relative to net service expenditure; and

– Taking on debt to finance commercial investments.

The MHCLG figures out last week showed the largest investors in commercial property were Spelthorne Borough Council at £270m and Warrington Borough Council with £220m. Eastleigh Borough Council also spent £194m.

In 2016, Spelthorne took out 50 separate Public Works Loan Board loans to fund the purchase of a £360m business park in Sunbury-on-Thames.

PF understands that MHCLG and the Treasury have expressed concern about the scale of commercial property investment.

MHCLG has been contacted for comment.”

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2018/10/cipfa-warns-councils-over-serious-commercial-activity-concerns

Crime up 17% in Devon and Cornwall police area

Owl says: one way to get more officers on the beat is to abolish the post of Police and Crime Commissioner and the 20+ staff that work for her. But would you believe (you would) that it is impossible to find out exactly how much she and her staff cost? Accounts are (designed to be?) impenetrable. AND there is no central register of the overall cost of the 40+ Police and Crime Commissioners in post!

“Devon and Cornwall’s Police and Crime Commissioner has said she is committed to “securing more funding for front-line officers” – as new figures show a rise in recorded crime.

Between July 2017 and June 2018, recorded crime was up 17% in the Devon and Cornwall force area, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Nationally there was an increase of 10%.

Alison Hernandez said she was “concerned” about a rise in violent offences, although she said serious violent offences “are still very unusual in the peninsula”.

“It’s clear to me that more money is needed to support greater officer numbers,” she said.

She added she was working with her office to help tackle the increases.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-45837866

What can WE do to save our NHS?

“Greetings, KONP supporters in the South West!
Important information from Keep Our NHS Public on…

Integrated Care Providers

The Government likes to bury its plans to defund, break-up and privatise the NHS in jargon. KONP are producing a series of videos to help you understand what’s going on…

NHS England is consulting on the contract for a new model of health and social care provision that threatens the break-up of the NHS into units run by less accountable ‘Integrated Care Providers’ – or ‘ICPs’. Each of these ‘business units’ would control spend and rationing of healthcare for populations of up to 500,000. These huge contracts will be eminently open to the private sector to compete for.

The ICPs will deliver the dangerous new restructuring plans of government which could see fragments of the NHS managed by non-NHS, non-statutory and therefore less accountable bodies. They are the embodiment of government plans to disperse the NHS and its staff, drive down public funding, promote private contracts and put cost limits and profit before patient safety.

Integrated Care Provider contracts:

Dis-integrate the NHS;
Give control to non-NHS bodies potentially beyond scrutiny;
Threaten public accountability;
Hand over control to these non-NHS bodies for 10-15 years;
Manage multi-billion-pound contracts for blocks of 500,000 population;
Open the door to private companies winning these contracts.

Please watch the video above and share on social media to help spread the word about the Government’s deliberate and insidious privatisation plans.

You can also visit our website:

https://keepournhspublic.com/privatisation/icps-what-are-they/

and our Facebook Page:

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=167804364127012&id=172710059485626&refsrc=https%3A%2F%2Fm.facebook.com%2Fkeepournhspublic%2Fvideos%2F167804364127012%2F&_rdr

for more information, videos and links.

For a written explanation of ICPs and what the represent for the NHS please read and share this briefing (broken link) by HCT co-chair and KONP campaigner Louise Irvine.

How can you help?
1. Along with our friends at We Own It

https://weownit.org.uk

and Health Campaigns Together

https://www.healthcampaignstogether.com

we have created a petition

https://weownit.org.uk/ICP-petition-NHS

calling on the Government to;
a) Abandon the Integrated Care Provider contract model:
b) Guarantee that any Integrated Care Provider organisations will be statutory organisations i.e. NHS bodies, not private providers.
c) Focus health improvement efforts on pressing the government for:

o Sufficient funding and staffing for health and social care.
o Social care to be brought into public provision, free at point of use
o Legislation to end the failed NHS contracting system and to renationalise the NHS: the only sound basis for service integration.

SIGN THE PETITION

https://weownit.org.uk/ICP-petition-NHS

2. NHS England have launched a 12 week consultation on contracting arrangements for Integrated Care Providers. You can read the full consultation document here

https://gallery.mailchimp.com/053f4c95aa70981fdfccd7707/files/dc9643c1-bf3d-4f70-a09f-d571d49b02cd/integrated_care_providers_consultation_document.pdf

Please let them know what you think by submitting a response before the consultation closes on the 26 October. You can do this online. HCT have created a document of a sample response

https://gallery.mailchimp.com/053f4c95aa70981fdfccd7707/files/17b0a7d5-446a-4fcb-b46e-66a3fffc43ed/suggested.pdf

in case you wish to take some guidance from KONP and HCTs position.
You can also see a comprehensive written response:

https://gallery.mailchimp.com/053f4c95aa70981fdfccd7707/files/f6a7aae4-ac4d-4a5e-bf3e-862571fe3405/Consultation_response_PeterRoderick_FINAL_01Oct18_1_.pdf

to the proposed changes from the JR4NHS team who, along with the late Stephen Hawking, took Jeremy Hunt and ACOs to Judicial Review this year.

