DCC Health Scrutiny Committee – not fit for purpose

The DCC Health Scrutiny Committee lurches from poor practice to bad practice to utter chaos under the continued Chairmanship of Sarah Randall-Johnson

Can you imagine saying you will vote against questioning NHS Property Services about their intentions on the future of community hospitals which they now own “because they might not come”! And Randall-Johnson saying she is “not aware of any threat to any community hospital!!!

[CCGs have been offered match funding from the government for any properties sold in their areas]

Claire Wright’s Blog:

NHS Property Services will be invited to attend the next Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee in January.

But my simple request prompted a debate lasting over half an hour, at Tuesday’s meeting (21 November).

The lengthy and baffling discussion gave a poor impression of the committee in my view, with some Conservative councillors claiming confusion and dismissing the proposal several times as “premature.”

It all started off with a presentation to the committee by Independent councillor, Martin Shaw, under the final work plan agenda item.

Cllr Shaw rightly pointed out how many people were concerned about the potential loss of the hospital buildings, that they had put their own money into them and still there was no clarity over their future, yet NEW Devon CCG were (or at least would very soon be) paying large sums of money in rent each year when previously they owned the buildings outright.

NHS Property Services, a private company wholly owned by the Secretary of State for Health, set up under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, acquired the ownership of 12 community hospitals in Eastern Devon at the beginning of this year.

Given that the NEW Devon CCG is one of three most financially challenged health trusts in the country and must make huge cuts to try and stem a deficit of over £400m by 2020, people’s concerns about the future of the hospitals are very valid.

Following my proposal to invite NHS Property Services to the January meeting, chair, Sara Randall Johnson said there was a full agenda for the next meeting so it may not be possible to include it. She said that she was not aware that there was a threat to any community hospital.

Liberal Democrat, Brian Greenslade said NHS PS had been invited previously but questions had been remained unanswered and so should be invited again.

Conservative, Phil Twiss, who represents Honiton which has lost its own hospital beds, claimed in a number of long statements that it was “premature” to invite the company because the future of the buildings had not yet been decided.

He later added that they wouldn’t come anyway.

I replied that waiting until the March meeting was far too long and could mean that decisions were already made. Surely we need to talk to NHS PS and the CCG before their decisions?

I attempted to explain again why it was important we invited the company to the January meeting.

But apparently confusion reigned.

Conservative members became very fixated with the legacy issue, even though I had made it clear that it was about questioning NHS PS and the CCG about their plans on the future of community hospitals and the legacy issue was only part of that.

Chair, Sara Randall Johnson, suggested holding a meeting first to agree some questions to ask NHS PS. I have not seen this approach in my four and a half years as a member of the committee.

I had to make my proposal numerous times, while one or two persistent Conservative members continued to challenge it.

There was an amendment by Liberal Democrat, Nick Way, who wanted a spotlight review into the issue as well.

Phil Twiss then changed his tack and claimed there was no point in asking the company to attend as they wouldn’t come. He was in favour of a spotlight review instead (spotlight reviews are held in private).

But when the vote finally was taken, it was on the spotlight review amendment and not my original proposal to invite NHS PS to the next meeting …

I tried to intervene. Fortunately, the officers corrected matters… and then the majority of the committee voted in favour of my proposal. Finally.

My proposal couldn’t have been more straightforward or uncomplicated. It was entirely within the committee’s remit.

It was also within a couple of hours of hearing the county solicitor’s presentation about how scrutiny should do its job properly. Or be culpable. See this blogpost here – http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/devon_county_council_solicitor_tells_health_scrutiny_committee_you_have_a_v

Here’s the webcast. It is the final item on the agenda – https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/302658

Pic: Me exasperated!”


Some councillors on DCC scrutiny committee seem to have difficulty in grasping the concept of ………. scrutiny

Claire Wright’s blog:

Devon County Council’s solicitor, Jan Shadbolt, reminded the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee of its legal responsibilities at Tuesday’s (21 November) meeting.

I had asked for this agenda item following a disastrous meeting in July where a referral to the Secretary of State for Health on the closure of 72 community hospital beds in Eastern Devon was thwarted by the Conservative members of the committee, resulting in over 20 complaints from members of the public.

Mrs Shadbolt read out a paragraph from the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry, led by Sir Robert Francis in 2013. Many people had tragically died there as a result of poor care.

The local council’s scrutiny committee was deemed to have failed in its duty to effectively scrutinise the local health trust and identify problems.

