A song for our times

From a correspondent”

“Maggie May”

​The Tory slogan or cliché
​Is “Strong and Stable Mrs May”.
​“Strong”? Just on the weak, I’d say.
​“Why take disableds’ pay away?”
​Said Kathy*. May had nought to say.
​TV debate? Too “frit” to play.
​And what, last April*, did she say? –
​She argued not to “leave” but “stay”:
​Irish and Scots could break away;​
​The bankers could all go away;
​Trade deals? Could be worse, O.K?
​In single market? Costs to pay.

​On Brexit it is all hearsay:
​Why put your trust in Mrs May?
​Do YOU know what she’ll give away?
​Tories are split, in disarray.
​And what if she’d just “run away”
​ ​And Far Right/Daily Mail hold sway?

​What does her manifesto say?
​For social care you’ll have to pay;
​More cuts for schools are on the way;
​Retireds face a cut in pay*;
​Few immigrants? The figures say
​A record under Mrs May*.

​What will we get “post-Brexit day”?
​The NHS will fade away
​And if you’re ill you’ll have to pay*;
​More zero hours and more low pay;
​Meanwhile the richest will make hay;
​More cuts – for that’s the Tory way.
​Why WOULD YOU vote for Mrs May?

*Disabled Kathy in Abingdon recently wanted Mrs May not to cut disabled living allowance and care. (Kathy has £100 a month to live on.) * 25 April 2016
*No triple lock on state pensions
*A record 650,000 immigrants entered UK in May’s last year as Home Secretary.
*Boris Johnson wants us to pay for NHS treatment, Michael Gove to privatise it, Iain Duncan Smith to replace it with an insurance system – John Major said the NHS was as safe in their hands as a pet hamster would be with a hungry python.”

Osborne unwittingly reveals a coalition dirty secret on health and schools

George Osborne in the Evening Standard unwittingly revealing TRUE coalition policies in an article meant to diss Jeremy Corbyn:

“The Coalition government enacted a programme of austerity but claimed that key services such as the NHS and schools would be ‘ring-fenced’ — true in the strict sense that their budgets were not cut, but in practice they faced a prolonged freeze that meant they couldn’t do everything asked of them.”


“Austerity has made local government financially unviable. Radical reorganisation may be the only answer”

Owl says: But alas not before EDDC has spent £10 million plus of our money on a new HQ which may be redundant before they move into it!

“Tory councillors popping celebratory corks after last week’s haul of seats should bear in mind the old adage: be careful what you wish for. Now they occupy council leadership positions from Maidstone to Morpeth, it is they alone who must now carry the can for sorting out local government’s two Rs, revenue and reorganisation. The latter is going to haunt county halls for the next political cycle.

The blue tide isn’t going to wash away any of local government’s fundamental problem of a lack of money. Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit, has said he hopes “emboldened county leadership” could campaign for sustainable funding for social care and children’s services; he’s an optimist.

Residents may be willing to pay more for looking after older people. But how? Council tax won’t provide enough, so it will be down to central grants. Whoever is communities secretary after June 9 (and Theresa May looks unlikely to keep Sajid Javid) must now devise a distribution and needs formula for England that will protect Tories in the north as well as those in the heartlands of the south.

Short of May tearing up the spending plans set out by Philip Hammond barely a couple of months ago, financial pressure isn’t going to ease. So, come June 9 we’re back to the Christchurch question. A month ago, councillors in the solidly Tory Dorset district decided to defer a referendum on an outline plan to reorganise local government in that county, getting rid of two tiers and replacing the county council, districts and existing Poole and Bournemouth unitary councils with two new, big unitaries. Without reorganisation, the story goes, austerity has made local government financially unviable.

Reorganisation details are different in the various, but the same kinds of argument have been playing in Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire, Kent, Bucks, Essex, Hampshire and the other shires. If you notice something similar about those names, gold star: they are all Tory. What’s in prospect is largely an intra-Tory party argument which, in Kent, for example, is already pitting Tory MPs against councillors, as well as setting up massive squabbles between councillors themselves.

We’ve been here before, several times. Those with long memories will recall the long hours and bitter debate within the John Major government in the 1990s over reorganisation. The fruits of that included the demise of Avon county council in 1996, which the West of England combined authority is a bodged attempt at recreating.

Reorganisation is back because consultants’ reports say it should in principle be cheaper to run services over bigger areas with a single tier council and county executives usually agree. But those reports perennially underestimate transitional costs and rarely factor in the hard-to-quantify but vital element of the identification of residents and staff with particular places and local history.

Besides, most reorganisations turn into messy compromises. Take Christchurch. A “rational” reorganisation based on economic geography would align it with Southampton and the Solent, with the New Forest a sort of park in between urban areas. But few Tories are willing to abandon entirely the historic boundaries of Dorset even if the county council goes, just as few Tories want to see the (non-Tory) urban areas of Oxford and Cambridge being allowed to swallow the districts around them.