3. Share the KONP video, HCT and KONP briefing and the JR4NHS response to the NHSE consulation around your networks and on social media.

West Midlands mayor must travel in luxury to help the homeless

“A Tory mayor has sparked outrage after spending £500 of taxpayers’ cash on a chauffeur to drive him to a meeting on homelessness.

West Midlands mayor Andy Street splashed the “obscene” sum on the “exclusive” service to take him and an aide to Heathrow Airport and back home again.

In his manifesto when he ran to become mayor, Mr Street insisted: “I want to keep the costs of the mayor’s office as low as possible.”

The lavish spending by the former John Lewis boss can be exposed by The Mirror after his travel costs were revealed under freedom of information laws.

Birmingham Labour MP Steve McCabe branded the chauffeur-driven journey “obscene”, adding: “The money would have been better spent on night shelters and soup kitchens here in the West Midlands.”

The number of people forced to sleep rough in the West Midlands has shot up since 2010.

In November 2017, Mr Street visited Helsinki, Finland, in November 2017 to see an approach to tackling homelessness called Housing First.

Invoices obtained under freedom of information laws show the one-day trip cost £2,216.88.

The cost included a bill for £530.40 to transport an aide from Birmingham and Mr Street from Westminster to Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport.

The chauffeur then drove the pair back from London to Birmingham at the end of the day.

The website of the chauffeur company, Chauffeured By Car, says it operates a “discreet, professional service” offering “first class luxury travel”.

It adds: “You can simply relax, leave all the worry about directions and traffic to us, and enjoy the journey. To Chauffeured By Car your journey is our passion and we are committed to providing you with a world-class service.”

Detailing the one-day Helsinki trip, documents from West Midlands Combined Authority say: “Housing and land use is a key priority for the West Midlands Combined Authority.

“As part of this one of the key areas the mayor is focusing on is homelessness and rough sleeping. This visit represented a fact finding and lessons learnt exercise on homelessness issues.”

Housing First is credited with making Finland the only European country to see a fall in long-term homelessness in recent years.

It has been successful at ending homelessness for at least eight out of 10 people in the scheme.

This is compared to hostel-based accommodation which has resulted in between 40% and 60% of users with complex needs leaving, or ejected, before their homelessness is resolved.

Mr Street claims the Helsinki trip helped him secure £9.6million in funding in May this year for the West Midlands to try to end the scandal of rough sleeping in the region.”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/tory-mayor-splashes-500-taxpayers-13421748

“Near miss outside Cranbrook Education Campus prompts new road safety measures”

Owl says: the area around the campus looks an overgrown, desolate space and the campus itself does not seem to be wearing well; and one wonders how long the two cones will last:

“Dangerous parking on pavements outside Cranbrook Education Campus and a near-accident involving a child have prompted new safety measures.

Stone boulders are being put in place to stop vehicles driving on to the pavements.

The problems had been caused by parents parking on the pavements when picking up or dropping off their children.

The head teacher had written to parents asking them not to do it, but it was an incident at the end of a school day in mid-September that led to action being taken.

A car reversed off the pavement and narrowly missed a child.

No-one was hurt, but it led to the town council arranging a meeting with representatives of the school, the developers’ consortium, and a senior county highways officer.

It was agreed that the consortium would initially cone off the pavements, and then pay for the stone blocks to be installed in two places.

One is directly outside the driveway leading up to the campus building, the other alongside the entrance to the parking area behind the houses in Tillhouse Road, where cars have been driving up onto the pavement. It will not affect access to the parking area.

The two pedestrian crossings near the campus, both of which have worn-out road markings, will be repainted, and construction workers on the nearby development sites have been asked not to drive their vehicles near the campus at the start and end of the school day.

County Councillor Ray Bloxham said he was pleased to see the safety measures being put in place, but he thought they should not have been necessary.

“I’ve looked at what goes on there, and the people who’re complaining about the problem are the problem themselves,” he said. “They could at least stop 400 yards before they get to the school and let the children out there and walk. I actually saw people pulling up right outside the school, which is right on a road junction, on a bend, and stopping there and dropping their children off. Kids can walk 100 or 200 yards.

“I know people are rushed, they’ve got to get to work and all the rest of it, but if they just gave it a little bit more thought they’d solve their own problems really.”

http://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/new-road-safety-measures-at-cranbrook-education-campus-1-5734784