Mrs Shadbolt said it was the first time that non-executive members of a local authority were held to account because they were deemed to have failed in their duty.

New regulations were brought in afterwards to beef up the legal powers of health scrutiny committees. These were that health scrutiny committees can:
– Require a local officer to attend to answer questions
– Expect to be consulted by an NHS body or service provider on substantial developments (although there is no definition of substantial developments)
– Refer to the Secretary of State for Health (subject to a series of constraints)

The county solicitor told the committee that we had a “very powerful role to play within the community” and that we were “unique in scrutiny committees” on that basis.

Conservative, Phil Twiss wanted to know who “scrutinises the scrutineers.” The county solicitor replied that the ultimate scrutiny was being called to account over the failure of a service provider, but that generally speaking councillors were answerable to the community.

Cllr Twiss then wanted to know how the committee knew it was performing properly. Mrs Shadbolt said that the committee’s role was to ask pertinent questions, call any officer to present. She added that there are all sorts of bodies who can give information to help with this, such as Healthwatch.

Conservative councillor, Paul Crabbe, wanted to remind the committee that this agenda item had been added because “some members felt we failed to scrutinise correctly…” He went on to say that a “chap from south Devon was fizzing with excitement over the success and how about how wonderful his new system was” then they were later asked to vote that it was “rubbish.”

Cllr Crabbe said that this struck him as a nonsense then and still struck him as a nonsense and just because the committee voted against “someone’s particular view” it didn’t necessarily mean that the committee was not fulfilling its role.

Liberal Democrat, Cllr Brian Greenslade asked the county solicitor to remind councillors that scrutiny is not a normal committee of the council in that it is not supposed to be political. He said that he thought it was worth underlining this point…”

Here’s the webcast – https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/302658

Why do Ladram Bay owners like Hugo Swire so much?

Perhaps this from Swire’s 2016 blog sheds some light on why the Carters are so fond of him (see earlier post today). Owl wonders what he now thinks of local lobbying after he demanded that transparency about it should be increased because of Priti Patel’s involvement with lobbyists?

And remember, the words below are his own, from his own blog, not a puff job from Ladram Bay owners. Ah, except that Mrs Swire, his parliamentary assistant, is said to work on his blog – so he might have had a bit of help from her.

Wonder when we can expect to see Swire is a caravan that doesn’t belong to an Arab sheikh?

“East Devon MP Hugo Swire was given a behind-the-scenes tour of a major holiday park in his constituency this April after it put the finishing touches to a £10 million redevelopment project.

The family owners of Ladram Bay Holiday Park near Budleigh Salterton invited Mr Swire to see the changes and to meet park staff as it gears up for the 2016 holiday season.

He was accompanied on his tour by park directors Zoe House and Robin Carter, two of the four siblings whose family has owned the park for over 70 years.

The MP, who is also Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, heard that holiday bookings are already up by 10 percent compared with this time last year.

Helping to provide an even more memorable experience will be the new facilities completed last year, including a new swimming pool complex and Jurassic-themed adventure golf course.

This winter has also seen further improvements such as the newly made-over customer reception area which Mr Swire declared officially open during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Mr Swire commented: “It was a pleasure to visit Ladram Bay once again to open their new reception and view their new facilities. The business continues to thrive and grow, which is good news for local employment and the wider East Devon economy”.

The MP also toured Ladram’s bright new park shop which puts a special emphasis on locally sourced food and drink, from artisan bread to Devon-brewed craft ales.

Other developments fresh for 2016 include improvements to Ladram’s Seaview Shack on its private beach where families can hire boats and watersports equipment, and enjoy light refreshments with stunning views along the coast.

There are also additional brand new holiday homes with the emphasis on five-star comfort, and early summer will see the installation of new super-luxury glamping pods.

Mr Swire was also shown a pair of colourful historic gypsy caravans which the park has had in its proud possession for many years, and which have now been renovated using traditional construction skills and hand-painted decoration.

The MP congratulated the Carter family on their long history of providing top quality and good-value holidays to tens of thousands of Devon visitors each year.

The park’s high standards have been recognised with a raft of awards, and Ladram now boasts a top five-star accolade from VisitEngland, putting it among an elite of UK holiday parks.

Zoe House said the family was delighted that Mr Swire was able to take time out to visit the park and officially open the new reception area. …”


Claire Wright: “Director of Ladram Bay Holiday Park attempts intimidation at public meeting”

Carter family (Ladram Bay, Greendale Business Park and other businesses) prefer absent Hugo Swire MP to present DCC councillor Claire Wright. Surprise, surprise!