And all that is just local government. Summing up the costly and largely ineffective debates of the 1990s, Michael Chisholm, chair of the Local Government Boundary Commission, complained of the folly of reorganising without simultaneously considering council powers and finance – which these days has to include the interrelationship of councils and the NHS as well as the fraught consequences of councils’ keeping the proceeds of business rates and the end of central grants.

There’s trouble ahead but at least reorganisation would weaken the political hegemony the Tories have now established across a wide swath of English local government.”


NHS Property is planning to sell hospital sites to private sector health firms

Noted by Claire Wright via Twitter:

Plans to release NHS-owned land and buildings for commercial use could be further delayed, after the future of a report into the UK’s health system was thrown into doubt.

The Department of Health was due to report its findings into public health in July, but there are now concerns it could be delayed amid wrangling around the June’s General Election.

The project, known internally as Phoenix, is set to overhaul the way in which healthcare services are procured and run.

The new report was set to review the system, and a proposal to split the country into six regions so that buildings could be run more centrally. The Government wants to raise £5bn from the sale of public land by 2020.

This was expected to result in an acceleration of the release of land and buildings to the open market as more surplus stock was identified across the estate. This could have been snapped up by developers wanting to build much-needed homes, or bought by the private sector to be improved and then leased to local health services.

At present, buildings are run and leased to service providers by LIFT Partnerships, which bring together local public health bodies and private sector providers, working with NHS Property Services.

But property professionals have warned that the election could cause further delays to the implementation of the new system.

One developer, who did not wish to be named, said the report was also supposed to clarify the way the estate would be managed in the future.

“This could have also paved the way for private healthcare companies to acquire property to provide better local services,” he said. “These things take long enough as they are without further delays.”

Another warned that any new administration could seek to slow the sale of land or property under pressure from local opposition.”


Election irony

Does anyone else find it ironic that Tory candidates are saying that they will “fight for” local hospitals, fairer funding for schools and our precious environment when it is THEIR party that brought the CCG’s that are already cutting beds by stealth, the unfair school funding and which wants to loosen environmental regulations as soon as possible to enable more building on green fields and who are trying to stop frightening air pollution figures being published?

The Tory battle cry seems to be:

“What do we want?”
“No bed cuts, fairer funding for schools and a healthy environment!”
“When do we want it?”
“Er, whenever Mrs May says we can have it, pretty please?”
“When will it be?
“Brexit means Brexit!”

Have fun with that one – and if you vote for the Tories in Devon just hope you, your children and grandchildren can afford a private education and health care and never need to go to an NHS A and E or GP – or breathe the air in our towns, cities and countryside – tall order!

We need a credible opposition at DCC to fight for us. Claire Wright has done a magnificent job fighting for our schools, our hospitals and our environment at DCC – but could do even more with an army of like-minded councillors alongside her whose battle cry would be:

“What do we want?”
“Our fair share in a clean, green Devon”
“When do we want it?”
“When our voters empower us to get it”
“When will it be”?
“When you vote Independent on 4 May!”

PCC Hernandez can’t cope and says she needs a deputy and the deputy might want an assistant!

She already has a Chief Executive Officer (salary £103,602 who seems to spend more time on TV than she does), a treasurer (salary £92,697), more than 20 full-time equivalent staff ten of whom earn more than £33,000 each and three community support workers.

“The embattled Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner is considering appointing a deputy.

Ms Hernandez, who is under investigation over 2015 election expenses when she was the agent for Torbay MP Kevin Foster, said: “This is normal practice.”

She would not say how much the deputy would be paid, but a source said it could be in the region of £50,000.

It is not the first time she has mentioned the possibility of a second-in-command – during her campaign she briefly considered recruiting a running mate.

According to sources, the post will attract a salary of £50,000 a year.

Ms Hernandez, who was elected to the position only last year, denied the appointment would be connected to an investigation of her role in an election expenses scandal in Torbay.

Devon county councillor Brian Greenslade said: “It suggests she is preparing the ground in case she is charged with election offences.”

“A deputy would presumably come at a cost so if this happened and she suspended herself while any charges were dealt with would she be suspending receiving her salary?”

However, Ms Hernandez said: “Any decision I make on a deputy will have nothing to do with the ongoing investigation. My intention is to stay in post as being under investigation does not affect me in being able to carry out my duties.”

Tony Hogg, Ms Hernandez’s predecessor, did not appoint a deputy but did receive strategic support from a special adviser.

Ms Hernandez told the WMN: “Half of all police and crime commissioners, of all political colours, have appointed deputies – some also have assistant PCCs as well.”