“A director of Ladram Bay Holiday Park ordered me to be silent and leave a public meeting last night, which was called to discuss traffic concerns associated with his business.

The meeting, which was held in the restaurant of Ladram Bay, was arranged at the behest of myself and Otterton Parish Council, following widespread concern over the level of traffic and size of vehicles travelling to and from the caravan park.

It was attended by around 70 Otterton residents, who were largely exasperated and angry about the problems caused by the continually expanding caravan park.

At the end of the meeting I outlined three key concerns that I had heard in the meeting, in order to seek assurances from the management team. They were on:

• frequent use of retrospective planning applications
• continual expansion (a huge increase in the number of lodges and caravans)
• level of traffic and size of vehicles travelling to and from the park and funding potential mitigating road improvements

But before I could get more than a sentence out, Robin Carter approached me and asked me to stop talking. He added that I wasn’t welcome and that I should leave.

His co-director, Zoe House, added that the members of the public were there at their invitation (I had just mentioned my letter that was delivered to every house in the village).

The room sort of erupted at this point and there were shouts of:

“Let her speak!” “She’s our representative!” “Leave her alone!”

Robin Carter, whose family also own the controversial Greendale Business Park at Woodbury Salterton, told residents that I wasn’t their representative. Hugo Swire was. He added that I was not going to “canvass for votes” on their property.

I replied that I was Otterton’s Devon County Councillor and was entitled to speak at a public meeting.

I said I would like to finish my points. But after almost every sentence, Mr Carter interjected with similar remarks – and to more shouting from outraged residents.

One of my points was that if highways officers identified any road improvements whether Ladram Bay might consider contributing funding. Seeing as Robin Carter was standing right in front of me, I directed this question at him.

He then moved so close it felt as though he was actually squaring up to me. Someone called out: “That’s intimidation!” I asked him to move back, which he did but only slightly. He glared angrily and carried on addressing me in a low menacing voice.

Mr Carter said that if I had these points to make I should raise them in a private meeting, not in public and that I should hurry up and finish what I was saying.

I replied that I had already attended a private meeting with his co-director, Zoe House and the parish council in August. That many of these points were already made and surely now was the time, with residents present, to provide these assurances.

Cue further glaring and, no answers.

Many residents came up to me afterwards to thank me for standing up for them, and to Mr Carter.
The meeting started with a PR video set to music, which struck me as entirely the wrong note. It was the sort of video that would have been more appropriate for investors. Then the Ladram representatives read out a list of accolades awarded to the company.

Management team Steven Harper-Smith and Will Tottle who ran the presentation and fielded questions seemed out of their depth at times and as a new member of staff, Mr Harper-Smith was unaware of the continual retrospective planning applications.

People complained they couldn’t hear. It wasn’t helped by the loud thumping music coming from downstairs, which I asked to be turned down. It wasn’t.

Some of the management team’s points, such as the new £10 fee (increased from £5) for parking on site, which they claimed reduced congestion in the village and was “not a money making scheme” was met with understandable derision. How can this improve traffic and parking in the village?!

They said that their letters to visitors included a line about driving carefully through the village. That this was “a journey” and the start of a positive relationship with the parish council.

A traffic survey carried out in August by a group associated with the parish council found that around 35 per cent of traffic travelling through Otterton is generated by Ladram Bay. Another survey is imminent.

The incredible claim by the management team that traffic hadn’t increased much over the years and that all roads were busier, was met with loud and understandable frustration. The park has expanded massively over the years, with hundreds of pitches – and the traffic has increased with it!

I should add here that on my visits to Otterton I have observed a genuine and real problem with the level of traffic on the road and the absolutely enormous caravans and lodges that make their way through the village and residents tell me, knock walls down, erode banks and damage trees and hedges.

There was acknowledgement of this damage and a promise to repair it. How further damage is prevented is another issue, when the road is simply too narrow for the size of the loads.

Someone asked for a commitment for a maximum number of lodges so the village could have peace of mind on further development. This was supported by clapping.

The management team did not commit to this.

Someone else suggested that the lodges should be brought in by barge instead.

One resident said the number of cars increasing in the village was not related to Ladram Bay. It was due to people having more cars. It was clear that this view was not shared by the vast majority of residents.

Someone else described the traffic situation as “horrendous.”

Then the thorny subject of planning was raised. Ladram Bay is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and in a coastal preservation zone. The landscape is highly protected under a number of strong policies. Yet planning consent keeps being given for expansion. And many of these planning applications are submitted after the building has taken place.

One resident spoke on this in a very informed way about this. He asked why the dog walking area was now a car park and said there was no point in objecting to the planning application as the trees had already been removed. The team were vague on this but the new general manager did say that in future what they did would comply with planning consent.

Parish council chairman, John Fudge told the meeting that the parish council had objected to the application but it was approved by East Devon District Council’s planning committee.

This started a bit of a debate in the room and how people are not notified about planning applications. And why there is one rule for them and another for Ladram Bay.

An attendee asked the Ladram Bay owners to liaise with the village and said that the park should “have the decency to talk to the village” over planning applications and it was no surprise that there was “distrust and a complete lack of confidence” in the business by residents.

A resident of Ladram Road said she had been hit twice by vehicles and there needed to be speed deterrents. The management team agreed.

A resident of Fore Street said that she takes her life in her hands every time she leaves her house and that traffic is travelling too fast.

Someone replied that community speedwatch found few cars travelling over 30mph but that was too fast anyway. That the village needed a 20mph zone.

(This is something I have been investigating and will continue to do so).

John Fudge, parish council chairman spoke at the end of the meeting to thank people for coming. He said the parish council would work with Ladram Bay to improve the situation. He said he believed there was a genuine desire on the part of the caravan park to improve things.

Directors, Robin Carter and Zoe House remained silent throughout the meeting. Until I spoke at the end.

What do I think of Robin Carter’s behaviour? I think it was aggressive and an (unsuccessful) attempt at intimidation. It was totally inappropriate and completely unnecessary. I am a key representative of Otterton people and I am entitled to attend and speak at a public meeting.

A thriving business on the edge of Otterton is a positive thing. Otterton Mill is also a successful local business. Yet I haven’t heard a single complaint about Otterton Mill. All the complaints I have heard have been about the attitude of the senior management team at Ladram Bay, their lack of consideration and the effect that their continual expansion plans have on the village.

I am hoping that this will be the start of a more positive and considerate relationship between residents and Ladram Bay. Local people deserve better.”


Is Swire after Pritti Patel’s job? Or any ministerial post with foreign travel?

Owl realised after reporting about Swire’s stinging criticism of Pritti Patel that it had missed the most blindingly obvious reason for his jibes about her. He desperately wants another crack at the Foreign Office!

Why? Well, here are a few possible reasons:

1. He supports Bojo, thinks they would make a great pair – and he might even think he could do his job if Bojo screws up much more.

2. He’s been terribly unhappy as a lowly constituency MP since he lost his foreign office bagman job and it would give him a terrific boost.

3. Many questions he asks in Parliament are about other countries, fewer about this country, hardly any about East Devon – so he would be in his comfort zone. Plus he could use his old excuse of not being able to speak about East Devon in Parliament because it would conflict with his bigger, better job.

4. He enjoys his £2000 per month job as Chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council – but not half as much as he would enjoy being at the FO.

5. He could visit his constituency even less often, using the excuse of having to jet-set.

6. He could spend more time in London doing things like supporting the Royal Marsden hospital.

7. He wouldn’t have to see or hear so much about Claire Wright.

8. He could keep out of the way of the East Devon Alliance.

9. He could keep out of the way of local protesters about austerity cuts (NHS, education, environment)

10. He would be far too busy to worry about over-development of expensive properties and under-provision of social housing in East Devon – and unable to comment on it anyway – see 3 above.

Is it on the cards? Well, anything is on the cards these days … though May having sacked him, she would likely have to be ousted first.

‘Ladram Bay to hold public meeting over Otterton traffic issues’

“A public meeting is being held in Otterton to allow residents to raise any concerns they have over the flow of traffic through the village.

Following a meeting with holiday park Ladram Bay earlier this year, which was attended by county councillor Claire Wright as well as Otterton parish councillors, a public gathering has been scheduled for Wednesday (November 8).

Writing in her blog, cllr Wright said Ladram Bay director Zoe House has offered to hold the meeting at the holiday park at 7.30pm.

She added: “It was impressed upon the Ladram Bay staff, who will first give a presentation about their business, the main reason for holding such a meeting is for local residents to ask questions.

“I am told that this has been accepted and taken on board.”

There will be a Ladram Bay minibus, seating between eight and 10 people, outside the King’s Arms at 7pm, for those people who are unable to make the trip on their own.”